STX Residential sol...
 
Notifications
Clear all

STX Residential solar power  

Page 2 / 2
 

MichaelStx
(@MichaelStx)
Advanced Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 21
February 26, 2013 2:54 am  

Dareo, I've wondered the same thing, why so few people have PV installaions. We have had a full-house PV system since 2008. It's a mixed grid-tie/Emergency back-up Net Metered system, as Ericw desribed. We have solar hot water and produce enough PV power to completely offset our use, with some to spare. We had the house on the market, thinking that in the recent energy crisis it would sell in heartbeat, but after 1.5 years on MLS never got a single offer. Seems people like the "idea" of energy independence, but most can't be bothered beyond that.

I'll do my best to express our experience in regards to the various concerns people have mentioned so far in this thread.

I would highly recommend the battery back-up. Yes, battery technology is not as good as it could be, but it is improving (we're keeping a close eye on flow battery technology). We have sealed no-maintenance batteries that are still working for us after 5 years, but will need replacing in the next couple years. I will probably switch to longer-life batteries, even though they require more attention and maintenance. It's worth it to have continuous power when WAPA has a prolonged outage, or "mistakenly" disconnects you. So far our batteries have not been cumbersome or required a high degree of electrical knowledge, and they cost less than a decent diesel or gas generator.

"no electronic device, no matter how marine-ized, well constructed or warranted, lasts more than 5-6 years" is an unqualified absolute statement. As rhstoo mentioned, some electronics do last. Yes, the climate takes its toll, but WAPA takes a bigger one. Our inverter/charger system is protected and always on and warm, so corrosion and corruption from moisture is minimized. It "cleans" WAPA's inconsistent power, so we no longer have to constantly replace bulbs and equipment destroyed by power fluctuations. Batteries are the only thing I expect to replace in my system in the first 20 years, and they represent a small percentage of the total system.

I re-coated my roof immediately before installing the solar panels. It's getting time to do it again, but not under the panels. The panels themselves have sufficiently protected the roof and coating under them. I can easily pressure-wash, then re-coat the roof around them. They are raised on racks, a couple inches off the roof surface, so no risk of accidentally coating them. Alana, you just can, easily, re-coat around the panels.

We have not had to remove the panels during hurricane season. We have been snug and happy inside, with power, throughout every storm since the system was installed. Our system and mounting is rated to withstand a Category 3 or higher. If another Hugo comes and takes the whole roof, we'll have more to worry about than the PV system. In regards to cleaning, every once in a while I think I need to clean the panels because the cats gone on the roof and walked across them leaving prints or something, but I've never actually done it yet. They always rinse clean in the next rain and our power production hasn't seemed to suffer. We still produce more power than we use.

Re: Net Metering and WAPA buying power. As the Net Metering agreement currently stands, WAPA, hypothetically, credits the customer for excess power produced in a month and debits for any usage more than produced. It's a direct one-for-one exchange, full retail rate, LEAC and all fees. Customer is only obligated to pay the monthly customer fee (currently $6.22). Excess produced power is forfeited to the utility at the end of the year. It may seem unfair, but getting credited the full retail rate is a good deal, better then most net metering agreements around the country. But that may be changing, there is discussion of having a split retail/wholesale rate, with customers getting credited the wholesale for excess, but charged the retail for net usage. And in practice, WAPA still does everything it can to discourage net metering customers, including screwing up their billing, charging for electricity not used, disconnecting you for not paying for electricity that wasn't used, etc. They have also failed, despite initiating net metering in 2005, or 2007, and completely re-designing their billing statements last year, to produce a proper net metering bill that accurately credits customers for excess power, but charges them the monthly customer fee. So despite all the advantages, it can still be a pain dealing with the utility. If I were to do it all over from scratch, I'd seriously consider totally off-grid.

I haven't looked at the coakleybay analysis and do not have our total costs in front of me. However, the cost of panels has come down, rebates and tax credits have gone up and caps have been lifted, so the net cost of my system today would be $1000s less than it was 5 years ago. Maintenance has cost pretty much nothing so far.


