2 very good reasons to consider solar power in NY in 2006
12/28/2005 07:16:00 PM | Author: baloghblog
Reason #1:


National Grid To Raise Rates; More Increases on the Way

Utility announces average rise of $10 a month for residential customers.

Reason #2:

Tax Credits and incentives raised for 2006. [Be aware that the best tax credit is after September 1, 2006 for NY]

NY State Tax Credit (dollar for dollar reduction in taxes paid, not reduction in taxable income):

25% credit of net cost of system
The solar electric generating equipment credit has been changed to the solar energy system equipment credit. The credit now includes solar energy system equipment which utilizes solar radiation to provide heating, cooling, hot water, or electricity for use in a residence. The maximum credit is increased to $5,000 for property placed in service after September 1, 2006. The credit is $3,750 for qualified solar energy equipment placed in service before September 1, 2006.
Federal Tax Credit:

30% of net cost of system

...Homeowners get a more limited credit. They can put in a photovoltaic system (roof panels that take in energy from the sun and turn it into electricity) and/or a solar-powered hot water system (for hot water heaters, radiant floors or radiators), and get a federal tax credit worth 30% of the systems' cost, up to a credit of $2,000 per system. There are a couple of catches: The heating system can't be for a pool or hot tub, and the federal credit applies to the net system cost after any state incentives.
NYSERDA Energy Smart initiative -

Cash incentives vary depending on the installation. When combined with other New York Energy $martSM programs (highlighted below), the cash incentives under this program could help reduce the total costs to install a PV system by 40-70%.

The three incentive levels are:

1) $4.00 per watt (direct current or the rated output of the PV panel) for a grid-connected PV system.

2) $4.50 per watt for PV systems installed on a New York Energy $martSM Labeled-Home and;

3) $4.50 per watt for any building-integrated PV system that is approved under NYSERDA's New Construction Program (PON 913).

As costs increase, my "day dreaming" about solar is moving more into the research and consideration phase. At this point we are using about 6 more kWh per day than a 2.5kW solar array would produce in upstate NY (approx 10 kWh/day). Right now I am trying to figure out where all the energy use/drain is coming from (yea Kill-a-watt). Chief suspects: non-Energy Star refrigerator, non-Energy Star dishwasher, lighting, TV and computer. We still have some lights that are not CFL, and are considering smaller lamps to read by rather than having the overhead lights blazing. I think that the refrigerator is the chief culprit, so I have been pricing lower energy models. The dishwasher is doing such a poor job lately that I think that it will be next on the list. Other energy users: washing and drying laundry = about 0.5 kWh per load, with a majority of that coming from the dryer (0.35 kWh).

I will post more on my investigation and research into PV systems and our energy use in the upcoming year. It seems to me that with these above incentives that now* is the time to buy solar. (*now being after 9/1/06)

Rough estimate of cost calculation:

2.5 kW system overall cost:
2,500 watts * $8.45/watt avg cost for solar (installed) = $21,125

Minus 2,500 watts * $4.00/watt incentive from NYSERDA (-$10,000) = $11,125

Minus 25% NYS incentive up to $5000 (-$2,781.25) = $8,343.75

Minus 30% Federal incentive up to $2000 (-$2,000) = $6,343.75 true cost of system

I will be looking into finding out how much National Grid will pay for energy produced by the PV system (net metering). This will be essential in determining the date that the system will pay itself off. I realize that this is a long term investment, but would make me feel more secure that my house could produce most, if not nearly all, of the electricity needed.

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On 11:49 PM , odograph said...

Have you tried to calculate the payback of solar versus conservation?

It's a fuzzy idea, because one home user might be using 3x the electricity of a neighbor. Are we trying to get everyone's use up, while we bring the grid draw down?

Maybe I'm asking this because I was in a Treehugger discussion a little while back, in which I mentioned that I was used 154 kWh last month, and another guy said he was "down to" 900 kWh. link

We get into weird territory, where Mr. 900 kWH might go solar (for a few tens of thousands of dollars), and I might simply do nothing.

On 2:07 AM , Roger, Gone Green said...

First, your figures are similar to our recent install in California. We put up 2403 Watts nominal with a 2500 Watt Sunnyboy inverter (no batteries).

We use, on average, 400-500 kWh per month, with forced air (natural gas) heat and central AC for a smallish three bedroom home. The cells are warranted for 25 years, expected to produce for twice that. Based on the warranty period only, we have a $40 per month, fixed, electric bill for 25 years -- then we are fixed at $0.

Second, most net metering that I have heard of "credits" at the exact same rate you pay. (In some cases, your meter just runs backward so you get the same rate on your excess as a credit.) Details vary and may depend on state statutes or government utility rules in addition to the program suggested by the utility.

My experiences thus far has been that utilities are not always ready to do the proper billing required by a net metering contract, so learn your program well!

Third: There is no question that conservation is useful as a strategy to help reduce grid demand, which in turn is likely to be filled by a fossil fuel or nuclear. In the case of solar, so long as I am providing 100% of my needs annually, I'm not sure a lot of conservation matters.

