| So there I was my roof needed repair, but
I have wanted solar panels for several years so I decided to see if they had
become affordable yet. After an internet search, which included looking at
Solar Tiles and Solar shingles (too little power and still cost too much to
meet my goals). I discovered that the Commonwealth of Virginia had gotten
some stimulus money from the Federal government for Solar systems (among
other things), so I decided to go for it if possible. The initial effort
started in late July 2009. I had hoped to have it up and working by the end
The Initial information was that the Virginia Rebate applications would be online on the 1st of August, so I had to fairly hurry up to line everything up (Or so I thought).
First, since I live in a historic district I had to go to the Architectural Review Board (ARB) for approval. I queried the city planning department for what I needed to do. They gave me the forms and information and given what I thought was a short time-line, they scheduled me for the first available ARB, which was in Early August. A few days before the ARB, I found out the Rebate application would be delayed a few weeks, but it was still expected by early September. I filled out the application for the ARB and sent it in, My presentation included a 'artist's depiction' of what I thought my roof would look like. Surprisingly it looks pretty close to the final results. Both the salesman and myself met with the ARB and fortunately I had almost all of the answers to the questions they asked. They commented that I was better prepared and a lot calmer then most, I don't think I mentioned I was trained to give briefings to USAF generals in the days of SAC, an ARB was low pressure compared to those. Their main concerns were how would they look (would it change the historical look) and could they come up with rules that would work for everyone. There was also some question of why was I not using the solar tiles. After pointing out I had researched those and they did not meet my needs and based on my research would likely not for at least 5 years, they decided to stick to evaluating the panels. After some discussions on guidelines, they approved my plan.
Then came the wait for the Virginia Rebate Applications
And then more wait.
Around October I sent a couple of queries to the Virginia DMME office in charge of the program. In November the applications opened up, mine went in immediately.
A week later I got notice the rebate had been reserved pending installation and hook up to the grid. This was mid-November.
At that point, the solar power contractor and myself went to work. They ordered the panels and equipment, while I got the loan I needed to cover what I didn't have on hand. Both my loan and the order went out on basically the same day, the Thursday before Thanksgiving (although I couldn't get the money physically in my account until a week later).
A few delays on getting the order in, mostly from the mounting rails manufacturer. But on 16 Dec the majority of the equipment showed up.
A few notes: It may seem progress was slow, but take into account it was between 32 and 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is cold to be working on a roof. As mentioned this was supposed to occur in October, when it was still warm out. And my system was a type the folks had not worked on yet, since the panels and rails are still fairly new issue, so they were taking their time to do it right.
If not for the need to have it done enough by the end of the year, I would have had all the parts in place first and then had the installation crew come in, but except for the snow and then some parts that did not fit, the scattered delivery added only a day total to the installation time, the cold probably had a bigger affect.
Update: 28 April 2010:
My system is up and running and the PV system meter is over 2,200 as of now.
I turned in my Federal tax returns around 17 March, still waiting on
And as of today, I got the notice that my system was certified for SRECs, so with luck should start collecting money from those starting in early May.
Also my Dominion Electric bill was ZERO (actually had a $10.26 credit). Woo! Hoo!
Impressions so far:
I am happy that Virginia DMME finally put the rebate form up, but not so much how long it took.
I have loans that have to be paid off as soon as the federal tax credit and state rebates come in, which are costing me interest in the meantime. About a month later system payoff for each month delay on each, so would like them now.
For misc info,
The panels should work to an acceptable level until 2050 (guaranteed through 2035)
WHY: Well because I could. As I keep telling people, I am a big believer in residential solar power. We could seriously offset fossil fuels significantly if every home/apartment/office building had solar panels on the roof instead of just roofing material. It won't replace it by itself, but in conjunction with Nuclear (and Wind with Hydro storage), we could probably achieve 95% reduction in fossil fuel use and for that remaining 5% could use bio fuels. I am not seriously concerned about global warming, but I am seriously concerned about the environment as a whole and the security of the United States from a reliance on fossil fuels. I also believe that history shows that the country with the most available energy wins any conflict. I believe that eventually energy will be the standard by which countries are judged powerful. Currently we use fossil fuels for energy (which includes production and transportation), those will run out some day and not needing them will be our best option. If we can establish electricity as the medium for energy and use renewable sources to generate that energy, we will be a stronger nation in the long run because of it.
The best way to achieve that goal is to make solar and wind affordable, the best way to make it affordable is spend enough money through investment to fully develop the technology. If we as a country invested as much on Solar and wind as we did on just oil, The prices of solar PV systems would drop incredibly fast over a multi-year period. My panels are apparently around the 17-18% efficiency range. there are currently lab tests going with 40% and a few with the equivalent of 80% (namely because they gather more spectrum of light at the same time), these need to be developed. meanwhile with all high-tech things, prices come down with volume and experience, so panels with the same efficiency as mine should be 1/2 the price in about 5 years, faster if there is more investment, slower if there is less). combine the two and in another 10-15 years we could have panels that produce 3x the power for 1/4 of the price of mine, now that is affordable. But only if enough funding to get the ball rolling is started.
The second part of course is that the Electric companies need to change from producers of electricity as their primary function to grid maintenance companies. Their primary responsibility becomes distribution and stability of electricity produced and used in multiple locations instead of a single location producing for multiple locations.
* note: Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SREC) are currently trading at
between $240 and $300 each (as of Mar/Apr 2010). They are the equivalent to
1 megawatt of produced power. And are used to represent the cost of
producing that 1Mw of power, not the power itself. Certain States have
mandated that their energy companies produce a certain percentage of power
from renewable power. The SRECs count against their totals and provide an
incentive at the same time. As long as the rules remain the same and there
are not huge increase in the number of residential producers such as myself
the prices should remain fairly stable through 2020, after that all bets are
off as some of the state requirements run out after that point. Of course
the rules may change in which case I get $0 or they could change in the
opposite direction and I get in excess of the $300 per SREC. Given $200 over
ten years with my system expected to produce about 10 a year, I should get
at least $20,000 from the SRECs over the ten year period. More is bonus. But
even without the SRECs the system will pay for itself by 2026 (baring damage
to the system) and will likely continue producing electricity through 2050,
or 25 years of free electricity. I can deal with that.
This page last updated by
at 1959 EST 28 Apr 2010