UPDATE: Last Monday I finally got the go ahead to turn the solar system from SolarCity on. So it’s been running for about a week now. So – here’s the report so far.

Every day it makes about 12.5 kilowatt hours (kwh) of energy. To give you some idea of what this is – it’s the amount of electricity it takes to run a microwave oven for 12 1/2 hours a day. Saturday it rained for part of the day and it made 5.3 kwh. According to our agreement they estimate that the system will produce 5325 kwh per year, or an average of 14.6 kwh/day. Being that this is late October it looks like things are on track so far.

I have yet to get a bill. As part of the process I signed up for automatic billing. My rate is 15 cents per KWH and that’s billed off of readings from the inverter that’s connected to the internet through a tiny device called Solar Guard which allows them to read the inverter data directly and gives me access to graphs and totals by the web or the SolarCity app on my phone. Interestingly – there are no additional taxes but if there ever is taxes I’m responsible for them and they will be included in the bill. This is California and the idea that money changes hand without the State getting a piece of it probably won’t last, but a pleasant surprise for now. According to the contract I also get a $7.50 discount for allowing them to take payment directly from my checking account directly.

In theory, if it produces 12.5 kwh per day @ 15 cents per kwh times 30 days, minus my $7.50 discount, my bill should be $48.75, plus whatever PG&E charges me, and that is a mystery yet to be revealed. Might need to wait a couple months before I can report accurately on that. The way the net metering works is that excess power I generate – running the meter backwards – becomes a credit. But – if I understand it right – it’s a monet credit. So if I’m making excess power during the expensive times of the day and using their power at night when it’s cheap, I can use more power without owing them more money. We’ll see if I have that right.

My contract with SolarCity also allows them to raise my rates up to 2.9% a year. So 20 years from now I’ll be paying (if they raise the max) 26,5 cents a kwh instead of 15 cents. But the assumption is that PG&E rates will go up much faster. At the end of 20 years I can buy the equipment at fair market value, which should be really cheap, give it back to them, which I doubt they will actually come and get it, or get a new system based on current technology and do another 20 year deal. I’m 59 year old and statistically I’m more likely to be dead by then. But that’s the deal I have with them

Also – at the end of the year there is a “true up” where if I generated excess power then PG&E will pay me 4 cents a kwh to buy my excess power. Personally I don’t care if PG&E pays me. I like the idea that I’m helping to power the world. Every kwh I make is that much power that doesn’t come from coal/natural gas/ or nuclear. Quite frankly – I think PG&E is getting screwed a little in the deal because I’m relying on their infrastructure to store power and my PG&E bill will probably not cover my share of the costs. However – my power is being generated at the time that PG&E needs it the most so that on those hot summer days I’m reducing their peak load. But for now – not my problem.

So far I haven’t had to pay a dime. There were no unrelated fees for anything during the install process, They paid for the building permits and everything. And – I got a referral who did an install and I made $250 commission and received the check Saturday. So that will go into my drugs and hookers fund. :) Or – if I refer someone once every 3 months that pays for my electricity. Anyone who gets a SolarCity system gets $250 check every time they get a friend to get a system. Kind of like Amway.

I’ll have to wait a year to tell you if I’m totally pleased but so far so good. There were a few hiccups along the way. At one point paperwork got lost and had to be resent and that probably added a few weeks to the process. I’m not a patient guy and this was like a Christmas present sitting under the tree that I couldn’t touch until all the process had completed, including inspections.  Some of the delay had to do with the City of Gilroy requiring more paperwork than necessary. The SolarCity guy, who I ran into at the planning department said Gilroy was the most difficult city in this area to deal with. San Jose being the best.

There is another issue that isn’t Solar City’s fault – my neighbor to the southwest has 3 palm trees creating a bigger shadow than I expected and that takes a hunk out of solar production 2:00 to 4:30 – the time I might be running my real air conditioner. (I also have a home made cooling system that generally runs very well eliminating the need for AC except on the very hottest of days.) This problem isn’t SolarCity’s fault – and in the summer when the Sun is higher it might go over the top of those trees. We’ll see what happens.

I’m also thinking about adding 4 panels on a separate system that I would build myself and set up in my yard, shading my garden from excess heat, and pointing them southwest so that they make power during the palm tree shadow to help fill in that gap. But that will be a separate article.

I also bought 500 shares of SolarCity stock (SCTY) and it’s been going down. So if I sold today at close I’m down $3674.27. But I’m in for the long haul and the more it goes down the more I buy. Just wish I has some extra cash around to get some more of it while it’s a deal. Maybe it will stay low for another few weeks so I can get some more.



  1. jimd says:

    I dont think anyone will shed a tear for PG&E !

