This is going to be interesting, and I’m going to post updates on the progress. Just ordered a new solar system for my house from Solar City. And it’s not going to cost me anything out of pocket. They come out and put it in and then they become my electricity provider. I still get a small PG&E bill for the meter and gas I use, but the rest is billed from Solar City.
Yes – technically I could have saved even more if I built my own or bought one outright. And probably could have done that. But Solar City is one of Elon Musk’s companies (as in Tesla motors and SpaceX) and I like what he’s doing to improve the world so I decided not just to do what’s easy but I feel good about giving them my business.
Plan is to get 15 panels. I really only need 12 but I just wanted to generate a little extra power just for the hell of it. What’s amazing is that with an electric bill that’s only $75/month they still could actually save me a few bucks. But I’m doing it mostly because I like the idea of not burning carbon to make my power. And I get to save money doing it.
Technically because I had them add 3 extra panels my saving is less. I would have saved $12/month but not I’m saving only $1. That’s OK because that’s what I want. Money isn’t the biggest factor. But in the future my savings will increase because PG&E rates will go up faster than Solar City. The contract says they can only go up 3%/year max.
But – I want to get some personal experience with solar. That way I can talk about it from experience. There isn’t anything cleaner than solar power. Although I think the immediate threat from global warming is exaggerated, one can not deny that it has some effect. And I know that it will be bad in the long run to pump all the carbon into the environment. So reducing one’s carbon footprint and saving money doing it is a good thing. Most of the time being green costs more. This costs less.
Realistically I’ve been thinking about the big picture. In some ways PG&E is getting screwed because 1/2 of their costs is maintaining the power lines, not making the power. So since the solar power is effectively “stored” in the PG&E grid they are getting short changed from that aspect.
However, solar makes electricity on those hot summer days when PG&E needs it the most. PG&E has to have the ability to generate enough power in real time to meet peak demand. So if they can’t do that they have to ask some of their big power users to shut down so they can power our home air conditioners. But since I will be generating excess power not only will I not be a drag on the system, but I’ll be powering my neighbor’s air conditioner as well. The PG&E can sell their power to other customers and not have to shut them down. It also reduces their line posses on high demand days, and it makes it so they need to build fewer power plants to have the capacity to cover hot days. So PG&E gets some benefits too.
Also, as Solar City expands to more and more sites eventually they might become the nation’s biggest power provider. And that will get them some political clout to go up against big coal and oil. So I’m also stopping some strip mining and fracking, and I’m not funding Muslim terrorists as much. Although an electric car would make a bigger difference there.
There’s another interesting aspect to this as well. I might actually make some money at this. They have a referral program that pays me $250 if I get someone else signed up. And I get an extra $100 on a second level signup. And I’ve made a lot of money in the past with affiliate programs. So it’s going to be interesting to see how that works out as well.