I hope everyone is looking forward to a Happy Earth Weekend.
My wife recently decided that Earth Day is her favorite holiday. She runs a local freecycle. People come and drop off things that they don’t want and pick up other things for free. Last year, we donated a ton of stuff, clearing out much of our garage. We picked up a working 42″ television. It was perfect for our new basement.
It would be great if we could sell some of the things, but we list them, and they never seem to find a home. The freecycle works a lot better. Everyone loves free stuff. Hopefully, everything finds a second home.
It’s a lot of work to run the event. At the end of the day, a bunch of volunteers takes anything left over to a place (Goodwill or the Salvation Army) that accepts all sorts of donations. We generally don’t get stuck with stuff like e-waste that’s hard to get rid of.
Reviewing our Solar Power Purchase
Earth Day is also a perfect time to review our solar power journey. We got our panels back in 2015. At first, I was curious about all the sales calls suggesting we lease solar panels. I didn’t like the terms of those leases. They may not have been bad if you didn’t have any savings, but it seems significantly better if you owned the panels.
At the time, there were a number of government subsidies for solar power. We ended up paying about half of the $33,000 our system would cost. So it was $16,000 out of pocket. I don’t know how to report the size of our system or the specifications, but every year we generate around 9.0 MWh of electricity.
In the beginning, it almost always covered all of our energy needs. However, as the years have gone on, we’re using more electricity, and we fall a little short and have to pay a small electric bill. Perhaps I can blame the kids for growing up – LOL.
If you were to list states where solar power makes sense, I’m sure Rhode Island wouldn’t be at the tip of your tongue. It turns out that solar in Rhode Island makes a lot of sense. Our electricity prices are one of the highest in the country. We recently paid $0.33 per kWh, which breaks down to $0.23 for generation and $0.10 for delivery. It used to be cheaper for generation, but in New England, we use a lot of natural gas to make electricity. The price of natural gas has gone up with the Ukraine/Russia war.
At $0.33 kWh, the 9000 kWh (9.0 MWh) we generate this year would cost us nearly $3,000. With it being the 8th year of generating electricity, we’re a little past the breakeven point. When electricity was cheaper, we may have only saved $2,000 a year, but that’s grown over time. Alternatively, we could have invested the $16,000 in the market and perhaps doubled it to $33,000 by now. However, in that scenario, we would have had to cash out some of the investment each year to pay for our electricity use.
As you can tell, the math on whether it’s breakeven now is complicated, but it’s close to breakeven with whatever calculation you want to use. Our solar panels are guaranteed to be 90% as efficient as they are now until year 25. So we have at least another 16 years of free electricity to enjoy. I suspect that the cost of electricity will only go up from here, but let’s assume it averages the price it is now. At $3,000 a year, we’re looking at $48,000 in savings.
I haven’t looked at the costs of solar panels recently. I think some of the government incentives went away during the Trump administration. However, I think Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act may have helped make solar cheaper. I’m sure that the solar panels that you would buy today are more efficient than what I got eight years ago.
If you haven’t looked at solar power in a while, this is a good time to run the numbers.