Who Has Solar Panels? We Do!
I’ve wanted to get solar panels for a long time. But we spent 6 years moving around the country, so they weren’t feasible. When we bought our current house in 2013, we knew it was going to be our home for a long time. So I asked a company to come out and give us a quote for panels. Unfortunately the company required you to buy the panels outright, at a cost around $30-$40K. And I sadly thought, this just ain’t happening.
Last fall I noticed that my neighbors were getting panels installed on their roof. I texted them and told them “Congrats! I wish we could get them too.” And my neighbor said, “But they are free!”
And I knew I had to find out about this!
Solar City installed our neighbor’s panels and is installing many more units throughout our town. They offer customers a way to go solar without purchasing a single item.
For every unit installed they:
- Design the layout, install and provide all panels and equipment free of charge
- Assume all responsibility and liability for the panels, from shoveling snow off the panels to replacing broken or worn panels (provided they weren’t broken because a kid was up there trying to sled off the roof)
- Monitor your energy production 24 hours a day via an internet connection and will come out and check on the system if there is a notable energy drop
- Aim to produce close to 3/4 of your electricity through solar energy (the rest of your electricity is purchased from your regular provider)
- Provide credits for overproduction in the summer months that are used to offset the winter months
Once you choose to go with Solar City, you have 3 pricing tiers to choose from:
- You can purchase your electricity for the next 20 years outright at the lowest per kWh cost.
- You can lock in the cost of electricity at a low price for the next 20 years.
- You can opt for a lower cost of electricity than option #2, however the price will increase every year by a fixed amount.
We chose to go with option #2 and locked in our electricity cost at 8 cents less per kWh than what we are paying now.
What’s the catch?
It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it?
Well, probably the biggest drawback to using Solar City is that it is a 20 year commitment! You sign a contract that you will purchase the electricity your panels generate from them for the next two decades!! That was a little scary for us. But, if you move and/or sell your house, you do have some options. You can transfer the solar panels to a new location for a fee of $500 if Solar City provides service in that area or you can transfer the contract to anyone that purchases your home. If you cannot do either of these, then you have to buy out the remaining years of the contract (that could be expensive).
- You must pay $500 if the panels have to be removed and re-installed (like if you have to re-shingle your roof)
- You need to have a high-speed internet connection
- They place a big Solar City control box next to your electrical meter
- You will have 2 electricity bills: one from Solar City and one from your normal electricity provider
- Oh, and you can’t use the electricity to heat your pool (just in case you needed to know that)
So far, we have had a great experience with Solar City. I first met with the representative in our area and she did an initial assessment of our current energy usage and costs. She used Google Maps to look at our house and make a preliminary design for roof installation.
An engineer then designed a plan for our house that was pretty much the same as what the rep showed me. In the first year, 64% of our power is predicted to be produced by solar, which is under their goal. And this is one of the larger designs they have made for a residential home (thank you ranch style home). I was a little disappointed by that, but at this stage in our lives, with 8 people in the house, we are energy hogs.
When we signed the contract, the installation was predicted to be 5 months away in May. Initially we had a lot of paperwork to sign (via electronic signature) so the company could get the proper permits and apply to National Grid. Then there was going to be a long wait. But earlier this month I got a call that they were able to move it up to March. Hooray! The installation took 2 days and the installation team (at least 8 people) were extremely nice. One of them even posed with me for this picture.
A couple of weeks after the installation the town electrical inspector came out to inspect the panel (arranged and met by a rep from Solar City).
And now we are just waiting for National Grid to inspect the system and give the ok.
Then Solar City will tell us to turn the system on, we will throw the switch and our roof will no longer be a passive structure keeping the rain and snow off our heads.
What About Those Unsightly Panels?
One of the complaints I have heard about solar energy is the “ugliness” of the panels on the roof. While I don’t understand it myself, Solar City is aware that some people don’t like the way panels look. They do try to install panels so they don’t face the road. They can also install free-standing units, but you will have to pay some cost for the trenching involved to hook the panels up to your electrical box.
If it were up to me though, I would make it mandatory that solar panels be incorporated into all house designs. Why shouldn’t each structure be used to help generate clean energy?
I consider solar panels a badge of honor.
Disclaimer: I am not an affiliate for, nor a representative of, Solar City. However, if you like my solar panels and want to get some of your own, mention my name to Solar City and they will give me a referral bonus.
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