Payback was the Point

We are not so committed to alternative energy that we will make big changes in our lifestyle or spend lots of money just to save energy. We built a practical house that uses less energy than other houses of its size because we chose to spend more up front on features that have a long-term payback. But every feature is there because it has a payback, not because we would do anything to raise efficiency, no matter the cost.

With that attitude, I did a bit of research to confirm my negative biases about PV power. What I found really surprised me. With California's Emerging Renewables Buydown Program 50 percent rebate, I could give my money to the utility every month, or I could use it to pay off a PV system. The cost would be the same-until the utility raised its prices.

In June of 2000, when I was first designing this system, the tripling of prices in San Diego was in the news. So I expected something similar to happen when my utility, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), was permitted to raise its prices. I was impressed both by the long warranties on the PV modules, and the fact that a lot of the systems installed thirty years ago are still running and still producing power. If done right, it looked like this could be an install-it-and-forget-about-it kind of deal.

Our monthly electrical use is about 900 KWH. About 600 of that goes to charge my electric Ford Ranger pickup, and occurs at the off-peak rate between midnight and 7 AM. I measured how much space was available on my roof, and priced components. It looked like a ASE-300-DG/50 would be a good fit for both space and energy produced.