It has been extremely exhausting, but I finally completed installing a 10kW photovoltaic (solar electric) system at my home in Fort Myers, FL today. The final interconnection was done by my electrician and we fired up the system. To my delight, even with dense cloud cover, my meter started spinning backward!
I see this happen many times each year, but now I know the feeling of producing my own energy. I now understand why customers are so antsy and anxious about their installation schedules. It’s EXCITING to be your own power plant! I now understand why people want it, and more importantly, why they want it NOW!
I did much (most) of the work myself. It was a tremendous learning experience, and reconfirms the massive respect I have for the hard work I ask installers to do every day. Although I am deeply involved in the installation process for all photovoltaic systems installed by my company, it’s been quite a while since I “turned a wrench” myself.
The hardest part was definitely getting the panels to the roof, carrying them around, and holding modules up just enough to plug them in and ensure tidy cable management. My wonderful wife pitched in to help me hoist and place some of the panels. Despite this tough task, I found that other aspects of the installation were almost as hard as the heavy lifting. Maybe I’m just getting old, but the attachment points took a lot out of me with all of the bending and kneeling, and setting the rails was not as easy as I thought it would be. All in all, it was hard work, but very satisfying.
Because of the confidence I have in the brands, and the advantageous pricing through our supplier network, I installed:
- 40 Canadian Solar CS6P-250P Solar Modules rated at 250W each
- 40 Enphase M215 Microinverters
- IronRidge rails with some Unirac Hardware
- SolaDeck Roof Junction Box
- Square D Fusible Disconnect
Below is an awesome panoramic view of my solar electric system (if you can’t see it or interact with it, click here):
This system should knock my electric bill down to near zero with some of the other energy saving upgrades I have made over the years including a variable speed pool pump and LED pool lights. I expect that I will just pay a small customer charge to FPL each month. You can see my system monitoring live – click here!
I do have some shading issues I want to address, which will require trimming some trees, especially at the southwest corner of my house. It’s long overdue anyway, and will help keep my gutters clear. This known issue is why I shifted the installation of my solar panels to the east on the south roof. It still looks balanced on the roof.
I can’t say enough about how good it feels to be “independent” from the utility company. I’m not exactly independent, because it’s a grid-interactive solar electric system, but I am independent from ever-increasing electric rates and fuel surcharges. I have created a hedge against surely higher future rates as well as potential future inflation. In a way I am now a competitor of the utility company. I can produce electricity cheaper than they are willing to sell it to me, so I choose not to buy it from them! The satisfaction is overwhelming.
I’m sure the afterglow of my newly installed solar electric system will fade, much like the feeling of getting a shiny new car (which I also bought recently). However, the monthly reminder from a low (or negative) electric bill will keep that new car smell going on my roof for the next 25+ years, if I choose to live here that long. With a zero electric bill, it will be a harder choice to leave!