One electric car owner's experiences in adding solar panels: why, what, and how (updated) Page 2

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Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

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Fremont now requires all new homes to have solar panels and EVSEs installed. (We have already installed three 240-volt Level 2 charging stations in our garage.)

The city has the highest concentration of electric-car ownership in California, and likely in the U.S. Fremont is aggressively pushing EV ownership, as we also have the largest group of (non-Tesla) quick-charge sites here as well, at Lucky’s shopping center in Fremont on Mowry Avenue.

Of course, the huge Tesla assembly plant is right in our backyard as well.

All that means that Fremont residents will demand solar panels in their next house, and solar panels and electric-car charging stations will likely raise home values. Adding solar to our five-year-old house will make it competitive in the market and give it what people are demanding.

With that in mind, I found there’s a new funding program of local and state incentives called PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy).

We can add solar and other energy-efficient improvements to our home just by paying for them through an increase in our property taxes. It requires no loans or minimum credit scores, and we can choose payback terms of five, 10, or 20 years.

Because our property taxes will increase, we can lower the payback period for our solar panels by using the interest portion of the higher property taxes as an itemized deduction on our federal tax return.

Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

Photovoltaic solar panel installation on house, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

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We are not alone in our decision; several surveys point to a high incidence of electric-car owners having or installing solar at their residences.

A survey of more than 19,000 EV owners from 2013 through 2015 by the California Clean Vehicle Rebate Program showed that about 40 percent of EV owners have a photovoltaic system installed at their home, or are planning to install one. The survey was completed in May 2015.

A June 2017 survey by CleanTechnica similarly showed up to 40 percent of more than 2,000 surveyed owners have solar panels. Respondents were spread across the United States, Canada, and Europe. The entire survey is worth reading; it gives details about EV driver needs, desires, user experiences, and demographics.

Furthermore, digging down into our PG&E rates, I noticed that our rates (specifically off-peak) have increased by about 10 percent annually. Our 2015 off-peak rate after getting the Leaf was $0.0992/kWh, while today it is $0.1225/kWh: an increase of more 23 percent.

PG&E customers under the standard tiered E-1 plan may be shocked by the base rates: in 2007, the tier 1 rate was $0.11430/kWh, whereas now it’s $0.19979. That’s an increase of 75 percent or 7.5 percent a year!

Armed with this information, we knew we wanted to go for the solar. With the PACE program, it became a no-brainer.

SolarEdge solar inverter and PG&E main circuit panel, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

SolarEdge solar inverter and PG&E main circuit panel, Fremont, California [image: Shiva Singh]

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We had a choice between several different brands/models (LG, Q-Cell, and two versions from SunPower). We ended up going with 330W LG panels.

Our total system output is 7.26kW, comprised of 22 panels for a final, after tax-credit (30 percent) cost of $2.45/W.

These were strategically placed and maxed out on the available space on the west and south sides of our roof to provide the most production during the peak hours of sunlight and the peak hours of our time-of-use plan: 2 to 9 pm for peak rates, 7 am to 2 pm and 9 pm to 11 pm for middle peak, on weekdays.

Since our roof has no shade and our two-story house has high ceilings, fewer factors lower the output of our solar system. Our system produces about 10 percent more electricity than the same installation on our installer's one-story house with some shade and the dust kicked up after his gardener does weekly maintenance.


 
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