This past summer my family decided to invest in a solar array for our home. It seemed like a good time to do it as the costs for the hardware have come down recently, but the rebates we get in Colorado are still pretty good. The way it works in Colorado is based on a rebate system. Since we have a state law (Colorado Amendment 37) that requires the utility, Xcel Energy, to acquire 20% of it’s energy from green sources by 2020, they have developed a fund to help offset the costs of converting to Solar. The catch is that the more people install Solar panels, the less they hand out in the rebates. So you have to try and balance the cost of the hardware that keeps dropping with the rebate that is provided by the Utility which is also dropping. It’s a gamble to wait and get the best bottom-line costs. Anyway, for us, this summer was the time to act. It’s still gonna take 8 years for me to break even, but after that we have free electricity. For a system that is warranted/guaranteed for 25 years, that’s plenty of time to reap the benefits. Definitely be sure you’re going to stay in the house for at least 10-15 years thought to make it worth the cost.


“Bella Energy putting up a 7.75kW array of clean energy.”

From PV Solar Array install, posted by Toby on 7/12/2010 (40 items)

I’ve had many people ask me about the process and thought I’d share the research I did. Some of this is specific to Colorado, but a lot of it is general information and an approach that can be used by anyone looking to install a Photovoltaic Solar Array on their home.

This site has good general education material on the process including videos and other stuff –>Solar Dave. He happened to interview two of the four providers that I worked with for quotes, so it was really helpful to see what the company reps had to say about the different technology, like micro-inverters for example.

If the location for the panels can fall under shade at any point, you might want to consider micro-inverters like these Enphase or Tigo alternatives to central inverters. The reason to install micro inverters is to optimize the output of each individual panel, in case any single panel in a string suffers from shade coverage or some other obstacle that impacts the amount of sun that hits the panels. Since micro-inverters are pretty new tech, they have a premium cost. In our case it would have cost $1500 more than standard central inverters. After analysis of the return on that investment (40 years to make up the $1500) it just wasn’t worth. If you have an area that gets partial shade throughout the day however, it might be worth looking into micro-inverters.

I chose to use a central inverter because my roof does not get covered with any shade. When using a central inverter, the panels are installed using a string of panels connected in series. Typically, there are 11 panels per string. We had three strings installed over two roofs. We bought an SMA Sunny Boy 7000.

California has their own way to rate panels for efficiency that differs from the way suppliers rate their panels. The California method is supposed to be a better reflection of real-world efficiency. I used this to compare all the different panels that the different vendors quoted me —>California PTC Values

Finally, here’s some more general info to peruse that taught me a lot when I was first starting –>

http://www.coloradosolar.com/weak-solar-panel-chain.html

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/software-for-your-solar-panel/

http://nationwidesolar.com/gridtiequestions.html http://www.watthackers.com/wp/solar-panels/

So, if you own your house … Go for it and Good Luck!