Of course, reduction of waste in all aspects is a goal of sustainable living, so to the degree that having solar results in profligate consumption of *other* resources it's probably an issue . . . but using the solar income that falls on your roof seems unremarkable.

On 8:51 AM , baloghblog said...

I think that getting solar power would require some intense conservation from current practices. This will save me money as well.

I guess that I am finding that it is more about providing security for my family financially (as power gets more expensive) and making a more self-sufficient home for my family to live in. (Part of an eventual long term plan to have a wood stove, solar/wood pre-water heating, water collection, and super-insulated walls)

Roger, if you stop back, do you continue to have to pay delivery charges to your local utility in CA? I guess what I am trying to figure out is if I produce as much energy as I use, do I still have to pay an electic utility bill? (I think a portion of my bill $18 is delivery charges)

p.s. odograph, how do you use so little energy? Are you in an apartment or house? Do you do your laundry on-site? You should post on your site how you reduced your use so much.

On 10:01 AM , odograph said...

I live in a condo. My girlfriend is a frequent visitor, and sometimes brings laundry. My hot water, stove and dryer are gas.

I think I live pretty normally, I just replaced a few bulbs with CF, and my semi-big screen (32") TV is LCD.

On 10:02 AM , peakguy said...

I'm down to 4 kwh/day from 8kwh/day, but I don't do my own laudry in the apartment. I now have all CFLs, a small fridge and when I leave the house for more than a day, I unplug many electrical devices just in case. My TV was sucking a lot of energy even when it wasn't on!

On 10:12 AM , odograph said...

Oh, I live about a mile from the pacific ocean and do enjoy its moderating influence - I don't have AC, and usually use very little heat.

This year I'm experimenting in what a post-oil world would be like and using no heat. Down here it's not so bad.

On 10:52 AM , Roger, Gone Green said...

Feel free to email me at easygreen at snarfbargle dot com for a longer conversation. But yes, there is a basic connection charge, but it is required to be the same as a non-solar customer. In that regard it is not unreasonable to pay it if you are using net metering,as one does use the wires of the grid and their power as a sort of solar bank.

Now net metering usually means you balance out production for one year with usage for one year -- if you used more than you made, you owe them, if you made more, well in some states you are out of luck. Some places will pay you for the excess power, or even give you credit against the rest of the bill.

The trick is the annual accounting; production varies, often not in sync with usage.

On 10:59 AM , Roger, Gone Green said...

By the by, I see you are checking that coffee pot's pull -- consider that it my Mr. Coffee is rated at 900 watts; if it runs two hours that amounts to, crudely, 1800 watt hours, or 1.8 kWh right there . . . Electricity Eaters and then Clean Coffee Extreme

On 12:23 PM , NYCO said...

Er...don't you need some SUN first before you can rely on solar power? :-)

Seriously, I don't think Syracuse has seen the sun for about two weeks. How would you assess solar power and wind power (ie, "Freedom Trees" as Romehater puts it) in a head-to-head matchup?

On 6:23 PM , Roger, Gone Green said...

There is "insolation" data out there for various locations. Although you do need to see the sun -- so overcast cuts down production -- even on a cloudy rainy day we generate from 3-8 kilowatt hours. Also, solar cells are super efficient at at low temperatures. Most ratings are calculated at 70F ambient; we have a system rated at 2403 nominal, but peaked out our inverter max at 2500 W on a cold day(high 30s rainy day; sun peaked through the clouds, got about 12KWH on the day that day, even though much of it was max power during cloud-holes.

Also: Syracuse is WAY further north than LA, so the summer insolation is probably MUCH better (just as your winter days are probably much shorter than ours). We get very hot summer temps (102F not uncommon) which cuts down the conversion to less than winter even with the long summer days. But Syracuse summers are more temperate than ours, and the insolation greater . . .


On 10:19 AM , RomeHater said...

I'm not sure about Syracuse, but the wind farm at Tug Hill is starting to produce electricity. So you could also elect to "buy" wind energy from your utility if you're interested in sustainable power generation.

I would be careful about looking for financial handouts from New York State. Net metering here is still in the "we'll pay you $0.001 per kilowatt hour" stage. And you'll be stuck with a "grid connected" system where the meter itself runs on electricity and you pay $20 a month for delivery of nothing. In the long run, it may be cheaper to go for the federal tax credits and skip NY's gift to energy companies.

On 4:14 PM , Nick said...

Is there any kind of website or software which provides a single-site source for this kind of info? Namely, fed, state &local programs, insolation, etc?

On 10:18 PM , Anonymous said...

Try the DSIRE site for state policy info - http://www.ies.ncsu.edu/dsire/

A good site for renewable energy resource data is - http://rredc.nrel.gov/

On 11:36 AM , Anonymous said...

And if you are considering solar power in NY ... please consider contacting Renewable Power Systems (outside of Albany). We've done over 80 solar power installs in the upstate ny region

Thanks, Tom @ RPS