Go Solar If You Can, Before 2020!

Go Solar If You Can, Before 2020!

The hot, sticky, generally annoying but also deadly heat waves that have swept the northern hemisphere have few upsides to them. In Japan, northern Europe including the UK and France, as well as the Northeast (no link needed, we lived through it!) and unusually, the Pacific Northwest and upper Midwest US, the heat has been intense this summer. Even Siberia and above the Arctic Circle in Canada became more than unusually hot. As a result, deaths from heat related illnesses, and terrible wildfires, not just early in the fire season for California, but in Greece and Sweden, not known to be prone to wildfires, are very high this summer.

If you don’t realize by now that our planet is warming up exceptionally fast, I really have nothing to say to you. The evidence is clear, and extreme weather is obviously on the rise. Between record highs being set across the planet (and few record lows), flooding rains, punishing, stalling hurricanes, and entire seasons pushed forward or back by a month or more…if you can’t believe the evidence of the science, and you refuse to see the evidence of your eyes, for you this post might seem a waste of time.

But what about avoiding summer brownouts and reducing peak demand electricity costs in the middle of a heat wave? Does that sound appealing to you? Well, then maybe this will convince you going green is worth our collective investment! It turns out, that during the worst of the peak for heat, also means peak for sunny days and lots of solar generation. Perhaps the one upside of heat waves? So says this article about behind-the-meter solar in New England.

During the recent heat wave from June 29 to July 5, these panels provided some 2,000 megawatts of electricity on a daily basis, lowering peak demand on the grid, and making the hour of peak demand occur later in the day.

Translated, by reducing peak demand on the grid and delaying the hour when peak demand was reached, “This reduces the number of hours that dirtier and more expensive peaker plants must run, avoiding fossil fuel emissions,” explained Joe LaRusso, in a thread of 22 tweets on July 20. “The result? Lower-cost electricity for all New England electric customers.”

In ISO New England’s own words, describing what happened during the heat wave from June 29 through July 5 as a result of the behind the meter PV, “With demand evading high levels, ISO New England had to call only minimally on older coal and oil resources.”

Check out ISO’s map of behind-the-meter (this is residential and rooftop commercial solar, largely) solar power by town:

Can you tell what states in New England have strong incentives beyond the federal tax credits for rooftop/behind-the-meter solar and which do not? Seems pretty obvious. And here in Massachusetts, while still grappling with recent inaction by our legislature and governor on further renewable initiatives, we have gotten a pretty damn good head start. (Now, next session, MA politicians, GET SERIOUS. And let’s kick DeLeo out for heaven’s sake! Stop resting on your enviro laurels which at this point are at least 8 years old.) *Ahem*

Furthermore (emphasis mine):

What surprised LaRusso most was the percentage of regional electric demand being met by behind the meter solar panels on homes and businesses on a clear, New England summer afternoon. Before he had read the July 17 Newswire by ISO New England, LaRusso tweeted, “I’d have said 3-4 percent, and been convinced I was overestimating.”

He would have had no idea, LaRusso continued, “It could approach 10 percent or more.”

In conclusion, LaRusso tweeted: “It’s a clear [and] irrefutable fact that BTM PV has arrived,” and that “all” New England electric customers are benefiting from it.

In late 2012, you might recall that my husband and I went solar…and I wrote about it (BMG still has my post, as my archives are inaccessible at the moment). There are things that are out of date in that post, but a lot of it still applies. The federal tax credit of 30% of the cost of installation is still in effect until end of 2019…in order to maximize your incentives, you should look in going solar now. Similarly, the Mass incentives over and above that have, I believe, changed slightly since, and are going to change again (less favorably to the solar owner) so I recommend looking into this as soon as you can if you have any interest.

Since Nov 2012, we have made back $6,632.99 just over 4 years of SRECs alone (SRECs started accumulating in 2013 and our first sales were in 2014 as SRECs take time to mature) . That’s on top of the tax credits from both federal and state which paid us back 55% of the install costs within the calendar year of our installation.

When you see that math, it’s a sort of no brainer. If you have the ability to carry a home improvement solar loan (our payments were just under $200/month, and due to extra payments will be paid off very soon), and you have a rooftop ideal for solar, and you haven’t done it yet, you are basically missing out on free money. Or think of it this way: you can pay National Grid that (averaged) $200/month, or you can pay for the loan to produce your own electricity (under net metering) and then own the panels afterwards.

In fact, it was such a no brainer we’re doing it again. We have a lot of roof left, though not the perfect south facing roof we started with, and our electrical use has gone up. As noted in my blog post about future investments, last year we installed electricity-based air source heat pumps for our heating and cooling (with a 0% interest MassSave HEAT loan!)…now we barely owe National Grid for natural gas usage!…and got a plugin hybrid, a Prius Prime (I call it our “starter electric car” as it only gets 24 miles on battery but its price point is lower than the Leaf, Volt, etc). Though the ROI is a little worse for our remaining roofs due to a less ideal panel orientation, it’s still a damn good deal when you do the math, and will get us back to close to covering 100% of our higher yearly electrical usage. Eventually I will replace our gas hot water heater (it’s nearing EoL) with electric as well. Also, panels are just getting that much better and generate more electricity per square foot than even 5 years ago.

Imagine guilt free cooling in the summer. Imagine feeling proud because not only did you go green for yourself and for the environment and for the future of all freaking mankind, but you also prevented electricity brownouts in the middle of a heat wave. You literally can saves lives by going solar, and not just future lives on some tenuous climate change timeline, but right here and now.

You can’t beat that kind of “cool.” Or, perhaps, smug, but I prefer to call it being a superhero for your community. 😉

Hat tip to BMG tweet for the article.

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