Solar Electric – Salesperson #1

I just finished my first meeting with a Solar electric salesperson and I’ve learned a whole bunch and at the same time, I am relieved that they were not one of the high-pressure, full-service, let us do everything and own you types of companies.

Let’s start with the end.  Cheapest option is $32k.  A version with upgraded, higher-wattage panels is $35k.  A version with battery storage is $45k.  A version that allows battery storage in the future is $37k.  So anywhere from $32-45k, which is right in line with my expectations.

Here’s the first bit of interesting knowledge I got.  My local electric provider does not allow attachment of any system >10kWh to their grid.  So you are limited in what you can install.  That’s fine, it has kept the price within range anyway.  The company usually plans to design a system that will generate 100% of your usage, unless you plan to have an electric car, in which case, they will design something that generates >100%.  But since I can’t do any more than 10kWh, that doesn’t matter.

Next, it is possible to have both net metering and storage.  To do this, you should to have your system planned to do it from the start.  Some terms were kicked out, like Supply tap and Load-side tap and islanding and envoy.  Basically what all that says is that you need to build your connection to the grid in a way that if the grid goes down, your system disconnected and does not feed the grid.  With a normal supply tap, when the grid is down, your panels stop feeding the grid.  With a load-side tap, when the grid is down, an extra piece of equipment disconnects your house from the grid and your panels keep feeding your house.

Other miscellanea: Because my breaker panel is full, I’m definitely looking at a system panel upgrade.  That’s an extra piece that will probably be $2-3k.  All of the paperwork and permitting of the system is done by them.  This installer uses a third-party warranty plan that covers all aspects of the system even if the original manufacturer or even the install goes out of business.  30 year warranty, I think.  I did not ask if it was transferrable – I should have.  45-day price guarantee on a quote, then subject to re-evaluation.  Company has been around for 15 years.

I want to have a payment of about $650/mo for 5 yrs.  At current interest rates, that’s about $34k.  What’s very tempting about this is whatever I spend in this improvement is effectively 30% off because of the tax credit.  So if I’m going to do it, I should go big, because getting that battery backup system at 30% off is a one-time offer.

So, off to schedule #2.