Project Summary

Installing a photovoltaic (PV) system on our home. Our house is 2360 square feet, built in 1999 and has both electric and natural gas utilities. Current electricity use ranges from 900 kWh to 1500 kWh per month, peaking in December… Must be the Christmas lights! The house is situated almost perfectly for solar. Our panels will be on a 33 degree roof that faces almost directly south and with no possible obstructions.

I have been researching Solar PV for our home for number of years and weighing the system costs, available incentives and taxes breaks to what I thought we could afford. With costs at $6.00 to $8.00/watt, I was struggling with REALLY wanting to do this and the practical side of family finances. This last spring I became aware, though my brother, of a Solarize Community project being sponsored by Nike Beaverton, Oregon for employees, friends and family. They had selected a contractor, set a system price of $5/watt and my brother works at Nike… so I couldn’t resist!

System Stats:

Solar System Size: 3.76 kW

2 x Strings of eight SolarWorld 235W panels

1 x 3000KW PV Powered inverter

Portland General Electric (PGE) Net Metering program

Online monitoring module to evaluate solar system output, usage, feed to the grid, etc

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Proposals and Paperwork

The Proposals:
Larry with NW Solar Solutions came back with two proposals, one for 3.2 kW and one with 3.7kW.   That being either 2 strings of seven (7) 235 watt PV modules or 2 strings of eight (8) 235 watt PV modules.  At $5/watt plus a $250 Internet monitoring module, the cost
would be either $16,700 or $19,050 respectively.   The choice was easy if I went back to my original statement of , "as big as would fit", we went with the 3.7kW system.

The system would consist of the following basic components:
16 x Solarworld 235 watt PV panels (2 strings of eight)
1 x Advanced Energy PVP3000 PVPowered 3000 watt Inverter
1 x Advanced Energy  PVM1010 Inverter data monitoring module
Various replacement meters and electrical wiring

One thing to note, that I found to be a huge plus, is that both the PV panels and the Inverter are made in Oregon.  So on top of putting Roofers and Electricians to work, the products also provide for Oregon jobs.  Cool.

The Incentives and the Net Cost:
·         ETO Solar Incentive
o    Portland General Electric customers, $1.75/watt (DC) to $20K
o    Paid directly to the Solar contractor
o    $2.10 watt DC, capped at $6,000 ($1500/yr over four years)
·         Federal income tax credit
o    30 percent of net system cost
o    Total installed cost, less the Energy Trust incentive

 In our case, it translated to the following:
Total Value of Installed Photovoltaic System: $19,050.00
Energy Trust of Oregon incentive: $6,580.00
Total Out of Pocket: $12,470.00
Federal Investment Tax Credit: $3,666.00
Oregon RETC 1st year: $1,500.00
Cost of system after first year of Incentives $7,304.00
Oregon RETC years 2-4: $4,500.00
Cost of system after Incentives: $2,804.00

WOW…  $2804 ?!?!?!  I could live with that. The tough part though can be the initial out of pocket, knowing that your state (Oregon) tax credits come to you over four taxes cycles.  But some banks offer special loans just for these types of projects.  Check out Umpqua bank’s Green Street Lending programs, they offer great rates and term.  So we set off to organize our funding.

Another Consideration:
To qualify for ETO incentives, there are a number of requirements.  I mentioned one previously, that the Solar Resource Fraction for the PV location needs to be least 75%.  Another is that your roof must have at least 10 years of life remaining.  If a roof must be replaced after the PV installation, the panels need to be removed and reinstalled and the ETO apparently wants to avoid that for at least 10 years.  Our roof was 12 years old and qualified with more than 10 years of life remaining on it.  But we considered that we wanted to avoid any type of removal and re-installation as long as we could.  So, we got a quote and decided to re-roof only the section of roof that would have the panels installed on them.  This also provides for a better overall installation, because the PV mounting stanchions can be installed while the roof is off and the new roofing installed around them.

Applications and Approvals:
After signing our contract to proceed, we then needed to fill out application for the ETO incentive and the PGE (Portland General Electric) Net Metering program.  Larry had them pre-filled out and explained them to us.  We signed them and he submitted the applications.

A few weeks later we received an acknowledgement, then an acceptance from PGE for the Net Metering program.

The ETO approval took a little longer.  They reviewed the design and requested a modification to the inverter that was specified. Initially a 3500 watt inverter was specified, but apparently due to way the efficiency of the system decreases over it's lifetime and the times of year when full sunlight are not available, they wanted a 3000 watt inverter used instead.   A 3000 Watt inverter will run at full capacity more often... apparently.  So ultimately the ETO application was approved and we were set to go.

Next... the installation!