A: A few reasons... Guilt over my two hobbies, a 505 hp 2006 Corvette Z06, and a Xmas Display that pulls over 90
amps when at full power. Also the fact that there is only so much oil, coal, and gas left in the ground and it's going to
run out in a few hundred years. Global warming, global security, pollution, environmental impact, and finally the big
one: IT'S COOL!!!
Q: How much did it cost?
A: Approx. $42,000 after all incentives, rebates and credits. This is a BIG system. In addition to the Xmas Display,
we have a pool (pumps use a lot of power), AC, and a bunch of PC's and Tivos. The system is 8.4 kW max power
and is sized based on our 2005 power usage to break even over a 12 month period. Which it did. We had a $35
surplus after Year 1 and we will do much better than that in Year 2 as we have made Xmas Display efficiency
improvements (LEDs) and household improvements (CFLs and LEDs).
Q: How long before it pays for itself?
A: That's a difficult question and there are different ways of looking at it. We spent nearly $5,000 on electricity in
2005. At that rate, it would pay for itself in 9 years. But if electricity costs continue to rise, it will pay for itself sooner.
A second way of looking at it is that when you install a solar system, the value of your house goes up by the amount
of the system (we have confirmed this with 3 different realtors). Prospective buyers, knowing they won't have an
electricity bill can spend more on their mortgage.... The third approach is this: Take out a loan for the system. The
loan payment is usually lower than your electricity bill, so you have an immediate positive cash flow.
Q: Does it use batteries for power at night and cloudy/rainy days?
A: No. There are no batteries. It's a "grid tied" system and we sell extra power to PG&E. When we are making more
power than we are using, our meter runs backwards. At night, we just buy back the power we made during the day.
What makes this system very effective is something called Time of Use Metering. By going on a special rate
schedule with PG&E (E-9), we have a rate of approx. .$.30 per kWh M-F 12-6 pm. This is their peak period where
businesses are running their AC, lights, equipment etc. Since it is difficult to store large amounts of energy, PG&E
has to generate more power during peak periods and it usually comes from dirtier coal powered plants and older
inefficient plants. During the non-peak period when they have extra capacity, the rate goes down to $.10 per kWh.
So.... the best power generating time for a solar system is the same as PG&E's peak period. When we are cranking
out power from our solar system, PG&E has to buy it from us at the high $.30 rate. We don't run our pool pumps,
washer/dryer, dishwasher during peak periods and instead do it off peak. So it's the old sell high and buy low
scenario. We sell most of our power at $.30 and buy most of it at $.10.
Q: What happens when there is a power failure?
A: We lose power like everyone else. Even if it's daylight and we are making electricity our system senses that the
grid has gone down and shuts off. This is a safety feature meant to protect PG&E linemen who might be
electrocuted by someone's solar system sending power into the grid.
Q: Solar sounds cool! Where can I learn more?
A: On our Links page!
Severex Power Inc.
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