Jim and Barbara – Elk River, Minnesota

February 25, 2019 Minnesota

We like solar, get your electric company involved in solar!

Jim and Barbara – Elk River, Minnesota
System size: 7.8 kW, 28 solar panels

What interested you about going solar initially? Why do you support solar energy?

We’ve been interested in harvesting the power of the sun and wind since the mid 1980’s and low tech passive solar air and water heaters were leading the “natural” green revolution.

We both feel the need to be good stewards of our planet… from how we sustain the soil, keep our water and air clean for the next generation. As prices have come down and technology has improved in recent years it seemed like the time was right to act.  I think you have to be a little financially savvy and a little “green” to pull the trigger.  If you ask around long enough, you will hear notional returns on investment based upon various inflation factors and other variables.  The truth is, part of this decision is about doing the right thing, not just the right financial thing.

Having said all that, we are not the least bit disappointed in our production. After 2 full years running, we generate just less than half of our electrical needs, or about 7000 KW per year.  I would say that’s about 15% less than predicted.  BUT, we decided not to cut several shade trees.  Shade and solar don’t mix.

After manually tracking our production and consumption daily for nearly a year, we found that the software was more than sufficient.  And it’s still fun watching the meter spin backwards, even if it’s digital now!

Has anything surprised you about going solar?

On the bad side, snow sticks on our 4:12 pitch roof.  Ladder and giant squeegee work now, but won’t when we’re 80. On the good side, it doesn’t stick on our 6:12 pitch, and there’s nothing mechanical to break!   When the sun is shining, no matter where you are, you feel good about what you are doing for the planet.  With the internet, you can monitor your system anywhere, home or abroad.  It feels good.

What advice would you give to someone who is considering going solar?

Our advice: Be savvy consumers.  Do some homework. Learn the basics.  Ask dumb questions.  Get several bids.  Ask the same dumb questions.  Know the difference between lowest price and best value.  Glossy advertisements only prove they spent money on glossy paper.  They may be the best, but give everyone a chance to earn your business.  Don’t be afraid to call your electrical company and involve them even before you pull the trigger.  You will need them to sign off on your design and inspect your system before you go online.  Why not work with them? If you are grid tied, you are going to be a power provider and they will be your customer!  They will answer economic questions, too.  …meter fees, net metering, demand fees, etc etc.  Some offer rebates.  These can change the economics of a small system quickly.  Go as big as you can.  In five years you will not remember sunk costs of 4, 5, or 6 extra 280W panels and inverters, and you and anyone who lives in your house after you will appreciate what you did; sunny day after sunny day.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

We love having solar and hope you will, too.