Backup is all good

Solar Update – It’s actually all great news!

The summer is hot, and electricity rates in CT are goin up – I just read this articles in the Hartford Courant.

Obviously, one of the reasons I had been looking into Solar for the last few years was the fact that prices ALWAYS rise over time. Now having Solar I look at my Eversource elctricity bill and it tells me things like this:

The last three electricity bills I had were $9.62 each – just the base connection fee. Even while I am using allot more electricity now with air conditioning (it is HOT and HUMID)I am not worried as I still have enough carry forward to easily make it through August. Once September arrives air conditioning will decline significantly so I will end up not paying any electricity bill though the end of the year – hopefully! My solar array actually still creates more electricity per day than the house uses, more about that just below

ConnectedSolutions Kicked In

What the excerpt from my electricity bill above does not show is the fact that I am now participating in ConenctedSolutions and my Powerwall is exporting electricity to the grid just about every day – usually exactly 9.4 kWh starting at 4 PM – leaving it 20% capacity by the end of the day. The income for that will be distributed by the end of the year – I am looking forward to see how much that will end up being!

Whole-House Backup is a Great thing!

The other thing I am grateful for is the fact that my Powerwall has saved our bacon a few times by keeping the house running while the whole neighborhood was out of power:

The smaller 5 minutes outages were just nuisances – but the July 7th was big – a car accident had taken out a pole on our road and because our house had backup I had no issue leaving in the morning knowing that the house will run for a good 10 hours on the battery.

My conclusions so Far

Solar energy totally works – and it really saves money – you should get solar as soon as possible.

If you can afford it – buy/finance your system – then you get all the tax incentives and the TCO is the lowest.

If you can’t afford to purchase/finance – rent from Tesla. – I put $100.00 down when I went online to order it and pay $100/month for a medium sized array that totally meets my needs.

Battery Back-up is a bit more difficult to make a recommendation on – I got it on the premise of using it as a BACKUP, I did not know about ConenctedSolutions at that time – but as I am still eligible for the federal tax incentive for the battery AND I will be making money off of it I am expecting that I might be able to have the battery pay for itself and pay down the loan for it much earlier.

If you want to take a closer look at any of Tesla’s products then please use my referral link, both of us will get some benefits depending on the products you choose to go with.

Solar in CT – Winter Update

Just posting a qick update, nothing too involved just want to report that yesterday and today we had our first two days that were net Solar positive. That means that we for the first time generated enough solar power in a day to cover all of our energy needs for that day – and then some.

Solar Positive!

The screen shot above just shows the overall picture. If you remember – in Connecticut the net meetering system simply counts all kWh the same – anything you export to the grid is deducted from what you pulled from the grid and you pay for the difference. If you export more than you consume you get to bank that and it is applied to the next day, and so forth. In essence, the grid actus as a battery for yoiu. Actually, it is better than a battery since there is no loss of energy in the transport that you get with batteries. Below is the breakdown:

You can see, we produced 5 kWh more energy than we consumed for that day. Today, the weather being similar, I expect the results to be similar, though today’s production was “only” 21.5 kWh.

This is great news, since it shows that even in winter in Connecticut we can expect to benefit from solar energy. Granted, this is probably on the higher side of any curve since we do not have to contend with snow covering the panels, only with overcast days and rain – but I take a win where I can! If my solar array (7.6 kWh) I can be net solar positive in February, then I do believe that I sized the array – or rather chose the right system size from what Tesla offers – for our house, energy needs and the latitude that we live at. Solar can be beneficial even in a state that has four seasons with – sometimes – dreary and overcast winters.

Man, I am looking forward to see how the system performs over the summer!

Rental Tesla Solar in Connecticut – The First Month

OK, so my first month of solar power with a rented Tesla system and a Tesla Powerwall is in the books and I have my first preliminary thoughts on the system and the first month in numbers.

System overall:

Let’s look for that famous three word answer – in my case it would be [reliable] – [no touch] – [efficient]. The install was clean and fast, the system works and unless I have some snow to remove from the panels there is nothing for me to do. Other than snow clearing (I have one of those long snow doohickeys) I do expect to need to wash the panels a few times a year to get rid of dust and pollen that can actually impact solar production significantly, but that is it.

Solar Production and My Initial Usage

Tesla really designs their systems to be set-it-and-forget-it. I do like looking at the phone app and see what the production looks like, just so I can see how the current weather situation and cloud cover translate into solar production. At this time of the year I can expect some production to start around 8 AM and end somewhere around 4:00 – 4:30 PM. The most I produced on a single day so far was 18.4 kWh and the least was 0.9 kWh. My house’s average daily energy usage is somewhere in the 26 – 28 kWh range, depending on how many Christmas ornaments we had running … 😉

Economics – The first Month

As for Connecticut January is pretty much the darkest part of winter, I am looking at this month to be my low end of what I can expect in energy production. I also just received my first electric bill, so now I have actual numbers to put against what my estimates were and I have some conclusions that I can now support with those numbers. In my data below I am only looking at the dates Jan 01-24 as that corresponds with the dates on my electric bill (Eversource here in CT) and the period where I actually had Solar running – here we go:

  • Jan 2019 billed to me: 884 kWh
  • Jan 2020 billed to me: 638 kWh (= -27%)

This includes the days of the billing period prior to turning Solar on so numbers are a bit skewered.

For the actual Jan 02-24 period the numbers are:

  • Home energy usage total: 596 kWh
  • Purchased from grid: 401 kWh
  • Exported to grid: 14 kWh
  • energy saved/created by solar: 209 kWh

So – What does this mean and what are my conclusions?

In Connecticut we do not have time-of-service rates, the generation rate for electricity is the same no matter what time of the day you use it from the grid. Your bill will have a generation portion and then a delivery charge that is made up of several fees that are tied to the amount of kWh you used (i.e. 5009 kWh x $0.0167 … etc.). If I take the 209 kWh that I saved last month that would have amounted to an additional $44.70 on my electric bill. Actually not bad for January.

The Economics

Next, what about the pure economics of the system? One month in the dead of winter can’t really tell you what a whole year will look like, but it does give me enough to guestimate:

I used 8730 kWh of energy in 2019, costing me about $1870.00 for the year. My Solar rent will cost me approx $1200.00/year (plus taxes, not sure of those yet) so if I am able to produce ~30% of the electricity I use for the year I will come out at even – the savings will be enough to cover the rental fees and judging by January I am confident that will not be a problem. Anything more than 30% will give me money back into my pocket. If I somehow manage to produce enough electricity over the year to zero out my grid usage I will be able to make the maximum of ~$600.00 profit if my energy usage stays the same in 2020 as it was in 2019. Frankly, I have my doubts that is possible with the medium size system that I have on the house, but I do think I can make significant savings and be left with less money out of pocket for my electricity needs.

What is the Case for a Battery?

When it comes to the Tesla Powerwall things are different. Connecticut has net metering without time-of-use rates – what happens here is that a customer is billed for the net amount of kWh used.

So if I use 100 kWh from the grid in a month and sell 20 kWh or overproduction back to the grid I end up paying for 80 kWh of energy. If I export more back to the grid than I use, I create a credit of kWh that rolls over to the next month. Because of this model, there is no economic value in storing excess power production in a battery to use it later – there is no scenario in which I can save money – In effect the grid turns into my battery.

There is a case to be made for a larger solar system to produce more energy overall (especially if I ever get an electric car … I WANT ONE!), but from a pure economic point the Powerwall does not add any saving, it just ends up costing money.

It’s All About the Back-up For Me

This is where I add the “BUT” to the discussion – I did not get the Powerwall for it’s economic value (I already knew I would not be able to save more money), I got the battery to avoid outages and be more energy independent.

I live in the suburbs and do have to deal with power outages now and then. Having a battery back-up that kicks in automatically when grid power fails has value to me. I had 3 outages last year ranging from 1 hour to 6 – two of them were caused by accidents that took out power poles, one was a bad storm where some trees came down and impacted the grid. And .. let’s not think back to Superstorm Sandy a few years back – 6 days of outage.

By law, grid tie systems without a battery backup are required to shut down during a grid outage – no grid power also means no solar power. That is why I went for a Powerwall – I will still have power during a power outage and be also have the immediate back-up that takes over in a few seconds in form of the battery and be able to generate solar power for my daily usage.

Because of this, I also have set my Powerwall to run in “Backup-Only” mode as there is no financial benefit to saving excess power in the battery for later use – I simply reserve all of it’s capacity for a possible outage. My testing shows me that I can expect about 9 – 10 hours of power for my house – longer if I start shutting down things that use electricity. I think I can stretch it to 20 hours if I need to, especially if I turn on my generator to run the critical load circuits as those tend to be big consumers of electricity.

Future Plans

Future plans – there are MANY of those! The main thing I want to look into is possibly switching my hot water generation from oil to electricity. The current hot water system is getting old and will need an upgrade/replacement over the next few years and depending on my electricity production I think I will move it from oil to electricity – probably a hybrid electric one. I will need to wait for another 4 – 6 months so I can see what my real world long term production is so I can make a better determination if that is the right thing to do. Depending on the numbers, it might require an upgrade of my medium sized solar system to a large size system – or if it might not make any sense at all. That is one of the reasons I went with Tesla rental – upping the size of an existing system does not cost any additional money – they come, install the the upgrade and then just bill for the increase in rent. For me that means I’d go from $100/month to $150/month. I will have plenty of opportunity to crunch numbers on that (that is a guilty pleasure of mine …) and I will not know until at least June/July if the savings in fuel oil and the electricity I can expect to use make financial sense overall at all.

I have pother plans in the works along this line, and will share them over time as they come to fruit – some of them will be quite interesting methinks!

Solar – We are in business!

Happy to announce that a few days ago I received my “Permission to operate” from my electrical provider (Eversource in Connecticut).

I was up and running and due to the sunny weather I was able to have a great first day experience – between solar and the powerwall the system covered 42% of my energy usage with less than 8 hours of winter sunshine – this was encouraging!

To be honest though, the next day was miserable weather and production was really low – it is winter after all.

Tesla designed the to be a set-it-and-forget-it install, so it does not require allot of testing and fiddling to run. The only real decision I had to make is the amount of reserve energy I set the powerwall to (see picture below). Some of my testing has shown that with my average winter/Christmas power consumption I can expect the powerwall to be able to run the house for about an hour while using 10% of it’s capacity.

Currently, I have the system set to [Self powered] with a reserve of 40% and [Storm Watch] enabled. With the self powered setting the system will first use solar power to charge the powerwall to it’s reserve capacity and the house is served by grid power. Once the battery is charged to it’s reserve capacity, the system switches to powering the house from solar and only excess electricity over what the house requires is then used to charge the battery to full. If the house needs more than solar can provide the battery will kick in and supply the necessary energy until either solar production can cover the house’s energy needs or it hits it’s reserve capacity setting. The reserve capacity is only used to power the house if there is no grid power.

If the combination of solar and battery cannot cover all the energy that the house is using then the system adds grid power as needed. This is all seamless and unless you look at the app you would not notice it.

What is next?

Now I stop fiddling, let the system run every day and just ignore it. Winter production will be low, I am mainly interested in seeing some electric assistance and having the security of being able to run the house for at least ~4 hours without having to do anything – and longer if I start turning off all kinds of energy using appliances!

[Storm Watch] will make sure that in the event of an upcoming storm the battery will be charged to 100% (using grid power if necessary) and run in back-up only mode for the duration of the storm event. I really like this feature and once I see it kick in (we always have winter storms, it will kick in sooner or later) I will post about it.

Once spring and summer comes around and we have more sun I can start looking at what the system really covers and also see what the actual impact to our electricity bill looks like. With that data we can then make some more decisions regarding our ideas of possibly switching some of our appliances and services to electric. More on that when there is more data to look at.

Update on Solar

I have not had the opportunity to write and update lately – the holidays have been busy. however – I am happy to report that Tesla scheduled my install in the beginning of December and over the course of two days installed the solar array and my powerwall battery.

It took two days because we had a snow storm a few days before Tesla came and the roof was not 100% safe and needed some clearing which delayed the team and the cold weather and snow and ice also made the overall install much slower.

Trucks with “my stuff”!

I won’t go into a play-by-play, but I have to really say that the Tesla team were all very, very , V E R Y professional and really good at their job. From the guys climbing on my roof to the master electrician it was quite an experience to see such a well oiled crew work together.

The electric work – the cabling, the powerwall, the tying into the grid and all the bits and pieces of the controlling components were all done on day one and – it is all much smaller than I thought it would be.

After the installation and some follow-up visits by Tesla to install extra grounding rods and meet with my town’s building inspector to the main inspection the system is now ready … all I am waiting for is the electric provider (Eversource in my case) to finish their review and inspection and for them to install a new meter that supports net metering (=selling of extra electric production back to the grid) and I can turn on the system for full production. I was able to run it for some testing and to charge up the battery which is running in back-up mode now and I can’t wait until I get my final go ahead.

I will write another follow-up and write on the topic of the economics and how I calculated if this project is worth it – and what kind of results I am hoping to achieve during the coming year.

Solar – The Start …

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been thinking of solar for a few years now and with Tesla changing the market I finally have the opportunity to actually get that technology on my house.

Ideally I would actually prefer the Tesla solar tiles as I can’t say I really think that solar panels themselves are particularly pretty. However, the tiles are still very expensive, take forever to get in line for an install and are likely just not really mature enough yet. I also have been reading of some new panel technology that is slowly making it’s way towards real world implementation and is likely a few more years out from being available in the market at prices I woudl want to pay.

Also, my roof has probably another 10 years or so of life in it and that is also the period that powerwalls are warranted for … so my thought is to get Solar now, not have to do any capital investment, get some reduction in our electric bill (even with the monthly rental fee) and have security from outages with the powerwall and then in 10 years or so re-asses and either upgrade,change or do whatever makes sense then. Tesla Solar Tiles Version 3 maybe? This simply works for me and has few potential downsides.

If you want to know more of what went into the decision (electric rates, net meetering in Connecticut, etc.) ask away and I will answer the questions.

In the meantime, here is what Tesla said my roof installation will look like: