This week's entry is about the messy process of figuring out how to decarbonize my house. Tl;dr the solar industry is less about energy, and more about banking.
I didn't realize the customer was the thing being sold in most home solar deals.
I feel like that's the financial story of the early 21st C: people thought they were buying things, but they were actually being sold.
I've just started the solar journey for my home and I was definitely there with you about the whole used car salesman aspect.
I first looked at Google's Project Sunroof https://sunroof.withgoogle.com/ but I wanted another guesstimate... Filling out Google's form didn't seem to trigger the bullhorn, but the second place I looked certainly did. Over the next 36 hours I got no less than 8 different companies looking to give me a free estimate, if I give them an hour or so of my time for a "consultation". I took some of them up on it, until I just ran out of free hours to schedule for them.
Then, almost all... no, actually *all* of them wanted to size a system that would just barely cover my current utility bill and then they all sent me a first quote as a loan structured such that the loan payment would be the same as my current utility bill. It's as if they all think that we want to pay our utility bill still, but just to a loan company instead of the power company.
I've decided against battery system for now, especially after one particularly honest solar sales guy didn't even suggest a battery system and I asked him why (because the other guys were all listing battery on their quotes as an option, at least). He said that we'd pay $14k-16k for a battery that would only run our house for about 1 day in a outage. Around here, we mainly have outages related to ice and snow, and those haven't been very frequent, maybe 1-2 days total over the last 8 years. So he didn't even suggest to pay $8k / day for something I'd use maybe twice a decade.
Oh, and The Peripheral !!! Can't wait for season two now. But I wish they'd gone ahead and broken Ep8 into two parts to give it some more story time to make it a little less confusing. I needed to go online for some more explanation of the last half hour.
We put up rooftop solar in late 2020. At the time, we looked into the battery offerings from the solar company we selected (Tesla). We got competing bids from two other companies, including Sunrun, and also looked into the battery offerings.
All battery offerings limited output current to 25 Amps. This is a combination of physical limitations on battery and inverter outputs and economics. Systems with higher outputs could be constructed at costs that would not pencil out (not even close) for homeowners from electricity savings, even if they drove only EVs. Thus, a whole house battery can keep the lights on, but can't run all major appliances simultaneously, or one major appliance for more than a few hours.
Given that, the whole house battery offerings from solar companies were strictly "backup" systems for periodic power outages. Given that we opted to not put in the battery since it was not used to provide solar generated electrons to the house after dark, but just would be used periodically during night-time power outages, which while annoying, are rather infrequent in our utility district (SCE).
A pretty good write-up on the technical issues can be found at https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-myth-of-whole-home-battery-backup.
These technological and economic limits do extend to utility-scale post-generation electricity storage systems in general. The inconvenient truth is that to fully decarbonize, barring any significant technological breakthroughs in post-generation electricity storage technology, will increase costs overall and require some reduction in power consumption writ large.
Or re-acceptance of nuclear powered electricity generation.
To maximize the ‘going green’ objective, in addition to insulation and double or triple paned windows and doors, there are 3 things to do related to the power service. 1) maximize your panels to produce as much energy from solar as possible, not the minimum to offset your current utility bill. 2) retain the ownership of the panels, batteries, and converted energy, feeding any excess back to the utility to distribute and paying you directly for that energy production. Do not accept a contract that leaves the utility owning your energy feed as part of the funding mechanism. If you cannot generate enough to keep the batteries filled or have emergency power needs where you must rely on the utility, continue the current service and reducing the service to the lowest monthly rate. 3) don’t lease, buy the items and installation using HELOC or other personal financing method.
Any thoughts on some kind of set up to use an electric vehicle as your whole home battery back up? Normal use, plug car into house to recharge.
Emergency use, plug car into house to run the house.
Your solution is one I have to try first after thinking about solar for my house in a rural state. Sounds like there is an opportunity for an innovative entrepreneur in your post. Adjusting to reading Mollywood in more than 240 character segments.
christ on a freakin' bike! asset backed securities AGAIN?!?
I had solar panels installed last fall, though due to various inspection delays, they didn't get activated until April. After that, the financing company called me several times trying to get me to refinance my mortgage with them. By that time rates were starting to creep up, and anyway I had just done a refinance in 2021. I had to get sharp with them to get off their list. I also added insulation in the attic when we moved in 5 years ago, and replaced the windows and doors. Then we ended up replacing the hvac this spring too. So definitely I agree with making the house as efficient as possible first. And I definitely expect that we will pay the solar loan off before we try to sell the house, because why should the next person have to take that on?
I wish the company we used did business up north. But I think Baker Electric is just a San Diego thing. They were amazing. Hopefully you can find someone comparable. The battery is one of those things that both gives comfort AND is fascinating to watch as it charges and discharges on the app (yes I’m a huge nerd on that front).
I definitely recommend Energy Sage. It’s a third-party marketplace (I think it’s partially DOE funded - don’t quote me on that). All the leads/quotes are funneled thru the site. No annoying calls until you’re ready to move forward and authorize direct contact. Home battery storage is the best.
Also we purchased our system. You’re right that the lease market is a nightmare once you really look into it.
@Molly. If you are still based in the East Bay, try “your energy solutions”. They are a local installer in Dublin/Pleasanton. They will install a battery for you. They installed panels on my house a few years ago and did a great job. A battery backup system from them is in my list.
I have exactly the same problem and I can Not find anyone to install (much less let me buy) a whole house battery. Please let me know if you find someone who Will!