I was feeling left out when all my green friends in Duval County and other Florida counties were able to apply (and receive) rebates from their utility companies for energy “miser” improvements while I sat here in St. Augustine unable to find any local incentives. THEN I read in some fine print that Florida Power and Light was offering rebates on solar panels. I checked into it and found the rebates are available for both residential and commercial properties.
I was somewhat disheartened as I thought about the high expense of having someone install PV panels to offset my electric bills. Out of the clear blue this morning I received an email from Mother Earth News about DIY Solar Panels! For a DIYer like myself, solar panel installation could be a project I would tackle and with these great instructions from Gary Reysa I feel as though I could handle this project AND with a rebate incentive (finally) from my power company this project is even more attractive. The solar panel rebate begins 6/21/11 and goes until the money runs out so get your plans and application ready.
Photo Credit: Gary Reysa
From Gary Reysa’s article:
Have you been thinking about installing solar panels for your home, but been discouraged because the cost is too high? Here in Montana, my family and I saved 40 percent on the cost of a solar electric system by buying a kit and doing the installation ourselves. One notable feature of our solar power system is that it uses the relatively new micro-inverter technology. With this system, each photovoltaic (PV) panel has its own grid-tied inverter that is mounted right by the panel. This kind of system is easier for do-it-yourselfers to install, and has other advantages, such as less sensitivity to partial shading, power output optimization for each PV panel, and the flexibility to start small and grow the system as time and budget allow.
We decided to go with a grid-tied system, which is much more cost effective than an off-grid system. One advantage is that you don’t have to buy batteries, which are expensive and have to be replaced from time to time. You can also choose to install a smaller, less expensive system that generates just a portion of your electricity. On the downside, grid-tied systems provide no electricity when the power grid is down.
Planning the Solar Electric System
The first step to planning your system is to evaluate rebate options and obtain permits. Your local power utility has rules you must follow when you hook the finished system to the grid, and building codes may also apply. In addition to federal incentives, states (and even some cities) offer rebates to help with the cost of the system. Understanding the local rules before you start will save you frustration later.
Most utilities will have an information package and a person who specializes in the utility requirements. We found our local utility and code inspectors helpful and friendly. We didn’t pick up a hint of resistance from them regarding the idea of a homeowner-installed PV system. Permit costs and turnaround times were small. Check the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) for information on rebates in your state.
Deciding the size of your system is the next step. With a grid-tied system, size is less critical, because the grid supplies power when your PV system falls short. Systems as small as a couple hundred watts are practical, but you can also install panels that will produce enough electricity for all your needs. Review how much electricity you use now, and then estimate what you will be able to save by applying conservation and efficiency measures throughout your home. This will give you an idea of how big a system you’ll want to build. You certainly can build a system smaller than this, but it may not pay to install a larger one. Look up your state on DSIRE to learn about net metering rules where you live, including how much you can get paid for generating excess power.
For the nuts and bots of installing a DIY system click here…