A crew from Westcoast Solar Energy arrived early Monday morning to install a 1.4 KW system on our house and by Monday afternoon, the power was back on and the meter running in reverse. We also have a new line in from the power pole and a new service panel, since our old one was too old to handle the system (or anything other changes either). Our new array passed the City’s inspection with flying colors and the electrician who supervised the installation dropped off the system monitor, which will allow us to monitor performance and status via the Web, as well as on the monitor’s own display.


SolarWorld solar panels (not our house)

SolarWorld solar panels (not our house)


We have the second smallest system installed in the city; at 1.3 KW, sculpt0r Patrick Amiot’s system on nearby Florence Avenue is slightly smaller and that is only because we got a panel upgrade to a new model of SolarWorld panels at the last minute instead of the Sharp model on the original specs. Our electricity usage is pretty low and even this tiny system is projected to produce around 150% of our annual usage (at least based on the readings from our old, non-SmartMeter). The system will take a while to to pay for itself, even at the small size, especially since we did have to do the service panel upgrade as well.  We are able to take advantage of the federal tax credits and state rebates, but did not opt for Sonoma County’s SCEIP program.

With the PV installation, we have completed another phase of our energy upgrades, starting with new windows  (though not for the entire house — just the aluminum windows that had been badly installed some number of years ago) and underfloor insulation (as part of our radiant heating installation) in 2005; additional attic insulation in 2006; blown-in wall insulation in 2009; and this year, a cool roof (with additional insulation in several locations) and PV. Still on tap for this year will be replacement exterior doors and a solar hot water system with a tankless heater. Although I may construct storm windows for the historic windows since they are definitely big heat holes, that pretty much takes care of upgrades.  And of course we’d already installed compact florescent where possible — I wouldn’t mind going with LED lights, but on the other hand, with our PV system at 150%, the incentive has somewhat diminished…

Although we considered getting a standing-seam metal roof so we could harvest rainwater, we opted for a cool-roof composition shingle because of the cost — even though our house is relatively tiny, a metal roof would have cost nearly $20,000 and we couldn’t justify the cost. While the cool roof from Owens-Corning was somewhat pricier, the current tax credit of $1500 made it competitive with conventional composition shingles and the house stayed noticeably cooler in a recent heatwave.