ReplyQuote
LiquidFluoride
(@LiquidFluoride)
Trusted Member
Joined: 8 years ago
Posts: 1937
February 26, 2013 12:18 pm  

Michael, great write up on solar!

I don't think your lack of sale reflects the solar instal, it seems the market is pretty down right now & perhaps you just priced yourself out of it.

We will be building a house on STJ soon and will be installing a PV system. They do have grid tied solar with battery backup which is a blend of an on-grid/off-grid system to get the best of both worlds. As the grid is up, you produce as ussual, charge batteries, and credit excess back to the grid or pull from the grid. When the grid goes down, there is a switch that reconizes that and swithes to your batteries or PV panels only while still allowing your PV panels to charge your batteries when sun is available. Before if you were grid tied, if the grid went down so did you despite you having your own power plant on your roof.

Here is some more info:
http://www.wholesalesolar.com/grid-tie-battery-backup.html

This seems like the perfect solution; Michael mentioned his system also "cleans" the power; is this typical ? It seems to me that this solves the WAPA issue, especially with michaels post about longevity & lack of maintence


ReplyQuote
dbwilk
(@dbwilk)
Advanced Member
Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 27
February 26, 2013 12:33 pm  

I thought there was an installer that chimed in from time to time. Maybe he could answer alot of these questions. WAPA is one of my major concerns in my planning to move to STX. Also could the panels be covered with the fairly new Gorilla Glass or Lexan? Both of these supposed nearly unbreakable. Just a thought looking for an answer.


ReplyQuote
Dareo
(@Dareo)
Advanced Member
Joined: 8 years ago
Posts: 23
February 26, 2013 1:12 pm  

@MichaelStx - Thanks for such an informative experience report. Although I don't (yet) live in the USVI, should I decide to move there the info is very useful, and hopefully even more useful to current residents who may be contemplating installing a system.

All of the impediments that you bring up re: dealing with Net Metering and WAPA lead me to believe that going totally off-grid may be a more practical approach, even if only from a sanity/frustration point-of-view. Doing everything in their power to discourage Net Metering, or any change from the status quo, is quite common in monopolies where no viable / reasonably-priced alternative to their products/services exits. As providers of an end-to-end service (generation + distribution), when lighting up you neighbor's house with power generated by your panels, the cost to WAPA isn't exactly zero due to distribution costs. However, WAPA states on their web page "Currently, WAPA relies exclusively on fuel oil to power its electric generating units." So, for all practical purposes, they get to charge your neighbor for generating power which actually cost them zero to generate since it was generated by your panels. In my simple (although sometimes twisted) mind, I would think WAPA would do everything in their power (pun intended) to foment the growth of fair Net Metering practices since it would appear to produce higher profit margins through the reduction of generation costs.

When thinking about protecting electric/electronic devices, I would think that a whole-house surge protector would be a wise investment for WAPA customers. Since you state that your installation "cleans WAPA's inconsistent power, so we no longer have to constantly replace bulbs and equipment destroyed by power fluctuations", is it your experience that whole-house surge protection would be unnecessary?

Cheers


ReplyQuote
CarlHartmann
(@CarlHartmann)
Advanced Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 158
February 26, 2013 9:21 pm  

Answers to your questions.........

1. In the text prior to the table it's stated that one Kilowatt Hour (with all taxes and fees) is $.45 through WAPA. Yet when calculating Savings per Year and Years to Recover (last two columns) a value of 0.65 is used. Why?

-----It wa updated in the chart to $.65 to reflect the projected reality....oversight, the text wasn't changed to reflect that.....will make sure it is corrected.

2. What's a ballpark figure for the cost of mountings, wire, installation, etc. for your reference 16-panel system?

-----that was built into the cost per panel.....but that did NOT include a ground-based mounting with housings and covers. I believe the incremental amount assumption was 18% of panel cost. Very conservative.

