OK, I’m running late. I passed day 365 about four weeks ago, so I now have a year’s worth of data to share.
I turned my 32-panel, 9.12-kilowatt system on May 12, 2016. Since that was spring, it was an encouraging time to get started. My net-flow meter often flowed backwards, showing that we were producing more electric energy in a day than we were using. Our home is almost entirely electric — the heat and air-conditioning, the water heater, even indoor and outdoor grills. The only other other energy source in the home is propane used for the range, the oven, and a fireplace.
I knew that the net-flow meter would move forward when the heat of the Virginia summer became intense and when the winter brought colder and shorter days, but the start was so encouraging that I quickly bought an electric car. My 2017 Chevrolet Volt usually gets more than 50 miles on electric power before shifting into hybrid mode.
So here’s the economic payoff. [Drum roll, please.] Over the course of the year, the solar system produced some 11,000 kilowatt hours, or 55% of our household electricity plus about 7,000 automobile miles. That saved us $1,300 on our electric bill and about $750 worth of gasoline (250 gallons). So let’s conservatively round it off to $2,000.
By the way, we keep our thermostat at 74 in the summer and 71 in the winter, so many of you reading this might do better if like me you’re more tolerant of the cold or like my wife you’re more tolerant of the heat.
The system cost us about $30,000, with a 30% tax rebate, so the net cost was $21,000. With $2,000 in savings per year, that’s a 9.5% return on investment — better than any other secure investment I know of in today’s market. And that’s tax-free, equivalent to 11% or 12% if it were taxable. But that’s only the economic return.
The more rewarding return is both environmental and spiritual. To date, over a year and four weeks, we have prevented the release of 8,250 kilograms of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making a small gain for the interconnected web of which we are all a part.
If you live near Hamilton, Virginia, come join us for an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, to help us celebrate. Our contractor, MTV Solar, will also be on hand to answer questions that we can’t. Send me a message via the Contact Mel page to let me know you’re coming and get the address.
— Mel Pine (Urgyen Jigme)
Copyright 2017 © Mel Harkrader Pine