Get up to speed quickly on the basic concepts and the value proposition of solar and renewable energy. CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE PDF.

Solar Basics

Absolutely! Indiana gets as many direct sun hours as many parts of Florida, and 50 percent more than Germany, a world leader in solar power. Our region has approximately 4.5 direct sun hours daily on average. This is plenty to provide electricity or hot water for the energy conscious household. Take a look at this map:

insolation_capture

The Indianapolis airport has installed 76,000 solar panels on 150 acres, generating 31 million kilowatt hours annually. It is the largest solar farm on any airport in the world.

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At any given point, PV panels range from what’s standard at the time to what’s considered premium because of its performance characteristics. A few years ago, 250 watts per panel was considered standard and 280 watts commanded a premium. Currently 275 watts per panel is standard and 325 watts is premium. The outer frames of both panels are probably sized within an inch of each other, so the difference is in their efficiency, which is the term used to state the amount of output for a given physical area. In other words the premium high-efficiency panel produces more watts per square foot than the standard one.

When using standard panels would not allow you to achieve your electricity production goals because you are limited by your roof space or by shading rather than by your budget, high efficiency panels may be recommended.  The high performance design produces more electricity per square foot than standard.  These panels are appropriate for homeowners who are seeking a system that 1) can provide a greater percentage of household requirements from a small roof or 2) leaves room on a small roof for a future expansion of the system.

Let’s look at specific examples of two ways to provide 5,000 kWh annually from solar.

First, to generate 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year from a system composed of standard 275 watt panels, you will need room for 14 panels. In the second example, you could produce approximately the same output using only 12 high efficiency 325 watt panels.

Assuming that they are both in full sun, the high efficiency panel will produce about 19 watts per square foot while the standard panel will produce about 15.5 watts per square foot.  In other words, the energy output of the high efficiency panel is 22% greater than that of the standard panel per square foot of roof area.

When you have the space, buying standard panels saves you money.  If you cannot meet your annual 5,000 kilowatt hour goal within the available roof area, you may want to consider high efficiency panels. You will pay a premium for them but you will buy less of them, along with less mounting hardware and labor (by two panels).

For purposes of illustration, let’s say that installing a system with 14 standard panels costs $10,000.  Installing a system with 12 high efficiency panels will cost about $1,700 more.

Both will provide you with about 5,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity on average.

Remember, annual output varies slightly depending on the amount of sunshine from year to year. Sunny skies make more electricity than cloudy ones.

 

 

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Once installed, your solar system will operate for decades. If your roofing deck or shingles are halfway or more through their expected service life, it is a good idea to replace them before installing a solar system. Ordinary three-tab asphalt shingles may last only 15 years; dimensional or architectural asphalt shingles warranted for 25 years may last closer to 20 years. Metal roofing is increasingly popular because it lasts for 50 years or more, thus avoiding having to replace a shingled roof two or three times.

Additionally, a light-colored metal roof can save about 25% of the building’s energy costs, by reflecting sunlight away, compared to a dark asphalt shingle which absorbs heat, according to building industry sources. This makes a metal roof an ideal accompaniment to rooftop solar. The best type of metal roofing for solar is standing-seam panels, because it doesn’t require any penetrations (holes) to be made into the roofing material for mounting the solar panels. It looks like this:

standing-seam-metal-roofing

There are other types of metal roofing (corrugated, CF panel, AP panel, U-panel, R-panel, metal shingles, etc.) available, but attachment bolts must penetrate through the metal roofing which undermines the roofing material. By choosing a standing seam metal roof instead, the solar panels can simply be attached with clips (see image below or installation video), thereby eliminating the chance of leaks, and reducing the amount of solar mounting hardware.

standing-seam-with-s-5-clip

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There are two easy ways. First, you can get a plug-in energy monitor such as the Kill-a-Watt or TrickleStar. These devices plug into a wall socket and then you plug the appliance cord into the monitor. You can see how much power (in watts) the appliance is drawing on a display screen. Most brands of plug-in monitor allow you to display the energy consumption in terms of watts, dollar cost, and the CO2 equivalent for the full period that the monitor is in use or for a projected period.