3. What are the annual maintenance costs?

----- There are two possible ways to look at that. There is no actual maintenace....really more of a maintenance reserve -- the costs will come in years 6+. One thing is a yearly 'service' contract with someone on island. Pretty much what you negotiate. I have the battery part of the system only (installed before Coakley Bay went to 100% full coverage backup -- as sort of a test project) and have had 1 $150 service call in 4 years. The other is to reserve for battery replacement...1/8th of the battery cost is conservative....although they could last longer. (Ever since Coakley Bay put in the WONDERFUL automatic backup power, all my battery/inverter unit does now is act as the worlds largest battery backup -- makes the power a little cleaner from WAPA and makes the 5 seconds before the generators take over seamless.....but no longer really necessary....and thus YMMV !)

Hope that is helpful!!


ReplyQuote
Dareo
(@Dareo)
Advanced Member
Joined: 8 years ago
Posts: 23
February 27, 2013 11:02 am  

Answers to your questions.........

.
.
.

Hope that is helpful!!

Very helpful indeed! A thousand thanks!

Cheers


ReplyQuote
SunnyCaribe
(@SunnyCaribe)
Advanced Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 495
February 27, 2013 12:49 pm  

Thank you, Michael, for an excellent write-up and analysis of your experience. I've heard of your house and kept it in mind over the years as an example of how solar can be done successfully.

You correctly noted my hasty generalization: "no electronic device, no matter how marine-ized, well constructed or warranted, lasts more than 5-6 years." I might better have said that most electronic devices cannot be counted on to last beyond 5-6 years. Many do, but many do not. And to reiterate, conditioning the power input any device receives will go a long way to extending its life.

Your statement about the warmth of the inverter acting to reduce the inherent corrosion is encouraging. I would have guessed the opposite.

I will stand by my statement -- here clarified -- about the degree of electrical understanding that battery systems require for optimum performance and longevity. Here I think you underestimate your own expertise. This shouldn't daunt anyone. It seems to me (correct me if I'm wrong) to be roughly analogous to knowing when, how and why to change the oil in one's car. I think you'll agree it is important to be clear that any alternative energy system is not entirely plug-and-play, and that, just as with the oil-change analogy, ignoring the monitoring and maintenance of the system is unnecessarily costly.

We are continuing to research and save for our eventual solar power installation. We have become increasingly convinced that it is both an economically and ethically sound move. We are particularly grateful to all who have shared their thoughts in this discussion.


ReplyQuote
SunnyCaribe
(@SunnyCaribe)
Advanced Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 495
February 27, 2013 1:38 pm  

When thinking about protecting electric/electronic devices, I would think that a whole-house surge protector would be a wise investment for WAPA customers. Since you state that your installation "cleans WAPA's inconsistent power, so we no longer have to constantly replace bulbs and equipment destroyed by power fluctuations", is it your experience that whole-house surge protection would be unnecessary?

Cheers

From my experience the whole house surge protection is an absolute must. The better surge protectors are costly, but if they save you one appliance replacement they have more than paid for themselves. We are on our third unit (we have one leg of our WAPA power which is more problematic than the other) and our appliance replacement has been minimal since we switched over from the little cube supressors which were regularly blown, often with smoke and once even fire.


ReplyQuote
dazajj
(@dazajj)
Advanced Member
Joined: 8 years ago
Posts: 31
March 28, 2013 4:52 pm  

thank you for that great write up Michael. I will definitely be going the solar panel route when i move down to the USVI. 😎


ReplyQuote
billd
(@billd)
Trusted Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1085
March 28, 2013 10:09 pm  

I put down 18K last year, got 9K back from the US Gov and then got a 3K tax credit. So I was out 6k after all was said and done. My payback period is 3 years and I do not use more power than I generate. So the WAPA give back is not an issue.

The panels are good for 135MPH and can be taken off in about 5 min a panel.

But there is a catch. You need to get what is called a FOCUS 2 meter, not anything else. The old wapa meter did not sence the power going back onto the grid so you were giving them power and getting NOTHING!

Mine is a 3.3K system..

Now the issue is if you can get the money together the payback period is now about three to four years. If WAPA continues to increase its rates then the payback period goes further down.

I have an internet connection that allows me to see what each panel does by hour by day.

Now do not expect the solar panels to serve as a emergency power generator. They have a sensor to detect when there is no wapa power and then shout down the ac power. There might be a way to fool the system but there many issues to consider.

