Are there solar pan...
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Are there solar panels running home's on any of the islands

Posts: 5
Active Member
Topic starter

Is there much use of solar panels on any and all of the islands where people's home's are being run from them?

We are considering shipping panels there to sell in the future and would like to know if there is enough or or any interest?

Richie and Darlene

Posted : December 20, 2006 2:14 am
Posts: 147
Estimable Member

There are not enough and there is certainly interest.

What most people would like to see is a solar setup without needed a decade to recoup the installation/matierials cost.

It's real exciting until the estimate is there in front of you in black and white.

I'm sure you know more about it than we do!

Posted : December 20, 2006 4:39 am
Posts: 3904
Famed Member

I could be wrong but I believe I read in the paper a few years ago about a home on STX that was solely run with solar power. I don't know of any on STT but there are several places with the solar water heaters.

Posted : December 20, 2006 9:26 am
Posts: 582
Honorable Member

Totally agree with Rich - we would LOVE to do it, and checked into the price (very briefly) at a "home show" here on STJ and their "guesstimate" would have been in the $15,000 - $20,000 range for our very small home. If you can come up with a cost effect way let us know.....please 🙂

Posted : December 20, 2006 10:09 am
Posts: 2259
Noble Member

That house in STX belongs to Steffen Larsen and his wife Jan Mitchell:

Aug. 9, 2006
Going off the grid with solar
ST. CROIX‹In the past generating electricity from solar energy has always been prohibitively expensive, but due to our current utility rate crisis, the math is moving closer to almost making it a real option for ordinary people.
Using solar energy for heating water gives by far the biggest bang for the buck, so much so that nearly anyone could install a system today, on credit, save about as much per month on your electric bill as you are spending for the loan, pay it off in two to three years. After that, you would save upwards of $75 every month on your utility bills.
As great an option as that is, though, you only save electricity. You still have to pay the VI Water and Power Authority to turn on your lights and run your refrigerator. It is possible, though to go completely solar and generate all the electricity you use independently. But while you can cut your electric bill by a third or more with a solar water heater for maybe $1500, to drop that bill to zero will cost you twenty times that, around $30,000. That figure assumes you do a lot of the work yourself and you have received the federal tax credit.
Expensive as that is, though, it could still be an investment that pays serious dividends over the long haul.
One couple on the big island has already made it pay. the big island, Steffen Larsen and Jan Mitchell made their house near Divi completely self sufficient and solar powered back in 1998. In fact, they aren¹t connected to the power grid at all. With the federal credit, their 5 kilowatt system cost them just about the $30,000 mentioned above. It involves a number of photovoltaic panels on the roof, a set of batteries that take up as much space as a banquet table, a few expensive electrical doodads like an inverter to convert the DC current to the AC your house uses and a computer to run it all.
But once you have all that, it pretty much quietly provides all the electricity you need, without fuss, without blackouts, without power surges and blown bulbs and without any utility bills.
Larsen runs a very large refrigerator, two freezers, his computers, lights, washing machine and dishwasher without a hitch. His clothes dryer uses propane, but he could even run an electric dryer if he didn¹t use it too much. While he chooses not to use air conditioning, because his location is breezy, that would use less than a dryer.
As of this year, Larsen says, his system has paid for itself and from now on, until he has to fix or replace some part of the system, all his electricity really is free.
Naturally not everyone can afford to pay for a system like this if it means much higher monthly bills, even if a decade down the road you start reaping big benefits. Let¹s look at the math a little.
If you already own a house, and are creditworthy, you could go online to and get a 10 year home equity loan for $30,000 with payments of $382 a month. A lot of people are already spending that kind of money for their electric bills right now, but you won¹t be able to use quite that much once you¹re on solar.
If that amount won¹t break you, in ten years though, you¹d be free of electric bills altogether.
You can lower your monthly payment by extending the life of the loan. If you have a thirty year $200,000 mortgage and refinance it at 7.25 percent, rolling in the cost of your system, you would have a $230,000 loan with a payment off $1570 a month at 7.25. That is $206 more than the same loan for $30,000 less. So you could refinance or- with a new house, build in solar and save money right from the start. So long as your electric bill would normally be more than $206 a month, you¹re ahead of the game.
Thirty years is a very long time, though. While experts say oil will stay expensive and slowly grow more expensive, the reasons it is expensive right now are probably temporary. It will go down for a while. Not to mention, WAPA just might stop relying on expensive oil before three more decades have gone by.
By the time you¹ve paid off the mortgage, you may well have to replace the solar power system too. Unlike with a shorter loan time, you don¹t know that you¹ll ever get to the point where the system has paid for itself and is saving you money every month.
There are several other smaller systems on the island. The Bamboula Haven Foundation has a 1 kilowatt system that runs part of their facility. The VI Energy Office paid for that one with a discretionary grant. They have lots of useful information about alternative energy sources if you want to call them at 773-1082. Camp Mt. Victory in Frederiksted has a small system as well. While less expensive, these systems also generate less electricity. But you can still save substantial amounts on your monthly bills.
Personal solar electricity remains a marginal investment. It is great for the environment, it would give you independence, but, unless you¹re rich enough to buy it out of pocket, there is no guarantee you¹ll come out ahead financially.
Making it a public investment, taken care of by the government, is not really feasible to. The costs for all 41,000 households in the territory would run well over a billion dollars, and while a homeowner would eventually reap the financial benefits, the government would not. So it is really a private investment.
One thing that might make private solar a more attractive investment would be if you could sell any excess electrical production back to WAPA at the same rate they charge you. Bevan Smith of the VI Energy Office, and individuals like Steffen Larsen have long been advocating this net metering approach, and it may become a reality in the near future. After long opposing the idea, WAPA recently changed to a neutral position.
Larsen says he generates all the power he uses before noon each day. If you could sell a third of what you generate, it could mean that ten year loan payment becomes a lot easier to handle, or that rolling it into your thirty year mortgage starts to really make financial sense.
Net metering has not happened yet, but if it does, you might want to start crunching the numbers at your house.
Author¹s note: Cost estimates in a recent Avis article on the subject are a little misleading, as they do not take into account the cost of shipping the unit here, VI excise taxes and installation. Also, the federal tax credit will take some time to process through the VI Internal Revenue Bureau, so your costs out of pocket are higher. There are a handful of companies available for such work. The oldest one on St. Croix, West Indies Solair, 773-4790, can sell and install one for roughly $4,000. After purchasing one, you can apply for a 30 percent tax credit on the cost of the unit itself. The basic economics remain the same however. Solar hot water is an investment that will begin to pay off substantially in a short period of time.


