When I was young I loved the sun. It gave me summers to ride my bike and an excuse for ice cream. These days I have a love/hate relationship to the sun. I love the sun for the warmth and light it brings, but hate it for the skin cancer it can cause. I slather on lotion to protect myself from the harmful UV that it bathes us in. I love it for the summer but am bitter with it for disappearing for the winter. I love it for the energy that it has given us, for the plants that grew and died and gave us oil and natural gas. I love it for the wind that it creates by heating some parts of the earth more then others. I love it when I look at a green pepper or a red tomato.
Lately, I have found a new reason to love the sun, the electricity it can create for us. I am talking about photovoltaic solar panels. These wonderful devices create electricity that I can use. They are simple to install, have long life spans and short payback periods. In looking for the panels that will adorn Prairie Spruce Commons soon, I have examined the cost and feasibility of installing 40 solar panels on the roof and getting them net metered. The panels have a life expectancy of 25 years. That is, the panels that begin making use of 97% of the suns power have steadily declined until at 25 years they are only producing 80% and are thus considered at the end of life. This does not mean that they fail after 25 years, just that they have lost efficiency. The current cost of panels and electricity lead me to calculate a payback period of 13 years! And this is a conservative estimate since I haven’t factored in any escalation in cost of electricity. In other words, the ~13000 KWH that those 40 panels produce will save enough from our power bill that in under 13 years they are totally paid for. After that they will continue to produce power and save me money into the future. At some point I might want to replace the old panels with newer ones with peak efficiency but if I don’t the old ones will continue to produce power into the foreseeable future. The best part, is the fact that once installed they will work with a minimum of maintenance. A quick rinse and squeegee to clear off dust and bird poop on a regular basis and you have free energy.
The solar panels produce electricity and the power gets sent out to the grid while your meter turns backwards. You use electricity as you normally would, though much more sparingly as you conserve power knowing what is involved in creating it. At the end of the year your meter is checked and if you have used more then you have produced you pay for the extra power you purchased. If you produce more then you use, good for you, but you won’t get a cheque for your extra power, this is not a power producing arrangement. That is possible but requires different equipment and agreements with the power company.
Saving money through the use of solar panels is nice.
The feeling of well-being knowing you are doing good for the environment, priceless!