    • Marc Perkel says:

      It’s not that I’m shedding a tear for PG&E but in the future we have to have a perspective as to what is fair because if PG&E doesn’t get compensated for their costs then that cost is shifted to the taxpayer or other customers. It’s a legit issue.

      Having said that SolarCity in a few years is going to team up with Tesla’s new battery plant and make off grid systems so they can disconnect from the grid if they don’t get the right deal. Power is evolving.

      • MikeN says:

        I thought the point was that you are reducing peak demand, so PG&E should be happy.

        • What? The moth is always drawn to the flame? says:

          This is a lie.

          Power companies want you to use power. The more the better. If you used a 10,000 kwh a day, and their grid could supply it, they would give you a DISCOUNT.

          They bitch about demand because that is part of their shtick. It is all nonsense.

          If they could, they would charge you and not deliver any power. They already do this somewhat with “delivery fees”.

          If everyone was a Perkel, and the power company couldn’t sell anyone any power, they would charge you $500/mo just for the lines that are connected to your residence. Even if no power crossed those lines. And want those lines disconnected, fat chance, disconnecting power lines would become illegal.

          You see, the power companies are just like the average person: greedy, fat, lazy, bastards who will take all they can.

          I wish JCD would give his Dvorak-ian take one this some day.

  2. Jason Mehrvarz says:

    Well done JCD! I’m all over it also. I love dealing with them and I share much of the same philosophies and understandings as you do. It’s the only way I can give the middle finger to Socal Edison. I too started at 15c /kwh for 20 years and I max out at the same. My sales guy is awesome too. I get immediate savings with ZERO outlay.

  3. Tim says:

    “”So far so good…” (or woids to that effect)

    that’s what she said

  4. MikeN says:

    15c/ kilowatt-hour? What is the regular rate?

    Most places are less than that.

    • Marc Perkel says:

      This is California. Everything here is expensive.

    • Jason mehrvarz says:

      Edison charges me 26 cents per kWh.

    • Marc Perkel says:

      One of the reasons my rate is higher is because my usage is so low. I barely used enough to qualify and I was happy just to get something that was the same rate as PG&E. For me I just wanted to use solar power and not necessarily save a lot of money.

    • MikeN says:

      I wonder if they are charging the same 15c/kwh everywhere? In lots of places that would mean it is more expensive. If they are charging less in other places, then that is not being fair to the people in California, who are having their energy costs artificially raised so as to help people like SolarCity.

  5. McCullough says:

    Marc, I have a question.

    My local electric utility refuses to pay back the going rate to the people who are on net metering. In my case, the going rate is 52 cents per KWh.The local utility is paying net metering consumers at the rate of 27 cents per KWh.

    The reason they claim is that the individual homeowner doesn’t have to pay for the salaries, pensions, infrastructure, i.e. overhead that they do. I think it’s a valid argument and one you may be facing in the future.

    So my question is, does the local utility infrastructure reimburse you at the same rate they would charge per KWh?

    • Marc Perkel says:

      Actually – they have a point. All those wires, transformers, power poles, distribution, crews keeping the grid up. That not free. I think 1/2 the cost of power is getting it to you and keeping it on.

  6. deowll says:

    Since the profitability of these companies seems to depend on getting a government subsidies at various levels it’s truly a high risk business. The estimated life time of a solar cell is about 20 yrs however they tend to fad toward the end.

    • Marc Perkel says:

      It is true that without subsidies coal is cheaper than solar today. But that’s not counting climate changes and as these resources become more scare in the future prices are going up. Solar is going in the opposite direction. It’s getting cheaper every year. So in the future solar is the way to go.

      So it does make sense to subsidize solar so that cost of solar comes down faster and we don’t run into a situation where we can’t use coal anymore and don’t have anything to replace it with.

      • MikeN says:

        That makes no sense. If we are running out of coal, then the price of coal will go up(Not sure why this isn’t happening with fish). Then the price of solar which is dropping will be less than coal and people will switch, as is already happening with natural gas.

        Right now we have a situation where even subsidized solar is more expensive than coal, at 15c. So they instead passed mandates and other rules to make the coal more expensive. Then the solar company charges more because the state has made coal more expensive. If they were charging the same 5c/ kilowatthour that Sun Edison just sold in Texas, that would be one thing, but instead they are collecting subsidies and making coal rates higher for the public so they can charge more.

        • gigantic supersecret hidden stupercomputer spyrorage device in Utah says:

          “”Not sure why this isn’t happening with fish

          ^^ There is supposed to be a ‘ /s ‘ on that, right? Right??

  7. bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

    From Marc: “it’s a monet credit. So if I’m making excess power during the expensive times of the day and using their power at night when it’s cheap, I can use more power without owing them more money. ” /// The math says no? If they charge you 15cents but only credit you 4 cents….you got the wrong end of the stick. The notion of them reducing their payment to you because of their fixed in place costs is……….ridiculous. Its just as example of monopolistic behavior.

