Creative Construction introduces a new addition to the quality services we offer, grid tied Photovoltaic systems. Scot has been involved in passive solar design since the early 1980’s, taking courses offered by UNM in passive solar design while obtaining his Bachelors Degree. While attending UNM he lived in a passive solar duplex with water wall and brick floor heat storage. The first two homes he constructed were passive solar assisted direct gain spaces with brick floors. He completed the first certified green remodeling project in Albuquerque in 1998, and in December of 2010 he installed the first (of many) Photovoltaic (PV) systems on his home. Photovoltaics is a mature industry, dating from the early 1950’s when the first solar cells were created in the Bell labs. Suprisingly, the technology hasn’t changed much in 60 years. Efficiencies have improved, and manufacturing has increased, lowering costs. Tax credits make investing in a PV system enticing, and profitable, with REC generation income from PNM. Here’s how it works.
- You have to have a suitable location to install PV panels, whether rooftop, or ground mounted. Typically you need unblocked sunlight for the period between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm to make generation worthwhile. More is better. We are happy to do a site assesment for you, and talk about sizing and options.
- PNM has to approve the design & installation. They need to make sure that your home is in an area where the grid can store and use your generated power, and that the system you propose to install will interface with their network. PNM will be the first step in the approval process.
- The plans must be submitted to the city Building and Zoning, or county, or state building departments for approval. Typically you have one building and one or two electrical inspections before the project is ’green tagged’ and the approval is sent to PNM who set an appointment to install a REC meter along with the bidirectional meter for electrical power use. The REC meter measures kwh (kilowatt hours) generated by the system that PNM purchases from you according to their agreement. I receive .12/kwh and the energy generated on site also offsets my useage.
- The federal government allow a tax credit of 30% of the system cost, including installation. The state allows 10% of the system cost, including installation, and makes this purchase tax exempt from sales tax, an additional 7%.
Let’s use Scot's system as an example: We located the 4kw array on the south facing roof of the garage/shop. In preparation we removed the cheap tin roof and installed new dimensional shingles. Your roof needs to be in very good shape, or it would be wise to get it redone before the PV install. We chose the Schott poly 225w panels because they are manufactured in Albuquerque. They have a 25 year warranty on guaranteed power output, lower transportation costs, and Schott (a German co.) has been manufacturing solar panels for 51 years and employes 300 people here in Albuquerque. We used a newer technology, a micro inverter, for each of the 18 PV panels, instead of a traditional inverter. Traditional inverters come with a 10 year warranty and a life of approximately 15 years. Panels produce energy for 40 or more years and the micro inverters carry a 15 year warranty. Lab testing shows that their lifespan will typically exceed 300 years. Another benefit is their ability to harvest more energy in shading conditions than a conventional inverter at a net cost increase of about $1000.00 for this system. Easily worth the investment in the long run. The mounting system by Unirac is made here, in Albuquerque, and is top of the line and the best choice of top installers. Strong, secure, and easy to assemble, the mounts hold the panels away from the roof and keep them from becoming a sail in high winds. The component parts are anodized aluminum and all nuts and bolts are stainless steel for corrosion resistant long life. This isn’t a place to save money. We chose a local company, Affordable Solar, as the supplier of the PV array and hardware. Aaron Cabral, from Affordable Solar, was conducting the PV design & installation class we attended at CNM. He helped put the finishing touches on the system design. We look forward to working with Affordable Solar (local), Schott (local), Unirac (local), and other vendors to install many more PV systems. Now let’s talk investment: The system components, panels, inverters, racking, disconnects, cost $17,000.00. To permit, install, and hook it up cost another $7000.00 for a total of $24,000.00 for a 4kw system. We expect to generate about 6300 kw a year. The Federal & State tax credit is 40% of $24,000.00 or $9600.00, so the system cost is actually $14,400.00. Part of the agreement with PNM is that they will purchase all the generated power for 12 cents a kwh for the next 12 years (.12 • 6300 kwh/yr • 12 yrs) = $9072.00 income, or $756.00/yr. The system produces 6300 kwh of electricity per year and that will offset about my consumption of $650.00/yr at todays rate. We calculate it will take a little more than 10 years to completely pay for the PV system with the combined REC payments and electrical usage that is offset by the system generation. Over the warranty period of the PV panels (25 years) they will produce $24,822.00 ++ in power and REC compensation for a system that costs $14,400, or about $10,422.00 in income, or $416.88 per year, or about 3% of the initial investment. This is a simple look at the system payback and your results will vary. It doesn’t take into consideration the 1/2% degredation of power output from the panels that is a factor of age, or the inevitable increases in the cost of electricity. Some websites put the return on investment at 10-13% but we feel that 3-5% is much more realistic.