PV system up and running . . . .

RCMJrAugust 12, 2004


Just had the utlility company out here today to do their "check" of the grid intertie system that I had installed. Was a bit nervous; not sure what to expect. Nice enough guy showed up, but it seemed quite obvious to me he had no clue what the setup does / how it works / what he should check! He ended up smiling and leaving after giving it his blessing. While I have great faith in the installers of the system; and I know enough about it to know the built in redundancies and safeguards; I would have felt a bit better if the utility guy seemed to be with the program when HE looked it over.

All that remains to be done is to have the meter changed . . . ironically I will be going "back" to the traditional mechanical meters . . . . as they run backwards just fine. The "new fangled" digital meters that can be read by radio were just installed here a couple years ago . . . and they DON'T know how to go backwards. So, I've been donating my excess generation to the grid for about a month.

New York state has net metering . . . every watt you pump out cancels a watt you used. Once a year; they total it all up; and if you've made a net contribution you get about half the going rate it would have cost you to buy it. With my system and my energy consumption; I should generate about 1 1/2 to 2 times my usage; over the period of a year. So yeah; I'll get a check from them . . . won't be buying my Benz with it though. Service charge JUST for being connected applies even if I don't even use a single watt from them . . . . but it makes sense to stay grid-tied so I have something to do with all the electricity I generate during the summer when my usage is very low.

Very sophisticated equipment; but once you look at the whole install it's not all that complicated to the actual "user". I elected to get battery backup as well; we've had a few power line glitches / drop-outs / momentary interruptions . . . and the thing kicks in QUICK . . . like you can't tell . . . clocks / VCR's don't reset etc . . . automatically reconnects after sensing the power line is back up solid for 5 minutes.

Anyway; to any of you out there who may be contemplating any such endeavor; keep going after it. I have been looking into it and thinking about it for many years . . I just finally decided to go ahead and do it . . . you'll find incentives a number of different places, rebates, state income tax breaks etc . . . and it just plain feels good . .. no more power outages here . . . and doing something good for the environment . . . .

If anyone is interested I'll be happy to share my experience / details / setup / pix etc . . . .


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Congratulations on your new system.

I am curious as to why you decided to stay grid tied and purchase batteries? Why not go off entirely? It sounds like you did a good job matching yours system to your needs.

My batteries, generator and inverter are installed and I hope to have our windmill up in a month or so with PV to follow in the spring.

Just wanted to say that for those of us north of the border rebates, tax brakes and other types of incentives for green energy don't exist. (except for small rebates in Ontario) So we have to foot the entire bill. But of course the right thing to do generally is not the easy thing.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2004 at 8:21PM
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Where I am; solar info says that to meet my needs entirely during the worst parts of the year; would mean being way beyond my needs during other parts of the year. If not grid tied; all this "extra" would be useless to anyone. The sizing of my system is marginal for providing ALL my power for extended periods in the bad parts of the year; though I can squeak by if needed. Best parts of the year I will generate 4 - 5 times what I need . . . . might as well dump it into the grid and help to cut the expenses of my own system; as well as provide extra power to the grid when it is needed most . . . .

For most of the year I could indeed be "off" the grid; but that also means cycling the batteries every day and having nothing to do with all the extra I generate. Any battery has a reasonably well known # of cycles @ various depths of discharge that they will tolerate. Each cycling of them uses some of that up. My batteries are more intended as backup for when the grid is down; rather than daily usage. Everyone's situation and opinions on just how to do it are different . . . .

Sorry that there aren't more incentives; they do vary wildly all over the place. I believe you do have signifigantly lower electric rates than here; that makes it even tougher to justify strictly from an economic point of view. In NY you get $4 per kW of installed PV capacity at the moment. As you said; the right thing to do is not the easy thing . . . . even with the various incentives I qualify for; it is NOT cheap. There may also be some legislation that will provide producers such as myself with a better "payback" from the utility . . . . instead of getting less than half what I have to pay for a kWh; it might change to being on par. We'll have to see how the political winds blow . . . . .

Will be curious to hear how your windmill goes . . . and to hear some details about it . . . .. .


    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 6:04AM
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Sounds good Bob. Looks like my plans for PV system might be on hold for a bit, the new house just got going this past week, so I doubt I will want to be setting the array up in the late fall/early winter months. I would love to see some of the pictures you have, and/or any words of wisedom you have to generally pass on before I get going on it. Do you have a web site that you can post info/pictures to share?


    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 10:07AM
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Bob, for those of us who are still exploring our options, can you give us details?
1) How did you decide what system to use? What were the options you considered? Did you consider the solar shingles? If so, what are your thoughts on them? (I live in a really traditional georgian style house, so that's where I'm leaning now)
2) How much did it cost to purchase the system? How much to install and hook up to the grid? What types of incentives and rebates did you find? (I know all of this will vary depending on where you are)
3) As the owner of this system, how much "working knowledge" do you need to have? I'm guessing you don't do your own repairs if something goes awry? What type of servicing will this system need? Any associated costs with that?
Sorry to be so full of questions! And pix would be great!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 11:24AM
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Neat to get some interest about this . . . hope I can help encourage / inform so that others will pursue their own "flavor" of doing some RE.

