Solar Specifics

Written by Barb Weist from the Communications Office:

In December I posted initiating a solar project at my home. In just a few short months, it’s gone from theory to reality! In January, we had a 5.46 kW solar system installed, which should produce approximately 5151 kWh/year based on our 96% solar availability (our house sits atop a cleared hill with full south/east exposure) and 10% roof incline. This will offset approximately a third of our current energy needs, more if we can continue to economize our power use. The array will include 448 square feet of solar modules in a fixed east-facing mount using all Washington-made parts.

Gross cost for the system is over $38,000, with no sales tax, one of several incentives to do the project now. That alone is a savings of over $3,600. By going with this traveling project that groups several projects in one area together for cost savings, we saved over $2,200. A rebate from the electrical union, IBEW, of $1,000 allowed us to maximize the size of the system we got, as the system cost just over the maximum amount of the loan financing we used to fund the project until the incentives pay it off in approximately 8 years.

Next year we’ll file for the 30% federal income tax credit, a savings of nearly $12,000! Washington State has a production incentive through 2020, where they pay 54 cents us for every solar-produced kilowatt hour. Estimates show that will yield a check once a year for over $2,700. By 2020 that’s over $22,000!

With all the costs and taxes this project at full price would be nearly $42,000. After all those incentives and savings, less than $2,000 of the original cost will come out of our actual pocket, plus the financing interest on the loan for the 8 years it will take to pay it off with those incentives.

But wait, there’s more! We also get net metering with our power company, which is actually a small local cooperative. What is net metering you ask? Well, let me tell you, in simple layman’s terms (you know, the only ones I can understand!): our solar array will be hooked into the power grid. In the sunny summer/fall months, our power consumption will likely spin BACKWARDS, effectively earning us CREDIT to use in the rainier winter months when solar isn’t producing so well. Projected savings for first year are around $400. Multiply that by 8 years and we’re projected to be paid off around that time! And after that, we still earn the net metering savings. Indefinitely.

Now that the modules are in place on our roof, I get very excited on sunny days, and look at the production meter several times a week to gauge our progress. The modules feed into a power inverter, then into a production meter tracking how many solar kWH we produce, and then into our regular power meter to the grid. I can’t wait for the sunny days of summer!

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