Posted : December 20, 2006 10:31 am
Posts: 2552
Famed Member

Kokomo's is now selling and installing solar hot water units.

Posted : December 20, 2006 12:35 pm
Posts: 3030


The VI Energy Office, part of the Dept. of Planning & Natural Resources has a website at It contains information on what they are doing, rebates for residents that purchase certain energy efficient and renewable energy systems and appliances, grants, wind power info, solar etc. Check it out.

Best bet for stats would be to contact the Energy Office and see if they have figures on how many folks in the VI are using solar energy.


Posted : December 20, 2006 12:38 pm
Posts: 859
Prominent Member

If you go to our local on-line newspaper, St Thomas Source and research there, there have been in the present and not too distant past many very good news articles written about solar energy, along with several letters from contributors to the "Open Forum" and I recall also in the Op-Ed forum.

The main problem here is cost-effectiveness. Only a few have the resources to come up with the initial (very) high cost of conversion. The payback does eventually come but the majority of lower/middle-income residents just don't have access to the up-front money needed.

Someone on STJ might remember Bob who used to own the hardware store there? He and his wife built a home many years ago in a then rather remote mountain area where they couldn't get immediate access to WAPA power without paying through the nose and they built their house totally dependent on solar. I'm sure someone on STJ would know the house and might know the new owners.

Posted : December 20, 2006 4:01 pm
(@Jay Draiman)
Posts: 1
New Member

Most renewable energy devices – equipment that generates electricity from the wind, waves or sun, or which heats water directly using energy from the sun – have been around for decades, in some cases for centuries. But they have not caught on till now, and they are still seen as mostly peripheral ways of contributing energy to the total required.”

I argue that three facts will very soon result in everybody clamouring for whatever renewable energy they can get, peripheral or not, the alternative being that they either won’t be able to get enough of it, or to afford it, as conventional fuels, (gas and oil), run out and prices continue to soar.

After all, whatever the cost of renewable energy sources, after what is already an acceptable payback period they produce free energy for the life of the system used – normally at least 25 years. People don’t have to think about climate change to justify them – they do that on energy cost savings alone.

The three facts are:

Oil and gas are running out, whilst the world demand for them is increasing. And we are at the end of the pipeline.

The amount of energy from the sun falling on each square metre of the earth’s surface is equivalent to 1,000kWh annually – so that alone is enough to meet the entire global demand for energy many times over. Even without wind, water and nuclear power we can manage easily without oil and gas. If we get our act together in time.

In real terms fuel prices have at least doubled in the last year, and they are likely to double again every couple of years or even faster than that. As a result, a system with a payback period of 10 years now will, in practice, pay for itself in less than half that time.

We must proceed with renewable energy.

Jay Draiman
Northridge, CA. 91325

Posted : December 21, 2006 8:14 am
Posts: 5
Active Member
Topic starter

Please email me directly to discuss this in details..need to know the size of your home and what you want to electrify...


Posted : December 21, 2006 4:04 pm
Posts: 532
Honorable Member

There are often 'low tech' ideas for alternative energy - a web search might bring up some that might fit the VI.
My brother in the UK - a not so famously sunny clime - has used black tubing on the roof of his home to provide hot water for years - might be worth looking into.

Posted : December 21, 2006 5:11 pm
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