No web site; don't know how to do pix here; but I'll be happy to share with others but you need to give me a valid email address . . . the anonymous ones from this site hide a useable address . . . . I'm also known as rcmjr@eznet.net if anyone wants to use it . . . . .

I'm an ex-stumpie ( Forestry student ) and live in a log home in the woods . . . to shade the house as well as all the other good reasons. Anyway; roof mount won't cut it here at all. I have two arrays on poles out front; 10' square for each array. That's 2800 watts when filled with Sharp 175's and "full sun" lighting. Know nothing about the shingle types; except that they are out there . . . . .

I considered tracking . . . . getting the additional output from tracking vs using fixed mounts and more panels was roughly a wash as far as dollars for the equipment goes. Decided on fixed for two reasons:

1) Fixed mounts will never need any maintenance; trackers eventually will of some sort . . . lubrication, cleaning out the squirrel nest, whatever . . . . and I hear they do not hold up real well in high winds as compared to fixed mounts.
2) Rebates here in NY are based upon PV panel wattage installed; so putting in fewer panels and making up for it with tracking would have given me a lower rebate. Became a no-brainer for me under these circumstances.

Rebates in NY are only available when the system is installed by a certified installer . . . I could have bought all the stuff for around what I ended up paying out overall . . . . . but would have had to do the install myself. I built this house by myself; so I know how to work and learn quickly . . . . . BUT . . . I take very seriously the notion of tieing into the power grid . . . for both my own safety etc AND that of the utility workers whenever there is an outage. Present systems have great safeguards against potentially doing damage. Also; having it installed by a real company as opposed to an individual doing it means knowing who and how of dealing with the utilities and other authorities in the process. Much time saved here for me. In the end; the rebates I get basically paid for the installation . . . . again; became a no-brainer in my situation.

In New York at least; utilities cannot charge for doing the interconnect itself unless you want DUAL meters . . . one in, and one out. I chose the single meter option; the mechanical ones WILL run backwards; the new-fangled digital / radio read ones do NOT. Besides; the utility really doesn't do anything other than to approve the plan / system; and do an inspection when it's in. It's essentially transparent to them. I supply all the required grid intertie stuff as part of my system.

Working knowledge is little . . . I need to check the battery fluid levels on a regular basis; and then just basically let the damn thing run . . . . on a recent day with full sun; the system was putting 23 Amps ( @ 120 vac )out to the grid . . . displayed right on the inverter . . . thats ~ 2700 watts . . . not much really to do; in the end it's not terribly complicated; but for the guts of the inverter and what it does . . . . . the rest is pretty basic regular electrical wiring etc . . .

Also in New York as part of certified installers qualifying for the rebates; they must warranty the system for 5 years. The stuff is pretty well field tested and tried; I would avoid any "new" companies / equipment out there; wouldn't care to be a guineau pig with such an investment . . . . PV panels are gtd by mfr for 25 years; to put out at least 80% of their rated new power. Tough to argue with that . . .

New York also gives you a tax credit that you can roll over is necessary; I'll get ALL my state income tax back this year; and a good chunk of next year's as well due just to this fact.

New York also has a law that is in effect UNLESS a locale / municipality specifically declines it; that says that if your property value increases due to installing such a system; the increase in value may NOT be used for property tax calculations . . . . .

I'm rambling . . . again; I'll answer specific questions / supply pix if anyone want to email me directly . . .


    Bookmark   August 13, 2004 at 7:13PM
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Boy BOb I wish we had those kind of incentives here in Canada. I've looked at the costs and they are ridiculous! All I dream of is installing solar panels on our south facing roof of our semi-detached house in the city to cut the utility expenses. Ideally I'd move to the country and start from scratch but that'll take a lottery winning LOL!

Nevertheless I'm happy for you!

Rolande in Ottawa

    Bookmark   August 17, 2004 at 3:24PM
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I guess knowing the cost of deep cycle batteries I wonder why you bought them when you were already grid tied? It seems unlikely that Central Hudson? Niagara Mohawk? would be in a black out at the same time your array was not producing. If you just know a great place to get batteries please pass it on!

I don't really think you can call $.11-$.14 per kWh cheap even in Canadian dollars. I don't recall paying Central Hudson or Con Edison that much when I lived in NY.

I agree that electric company's should have to pay homeowners higher amounts per kWh.