Plug-in monitors are available from hardware stores or online. If you live in Monroe County, Indiana, or nearby cities such as Nashville or Spencer  you can borrow one from the public library, along with an instruction sheet. SIREN donated approximately a dozen to the Monroe County Public Library as an extension of its educational program.  The REMC electric cooperatives have provided them to other local libraries.

Secondly, if you are considering a move or building a new home, you might want to use this online usage calculator. It provides average energy consumption values for kitchen appliances, domestic well pumps, entertainment devices, other household equipment, and heating equipment. You can tally the projected monthly kilowatt usage for all relevant items and estimate your monthly electric bill.

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Images of these common solar systems types are displayed in our Media Gallery.

Grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) systems use solar panels to generate electricity first for your home with any excess reversing back to the grid. This system is economical because the grid acts as a battery when excess electricity not used during peak season goes back onto the grid and is credited to the homeowner.  A grid-tied system automatically disconnects from the electric grid during outages and reconnects after the grid again becomes operational.

Battery or stand-alone PV systems are off grid and will provide electricity from batteries or a generator during power outages. Unlike grid-tied systems which are virtually maintenance-free, battery PV systems require considerable maintenance by the owner. See chart of decreased battery capacity and increased battery life at lower temperatures.  Batteries for backup power when grid power is not available should be in a temperature controlled location, such as an insulated container. The leading edge of the industry is in battery storage for grid-tied systems, such as Tesla’s newly introduced Powerwall units.

Hybrid PV systems are grid-tied with a generator or battery backup for outages.

Solar hot water heating is an economical way to heat water from water tanks to pools to radiant heated flooring. Water heating is the second biggest use of energy in most homes after space heating and cooling demands.  If your home is all electric, consider a hybrid heat pump water heater using about 1/3 to 1/2 the energy as compared to an electric resistance water heater. There are also supplemental heat pump units that can be added on to an existing storage tank water heater.

Solar PV-therm (PVT) systems combine solar hot water and PV technologies. Solar cells on the front of the panel convert solar to electricity while a closed-loop glycol heat exchanger on the back of the panel draw heat way from the solar cells, improving PV efficiency while heating water.

Solar air heating heats air and transfers it into the home with a small fan and thermostat separate from the primary furnace or heat pump. A cost effective heater may be homemade or purchased commercially.

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Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, used to produce electricity, may be installed on roofs with south, west, or east facing exposure, in yards as a pole mount or ground mount, or as an architectural feature such as an awning, pergola, or carport.  Panels can be installed on a flat roof when supported by racking mounted at an angle and typically grounded with ballast weights to avoid penetrating the roof. Installers can analyze the distribution of ballast weights to satisfy wind ratings and dead weight maximums.  See the image Gallery on this site to see some of the ways that local residential, commercial, and institutional solar owners have installed panels.
Solar thermal panels, used to heat water, should be installed directly above the water tank or as close to the tank as possible. Solar air furnaces should be installed on a south-facing wall and vented to an inside room with good air circulation.

On the subject of roofs, people often ask if the age of their shingles matter. It is probably best to replace shingles before installing solar panel if the shingles are near the end of their life.  (Covering shingles less than halfway through their expected life may extend their life.)

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First you can try to reduce your electrical use.  The biggest and cheapest source of renewable energy is the energy you don’t use.  The more energy you save, the less you need to generate.  Major users of power are electric resistance heaters – in roughly decreasing order of use: the auxiliary setting on a heat pump, clothes dryer, dishwasher drying cycle, oven, toaster, toaster oven, hair dryer – and anything with a compressor, such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioner, heat pump, and dehumidifier.

See the SIREN energy conservation tip-sheet for more suggestions.  For other creative ways to reduce your use of electricity, see Green America and Build it Solar, or follow Monroe County Energy Challenge’s task of the month.

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SIREN frequently offers free Going Solar presentations to community groups. These programs are intended as a public outreach and basic education offerings to community members Attendees may ask one of the SIREN volunteers at the event about how to arrange for this free service. Additionally, solar site pre-assessments using aerial map views on the internet are available for more distant locations. If you are interested, contact us with your phone number, address, name of your electric utility company, and how many kilowatt hours (kWh), to the nearest thousand, you use in 12 or 24 months. Also tell us if you have an electric water heater or heat pump, and how much of your electric usage you think you might be able to reduce.  We attempt to assess energy demand, solar site potential, and recommend an appropriate size for renewable energy systems.

