Tuesday November 15, 2011:  Updated July 23, 2012

Solar Panels 1 Year Later: Happy Panelversary!!!

Anyone wanting to get solar panels, my advice to you is to buy them ASAP.  Now!  If you live in the state of Utah, now is the best time in the history of the state to buy solar.  If someone said to you, "Buy these solar panels for $22,000 and I'll pay you back $25,000, would you do it?  Well this is exactly what is going on in Utah right now.  Not only will you receive a 30% federal tax credit and $2000 state tax rebate, you can also qualify for up to 25% state energy rebate.  If you have Rocky Mountain power, you will also qualify for up to a $2/watt rebate.  With all these programs added together, you would actually end up with free solar panels and money in your pocket.   It's up to you.  

It has been 1 year since I first installed solar panels on the house and tied them to the electric grid. In one year’s time, the panels have produced 8600 kWh (kilowatt-hours) or about $850 worth of electricity. Even though that is about 900 kWh less than what I estimated my panels would produce in a year, this energy production has been more than sufficient to supply my entire house with all of its electricity needs.

Until recently, we had a 2 month credit built up with the power company of excess energy that the solar panels generated and fed back into the grid. In September, I started exclusively driving my newly converted all-electric pickup truck. With my 40 mile commute requiring 12-14 kWh of electrical energy, our credit with the power company was depleted 1 month later. 

1 year ago, today, the power meter on the house was installed and set to 000000 kWh. Today, 1 year later it reads 000980 kWh.  I was hoping to have it roll all the way back to 000000 by this date. I attribute the excess consumption to the electric truck, and an unusually wet and cloudy weather this year that prevented the solar energy yield from being as high.

I am driving the truck more than I thought I would.  I love driving it so much, I find myself volunteering for errands that normally my wife would be doing in her minivan.  Having driven the truck over 2100 miles so far, an additional 682 kWh of energy has been consumed. If the cost of never having to pay for gas again is being unable to zero out the power meter each year then so be it. 

Still, I would like to make the house and electric pickup truck even more efficient so that my family can maintain our current standard of living and still zero out the meter. How cool would that be?

House consumption could be further reduced with additional insulation in the basement, attic and additional summer shading on all south facing windows.  

Truck consumption could be further reduced by making the truck lighter and more aerodynamic.  

Here is an example of an aero-cap; something I have yet to do on my own truck. 

In a few years when the truck's heavy, cheap lead-acid battery pack reaches the end of its life, I want to replace it with a lithium-ion pack. This will reduce the weight of the truck by nearly 800 lbs. My 40 mile commute would only require 8 kWh instead of 12 kWh. The truck would also have better acceleration and extended range.