There are several solar power companies so shop around.

bill


ReplyQuote
Alana33
(@Alana33)
Expert
Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 12289

ReplyQuote
Ericw
(@Ericw)
Advanced Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 277
March 29, 2013 5:58 pm  

Bill - there are new inverters out there that will keep your system going during a grid failure. I konw one manufature that makes that kind is Outback. What compnay did your solar system?


ReplyQuote
SkysTheLimit
(@SkysTheLimit)
Trusted Member
Joined: 13 years ago
Posts: 1914
March 29, 2013 6:42 pm  

Bill - there are new inverters out there that will keep your system going during a grid failure. I konw one manufature that makes that kind is Outback. What compnay did your solar system?

I believe only if you install batteries,


ReplyQuote
rhstoo
(@rhstoo)
Advanced Member
Joined: 10 years ago
Posts: 195
March 29, 2013 8:46 pm  

I turned-up my 8.9kw system in mid-December and just passed the 4Mw mark in power production. I use more power than I produce (need 24/7 AC because of neighbor's noisy wind turbine) but the payback will still be really short. When WAPA goes down, my power goes off (which is why I have a generator.)


ReplyQuote
Alana33
(@Alana33)
Expert
Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 12289
March 29, 2013 8:50 pm  

Can one convert a diesel generator to propane or cost prohibitive and start all over?
I have a full house generator right now, its old, reliable and wonderful but diesel used to be less expensive than gas way back when so just wondering.


ReplyQuote
Lucy
 Lucy
(@Lucy)
Advanced Member
Joined: 12 years ago
Posts: 297
March 30, 2013 1:47 pm  

Alana,

I suggest that you contact the manufacturer to see what is possible and the cost. Most modern IC engine generators like those from MAN and CAT, etc. are set-up for duel fuel, but older units may be too costly to retrofit.

Lucy


ReplyQuote
LiquidFluoride
(@LiquidFluoride)
Trusted Member
Joined: 8 years ago
Posts: 1937
April 2, 2013 2:02 pm  

Bill - there are new inverters out there that will keep your system going during a grid failure. I konw one manufature that makes that kind is Outback. What compnay did your solar system?

I believe only if you install batteries,

Yep, that's the kind of system I'm looking at, you don't need many batteries for it to work either; just enough to act as sort of a buffer between the pannels and you, though the more batteries you have the longer your power will last through the night.

Outback also has an option to connect a generator for night time to charge the system. (still need batteries etc..) it's a little bit more but well worth it IMO.


ReplyQuote
Alana33
(@Alana33)
Expert
Joined: 9 years ago
Posts: 12289
April 2, 2013 6:14 pm  

Check this article out:

Victory! Maryland wind bill passes House and Senate

We’re thrilled to announce that Maryland’s state House and Senate have voted in favor of a bill to jumpstart the offshore wind energy industry and create long-term manufacturing and maritime jobs through the use of offshore wind renewable energy credits. The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 will help spur the development of wind energy off Maryland’s coast – enough to power 200,000 homes! Offshore wind is a clean and abundant energy source that has remained untapped in the US. Maryland has become a leader in offshore wind energy, and we urge the full passage and signing of this bill to make Maryland an example in clean and safe energy for the rest of the country to follow.

Read more» http://oceana.org/en/news-media/press-center/press-releases/maryland-becomes-leader-in-offshore-wind-energy?akid=2723.648642.1w9kPk&rd=1&t=10


ReplyQuote
dpj10
(@dpj10)
New Member
Joined: 5 years ago
Posts: 2
March 3, 2016 1:59 am  

I've been in the construction business for over 35 years and I agree that solar power will increase the value of a home and eventually pay for itself. Even if you have to take out a loan this is something worth doing anywhere there is enough sun....unless you can't pay for the loan. If I move to STX I'll do it.
Dan


ReplyQuote
butchCondor
(@butchCondor)
Advanced Member
Joined: 5 years ago
Posts: 57
March 5, 2016 4:08 pm  

Carl

Very informative link, I like the way you think.

