Solar Power

Some thoughts on solar Power after installing Solar on my roof.

We went to Solar panels,  no batteries in the summer of 2021.  Some things to know along the way.

Choosing what to buy

In Texas we are limited to no more solar per year than we consume on average, Thanks Oncor.  Oncor must review your plan and approve it.

Otherwise it's like a wild frontier right now with a lot of green-horns out there jumping on the sales bandwagon.  Some things to consider when going solar.

Get Multiple bids.  Focus on service and competence. Go see a system. Study the technology.  Who covers the warranty, what is the warranty?  High pressure, sign up today tactics, Say NO!

Some of the questions you should ask:

What is the expected life of the system? As with anything, solar cells wear over time.  They loose efficiency.  When figuring payback and use, know the real life of the system.   What is the MTBF of the equipment.  How long is it supposed to last without a problem.

Can they show you how it will fit on the house?  What trees/shade will be a problem.  Are they your trees or a neighbors?  If there are any roof problems, fix them first.  I had a new roof. If your house has an older roof, re-roofing before the panel install may be needed.  It will cost more to roof with panels on later.

Can you put it on a pole in the yard.  Less fuss and mess and keeps the roof nice.

Get in with a solar group. is the one I use. Lots of information and help.  

Are you comfortable being the contractor yourself?  I would consult with someone that has successfully contracted solar power for themselves if you do that. Most of the companies selling it are the contractor, they higher other groups to install it.

Are you in an area where falling debris can damage your panels?  Birds in some coastal areas use the panels to crack shell fish.  They just aim and drop…  Sometimes they crack the panel.

What impact/wind load can they take?  Mine are up to class 4 tornado.  At that point the house would be gone.

There is an inverter on the system that can be accessed with an App, but the sales groups may have to hook you up with it.  I did finally get tied in after 2 months. In my case I needed Mysolaredge app vs. Solaredge app.  It shows output per panel which you need if there are problems.

Your house insurance will go up to cover the panels. If you don't tell the insurance it may not be covered.

You may get up to 26% tax credit for installing Solar. Need to check how long that lasts.  Don't buy an over-priced system just because you get a tax credit. You will still be paying more.

Don't finance, you may not get payback. Some companies are doing equivalent systems with $250 month for 30 years.  That is $90,000 dollars, almost 5x the net price of mine.   All for the system that will be out of date by then.   There may be no payback.  How do you get your tax credit doing payments?  Some companies loan you the "tax credit" and you have to pay it to them after you get the refund. Watch out for money slight of hand. 

Know what the efficiency of the panels.  The amount of electricity generated from the sunlight (UV?) vs. theoretical potential.  My panels are 19% efficient. It took a few days for them to track down a person that could answer the efficiency question!  In the 70s when I looked at solar panels they were 5% efficient.  In 5 years they may be up to 25. 

I am waiting on batteries, probably a few years. Tech is still coming on line that will drop the cost and increase the life.  Demand is also growing. I think cost of the batteries is way too high currently. No payback.  They can always be added later.  Batteries let you keep your surplus with near 0 grid use if everything is matched.  Also power out coverage is better. No need for "buy back" coverage in your power plans. For now a backup generator is cheaper to cover power outages.

If you are happy relying on the grid for non-daylight power and the buyback, batteries are not needed.

There are 3 main power grids in the US.  East, West and Texas. Which one you are in may matter. What state you are in for solar buy back matters.

In Texas a solar bill of rights passed in 2021. Solar companies will now be required to list all the hardware and cost for each item. Similar to a car repair bill. That way you could also research the reviews on the hardware.

I didn't buy the advanced maintenance after the first year. Why? I can reach the panels with the hose to wash them off. Do it in morning/dusk, not when they are hot with noon day Sun. The cost was so high it took a significant amount of my payback.



It takes a while to get the installation done.  Mostly paperwork.   Texas power grid approval took a month, Electric meter had to be upgraded. City inspection and permission to operate took another month. DON'T turn it on without approval, if anything goes wrong insurance may not cover. 3rd party installer worked for many "solar" companies.

Finally got the Solar Panels turned on and inspected.   And away we go... sort of.  

Texas Power rules

In Texas there is no buy-back regulation for consumer generated power as of June 2022. 38 of the 50 states in the U.S. have a buyback rule.  1 to 1 for power you use vs generate. Example, if I use 20Kw at night/under producing times and generate 18KW surplus in a day. with a 1 to 1 plan, I am charged 2KW, without the 1 to 1 plan I may be charged for the full 20KW. No bill will be 0, in Texas ONCOR owns the power lines, so they have a monthly minimum plus a charge per KW. You need to know how your state works these charges.

We need to keep pushing in Texas for a consumer buyback 1:1 protection.

I switched "providers" to one that has the 1 to 1 rule initially. With my old provider I get 0 credit for surplus 12 months of the year. And wholesale power cost is in 5 minute increments, not daily/weekly. It matters.  A year later when it is time to sign up again, the 1 to 1 now charges me for the TDU, ONCOR charges.  They have also eliminated "roll over" value for my excess power to 1 month.

Power was de-regulated in Texas years ago.  Power companies in Texas are similar to the long distance companies after the AT&T breakup.  There are a lot of them.  The power plans for solar change often. It is looking less and less free market as time goes by.

So how can a power company make money on solar?   I think the key is in the spot rate cost of power.   It is adjusted every 5 minutes in Texas.   It follows a peak demand curve.  Since AC is a large percent of power cost in southern states, it drives the peak demand cost.  My solar "over produces", during peak demand usually.  They sell my over-production at high cost times and provide my power needed at dusk/dark times with lower cost power.  That means what they provide vs what they sell is about equal, but they sell at high rate vs. providing at low rate.  That is where they make profit in my estimates.

My system is balanced to equal what I use over a year.  It was until Oncor did the numbers and took 1 panel away.  We averaged $30 a month for electricity for the first 3 hot months. Not bad, it will payback in about 7 years.  The biggest benefit is my wife can keep the temp low when it is hot.  She is not made for warm weather.

  last update June 29  2022