If you have visited our office recently, you have noticed some activity out in our fields. We have decided to join the “green revolution” and install a solar array for our office. This array is not on our building though. Since we have plenty of land, we decided to put in a ground-based system. This allowed us to make it as large as needed to meet our electrical needs and to face the array in the most ideal direction. It should be generating electricity before Christmas, and after that we should have hardly any electric bill at all.
Some facts about our solar array:
–We use about 59,000 kWh of electricity per year at a cost of about $8000 annually. This array is designed to produce 99% of that amount and leave us with a minimal electrical bill. (NOTE: it generally is not cost-effective to overproduce electricity because the utility then only pays you wholesale rates).
–This is an ideal location for solar panels because they are elevated on a hill where they should never be shaded and they are oriented to within 1 degree of facing south.
–The production of the panels is guaranteed for 10 years by Paradise Energy. The panels have a life expectancy of 25 years, and there is a small drop in production as they age (approx 0.5% per year, so after 25 years they will produce 12% less)
–During the day, our electrical meter should actually be running backwards. At the end of a year, if we produce more electricity than we use, the utility will pay us. This is possible because with our ideal location, the production of the array could be slightly greater than anticipated.
–There are significant tax saving for building a solar project, especially for a business. With tax credits, depreciation, and electrical production, the array will pay for itself in about 7 years, and then we will have a very, very small electric bill.
–Unfortunately, the solar array will not operate when the electrical grid power goes down. This is a safety issue because the array cannot backfeed the grid during outages. We could avoid this problem by installing a battery system, but the expense and current technology do not quite make that cost effective.
–The array was constructed by driving metal posts 7 feet into the ground and attaching a rack system. The array is supposed to resist winds upto 130 mph. Let’s hope it doesn’t ever get put to the test on that!
–There are two sets of panels in our array consisting of a total of 150 panels. The smaller set is 100 feet long with 60 panels, and the larger one 150 feet with 90 panels. These panels feed into 5 inverters that convert the DC electricity from the panels into AC current the powers our building and backfeeds and extra to the grid.
–We actually had to upgrade our electrical transformer (that big green “box” towards the rear of our building) because it wasn’t big enough to handle all the power this array will generate. The original transformer was 25kW, and our array will generate 38kW.
–There will be a monitor in our waiting room showing us how much power we are making—be sure to check it out next time you are in our office