June 22, 2014

100 Days of Solar Energy: Like Having Two Priuses on My Roof

100 days ago, we fired up our solar panels from Sunrun, and started being an energy producer, instead of an energy hog. With a few bills under our belt, we’re saving as much money as we would have saved on gasoline had I bought two Toyota Priuses for our comings and goings. In the 99 days of records we have so far, PG&E tells us we produced more energy than we consumed in 82 of those days, and in the rare occasion where we’ve tapped the grid, it hasn’t been for much.

Living in Silicon Valley, home ownership is already expensive enough without having to worry about whether my kids left the TV on or if my wife left the lights on when she left the room. With young kids, we do more than our fair share of laundry and dishwashing, and as a geek, I know our place is probably in the 1% in terms of plugged in devices and screens throughout the house. So our electricity bills have always been high - in the three digits every month.

Last month, we poured about 500 Kilowatt hours into the grid.

In talking with Sunrun, we were pretty sure we would be a good candidate for going solar, but I’ve never been more excited to take a look at our monthly, or even daily, statistics from a utility as we are now. Instead of paying more than $200 a month for electricity alone, well above the two tanks of gasoline I consume with commuting and bussing kids around each month, that bill has been taken down to Abraham Lincolns or Alexander Hamiltons instead of Benjamin Franklins.

Our electricity charges last month? $4.53.

Our electricity charges last June? $223.03.

As the season has warmed from spring to summer, and our air conditioning comes on earlier and stays on later, we’re no longer confronting the double to triple penalty rates we’d faced in years past. Last year, we’d be using between 25 and even 50 kilowatt hours of electricity per day. This year, we’re actually producing 20 kilowatt hours of power each day above what we’re using. Simply put, when the sun is out, I’m making money.

Last year, running air conditioning burned us. This year it won't.

In my first post in March after getting panels on our roof, I said it was “ like getting caps on your teeth to show a little bling to the neighbors.” And now my kids notice other homes around town that have gone solar, and call them out to me as we walk or drive by. It’s a pretty obvious statement.

This Tesla is 4-5 times the cost of my going solar with SunRun. But I still want it.

The next step, of course, is to consider ditching my gasoline-using car for a Tesla. I see them every day to and from work. I'd love to have one, and my kids already point out what they call “quiet cars”, like the Chevy Volt and Prius, and ask why we don’t have one yet. But they don’t realize the cost of a Tesla is five times what I paid Sunrun for 20 years of solar, with monetary benefits that trail solar. So until then, that part is a dream, but I’ve got two Teslas on my roof, and it’s a cool 70 degrees in the house. That will have to do.