More comprehensive reports are available from solar contractors and MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association) certified site assessors. See the Solar Contractors listing for more information.

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A full explanation is here but to boil it down, they measure different things. The kilowatt (kW) is a unit of power – 1,000 watts. It measures the rate at which electrical energy is generated or consumed. Solar panel manufacturers rate the capacity of panels in watts to indicate the output of a panel in full sun. Commonly available panels range from 250 to 300 watts rated capacity. Solar contractors rate a full PV array in watts or kilowatts (number of panels multiplied by number of watts per panel).

On the other hand, the kilowatt hour (kWh) is a unit of energy – 1,000 watts of electricity running for one hour. It is also the billing unit on residential electric bills. You can use it to determine how much you can reduce that bill. On average, an unshaded 250 watt panel produces 300 kWh a year in Indiana.

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Some big-box retailers and online solar design firms now sell DIY solar panel kits, including inverters or microinverters. To avoid buying low-quality products, it is wise to do your research up front.  The Solar Design Tool  compares solar panel specifications and provides manufacturer’s installation guides.  Go Solar California,  Principal Solar Institute and PHOTON Laboratory both publish test results and ratings of PV modules. PHOTON also tests and rates solar inverters. Home Power magazine provides both instruction and product reviews for DIY solar electricity and  solar water heating.

It’s not only about product. Be aware that some states will not honor the tax rebates if the installation is not done by a certified professional. Also if you take the DIY approach, you will be responsible for all the permitting requests, site inspections, and utility paperwork that a solar contractor usually does. Make sure you know what’s required before you start. Here, for example, are Duke Energy’s requirements for connecting to the grid. If you plan to install a battery-backed system, check with your local government agencies to see what the electrical code requires.

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Yes, we have a public mailing list / discussion forum that anyone can join using the instructions below. It is relatively low volume with ~1-3 emails per week with the occasional spike caused by a spirited discussion!

Joining/Subscribing to the mailing list: To subscribe, send an e-mail to forum+subscribe@sirensolar.org. (subject/content of the email can be blank).

Sending email to the mailing list: To communicate with the group, send your email to forum@sirensolar.org. 

Leaving/Unsubscribing from mailing list: To unsubscribe, send an email to forum+unsubscribe@sirensolar.org. (subject/content of the email can be blank).

Setting Mail Delivery Preference: Members can adjust mail delivery preferences by visiting the Google Groups Settings page, or by making a request to the SIREN Steering Group via the Contact form.

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You can RSVP online for a SIREN Going Solar presentation. Occasionally our Events calendar contains notices of events offered by other organizations. In such cases, registration contacts are provided in the listing.

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SIREN frequently offers free Going Solar presentations to community groups. These programs are intended as a public outreach and basic education offerings to community members. Attendees may ask one of  the SIREN volunteers at the event about how to arrange for this free service. Additionally, solar site pre-assessments using aerial map views on the internet are available for more distant locations.

If you are interested, contact us with your phone number, address, name of your electric utility company, and how many kilowatt hours (kWh), to the nearest thousand, you use in 12 or 24 months. Also tell us if you have an electric water heater or heat pump, and how much of your electric usage you think you might be able to reduce.  We attempt to assess energy demand, solar site potential, and recommend an appropriate size for renewable energy systems.

More comprehensive reports are available from solar contractors and MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association) certified site assessors. See the Solar Contractors listing for more information.

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If you have a solar energy system in your home then all you have to do is ask! A donation is suggested to cover materials and mailing costs, but it is optional. Contact us with your name and contact information. Use the Donate button if you are so inclined. Please allow two weeks to receive your sign by mail. If you want it more quickly, please indicate that on the contact form as well and a volunteer will contact you by phone to make other arrangements.

Siren Yard sign (Q&A)

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Come to a Going Solar presentation and talk with a SIREN volunteer about your interest and aims. We will share what we know about opportunities to participate in renewable energy efforts of various sorts. Networking is a big part of what we do. If you would rather contact us by email, use the Contact form at the bottom of every page of this website.

