Tag Archives: balance of system

Beware Solar Panels and Homeowners Insurance

Do you know what has been the hardest part about getting my new solar photovoltaic system put on my house?  Homeowners insurance.

How often do we really think about our homeowners insurance?  For me, not very often.  Like once in fifteen years when I made a claim after a massive hailstorm left almost every house in the area with a need for a new roof and siding.

So, there I am a customer of fifteen years with one claim to my name looking to switch insurance providers.  Why?  The company I had been with does not insure homes with solar panels installed on the roof.  Ground mount installations would be fine.  Even an installation on a non-attached garage would have been fine.  However, mounted on my west facing attached garage roof was a bridge too far for the insurance provider.

How far?  Like no consideration at all of insuring a home with solar panels even with a policy rider or similar insurance vehicle.  Like no consideration for the fact that I was a long term customer with multiple policies.  No way, no how.

The problem with all of this is that the solar installer requires a certificate of insurance to begin an installation.  If your insurance company will not insure your home when it has solar panels you are forced to switch providers with all of the relevant switching costs and hassle in order to begin the installation.  Consider it another hassle or hurdle to the broad installation of solar panels across the United States.  Every impediment is a step backwards on the path to a cleaner future.

This is the challenge for distributed rooftop solar.  Balance of system costs and hurdles, e.g. those costs and impediments that are not directly attributable to the PV panels or related hardware, will be what determines the ultimate penetration rate of distributed solar.

Signing on the Dotted Line for Solar

The contract is signed.

By September I will have a solar photovoltaic system on my roof generating electricity for the next twenty five years or so.  I consider it my fairly large middle finger to anyone who wants to keep digging coal out of the ground and burning it like some bad parody of the birth of the Industrial Revolution.

The system will be installed on a west facing (almost exactly 270 degree azimuth for those of you into that sort of description) roof that is a large single pitch with no protrusions.  Due to my relatively low electricity consumption the maximum system allowed the power company was under 5 kWh.  My system will be composed of 16 SolarWorld 290W panels for a total of 4,640W.

Gross system cost is $2.35 per watt installed.  The applicable federal and state tax credits take that figure down to $1.29 per watt.

Based on the system size, orientation, and projected system losses I figure that this system will generate slightly more than my annual electricity consumption assuming no changes in consumption patterns.  This would all get thrown out the window if I traded in my truck for a Chevy Bolt.

The most frustrating part is that if it were not for the various hoops that the power company makes everyone jump through this process could have been completed in weeks if not days.  Now that the cost for the solar panels and inverters have dropped so dramatically the biggest impediment to widespread adoption will be the balance of system costs and the permitting hassles.  Although my power company is obligated to allow me to install solar panels and the feed that power back into the grid via net metering it is their intention, in my opinion, to make the process as onerous as possible in order to deter other people from signing on the dotted line for solar.

This is the first step in the newly coined #myPersonalParis where I am going to control as many aspects of my life to align with a significantly reduced emissions footprint as possible in solidarity with the Paris climate accord which our dear leader decided was too onerous because…reasons?

What are you doing?

Friday Linkage 3/13/2015

Things are going to be on hiatus for a while during my vacation, which begins about lunchtime today. Later.

On to the links…

Here’s What Gas Would Have To Cost To Account For Health And Environmental Impacts—If gasoline prices had to account for externalities it would cost an additional $3.80 per gallon. That would make a gallon of gas here in eastern Iowa cost ~$6.25. Seems about right.

The World Added 51,477 Megawatts of Wind Power in 2014—That total number represents a 44% increase over the prior year.

US Solar PV Installations Surpassed 6 GW In 2014—If you could not tell I have a hard jones for solar. It looks like the rest of the U.S. is catching on to my solar love.

Solar and Wind on Track to Dominate New U.S. Power Capacity in 2015—2014 was a good year, but 2015 may be even better. The climate change deniers and fossil fuel flunkies can harp about solar panels and wind turbines being for the hair shirt crowd…it does not matter. The market is speaking. I love that invisible hand.

US PV Installations Predicted To Pass 8 GW in 2015—Every time you see a headline the numbers for installations are bigger. It’s like a snowball rolling downhill and picking up some wicked speed.

