Getting to Net-Zero (SOLAR)

It’s a long story getting to finally installing the solar system.

When the house was first modeled in 2014 the estimate was that it would take a 7-8kW PV solar system to cover the houses electric usage.  So like most people thinking of a Net-Zero house I proceed to get estimates from a number of Solar Installation companies.  Most wanted me to lease the system. It didn’t take much research to realize that was a BAD deal for me.  The first three estimates came in around $30K to $38K. Well I’m not spending that much until I fully understand what I’m paying for.

So I went to my favorite store, Amazon, and bought a couple of books, one   Solar Electricity Handbook.  And did a lot of internet research.  It was very clear the Solar Systems weren’t Rocket Science.  I used to maintain and install IBM mainframes in the beginning of the computer explosion. They were the most complicated electronics equipment ever made, real rocket science.  From what I read the solar systems just plugged together. And the prices I was seeing was unbelievable low compared to the quotes I was getting.

I met with one more sales rep, he quoted my a $40K price. So I said to him I’ve been reading up on the hardware and I think I can do it myself.  He said “yep, your right you can”. I said I saw my only problem was the getting past the bureaucracy.  I figured the Power Co and the Township wasn’t ready for a DIY guy to show up on their doorstep to install his own system.  He gave me the name of a solar engineering firm that could help me. Roger Anderson owner of    of Elmer NJ.  I met with Roger and said Yep, I was right and they could help me, but I might be the first person in NJ to do a system by myself..  The benefit with working with Roger  and his people, they design systems from 4kW to 2megW from Texas to Maine. And they didn’t sell hardware so had no product bias other than what worked the best.

I also found GoGreenSolar an company that would package a complete  Kit that matched Roger’s teams design and for a very good price. Being my first time I thought buying from a singles source was a great idea. at that point there hardware price was around $18K.  A hole better then $30K to $40K.

As time went on and with more modeling and more of my research I believed the house would out preform the modeling.  Every house I saw that had owners living in it had amazing performance.  So with some help from my rater we came up with a 5.5kW system the would produce about 7kWh per year.  Which is what my estimate of my usage would be. NJ is not an Net-Meter state so there is no incentive of putting is a system that will over produce. All I can do is cover my yearly usage.

I thought of waiting a year to see what the usage was, to more accurately size the system, but at my age why wait a year. So this fall I ordered the system. A SolarEedge SE5000-US inverter with Solaredge Power Optimizers , 18 LG320N2C-G4 panels and an IronRidge XR100 racking system. GoGreenSolar packaged everything in to a kit, put it all on a pallet (850 lbs) and over the road trucked it from CA.  Some assembly  required.

By now I was a frequent visitor to the township building dept., so getting a building permit was not issue. Before I could get electric service the El Co. approved my plans to self install my solar system. their rep. was very helpful.

The installation went much easier than I thought.  I got my son-in-law to help. He’s just much more agile on the roof than I am.  Thus far we have about 21 man-hours of labor into the project and about 4 left to mount the panels.  One hour of local day labor to dig the trench. and my electrician and his guys have done the wiring from the Inverter out. I’m guessing less than a $1,000.  The Kit from GoGreenSolar was $12,990, and $650 to Roger for design and advice.  The total costs of the  system will be around $14,650.  I did go back to one of the solar companies to see if they’d make it worth my time to let them do it. The owner called me and came in at a flat $20K.  When I contacted the sales rep . to say no thank you, his reply he hope his other customers didn’t figure this out.

SRECs are the key to the payback.  NJ is a great state for renewable energy.  This June an SRECs was selling for $290 each. I should get 7 SRECs a year. The price varies but I should get around $2,000 a year. I’ve self singed up for the program, again not tailored for a DIY guy. They wanted to see that the installer would warrant his work for 5 years. I said I would.

The Fed still has the 30% tax credit, or $4,200 and the NJ Clean Energy Program will give me an extra $5,000 to get to Net-Zero. So with $9,200 in incentives the system will cost to me $4,800.  With SRECs at $250 plus my electric bill sayings the pay back is 2 years.

Now if I’m wrong on the usage the way we have designed the panel layout I can add up to 4 more panels with ease.

I really want to thank Roger Anderson and his people and the people at GoGreenSolar, and my Electrician Tony Gonsalves and his guys.  They all have been so helpful with everything, answering my many questions and guiding me through the process.      We will install the rest of the panels this Saturday and I’ll update the photos then.

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