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Financial Issues

As with any financial plan, the outcome depends on the underlying assumptions. Here are the ones used in the calculations below.

  • The loan has a 4% interest rate. Your itemized federal income taxes put you in the 15 percent bracket, and you owe taxes.
  • You pay $3 per watt for solar, and the total cost of your system is $10,000 before a $3,000 tax credit for a 3.3 kilowatt solar array. It faces south with no shading and produces 4,200 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.
  • Duke charges 11 cents/kwh for usage above 300 kWh/month (14 cents below 300 kWh) in year 2017.
  • In following years, the variable interest rate changes are comparable to electric rate increases.

Here are the calculations for year one: 

4,200 kWh reduces electric bills by $462 annually or $38.50 monthly.

The value of the electricity generated exceeds the $400 annual interest on $10,000 principal or $33.33 monthly. The difference reduces the loan principal by $62 annually or $5.17 monthly.  $33.33 + $5.17 = $38.50 for loan payment

Income tax is reduced by $60 (15% of $400 home equity/mortgage deduction) = an additional $5/month to apply to reducing the principal.

Net interest cost after taxes = $340 or $28.33 monthly plus $10.17 monthly principal reduction = $38.50 loan payment

$10.17 x 12 months = $122 first year loan principal reduction

Loan principal is reduced by $3,000 income tax credit in year one.

Here are the calculations for year two: 

In year two, $272 annual interest on $6,800 average principal or $22.67 monthly plus $15.83 monthly principal reduction =  $38.50 loan payment

$15.83 x 12 months = $190 second year loan principal reduction

Adjustments that can be applied to principal loan reduction:

  • $40 annual SREC income @ 4 x $10 for 4,000 kWh > a monthly loan payment
  • $40.80 income tax reduction (15% of $272) > a monthly loan payment

Repeat this calculation for each year until the loan is paid off at closing. A buyer can afford to pay more for mortgage payments because of lower monthly electric bills.

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You can get a ball park estimate sufficient to create a realistic budget and set realistic payback expectations by using online calculators. These calculators enable you to enter your own data (for example, panel size and cost per watt) or to use the default values typical for your location.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) PVWatts calculator estimates the amount of energy production and dollar value of energy produced for grid-tied PV systems of specified size and orientation to the sun. The Solar & Wind Estimator provides a thorough financial analysis for solar water heating, pool or spa heating, and space heating/cooling systems in addition to PV systems. This analysis is based on energy bill savings and net system cost, after tax credits and other incentives are applied.  The Solar & Wind Estimator also calculates the impact of loans if you intend to finance your system that way.  It displays cash flow and your break-even point in graphical form.

Small changes in energy consumption habits can reduce the cost of renewable energy. For example, reducing household energy use by only 100 kilowatt hours a month has the same effect as buying 3-4 solar panels that produce 1,200 kWh annually, yet it costs nothing.  Many PV owners began by replacing half the energy they use from the grid with solar power; then they reduce the other half with energy conservation. PV systems can be installed in stages to spread cost over several years.

Solar PV electricity is an appreciating asset.  The value of your system will increase as future electric rates continue to rise.  This investment will raise your home’s value, reduce peak loading on the grid, and support the local economy.  PV prices have fallen by 70% over the last six years due to technological innovation and new financing models so the investment is more affordable than ever.

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Yes. The payback period – the length of time it takes for your savings from lower utility bills to equal the initial cost of the system – varies widely, based on the size and type of system you buy, the amount of energy you use or conserve, and how quickly your utility’s billing rate increases. Most projected payback periods for residential PV are in the 10-15 year range, based on 2015 prices, which is 10-15 years shorter than the warranty period. Once you get to the break-even point, you will pay nothing and nobody for the electricity your panels generate – and by then, utility rates will be higher than they are now. 

The projected payback periods for solar thermal, solar attic fans and other devices are generally shorter, but otherwise the same logic applies.

Here is another way to think about your investment in solar. Residential PV systems cost between $5,000 and $10,000 after the federal tax credit. That’s less than cost of a used car.  A car is a depreciating asset. Most of the value of a car is lost after 10 years, and meanwhile you are buying gas, insurance, license and repairs. Solar PV is an appreciating asset. Solar fuel costs nothing and solar systems require little or no maintenance. In addition, an investment in renewable energy will raise your home’s value, reduce peak loading on the grid, and support the local economy.  

