A Solar Update

The Question of Solar

by Richard Lane

When Solar first showed up it was all about the $ savings, which isn’t negligible, and the additional savings by selling power back to PG&E but those are only a part of the equation in the land of Public Safety Power Shutoffs, or PSPS.

We have 10 panels and 1 Tesla battery that stores 13.5 kWh.  Our goal has been to use nothing from PG&E and never be without power; so far, so good.  It’s been four months, we’ve run air-conditioning when we needed it and we’ve not lost any cable connection (how electricity can go down and cable stay up is another mystery).

What we have learned is that having panels with a battery solves so much, as we have self-generated power when the sun goes down, and if we manage our usage (not hard to do with the apps they all have now) we can keep our battery “full-up.”

There’s an unavoidable PG&E delivery charge ($10.00/mo) that you get charged if you get power from PG&E or a third party (ours is Sonoma Clean Power).  In general those third parties are less expense and offer better terms for selling-back (Net Metering).

Our actual usage bill has been $0.57, $0.52, $0.18 for the past three months.  We’re getting better at this and those amounts will be offset by net-metering tru-up (where you sell back to your provider).  We have self-powered 99% of our usage since our installation.

It used to be, in the early days of Solar, that you couldn’t use your battery if the grid was down (what!?!) but that is no longer the case and why this works so well.  We had a “normal” power outage last week, 53 hours, when a local transformer was hit by lightning.  Only 20 customers were affected, and without PG&E power, but we ended up storing our neighbors’ frozen food in our cooler because we had battery power.

We were running the house via battery all night and recharging the battery and running the house via panels during the day.  After doing that for two and half days, I’m pretty sure we could have done that indefinitely.

On an aside, as we’ve all moved back home recently, some of us may have construction loans or conventional mortgages that we entered into when mortgage rates were higher.  There are 15-year Mortgages on the market now at 2.25% and as our homes have increased in value it’s possible to refinance with cash out to finance solar with no out-of-pocket and still reduce your monthly mortgage payment.

And during the next PSPS you’ll be storing your neighbors’ frozen food as well.