12 June 2016 - DrSunshine.org

Data from a Year with Solar


The records show that, by the end of the first year, the Solar City panels on Dr Sunshine's roof will have generated more electricity than his household used in the first year of operation. Solar will save a little money, too. The total electric bill for the year will about $200 less than it would have been without a solar system.


Records for August 2015 through May 2016 are in, and projections for the remaining two months of the first year with solar are reliable because daylight hours won't change much for those months.

The 18 solar panels that Solar City installed will generate about 5,500 kWh of electricity over the 12-month period from August 2015 through July 2016). Usage in the household will be about 10% less than that, so the 16 panels that Solar City originally proposed would have been sufficient. Solar City's calculations were right on. Dr Sunshine installed extra panels because there was room for them, because the estimates for annual usage could have been low, and because Dr Sunshine is happy to contribute solar power to the grid, even if it costs him a little money.

Solar City charges $0.15 per kWh, and PG&E buys any surplus electricity generated over the year at about $0.03 per kWh. Dr Sunshine will pay about $60 more this year for electricity than he would have paid if he had gone with the 16 panels that Solar City proposed.

PG&E charged about $570 for electricity for the first half of 2015, before the solar installation. The household probably would have used about the same amount of electricity during the other half-year, so the total PG&E charge would have been about $1,140. By the end of the first year, Dr Sunshine will have paid Solar City about $840 for electricity. Add to that about $100 to PG&E for the grid connection, and the total comes to about $940, which is about $200 less than the electricity would have cost with no solar system.

Savings will probably be about the same next year. PG&E talked the PUC into a $10/month grid charge, up from $5, starting in November, 2015, so grid charges will be about $20 more than they were in the solar system's first 12 months. Charges are affected, of course, by changes in electricity rates, but that probably won't amount to much. Furthermore, the savings are more likely to go up than down because, while the contract allows Solar City to raise rate, the contract limits increases to a percentage that is lower than historical increases in PG&E rates.

Bottom Line

If you live in a net metering state like California (as opposed to a state whose legislature kowtows to fossil fuel lobbyists -- a state like Florida, for example, which, ironically, refers to itself as the sunshine state) and your roof accommodates solar panels, get Solar City or some other company with similar offerings to install a solar system for you. It won't cost you a penny up front. Solar City will foot the entire bill for equipment and installation. You just write a monthly check to them instead of your electric power utility, and probably a smaller check than the one you're writing every month already.

 Why wait? Do it now.

© 2016 Dr Sunshine - All rights reserved

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Update, 17 June 2016: Solar is practical in New England, too.
Update, 21 Jan 2017: 2016 even better than expected. More electrictiy generated than used. Saved $350 ($30 a month).