    In Sacramento with PG&E, I’m paying .099 KWH with a $15 /mnth fixed fee. There is an additional surcharge over some fixed amount that currently I’m just below.

    Last I read, don’t we have 500 years of coal reserves in the USA and/or Canada??? And thats with 75% of the proven oil reserves REQUIRED to be left in the ground UNBURNED or we will surely die from the greenhouse gas effects/co2 poisoning.

    Lots of new tech out there to sequester co2. With no basis at all, seems to me “possible in some way I can’t spell 0ut” that once society admits the truth of the science, that some kind of massive response might just barely save us from what we are head long into doing. Course that is right now, not counting the additional coal plant being built each week in China and India.

    I wouldn’t want to live at the beginning of it all, as no one is going to live through it, but it would be “interesting” to see this issue finally come to bear. Drowning in our own shit. Just about the most boring way to do ourselves in…… simply a result of our numbers.

    Amusing.

    • The Ad Council says:

      i think we’re having a stroke…

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

        My neighbor described her stroke to me. She had it in the morning but the symptoms took 6 hours to fully come on. I thought strokes were like HEART ATTACKS. Ha, ha….yes, many are. Drop you to the floor in pain, or. the “silent” type that you can ignore at your peril.

        Crap.

        Nothing you can do about such things. Longer you live, more likely you will have one. (2-3-4).

    • MikeN says:

      So bobbo, what is your overall rate/kwh, about 13c?
      Now get a quote from SolarCity and see how much they would charge you.

      • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

        Yeah–close enough. Then add in the same charge for other rate payers and confirm Solar City doesn’t do it too?

        The “deal” Marc has does bother me a bit. Its the difference between leasing and owning I guess. The whole point in being off the grid with Solar is to have ZERO cost at some point in the future after pay back AND to be independent when the grid goes down. Both elements missing from Marc’s plan which is uncharacteristic what with Marc’s admirable other DIY solar/green projects.

        Understandable if you want to support Elon Musk, makes no sense at all if you don’t accept AGW.

        There is comfort in having a company stand behind the product for maintenace and repair ((if they will and lets assume they will)), but I prefer DIY and learning what is needed to know to do that work myself.

        Cost of Coal: totally by definition. What “costs” are added in or not? Same issue with Solar is more discrete as the costs were not socialized 300 years ago.

        Tech is fun.

        • Marc Perkel says:

          The idea of 0 cost solar is attractive. If it wasn’t for supporting Elon I would have done that. I have the money and know how.

          But for most people the $0 down is attractive and if they don’t have the know how then they could get a bad install. And then if it breaks they have to fix it. With SolarCity they just come in and take care of everything.

          • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

            Fair enough. There is a comfort level in working with experts.

            I have more than a few half done/done and broken projects in my history.

            Makes me think………..I might be a doofus.

      • Marc Perkel says:

        SolarCity and solar in general isn’t going to be cheaper everywhere yet. But wait a few years as solar goes down and carbon goes up and they it will be a better deal.

        • NewFormatSux says:

          Why should carbon go up with all the fracking and natural gas discoveries?

  8. Surely we’re having a stroke…

  9. John says:

    Wow, the rate you pay to Solar City is a number of cents MORE per Kwh than I pay to LADWP… Not much incentive to go solar here at that price!

    • NewFormatSux says:

      I missed when he said it. His rate is higher than you might get quoted from SolarCity. Call them and see.

  10. TheMtgBanker says:

    Anyone have any regrets getting SCTY panels? I’m an investor for the long haul and really love this feedback. I’m in MI so we are not serviced by SCTY yet. I love hearing how happy people are with the changeover. I’m loan officer and I’ve done a ton of loans for the employees at SCE. I promise you, those people are making GREAT money. It’s going to be a while before they get seriously hurt by the changeover to solar. I’m sure they will figure out a way to screw everyone hooked to the grid that goes solar.

    What rate are they paying when you feed the grid electricity during the day and what are the charges at night? Do they keep the spread or give it to you on your bill?

    • bobbo, the pragmatic existential evangelical anti-theist and junior culture critic says:

      The op and one post under it answer this directly.

      Too busy counting other people’s money?

  11. Peppeddu says:

    Little by little we are slowly raising the middle finger to all the oil exporting countries in the Middle East, and thus removing the main reason for all the wars over there and terror attacks.

    Thanks Elon!

    • NewFormatSux says:

      No, the real thanks go to the Saudis, who are fed up with Iran and decided to lower the price to mess up the Persian economy. Putting pressure on Russia too which is why Ukraine and the Baltics have quieted down a bit.


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