Solar System Pricing Dropped By 9% In 2014—Almost a 10% drop in one year! Talk about bending the cost curve downward.

Solar As Cheap As Coal… Why Not Cheaper?—Balance of system costs and “soft” costs are keeping the price of solar systems higher than need be. If the cost curve for these other costs were matching the cost curve for panels solar systems would be way cheap.

Hawaii Ready for 100% Renewable Energy—I am a big Hawaii fan. If my family would allow it I would sell all of my stuff and move to the islands tomorrow. It’s also a great laboratory for what the future of renewable energy in the U.S. looks like. Now, if I could just find some of that Hawaiian Sun here on the mainland.

New York Just Showed Every Other State How to Do Solar Right—Public policy is not the most exciting topic to wade through, but small changes can have dramatic impacts on markets. Since most utilities are regulated as public concerns there is a great amount of influence that policy can have on their behavior.

You Can Now Invest In Solar Bonds Through Your Retirement Account—If you thought public policy was boring wait until you wade into the world of IRA options and plan construction. However, trillions of dollars are stashed in these funds so it is a huge potential source of funding for the solar industry if “solar bonds” can become a trusted investment grade vehicle.

Solar Power To Form 25% Of India’s Installed Power Capacity By 2022—India, a rapidly growing emerging economy, is doubling down on renewables, particularly solar, like a riverboat gambler with a hot hand.

Non-Fossil Fuel Sources Provide 25% of China’s Electricity—China’s air may be a mess and the country is still a totalitarian state, but they are trying.

Ghana Increases Levy On Petroleum Products To Fund Solar Power Projects—This is a wonderful piece of policy and something I wish the U.S. would adopt. Tax fossil fuels to fund the development of renewables. It would never happen here because of big money influence. You go Ghana.

Documents Detail Sugar Industry Efforts To Direct Medical Research—As if you needed more proof that the industrial giants behind sugar and process foods were manipulating health officials, doctors, and governments. Well, here you go.

Perennial Rice: In Search of a Greener, Hardier Staple Crop—Perennial rice seems like a great idea as it avoids the destructive process of planting, but critics point to lower yields. It’s an interesting scientific pursuit.

The True Energy Savings of Living Sustainably—I have not posted an infographic in a while and thought this one uses British pounds as a currency you can do the math to figure out what the savings would be:

MillerHomes_Infographic2015

Friday Linkage 8/29/2014

There are few good things to say about having your refrigerator stop working and losing a lot of food. If I look on the bright side I got to really clean the inside, disposed of some junk food that no one in my house needed to eat, and now have the opportunity to really think about what gets put back in. On second thought, maybe this should be a yearly thing.

On to the links…

As Americans Pig Out, Bacon sees Sizzling Price Hikes—Supply and demand baby! It’s good to see that people have let go of their fat phobia and are embracing the tasty meat. Granted, a lot of people go too far in their bacon love. It can be sort of disturbing.

Why Are We So Fat? The Multimillion-Dollar Scientific Quest to Find Out—This issue seems to boggle scientists and there is a lot of contradictory information that exists. All of it appears to have been conducted in the best interests of science, but it has confused the issue mightily.

Norway Whale Catch Reaches Highest Number since 1993—This was a total WTF moment for me when I read the article. Japan gets a whole boatload, pun sort of intended, regarding its whaling program but Norway is out there killing just as many whales. That’s right, Norway, which is usually thought of as being a fairly progressive and with it country. WTF.

Renewable Energy Capacity Grows at Fastest Ever Pace—The International Energy Agency estimates that 22% of the world’s power comes from renewables, including hydropower. Greater than $250 billion, yep that’s a billion, was invested worldwide in 2013. As good as this news seems this pace of introduction will not be enough to meet climate goals. Boo!

Renewable Energy Accounts for 100 Percent of New US Electrical Generating Capacity in July—Of all the new electrical generating capability brought on line in July all of it, let me repeat all of it, was generated via renewable sources.

Soon, Europe Might Not Need Any New Power Plants—At its core the economic argument for small scale generation will be feasible without government subsidies and have a payback of approximately 6 years, which means that demand destruction will take off to such a degree that large centralized power plants will be an endangered species. Dig it.

