Wednesday, August 6, 2008


April 21, 2007

We've decided that we're going solar. We think of it as our contribution to sound energy and environmental policies for our country's future.

It will cost a lot. The state of New Jersey will pay for some of the system and we'll be using the equity in our home to borrow the rest. Cost of installation will be offset over the years by reduction or elimination of electric bills as well as the sale of 'clean energy' certificates (SRECs) to utility companies. Estimates for how long it will take for the system to pay for itself vary wildly. I think it will be well over a decade. On the other hand, the value of our home will increase immediately, given that it will very possibly be electrically self-sufficient.

But we're not doing this for financial reasons. We just think it will be cool. Maybe it will help broaden the understanding of what can and can't be done with 'renewable' energy.

We live in a fifteen year-old house of about 2500 square feet in a typical suburban development. The house has a simple, sloped roof. There are no tall trees around to block the sun and we are fifteen degrees away from perfect southern exposure. Not all houses are suited for a solar system but ours meets pretty much all of the basic requirements.

In Spring 2007 we signed a contract with Mesa Environmental Services for installation of a 9.84 kW system. Based on analysis of our past electric use, we're pretty sure that this will will generate enough power to meet all our needs (we're a family of five). The governing authorities seem to be anxious to limit the size of residential solar systems to 10KW, or else we'd make our system a bit larger.

Our system will be connected to the power grid, and it will be technically feasible for us to 'export' extra energy onto that grid. I'm not clear about if and how that part of it will work. The governing authorities seem wary of this type of arrangement.

Rebates available through New Jersey's Clean Energy Program have been scaled back significantly since it's inception but it is still considerable. Our system will cost $ 80,688 to install; NJCEP will kick in $ 37,392.

There's a waiting list for approval of these rebates, presumably because there are a limited amount of state funds. when we signed the contract on April 21, 2007, we were at approximately 1500 on the list. Our contract was written contingent on approval of our rebate application. The system won't be installed until our rebate is approved.

More about New Jersey's energy programs can be found on the program's website:

As things happen I'll post about them here. After the system is up and running I'll post details about how it's working, how much energy it produces and anything else that might be interesting or relevant.

No comments: