Our solar story started back in early March 2014. We had toyed with the idea but weren’t sure if it was affordable for our family. I knew there were federal and state tax credits that might be expiring in 2016 and I thought, let’s see if we can take advantage of the credits while they were available. A very brief web search and I contacted several companies. Unfortunately, most didn’t work in our area yet, but then Astrum Solar called (now Direct Energy Solar).
They looked at our house on Google Earth and were worried about two trees in particular. I said not to worry as they had dropped too many branches on our cars and they were no longer there. They came by, surveyed our roof, and worked out a proposal both for leasing and for buying. With the lease proposal I would have been given cash up front that would have covered around four years of payments and greatly diminished our electric bills. However the ownership plan led to greater lifetime savings.
Our system is 30 250 Watt panels for a total system size of 7.5 kilowatts. We have panels on five different areas of our roof, some facing south and some facing west. From the time we signed the contract until everything was installed, inspected, and approved for connection, it took about six months. We financed our system partially through a low interest NYSERDA loan, and the rest of the system was covered by a NY Sun incentive (paid directly to the installer) and both Federal and NY tax rebates. We took out an 18 month zero interest loan (through the installer) which allowed us two tax seasons to recoup all of the tax rebates before the loan was due. The tax rebates and grants ended up covering 2/3 of our system cost.
Our system was installed in the fall before the winter of 2014-15. Production wasn’t very high that winter due to all of the snow, but when the snow melted it was exciting to see the meter start to roll backwards, each month ending with a credit. In NY when you have credit built up on the system anniversary date the utility purchases it (unfortunately you don’t get paid for the delivery line fees). You also have to pay the basic charge each month. After having the system up through our second winter now, our electric meter has not gone past its peak from our first winter. We have made as much electricity as we have produced – not too bad for having three teenagers present much of the year!