 

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Congress extended the renewable energy tax credits that were originally set to expire at the end of 2016.

A 30 percent federal renewable energy investment tax credit is available until December 31, 2019 to individual taxpayers who install solar PV or solar hot water on property they own and use as a residence.  For example, a $10,000 system would cost $7,000 after the tax credit. The amount of the tax credit will step down to 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021, and down to 22%  for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022.

The rules describing the residential tax credit state,  “Expenditures include labor costs for on-site preparation, assembly or original system installation, and for piping or wiring to interconnect a system to the home. If the federal tax credit exceeds tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the succeeding taxable year.” See Energy.gov  for all relevant terms and conditions for solar and other renewable technologies (fuel cell, wind and geothermal).  Form 5695 is used to claim the residential tax credit.

The corporate tax credit applies to a somewhat different set of solar technologies: PV, Solar Water Heating, Solar Space Heating/Cooling, Solar Process Heat. The credit starts at 30% for systems placed in service before 12/31/2019, steps down to 26% for 2020, 22% for 2021, and 10% for 2022 and future years.  The business tax credit for Hybrid Solar Lighting, Fuel Cells, Small Wind as well as Geothermal Heat Pumps, Microturbines, Combine Heat and Power (CHP) Systems expired as of 12/31/2016.  A 10% tax credit is available for Geothermal Electric for the foreseeable future. The tax credit for Large Wind steps down annually from 24% in 2017, 18% in 2018, and 12% in 2019; it expires at the end of 2019.

Eligible purchases can be depreciated like any other equipment acquired for business use, following standard Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) accounting rules. Both the business tax credit and a substantial portion of the depreciation allowance can be taken in the first year, making renewable technologies very affordable.

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You can get paid for the renewable attributes of your grid-tied PV energy source by registering with a broker such as SRECTrade or Sol Systems.  Participating utility companies purchase renewable energy credits to meet state required renewable portfolio quotas. As the actual energy producers, solar owners receive a check for market value solar production credited to the utilities.  One SREC is awarded for each 1,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of solar energy produced. This benefit is separate from the reduction in electric bills resulting from the energy value of your solar array.

Midwestern market values for SRECs have been fluctuating. Recent Illinois and Ohio SREC market values range $10-30 per 1,000 kilowatt hour of solar energy produced (one SREC). A home producing 10,000 kWh per year with solar PV would earn $200 annually at $20/SREC.

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For both individuals and organizations, the best place to start is DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency). It is the most comprehensive source of information on this topic in the United States. It includes financial incentives including loans, grants, tax breaks and utility rebate programs.

Noteworthy non-residential programs that work with specific groups include:

  • The Indiana Office of Energy Development offers grants under the Community Conservation Challenge to community organizations and government entities, including schools.
  • Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light (H-IPL) offers free advisory services and occasional grants to faith communities.
  • Solar Uniting Neighbors (SUN) grant program awards grants to diverse group of businesses and organizations in northern Indiana, made available through the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development .
  • The USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance, including grants, to agricultural producers and rural small businesses.
  • The S. Department of Energy supports a number of grant, loan and financing programs for businesses and for state, local and tribal governments.

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Many people finance with a bank home equity line of credit.  The minimum monthly interest payment can be less than your savings from electric bills. Talk your local credit union or bank for financing options.

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Leasing is an option for homeowners in many states but not currently in Indiana.  The closest thing to it is the community solar option available from Tipmont REMC, Indiana’s first community, remote solar program. The REMC owns and operates an array of 240 panels on its land. Customers can purchase electricity generated from one or more panels and receive a monthly credit on their bill.

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Indiana offers a property tax exemption for the assessed value of most renewable energy systems, typically based on the actual cost of components and labor. Effectively this means that you can increase the value of your home without paying tax on the increased value.  Commercial and industrial property owners may also claim this exemption.

The few home sales to date that have involved rooftop solar in Indiana do show it to be an advantage, not only in commanding a higher price but also resulting in less time on the market. A national study found that home buyers are willing to pay more for houses with rooftop solar systems. Data on properties with other renewable technologies is scattered, but suggestive of the same advantage.

