What if your generator never needed fuel?

Here's an alternative to petroleum-based generators: a solar panel based generator. Take solar panels, add batteries and a brain to switch between them. No fuel. No noise. No maintenance.

I am starting to take the black outs personally. This week, after we alll thought the chaos of the Sandy-related outages were behind us, our home and up to 1,100 others in Croton’s Harmon neighborhood suffered two power outages within three days. We will set a record for outages this year...

Wednesday afternoon for a few hours we went down due to a branch falling on a transformer on South Riverside. Friday morning we went down again, this time for less than 10 minutes for reasons as yet unexplained.

These random and appallingly frequent outages are starting to cause serious disruption to our livelihoods. 

Last week, we took a look at all the questions to ask before you run out and buy a petroleum fuel-based back up generator. Based on feedback to that column here and on the FB posting, let’s take a look at an alternative: a solar panel based generator.

“Wait! Isn’t solar pricey?”

No!! Here are four reasons why solar is cheaper than you think.

1. Solar prices are dropping. Panels and system components are commodities. With the ongoing explosion in solar installations, prices have continued to drop. That is good news for the consumer!

2.  NY State solar rebates.  New York State has good direct rebates for solar systems of $1.50 per watt of installed solar generation capacity. Translation: Up to 25% of your system price gets rebated to the contractor who in turn credits you with the discount.

3.  State and federal tax credits.  Federal Investment Tax Credits (ITC) is typically 30% of the solar system price that you get to claim at the end of the year. The state has a parallel tax credit.  Translation: These stack up to a big additional fiscal benefit to folks who have the tax appetite for tax credits.

4.  Higher electric rates make solar a better buy.  We suffer from some of the highest electricity rates for homes in the country. Our electric rates will continue to climb at anywhere between 2.5% and 4% per year.  If Con Edison is your electric provider, you are paying about $0.24 per kilowatt-hour.  The levelized cost for electricity from the solar panels on your roofs over 25 years is about $0.05 per kilowatt-hour. Translation: That’s right, 5 cents! You are spending five times more than that now with the 24 cents per kWh you send ConEdison now.

5.  Solar produces electricity for you for 25 years using a 100% free fuel: sunlight. No petroleum generator uses free fuel. No petroleum generator can run every day for 25 years, without serious overhauls, lubrication, air filters and more. A solar system can. When was the last time you used a credit card to buy sunshine? Or had to wait in line at the gas pump for some sun?

So what if your next generator…

  •    Paid for itself over time
  •    Turned on and off automatically, whether you were home or not
  •    Never ran out of fuel
  •    Used fuel that was free
  •    Ran 24/7, whether you’re home or not
  •    Made no noise
  •    Emitted no exhaust or fumes
  •    Required no maintenance
  •    Had no moving parts
  •    Came with BIG fiscal incentives.

What would do this for you?  A solar system that put photovoltaic modules on your roof, a battery bank, and system brain in your basement. The whole thing will pay for itself within 7 to 9 years, depending on system size.

And you would never have to worry about power outages again. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Dennis Rowan December 06, 2012 at 02:08 AM
And the solar can charge you EV, while the Electric Vehicle EV can store your electricity for when you need it during a blackout. PV 2EV has amazing synergy. Our company REIV2G is helping communities bcome more energy self sufficient with local energy and local workers.
Leo Wiegman December 06, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Dennis: You are absolutely right. Solar (PV) can charge any battery, including those in your electric vehicle (EV). And then you can tap your EV's battery at night for backup. Thanks!


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