Green tags?

rudysmallfryMay 8, 2005

I'm new to this forum. My state CT has begun offering huge incentives to install pv solar systems. Among the perks are what they are calling green tags. It's some sort of payment for energy that I don't use and sell back to the state, but I don't really understand how it works. Can anyone help me understand it better?

I don't use much electricity, but the smallest system available provides me with 4 times the power I would need, which means I would be selling a lot of it back to the state. My interest here is in how much I could make in selling the energy back. If it's enough to justify the cost of the system, I'd love to do it.

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I installed a PV system in part due to the incentives NY state offers . . . they're substantial!

Don't know what "green tags" are; here in NY the utilities are required to "buy" back any excess from you; they square up once a year. I say "buy" because any net excess that I generate in a year . . gets "bought" . . . but at about a quarter of what I pay for it. There are two things you should look into and understand . . . net metering, and then any "buy back" policy. Net metering simply means that if you use "x" amount, and then generate exactly that much and replace it back onto the grid; you owe them nothing for electricity . . . there is still likely a monthly charge just for being connected. Not all states offer net metering, and some places the utility is not required to do ANYTHING in regards to any excess you generate . . they simply take it. The Energy Dept, Public Service Commision, or whatever you have in your state that administers the program; should have information available for what it means and does for you. They will also have any other requirements / restrictions about being involved in the program / incentives.

You can have a system of ANY size; tiny or huge . . . to know what size system you need, you should have at least a year's worth of power bills to know your real usage. I am extremely energy conscious; and ended up with a 2800 watt system. Even before I went solar; people were amazed at how low my bills were.

Unless you've got some REALLY good incentives; you will likely find that it does not strictly pay for itself in terms of economics. I chose to do it anyway for environmental reasons; I also chose battery back-up as we lose power here fairly often; don't wanna deal with draining the heating system in winter, no running water, etc.

Look into the details, I'll be curious myself to know what "green tags" are . . . I'll share my experience with my system and why I chose the things I did; if you'd like . . . .


    Bookmark   May 9, 2005 at 6:02AM
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Thanks for the info. CT does offer net metering. The towns have been having a lot of town hall style meetings to explain to us how the whole thing works. Hopefully I'll be able to get to one.

My bills are already small. My average is $35 a month. I don't use AC, so there's a big chunk there. I was toying with the idea of getting a system and converting part of my house back to electric heat to save on the huge winter oil bills. I don't know how realistic that is.

Are there any downsides, other than the upfront cost, to doing this? I've heard the roof has to be in great shape, or they make you replace it before the install. (way out of my budget). This solar incentive is so new, that I don't even know what I might not be thinking to ask. The part where they only buy it back for 1/4 of what they charge is bull, but I guess we'd have to expect that from greedy utilities.

If I find out what green tags are at this meeting, I'll let you know.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2005 at 12:26PM
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The reason they buy power back for 1/4th the cost of delivering it is simple, they are paying you the wholesale cost of energy, the same as if they were buying that wattage from Con Ed or Niagra power. The other 3/4th is what it costs to maintain the distribution infrastructure.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2005 at 2:48PM
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What your bills are in dollars is a concern; but moreso the kWh that you use . . . . electricity costs vary tremendously. Any place that will entertain installing a system will need to know the kWh usage . . . .

FORGET about converting back to electric heat . . . and running with solar PV. You will be far better off to use solar heat collectors, rather than PV panels to run heaters . . . get rid of electric range and water heater as well . . . ANY appliance that generates heat from electricity is a NO-NO when doing PV ( Photo-Voltaics; ie panels for generating electricity from the sun ).

Roof mount is NOT the only option . . . I ended up using pole mounts; house is shaded by trees to keep cool in summer . . . and besides; averaging better than 12' of snow a year comes into play as well. You can do ground mounts or pole mounts . . . they do offer two advantages:

1) They can be tilted up and down throughout the year; which affords more collection than being set at one angle ALL year long. My pole mounts are adjusted by a single bolt; easy and quick to do. You may not realize it; but the sun "moves" up and down in the sky a total of about 46 degrees througout the year. I move mine about 8 times a year . . . . . you can get mounts that also automatically track east-west as well; they are expensive and will ultimately need SOME kind of maintenance though . . I've heard they are prone to wind damage . . . .

2) By tilting throughout the seasons, not only do you get better output; but they will also be most vertical during the winter . .. which will help them shed snow more easily unless it's wet / sticky. And when you DO need to clean them off; beats &^#% out of getting up on the roof to do so . . .


Utilities are a monopoly in the business to make money for themselves and their investors; not to provide clean, reliable, affordable energy to people. I pay a separate charge JUST to be connected . . . if I use none does not matter. THEN I pay a charge for the actual electricity; THEN I pay a charge per kW to DELIVER that electricity. In more "progressive" places like Europe; energy provided by people like me ( wind, solar etc ) command a PREMIUM . .. as it's greener energy than ANY other source . . . we need to move ahead into the '80's in this country in terms of energy policies . . . . . right now, they get my excees production at fire sale prices; at absolutely NO expense to themselves. What a deal, huh ?

Good luck with your pursuit of things . . . . I'll answer questions if you have them . . . .


    Bookmark   May 9, 2005 at 6:30PM
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The average house spends most it's energy on space heating and hot water. Thus, the biggest financial savings and environmental improvements can be made here. Solar electric has it's uses, but really you can save more money and use less fossil fuels by using alternative heat sources. Also, as your high oil costs are the issue it makes sense to tackle them directly.

One of the most popular options is a wood stove or insert, preferably a high efficiency one. Although the cost of wood varies, it almost allways works out cheaper than natural gas. Used frequently these can substantially reduce your oil consumption, plus they're a nice feature in the house and are a useful backup heat source if the furnace breaks down.

There's also solar water and air heaters, these are preferable to wood in some ways as the fuel is entirely free. I particularly like the solar air heaters as they're very affordable and give what I believe to be the best return on investment for any solar technology.

Of course I do like solar PV, but with the current prices and return on investment they're way down my list of wants. I'm not ruling it out as an option for the future, but right now it makes more sense to invest in solar heating which is cheaper and provides more usable energy. The electric bills can be tackled with more efficient appliances and an energy aware lifestyle.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2005 at 5:39PM
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