Guest Blogger Elizabeth Shares Her Experience Going Solar!

We are very happy to have this guest blog post by Brookland neighbor Elizabeth Killingsworth, who recently installed solar panels on her garage. Enjoy the story and thanks a bunch Elizabeth!

Solar Panels 1Last September, the Brookland Bridge Blog featured an article about the DC renewable energy grant program, explaining how that can take the edge off of the cost of going solar. It sounded great, but unfortunately still required a significant upfront cash investment, to be recouped from taxes the following year, and not everyone is comfortable with that. So, I started looking around for other options.

I have recently completed a solar installation on my garage that produces enough power to run my entire house and sell some back to the grid. My setup is a bit different from Mary & Greg’s, in that the array itself is still owned by the installing company (SolarCity), and I have agreed to buy the power it produces. You can customize how you want the payments to be set up (fixed rate for the term of the agreement, upfront payment or not, escalating rate for the term of the agreement, etc), but it does work out to less per kilowatt hour than Pepco (how much less will vary). It’s a little complicated, so I thought I would put together a few quick lists to explain the process and help you evaluate whether it makes any sense for you.

Process itself: For me, this took almost 4 months to the day from first meeting with the company to turning on the solar units, but it can be as long as 8 months.

                (1) Meet with SolarCity rep, go through the proposal and make modifications until it suits you. We went through a few drafts before settling on the final plan.

                (2) The company does an audit of your house to ensure that your electrical system and roof, for example, are up to the task. About a week.

                (3) Plans are officially designed and sent to you for approval.  About 1 month.

                (4) Plans are submitted to the city for approval. This is the longest part of the process, and can take anywhere from 1 month to 5, depending on their backlog.

                (5) Installation! Scheduled 3 weeks after approval was received, and only took a half day.

                (6) Inspections by the power company and the city. Installation of net meter by Pepco so that you can sell power back to the grid when you produce more than you’re using. About a month.

                (7) Turn it on and watch the power production on their handy tracking tool.

Reasons to do it:

                (1) You will save money on power and help the environment.

                (2) You can have it installed with $0 upfront (We opted to put some money down upfront for pricing reasons.  You will have to consider what works best for you).

                (3) They handle all of the city/utility approvals, etc.

                (4) If you produce more than you use, Pepco gives you credits towards future use and cuts you a check once a year. Given how fast rates are going up, this is a nice perk.

Things to consider:

                (1) The way the agreement is set up, I would recommend this only to people intending to own their homes for atSolar Panels 2 least 5 years from the date the system is turned on. 

                (2) Yes, you will save money, but how much really varies, so double check the math.

                (3) Because you don’t own the system, you do not get the tax credits. So, in the long run, it is more expensive than paying for a system outright and taking the tax rebates. This is the price you pay for not having to put forth the funds upfront.

                (4) Brookland has a lot of sunny roof space.

I’ll end by saying this: I had a really good experience with these guys. They were very professional and efficient and able to work around my schedule when necessary.

There is a lot more information where this came from and, if there’s any interest in the neighborhood, I would be happy to host an information session at some point. Also, if you have any questions, post them in the comments and I will be happy to respond!

5 thoughts on “Guest Blogger Elizabeth Shares Her Experience Going Solar!”

  1. I thought DC had passed a law that prevents Pepco from paying for electricity that is contributed to the grid. Is that not true?

  2. I believe you are mistaken. At this point, I have only gotten credits, as my understanding is that the payout is not until the end of a full year, but I would be happy to follow up on that.

  3. Elizabeth, thank you for the response and for the other information you have provided. It’s quite helpful.

    I did a little googling to see if I could figure out where I had read about Pepco not paying out. I couldn’t find the article but I came across this site (which may be dated or inaccurate…not sure): http://cpenergycoop.wordpress.com/solar-basics/

    #5 indicates that Pepco won’t actually pay cash but will continue to give credits if excess energy is contributed ti the gird.

  4. Great to see fellow solar advocates! We used standard solar out of Maryland and also leased as opposed to purchased our system. We have 56 panels on our large roof that produces 13kw!! If you are on Franlin st take a look up at our flat and pitched roof. We did 0 down and opted for the lease which is a low monthly payment. They also then insure and maintain the system for 20 years. It’s been a great experience.

    Curtis. 649 Franklin

    1. Agreed Curtis! We actually have a power purchase agreement instead of a lease, so we’re paying by the kwh annually instead of a monthly lease. It’s very similar, but there are a few distinctions. The company we used does all three (lease, power purchase, outright buy), and the math works out differently for each person, so I can’t say there’s a right answer overall.

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