The last thing I want to do is to come across as one of those guys who moves to a new and exciting place and the first thing they want to do is change it to be like the place they just left, why move in the first place?

From what I’m reading WAPA is in violation of the accords that were drawn up covering go-generation with solar systems. I was thinking when I land on STT, it might be time for me, like Don Quixote to dust off the armor and get back into the fight for solar energy
.
I was there in the early 1970’s and met with the newly formed Department of Energy to establish the Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act. or PURPA It was drawn up to force Utilities to accept or interface with electrical solar energy hook-ups and buy back rates at an avoided cost for excess electricity they produced. Avoided cost is the amount it would cost to produce a kilowatt if they built a new Nuclear Power Plant, the idea was to avoid building the plant. Prices for a kilowatt hour from that proposed Nuclear Power Plant were usually higher than what they currently charging for a kilowatt hour. Needless to say the utilities were pissed about buying a kilowatt hour for more than what they were selling one for. .

There was also talk about using the Windfall Profit Tax on oil production, to provide low interest loans to those who wanted solar energy but couldn’t afford the startup cost. Also, tax credits were available that would pay off a solar system within 5 years, even if the unit didn’t generate one kilowatt. Typically, the systems I sold were paid off in 3 or 4 years.
The idea was to get the loan payments lower or equal to the monthly amount home owners were already paying a utility for power. Instead of paying the utility, the same amount of money would go toward the loan. In time, the loans would be paid off, after that the electricity would be free.

The Utilities had 2 or 3 years to enact PURPA. Where I lived in Illinois, the local utility Common Wealth Edison waited till the last minute to do anything. The only reason Con-Ed did something was because the law stated they couldn’t raise their rates until PURPA was enacted. When they went before the (Illinois Commerce Commission) the ICC with their proposal for PURPA, they expected a normal “rubber stamp” meeting, like they always had with the ICC. However, I was there with a couple of customers I sold systems to and a lawyer from the Cook County DA Office. After heated debates lasting several weeks that cost Con-Ed a lot of lost income because they couldn’t switch to the higher summer rates a reasonable buy back rate for solar electricity was established.
Back then, late 1970’ early 1980’s President Carter set an attainable goal of having 10% or America’s energy needs produced by solar energy by the year 2000. We could have done that.

However, when President Reagan was elected one of the first things he did was gut the solar energy program. Not only did he put me out of business, but now the USA is way behind a lot of other countries who are using solar energy to produce their electrical needs. My company, American Energy Systems sold and installed small scale photovoltaic, wind and hydro electrical systems for home owners.

I don’t think I’ll start up another solar energy company, I’m too old to be climbing 100 ft. towers. But, maybe I’ll get back into the fight and promote or fight for solar energy on the USVI. I'd love to ask WAPA a couple of questions. Is it true WAPA charges for “line loss”? If so, that is insane, they could make up any figure they wanted and call it “line loss”. I argued “line loss” with IIC and Con-Ed years ago. For what it’s worth, this is my 2 cents and random thoughts on the subject.

PS, I don't know if any amendments of changes have been done to PURPA, I'll have to read up on that, but I do know what was originally written.


ReplyQuote
Scubadoo
(@Scubadoo)
Trusted Member
Joined: 6 years ago
Posts: 2344
March 5, 2016 7:49 pm  

However, when President Reagan was elected one of the first things he did was gut the solar energy program.

and pull all the solar panels off the White House because hey, he could just grow the deficit to pay for power instead of getting it for free.

Is it true WAPA charges for “line loss”?

Yes, amongst other surcharges. Was 0.002196/KWH on last month's bill. Which reminds me it's time to pay the WAPA bill.


ReplyQuote
STTsailor
(@STTsailor)
Trusted Member
Joined: 5 years ago
Posts: 618
March 6, 2016 9:02 pm  

I had solar installed on my rooftop. Still can't figure out the net metering w WAPA. Looks like I get credit every month but I have to use it or lose it by the end of calendar year. I contacted Tesla and hoping to get the battery installed next year and cut the WAPA cord.


ReplyQuote
Page 2 / 2
Close Menu