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The payback for using solar to charge an electrical vehicle is better than payback for using solar energy in the home.

The pre-owned Toyota Prius plug-in or Chevrolet Volt with less than 40,000 miles can be purchased in 2017 for under $20,000.  Prices are lower for higher mileage vehicles. Take a look at this price and performance comparison of 2013 models of a Prius plug-in vs. the Volt.

From a Leaf owner:  “In 16 months we have averaged about 950 miles per month on our all electric 2013 Nissan Leaf with a range of about 70 miles in winter and up to 90 miles in warm weather.  From my location in Nashville Indiana it is very usable for trips to Columbus or Bloomington. Charging the car battery uses about 300 kilowatt hours a month, or 3 miles per kwh. That’s 4 cents/mile at 12 cents per kWh for electricity. The Leaf cost of 4 cents/mile compared to gasoline would translate to 55 mpg when gas costs $2.20 per gallon or 70 mpg if gas costs $2.80 per gallon.

“The added bonus to our Leaf is that there are literally no other expenses: no oil changes, spark plugs, air filter, belts, muffler, no noise and no exhaust pollution. The car has been in production since 2010 with 95 % of the cars still on the road. The batteries are made in Tennessee. I have been told that the battery performance of the Leaf is excellent. Every time I have gotten into the car and pushed the ON button, it starts and away we go, leaving no trail at all in the air behind me. Solar panels provide about 85 % of our house electricity. Now we need a few more panels for my electric car. ”

The Chevrolet Volt uses about 1,200 kWh to drive 3,400 miles (85 trips of up to 40 miles in all electric mode).  The avoided cost of gasoline is $340 (assuming 10 cents per mile with 30 mpg and $3 per gallon gas cost).  If the cost of a one kilowatt solar array (to generate 1,200 kWh annually) is $2,000 after the federal tax credit, then the ROI for solar energy will be 17 percent ($340 savings vs. $2,000 cost).  When gas costs $2.10 per gallon at 7 cents per mile with 30 mpg, the ROI is 12 percent.

A similar analysis for someone without grid-tied solar net metering is less favorable where the comparison is between grid power and gasoline.  The cost of 1,200 kWh from the grid could be $140, or 12 cents per kWh, to drive 3,400 miles. Now the ROI for purchase of the Volt is calculated as $200 savings for each 3,400 miles ($340 avoided cost of gas at $3 per gallon, minus $140 cost of electricity).  If you drive 10,200 miles in a year, your savings would be $600.

However, the accuracy of any analysis depends on its assumptions.  Your actual cost of grid power may be between 8 cents and 20 cents per kWh.  The incremental cost of electricity depends on your rate, which utility company and how many kWh you are using.

The first 300 kWh per month with Duke Energy is more expensive, with increasing discounts for above 300, 1000 and 2000 kWh. The SCI REMC (Martinsville) has seasonal and time of day rates with lower cost at night and spring and fall months.

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The greatest benefit for the owner is creating a clean, renewable form of energy right at home. Eighty percent of Indiana’s electricity is generated from central coal-fired plants, which results in double the carbon emissions of a typical Indiana household compared to their natural gas or automobile use. The main financial benefit comes from locking in the cost of electricity for the next several decades and removing uncertainty about future rate increases. Locally, annual rate increases are forecast to be about three percent a year.

Solar systems produce electricity long after they’ve paid for themselves.  Solar panels manufactured in the 1970s still provide power.  Solar assets appreciate in value if electric rates rise by more than one percent annually – the maximum rate at which cells in the panels degrade.  Most PV panels carry a warranty guaranteeing that in year 25, the system will still generate at least 80 percent of what it did in the first year. The zero cost of fuel from the sun remains constant.

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As a volunteer-run organization, SIREN is supported via tax-deductible contributions made by individuals and businesses in our community. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can donate at a level of support that fits you best.

  • Individual   $25/year
  • Family   $50/year
  • Sustainer  $100/year
  • Business  $250/year. Benefactors receive a SIREN certificate which can be proudly displayed in your place of business.  They can also choose to be listed as a supporter on SIREN’s website.
  • Benefactor membership – $500/year. Benefactors can also choose to be listed as a supporter on SIREN’s website.

