Is Alternative Energy Right for You?
So you’re interested in renewable energy for your home? That’s great! We all need to be more responsible about energy, not only to save money, but for the greater good of the environment.
Use Energy Wisely
The first thing you need to look at is how you currently use energy. Are you using energy inefficiently? What can you do to cut back or make your home more energy efficient? Central Electric Cooperative (CEC) highly recommends conquering these hurdles first, before considering installing any type of renewable energy.
A residential-scale 10 kilowatt (kw) solar PV system that might produce 9,000 to 10,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a year of electricity-about 90 to 95 percent of a typical home’s annual usage – is likely to cost $27,000 to $30,000. A 30 percent federal energy tax credit is available until December 31, 2019 on the total installed cost for solar systems. Solar installation prices per are now ranging around $3 per watt on larger systems (down from around $5 to $6 per watt a few years ago). This still is a large sum of money to recover if the system is to pay for itself through reduced electric bills. Average payback times range between 15 to 20 years, with many systems having a 25-year life expectancy.
Economically, CEC members should initially consider energy efficiency measures that have an accelerated payback. For example, replacing a 15-year old refrigerator with a new Energy Star™ model can save 1,200 kWh per year – with a 5 to 6 year payback. CEC’s Together We Save show you how to make your home more energy efficient at www.central.coop.
Let’s say you have achieved a high level of energy efficiency in your home and you are ready to look at a renewable energy system. What’s next? You might ask yourself the following questions before you talk to a contractor.
- Do you want a system that will provide all your power needs or do you want supplemental energy generation to reduce the amount of power you buy from the grid?
- How long do you plan to live in this house?
- Are you looking for a wind turbine or solar panel system?
- How much are you willing to spend?
For most people, residential renewable energy means a supplemental photovoltaic solar energy generation system. The main component of a photovoltaic system is the solar collector panels which change the sunlight into direct current (DC). The DC then flows though a converter which changes the DC into alternating current (AC). AC is needed to run home appliances or sell excess energy back to the power grid. The converter must comply with UL Standard 1741.
Wind generation is another option, but due to poor and unreliable wind conditions in this area, CEC recommends measuring wind speed at the proposed location and elevation for one year before considering wind generation. Also consider on-going maintenance with moving parts of a wind generator for life-cycle cost consideration. The 30 percent federal tax credit for wind generation has expired.
Let’s Talk Reputation
You’re now ready to talk with reputable contractors. Find out how much it will cost, and if there are any state or federal tax credits that will help reduce your out-of-pocket cost.
Ask how much energy the system will generate. Remember that the output of a renewable energy system is highly dependent on the weather and therefore will not generate at its full potential all the time. Have your contractor run numbers using local weather data. Find out how much it will cost to generate a kilowatt hour (kwh) of energy. Compare that with your current cost per kWh from CEC. Will the system pay for itself in a few years?
Ask your contractor about system upkeep and warranty issues. Check out the manufacturers and contractors references. Ask about and visit other local installations and talk to the owners. See what lessons they learned and what they have to say about system performance. Consider a lawyer for contract review. Be sure you pay in stages as construction progresses, and do not sign anything or pay any money until you are completely comfortable with the contractor.
While you’re determining which contractor to use, and before any work begins, contact CEC. There are contracts to sign, forms to fill out, and safety guidelines to review.
CEC’s safety guidelines must be adhered to in order to energize your system. Safety is of primary importance, both for you and CEC’s line crew. An electric disconnect collar must be installed outside, near your meter, and be easily accessible.
Additionally, CEC requires that your system never powers back onto co-op lines when there is a power outage. CEC will test this feature and also install a new meter, capable of net metering. The meter will measure current flow in both directions and will allow for accurate metering of the power you buy and sell. We will work with you and guide you through the application process, including:
CEC does not offer financial assistance; but there are programs offered by state and federal agencies.
Contact us at 1-800-521-0570 x2133 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.