Can I install solar panels that only send the electricity back to the electric company?
August 6, 2008 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Can I install/configure solar panels on my roof so that the energy produced goes directly to the electric company as a credit to my account? I'd like to install some panels, but I don't want to invest enough money to power my house exclusively with solor, and I don't want to store the power using the current batteries that are available. Thank you.
posted by GernBlandston to Technology (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Net Metering.

It depends on what state you live in.
posted by alms at 8:05 AM on August 6, 2008

It depends on where you live. A lot of us states have laws requiring utilities to buy excess power from people who generate it with renewables. I'd start by looking at the website of your local electric utility. Also, pretty much any local supplier or installer of photovoltaic systems is going to know the scoop.
posted by Good Brain at 8:09 AM on August 6, 2008

Looks like you will be able to soon: DSIRE: Incentives by State: Incentives in Massachusetts.
posted by scruss at 8:43 AM on August 6, 2008

The people who would be selling you the solar panels are likely to be the experts on this topic for your particular state. Putting energy back in the grid is a very normal set-up for home solar and as noted buying it is mandatory in many states.
posted by nanojath at 10:14 AM on August 6, 2008

You may consider that in many locales the power company will not give you full credit for your energy. That is if they charge $1 for a kilowatt, they'll only pay you $0.60 or so. (Numbers are obviously made up.) Which means that you actually pay $0.40 per kilowatt. (By simultaneously buying and selling.) So, it would be best to actually try to run your house if you can and divert only the excess energy to the power grid. This still leaves no need for batteries and saves you more money on energy costs.
posted by oddman at 12:07 PM on August 6, 2008

The amount you get for selling back to the grid varies by locale yes, but in most places I've heard it's the opposite of getting shafted. I know in Cali the cash they pay for power fed back to the grid in the daytime when the usage is higher (A/Cs, businesses, etc) is worth more than using the same amount at night. And if you are living in Ontario, Canada, they have a CRAZY plan to pay 42c/kWh fed back into the grid from solar on a 20 year inflation adjusted contract, which is about 7 times the going cost of electricity. If I lived there, every square inch of yard would be nothing but solar panels, I can tell you that.

That said, there is a capital cost involved with grid tie-in which is the same regardless of if you're doing 1 panel or 24. You may want to consider a bigger installation because you'll get "more" for your money after the fixed cost of the tie-in. Talk to someone in the solar industry where you live and they'll be able to give you a better feel for what the costs are for a given installation size.
posted by barc0001 at 4:41 PM on August 6, 2008

erm, barc0001, I am in Ontario, and $0.42/kWh is about breakeven. I build and operate renewables.
posted by scruss at 7:12 PM on August 6, 2008

How does that work, our of curiousity? Isn't your Ontario Hydro electricity rate around 6-7c/kWh? I know the incentives they offer were less for wind and microhydro, but still solar should be kicking... Although how much sun do you get a day where you are on average?

Just for grins I did up a back of the napkin estimate of this a while ago when I first heard about it, and the numbers I came up with were if you installed a 250Kw array you should be making around $10,000 a month, assuming you were averaging 3.3 hours/day of "full power" off of the panels year round.
posted by barc0001 at 10:21 PM on August 6, 2008

In Canberra, Australia they about to commence a scheme similar to that in place in Germany (and Ontario, it seems) that will see you get a massive premium for your green, green energy - 3.88 times as much as the transitional franchise tariff, guaranteed for 20 years. Add an $8000 subsidy from the Federal government for installation (around 50% of the cost of a system in Australia) and you're looking pretty sweet.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:18 AM on August 7, 2008

barc0001, I don't really do that much solar (I do operate several RESOP wind farms), but we're not exactly tripping over solar installations - I head of a couple of single-digit-kw installations in 2007, and then no more.

Also the price isn't entirely inflation adjusted; only 20% of it is.
posted by scruss at 2:17 PM on August 12, 2008

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