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Utility Customers

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association ,Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40 percent of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads.”

Different utilities have different net metering policies. Here is what Duke Energy Indiana says about renewable generating options and net metering in its territory. Indiana Electric Cooperatives (IEC) represents Indiana’s 38 REMCs, each with its own net metering or similar policies. Drill down on the REMC map to see their websites for more information.

For an excellent analysis of the policy issues involved in net metering from both the consumer side and the utility side, see “The Net Metering Riddle” by Karl R. Rábago, the Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at the Pace Law School in White Plains, New York.

 

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Grid-tied solar owners will pay Duke the monthly minimum connection fee, regardless of surplus production. The Duke rate tariff schedule charges less per unit as your electricity usage increases.  The first 300 kWh monthly is the most expensive.  Your monthly bill is reduced by power produced with renewable energy.  For example, if you used 900 kWh and produced 500 kWh with solar PV, the net bill would be for 400 kWh from the grid.  The first 300 kWh would cost about $44 and the next 100 kWh would cost about $11 for a net metering bill of approximately $65 including the $9.40 connection fee.

Your electricity usage is seasonal with the lowest bills in spring and fall when heating and cooling are not needed.  Solar energy peak production is from March to October.  A solar PV system sized to offset most or all of your power in April and September will have the greatest benefit by reducing your monthly kWh below 300.

DUKE ENERGY RATE ANALYSIS FOR INDIANA RESIDENTIAL (May 2014) 
Monthly energy kWh usage   Under 300 301 – 1000 over 1,000
Base rate per kWh 0.092945 0.054178 0.037794
Rider adjustment charges 0.045177 0.045177 0.045177
Electric charges total $0.138122 $0.099355 $0.082971
Sales tax 7% $0.008652 $0.005938 $0.005258
Cost per kWh   0.147 0.105 0.088

Cost per kilowatt hour (kWh), including Indiana sales tax, is near 15 cents, 11 cents and 9 cents for each residential kWh rate tier, including base rate and riders.

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Here are the rates as of 2014. Rates are set by the IURC for set periods; utility companies have to request rate changes.  We will try to track rates changes and update the rate information on this page to the best our abilities.

I&M:  

Service Charge: $7.30 per month, Energy Charge: 8.634¢ per kWh

IPL: 

Customer Charge for bills of 0-325 kWh per month: $ 6.70 per month; for bills over 325 kWh per month: $11.00 per month

Energy Charge:  any part of the first 500 kWh per month: 6.70¢ net per kWh; over 500 kWh per month 4.40¢ net per kWh
With electric heating and/or water heating, over 1000 kWh per month: 3.18¢ net per kWh

NIPSCO:

Customer Charge:  $11.00 per month

Energy Charge:  $0.097836 per kWh

Adjustment for customers with electric space heating: $0.077836 per kilowatt hour for all use in excess of 700 kilowatt hours during any billing period more than half of which is within any calendar month from October to April

VECTREN:

Customer Facilities Charge:  $11.00 per month

Energy Charge:

  • Standard Customers $0.09771 per kWh for all kWh used per month;
  • Transitional Customers
    $0.07656 per kWh for the first 1,000 kWh used per month
    $0.05266 per kWh for all over 1,000 kWh used during the months of June through Sept
    $0.03899 per kWh for all over 1,000 kWh used during the months of October through May

REMCs, Hoosier Energy, WVPA, and municipally owned utilities:

Indiana has 38 REMCs, each with its own net metering or similar policies, rate structures and tariffs. See the map of their territories for more information.  Many REMCs source their power from Hoosier Energy, which also  provides solar thermal to some customers. In addition, Indiana has 60 municipally owned utility companies throughout the state and Wabash Valley Power Authority has service territories in northern Indian as well as part of Illinois.

If you receive your electricity from one of these utilities, please consult the company for information on renewable energy options.

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Private rooftop systems also benefit the utility. They are most productive at the same time that demand for electricity is greatest – on summer afternoons, often referred to as ‘peak load times.’ This means that solar owners supply their own needs and put any surplus energy they generate back out on the grid where it is used by their nearest neighbors. Solar owners relieve the peak load on the utility and do not incur line losses when electricity travels through the distribution system from the utility’s power plant.

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