I live in Farmington, New Mexico which is located in the sunny southwest area of the United States. Farmington is located at an elevation of 5306 feet above sea level, higher than the mile-high city of Denver, Colorado. We enjoy an average of 273 sunny days annually (Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau, 2017) making it a prime location to utilize solar energy. The combination of improved technology and decreasing equipment costs have made the use of solar power appealing to many. My initial total expense was $13,000 with a federal tax benefit of $5,000. The annual limit of funds granted for solar credit from New Mexico was reached so I was not able to receive a state benefit. My electric bill has been reduced from $130.00 to $10.00 per month. With the annual savings of $1440.00 it will take approximately 5.5 years to recover the initial expense of the system. The estimated life expectancy of a system is 20-25 years. There are several types of systems available, determination and personal selection is out of the scope of this presentation. I selected a SolarEdge 7.6 kW single phase inverter system that utilizes power optimizers (SolarEdge, 2017). SolarEdge includes optimizer-level monitoring for 25 years at no charge. I installed 20 panels with a maximum total output of 5.5 kW.
EDIT: There have been many questions asking about batteries.
What is a Grid-Tie & How Does the Billing Work? provides a very good explanation of what a grid-tie system is and how it works. A grid-tie system does not use batteries.
Step 1: System Overview and Disclaimer
- A residential solar system is a small power plant. It produces high voltage and can KILL YOU.
- The installation of a residential grid tied solar powered generating power plant requires proper permitting by local building and zoning as well as by your local electric utility company.
- This presentation outlines my installation and conforms to local building and utility codes for the city where I reside. Your locality may have different requirements.
- Consultation and the utilization of a licensed electrician for appropriate connections is advised.
Step 2: Purchase the Equipment and Materials
List of materials
1. SolarEdge Inverter, power optimizers and Ironridge Racking and Mounting system (GoGreenSolar, 2017), purchased from GoGreenSolar, Placentia, CA. (www.gogreensolar.com)
2. Solarworld Sunmodule Plus (Northern Arizona Wind & Sun, 2017), monocrystalline solar panels with black frame, purchased from Northern Arizona Wind & Sun, Flagstaff, AZ. (www.solar-electric.com)
3. Electrical supplies for connection of the panels to the inverter were purchased locally at Lowe’s Home Improvement (Lowe's Home Improvement, 2017)
4. Power equipment including power auger and trencher were rented locally.
5. 2 1/4 diameter pipe for framing was acquired locally.
Step 3: Prepare Your Site for the Panels
- The diameter and depth of the holes will be determined by wind ratings in your location. This information will be included in the plans from the engineer.
- Cement the poles into the holes using a string line to assure they are straight.
Step 4: Mount the Hardware
- Mount the junction boxes at the panels and at the entry point of the house.
- I mounted my inverter inside my house in the utility room. It is weather proof and can be mounted outside.
- Mount the Ironridge system to the poles and begin attaching the panels.
- Zoning required a licensed electrician to make all of the connections at the panel junction boxes, the boxes outside the house, inside the inverter and at the meter/power shutoff which is outside my house on a pole.
- The utility company requires a shutoff box as well as a diagram of the entire system in a weather proof container mounted at the point of utility connection.
Step 5: Final Steps
- After final inspection by building and zoning, the electric utility company will come and do an inspection.
- The primary concern is if GRID power is cut off from my home the system must stop producing power. This protects anyone working on the utility lines. The SolarEdge inverter will not go into producing mode unless there is power coming into the home from the utility company.
- So YES, if the power goes out to my home during a bright sunny day, I will not have power from the panels into my home.There is a battery backup available but I seldom lose power and this would not be cost effective for me.
Step 6: SolarEdge Monitoring
- My system provides continuous monitoring of the panels via a wireless connection. I can monitor my system from an app on my cellphone as well as online. This is included at no charge for 25 years. The site provides production graphs as well as real time monitoring of each panel.
- I went live on June 21, 2016. My system produced 5.42 MWh of electricity between June 21 and Jan 1.
- On a full day of sun, I produce more than 35 kWh daily.
Step 7: Information & Equipment Sources
Farmington Convention & Visitors Bureau. (2017, February 18). Fast facts about Farmington, New Mexico | Farmington. Retrieved from https://farmingtonnm.org/news-media/media/story-ideas/fast-facts-about-farmington-new-mexico/
GoGreenSolar. (2017, February 18). 5kW ground mount solar kit - 5000 watt solar PV system complete grid tie systems. Retrieved from http://www.gogreensolar.com/products/5000-watt-5kw-solar-ground-mount-kit-w-microinverters
Lowe's Home Improvement. (2017, February 18). Appliances, tools, hardware, paint, flooring. Retrieved from https://www.lowes.com/
Northern Arizona Wind & Sun. (2017, February 18). SolarWorld 285 black monocrystalline. Retrieved from https://www.solar-electric.com/solarworld-sunmodule-sw285-mono-black.html
SolarEdge. (2017, February 18). Retrieved from http://solaredge.com/us/