Hawaii’s Largest Utility Announces Plan To Triple Rooftop Solar By 2030—I am always a little hesitant to believe anything HECO says because they tend to seem to be incompetent when it comes to renewables. Here’s to hoping.

Lawmakers, Homeowners Fight Rules Saying Solar Is Too Ugly To Install—Homeowners Associations (HOAs) blow my mind. People will talk about freedom and property rights all day long, but willingly submit to the whims of neighbors with nothing better to do on a beautiful day save for figuring out who is in violation of some silly rules. I am sorry sir, but those plants are not on the approved list.

New Bill Could Make Residential Solar In California A Lot Cheaper—It used to be the panel costs that drove the price of a solar PV system. Now, as the price of solar panels continues its downward trend, the balance of systems costs are stubbornly high. Some lawmakers are trying to rectify this issue with streamlined permitting.

How A New Group Is Helping Nonprofits In West Virginia Get Solar Panels For Just $1—This is a great story about a community coming together and making solar happen.

Weed Blaster shows Promise as Alternative to Herbicides—When RoundUp finally fails in its ability to control superweeds like pigweed then it will be time for another solution. Here is something that does not depend on the chemical regime of the past to save us from weeds.

Moving Back Home Together: Rarest Native Animals Find Haven on Tribal Lands—Through neglect and downright abandonment, tribal lands have been saved from a lot of the ravages of modern development including the plow. Now, these lands are a bright spot in the effort to reintroduce species of animals long gone from the landscape.

Powerful Photos of the World Feeling the Impact of Climate Change—Global climate change as a result of human behavior is real and its effects are visible today. Climate deniers may line their pockets with Koch money to slow down effective mitigation, but it will not help when the waters rise.

Friday Linkage 11/16/2012

It’s good more than a week after the presidential election to wake up and realize all of the things that could have been different with a…shudder…President Mitt Romney.  Alas, that is something that we will have to confine to the parts of our soul where nightmares hide.  It’s the same place I have consigned Karl Rove to following his SuperPAC getting “monkey stomped.”

Rachel Maddow really lays it out for anyone who is interested.

On to the links…

Four African Girls Build Pee Powered Generator—This story has gotten a lot of run, but I love it nonetheless.  Maybe there is hope for us humans after all.

U.S. May be Top Oil Producer—If this is true than the “drill baby, drill” faction of the American public has to very excited.  Oh wait, those people never get their facts straight anyway.  Oh well, they pretty much got “monkey stomped” this past week so I will let it slide.

Pricing Carbon: Where We Are and Where We May be Going—The only way to systematically attack the problem of carbon contributing to global warming is to put a price on it, so that economic models can account for it.  Otherwise, it’s just an externality.

Post-Fossil Fuel Economy Already Emerging?—I do not know how much of this has to do with the recent recession or with an actual transition, but it’s an interesting idea nonetheless.

Algae Based Fuel on Sale in Bay Area—One step closer to powering my car on pond scum.  Scum baby, scum!

Voters Approve 81% of Conservation Ballot Initiatives—Speaking of getting “monkey stomped,” the people who hate the environment must really feel lonely in their Koch embrace because most people actually want to preserve the natural world and enjoy something pristine.  Imagine that?

Tackling Solar Costs from Every Angle—The real challenge facing the widespread adoption of residential or small scale commercial solar is the balance of system costs.  The price of solar panels themselves are no longer the impediment, but rather all the other stuff including permits that are required to start generating free electricity from the sun.

The Muddy Minnesota River Comes Back to Life—A real success story of the Clean Water Act and the action of state government has to be Minnesota’s efforts to clean up its river.  The story about the Minnesota River is the latest success story.  Skol!

How to Grow All Your Food on One Tenth of an Acre—This seems like a little bit too intensive, but maybe there are some lessons that can be applied to getting food out of all these suburban lots dotting the United States.

Industrial Scale Hog Farms Screw Farmers and Small Towns—Industrial hog farms or CAFOs are pretty much one of the worst things on the planet for everyone involved except for the big meat packers who love the system.  Everyone gets screwed.  Thankfully Linn County, where I live in Iowa, rejected the latest attempt to build a new CAFO in the county.