This Column was written by resident George Fendler. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
Several months ago, I began the process of building a solar power system for my home. I have been wanting to do this for years but the cost of the equipment has been a big stumbling point.
The cost of solar panels has recently dropped to a fairly affordable level. And the Internal Revenue Service is giving a 22% tax credit through the end of 2021.
I am using a ground-mounted system (rather than a roof-top system) so I have a slab and two arrays of panels that should produce 10kW of power. I bought batteries so that I can store power to use at night, on stormy days or when PG&E becomes unavailable for any reason. I am in the process of completing the installation.
I started looking into the procedure of connecting this system to the electrical grid. There is a lot of paperwork. It is important that my system doesn’t do anything to damage PG&E’s equipment (or electrocute someone who is working on the power lines and doesn’t expect them to be hot). My equipment protects them from such events.
The reason to be grid-connected is two-fold. One, I can use the utility company power if mine is not adequate or breaks. Two, I can sell my excess power back to PG&E. This is a process called Net Metering. Utility companies all over the country are lobbying the governing bodies to eliminate Net Metering.
Currently, PG&E is charging me an average of 32¢ per kWh. If I’m reading their website correctly, they will pay me approximately 3¢ per kWh. I don’t know if it its worth the bother to deal with their interconnection paperwork. The kicker is that any credits that I accumulate during the month are lost at the end of the month.
The system that I have been using for the last 20 years uses PG&E power as my primary source with a propane generator on an automatic transfer switch.
I’m considering not doing the interconnection agreement and using my new PV system as my primary power source. I could then fall over to PG&E if my PV system fails.
My new system can produce 10,000 watts of power and I seldom come anywhere near that with my usage. On average my electrical usage is around 500 watts with occasional peaks up to 4,000. With about 250 hours of sunshine during an average month I would be producing enough power to get about $70 per month from PG&E. They would sell that power to my neighbors for $6,720.
I just don’t know if that’s worth it.
If you have solar panels installed on your home or business, or think you may do it in the future, check out the Solar Rights Alliance.
Fight climate change by producing your own electricity and don’t let utility monopolies bully you into selling your power at a tiny fraction of its value.