Our windmill will be the Whisper H80, its a 1000w generator. It has very good out put at low wind spead 10-15mph and holds up very well in very high winds or turbulent winds. It furls in a way that allows it to still produce electricity that is important to us for the many days we will have 100kph winds.
Our PV array will be on trackers, we are far enough north to require them if you want decent output.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 9:16PM
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Have Niagara Mohawk . . . and near end of dead end street out in the sticks . . . not high on priority to get restored. Outage in winter for day or more can pose an issue to radiant heating system as well as domestic water . . . have no other means of heat here and don't wanna drain everything ya know ? So, that's why I elected to use batteries. Certainly added to costs; but I am now virtually immune to ANY power outage of practically any duration; except for a long one during a lousy stretch of sun. Besides, during a long outage; it's not all that great to have power only during the day . . . when one needs it the least . . . . again; it made sense to me in my particular situation; may not be the right answer for everyone.

We're paying ~ $.10 - .11 per kWh here; get re-imbursed at $.045 at the moment . . I guess it fluctuates / changes from time to time . .. based on ? I think some parts of Canada still have fairly "low" rates; from hydro ?

Don't know much about wind generators; never made sense here though there are lots starting to show up here in various places where the wind IS conducive to generation from it. Am curious if in your search for the right one; if you bumped into any of the Savonious rotor type ? They are also known as vertical sails . . . . . a very interesting design in that they ALWAYS face the wind . . no tail or such needed to keep them pointed the right way . . . seems to offer some inherent advantages . . . .

I'll offer one more piece of advice from the school of hard knocks . . . . I had my system up and running for a while BEFORE officially approved by utility . . . BUT .. since I had one of the "new" meters ( digital ) I figured it would just accumulate nothing when I was pushing out to the grid; and register normally when I took from the grid. Well . . .. . seems as though these meters read current NO MATTER the direction; my bill was almost twice normal . .. it charged me for what I used; AND for what I put out onto the grid. Can't really complain as I was not technically supposed to be connected yet but for testing system. Now have the "old" mechanical type; which do indeed read backwards and forwards . . . . but just beware of this fact if you find yourself in a similar situation . ... .

Good luck with your system . . .. .


    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 6:20AM
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I fondly remember the great black out periods during winter storms with Central Hudson. We used to go 4-5 days before we would get power back, one of the reasons we went off grid.

We researched the horizontal type blades but decided against them mostly for the following reason. They do not do well in high or turbulent winds as they have no way to furl themselves out of the wind they have to rely on mechanical brake's(just another part to break down).
We did find a windmill made in Africa that we really liked. It only has 3 moving parts and is supper easy to maintain and gets great rating's from everyone we talked to. But we couldn't find a good local(read pretty much any where in Canada) supplier, if we happened to need to replace one of the 3 moving parts.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 7:45PM
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I was in another forum and asked how to post pictures into my messages...i used the following instructions and it worked fine

Go to www.tinypic.com. A screen comes up with a "Browse" option. Click the "Browse" buttom and point it to the picture on your computer you want to post. Click the "HostIt" button. In a few seconds, you will see 3 entries at the bottom. Simply cut and paste the "Tag" entry in the body of your post. Voila! Your picture will be embedded

hey kindra: To show a pic on screen you need to type: (To display a different picture you will change the location between the quotes. (ie. http://www.anotherpic.com)

    Bookmark   November 5, 2004 at 10:45PM
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Hi! I live in NY state near VT & MA. We are in the process of buying land and eventually want to put in an energy efficient moderate sized cape or small colonial. Our current house uses passive solar and a VT casting woodstove (as they only had electric baseboard for heating and after the first winter we were broke and installed the woodstove and a slate for which has worked wonderfully for us.) I would also like to us PV solar and solar thermal for heating the water. I've yet found a wensite that is easy to understand for determining how big of a system one needs. We just had the power company out to give us an estimate to run power to the property less than 1/4 mile it's costing over $13,000 to run it to the property and then at least $3,000 more if we want to go just 600 feet back from the line. I would really like to go farther back but at this rate we'll be broke just running the electric to there.

Also, can you tell me how much it cost for your setup?
What installation company did you use?
What amount did you get rebated?

Any information would be helpful!


    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 10:01PM
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Greenie . . .

You are well withing "solar territory" with the bucks that the PoCo will charge to run you power . . . email me off line and I will get out a bunch of info to you, pix as well. Don't know how to do pix to this site; and don't wanna "clog" the thread with the amount of stuff I can give / tell you. And yes; there is rebate money / tax incentives etc out there . . . believe it will cost you less to go off-grid from the looks of it. The ideal time is BEFORE you build . .. you will need to consider many things IN your house to make solar feasable . . .

Bob aka rcmjr@eznet.net

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 6:12AM
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Greeenie . ..

Tried to respond to your email . . . it bounced as undeliverable . . . need a good email address that's active ... have lots of info for you. ..


    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 9:20AM
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