Thursday, May 14, 2015

Solar Power Works!

We've had solar up and running for just about a month, and we've generated a total of 844 kilowatt-hours of electricity--enough to run a refrigerator for six months (or charge a mobile phone for 26 years, but let's stick with the fridge, a real energy hog).

There's a handy app on my phone that I refer to, oh, fifteen times a day, that monitors our system's solar output. That's enphase or My Enlighten, the dashboard from the computer screenshot above.

I'm still waiting for Hendricks Power's app that reflects our usage to be correct (right now, it combines readings from usage and energy we send back to the grid to say that we're using a ton!).

Solar is contagious. It's almost perverse: after my dad spent a few weeks working with Rectify on ladders precariously placed along my barn, he decided to install a system of his own! It's a long-term investment, and he's twenty-two years older than I am, but I believe that part of him that dreamed of an electric car back in the '70s couldn't resist.

Here's our physical meter, showing that we've used a total of 486 kW from Hendricks Power (FWD, to the left of the number), and we've pushed back more: 579 kW (RVS). You can't not love that sight!

Phil Teague from Rectify Solar LLC continues to be extremely helpful. He's now educating us on SRECs, Solar Renewable Energy Certificate markets, and will be installing a special meter for trading these SRECs. From the SREC Trade website:
In SREC state markets, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requires electricity suppliers to secure a portion of their electricity from solar generators. The SREC program provides a means for Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) to be created for every megawatt-hour of solar electricity created.
In my limited understanding, a company from Ohio can purchase "green cred" from us in Indiana to satisfy requirements that they're offsetting their carbon emissions. (Like Cap & Trade?) The market fluctuates, and there is no guarantee that there will be SRECs from year to year. But anything we can do to pay off the investment makes it worth our while, and increases the likelihood that we can double the size of our system when we get the 30% federal rebate at tax time.

And yes, we have noticed this new Tesla battery--home storage of solar energy. How cool is that? (They really know how to market to folks like us--its design is consistent with Apple products, for which we are total suckers, and the message is "you, consumer, can change the world!" I know: It's complicated. Energy is a utility. Consumerism isn't the answer. I get it. But can I resist the allure? Can't I declare progressive values for the world at large and indulge in neat gadgets for my home? Puh-lease? I'll feed my potatoes worm compost. I'll pull weeds every day. Pretty please?)

This is a learning process. I'm still gathering data on how Hendricks Power compensates us, and plan to report on that soon. (For anyone interested in rural electrical co-ops and net metering plans.) So far I'll only say this: the rates they post on their net metering page don't seem entirely thought out, or rather, the experience with residential solar we bring to the table might add insight.

The bottom line is, solar is worth it. Funny to use a cliché like "bottom line," which is an accounting metaphor, when what makes it worth it for me is not about the money at all. I'm trying to satisfy a vision I had for this place--before I even knew this place would be in Indiana. I dreamed of working on a plot of land that I could be proud of--not free of guilt (because it's quite possible that being human on this planet today comes with automatic and unredeemable guilt), but proud of. As my husband James says, it's always a work-in-progress.