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Is Solar PV Cheap Enough For This?

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A long time ago, I remember occasionally (thank God) seeing an article where some “idiot” put a solar install on the north side of a building (Northern Hemisphere). In my mind, though, I thought that when solar was really popular and cheap, people would start throwing it on the north sides of roofs. Even though not the optimal location, they would still get some power in the summer, and if the cost is small, why not?

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Well, that day seems to have arrived. In the photos above, the pictured house did exactly that. South-side roofs were covered all over (44 solar panels), but let’s not leave out the north side either (20 solar panels, for a total of 64). A wild guess is that they generate at least 20 MWh/yr. (Estimate of 300W/panel.) When the roof pitches are low enough and the north “face” may in fact really be north by northwest or north by northeast, the contributions can be noticeable in non-winter months, and worthwhile since the whole install “crew” is there anyway (crew setup and teardown time is mostly shared).

Solar PV is now at that price per production point to make this logical, and electricity cost is not heading in the downward direction. My supplier has doubled the rate in the last two years despite electricity suppliers being a so-called regulated utility. When it comes to retail supply, the public utilities commission (PUC) will give them the retail increase they want if the actual generator of the power raises the cost to them on the wholesale market. Given this reality, that I am sure is not limited to my Pennsylvania location with PPL as the power provider, I am even more amazed that states that are sunshine states — like FL, AZ, NM, MT, NV, CO, CA, etc. — don’t have every roof NOT on the north side of a wooded mountain covered with grid-tied solar PV. There is free money there for 50 years out from install! How is it in this day and age of easy, fast global information, people are not banging the doors down of PV installers for this free energy ride? The energy is free! You only pay for the infrastructure, unlike any conventional “fuel-based” solution where you pay for both, and the fuel forever.

The IRA (Inflation Reduction Act of 2022) upped the ITC (Investment Tax Credit) again. It includes storage over 4 kWh to help spur this adoption rate. Where are the hoards of people yelling for service??

I honestly don’t know. I suppose you could blame it all on the misinformation and flat out lies told every day, in what is supposed to be broadcast truth under the news banner. That bit the dust long ago courtesy of Fox Fantasy, which unfortunately has degraded everyone else as well. But there are other direct and valid sources of truthful information out there that are free for the viewing. Industry documentation on thousands of websites has more information regarding solar PV, and renewable energy in general, than one could almost ever read. And there are lots of sites where you can put in your address and get a system configuration, cost, and savings information.

There is so much low-hanging and on the ground — electron fruit — in so many sunny states that it’s a wonder how the sweet scrumptious smell of a silicon steak on the summer grill, blowing under everyone’s noises (even vegans’), is not being coveted in neighborhoods all over suburbia and in urban dwellings alike.

Being optimistic (which I usually am not — Powerball odds), maybe we are at the opening inning for a real solar PV championship that will make the PV-empty roof an anomaly in neighborhoods across the world.

By William H Fitch III, is a multi-decade company in solar and renewable energy consulting and distribution, as well as some direct installations. He is a current ASES member and has various other renewable energy affiliations. He has been “into” solar and renewable energy since the 1970s in the solar thermal area — everything from solar cookers to super-insulated houses to hot air and liquid thermal systems, flat plates, and evacuated tubes. William’s own residence generates around 20 megawatt-hours a year of PV electricity, and it also includes geothermal and solar thermal systems. He and his wife drive all-electric cars and use all-electric yard tools. No gasoline.

Professionally, William spent approximately 40 years in I.T. — from software coding to systems design to full network hardware installations in multiple commercial environments and major corporations.


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