Guest editorial: Benefits of rooftop solar continue to grow
Rapid advances in technical innovation for Roof Top Solar Panel systems producing residential energy are impressive. Environmentally and financially, Solar makes more sense today than five years ago when we installed our system.
It is estimated that depending on the length and diameter of transmission lines from power plants to the customer, up to 60 percent of electricity is lost. In addition, huge solar farms under construction and already existing use thousands of acres of land that cannot be used for other purposes. Wasted land and transmission loss are not factors with residential solar. These two advantages alone justify Solar but are ignored by power companies with vested interest in the existing inefficient technology.
Although each residential system is unique, examination of the data for our residential solar experience of the last 5 years is hopeful for the future of the industry:
We have 24 roof-top panels connected to an Enphase Energy Envoy unit that allows for a live readout of panel performance via computer. Panels run production through a net meter calculating amount used relative to amount produced. Excess is fed into the grid and returned as credits when needed. Any excess production at the end of Rocky Mountain Power’s fiscal year reverts to them.
As an example, panels produce up to 5,200 watts of continuous power at noon in June with a low of about 3,005 watts at noon in December.
Time of initial investment return is unique to each home, dependent on roof orientation, number of panels, electric rates, electricity used, shade etc. With our system, the initial investment will be returned in about 10 years, or approximately a 7 percent return on investment.
Before solar, our 23 month average electric use was 862Kwh. Usage has increased about 12 percent since then.
Without solar, our total electric bill for the calendar year 2012 was $1,168.80. For the calendar year 2016 and 2017 it was $132.79 and $230.49 respectively.
As solar power producers we use Rocky Mountain Power’s grid as an alternative to storage batteries. All Rocky Mountain Power customers including solar producers use their grid and pay a monthly “Basic Charge – Single Phase fee” of $6.00 per month. In addition, roof top residential solar producers pay a monthly minimum fee.
We highly value being connected to the grid and recognize Rocky Mountain Power for its continuous dependable service. However, advances in technology increasingly make their model as sole producer of power less defensible. A 20 percent decrease in the cost of our system if installed today versus 5 years ago and the latest advances in storage batteries (think Tesla) make solar power a better alternative today than any time in the past.