Monday, February 09, 2009
I had a thought yesterday, "boy it would be nice to be off the grid." There is something about the self sufficiency that I find appealing. I have mentioned a couple of times that we are adding water catchment to our house. We already had a metal roof, have done the gutter work and this year we will be getting a storage tank.
We are nestled in a little valley such that we don't get a lot of wind but we do get a lot of sunlight like the little guy on the rock is taking in so what about solar?
Our cabin is small and our electric use is low. We average about 500 kWh per month. I did a little looking and the Suntech STP 175S-24/Ab-1 could produce 65 kWh per month assuming five hours of sunlight per day. We would need eight Suntech STP 175S-24/Ab-1 modules to pay our bill. The site I looked at netted out the cost (after tax credits and the like) to $2735 per module. So if I am figuring this correctly (and I may not be) that works out to $21,880 to get off the electric grid.
We bought this house in 1998. In almost eleven years I doubt we have paid $7000 in electric bills. Based on that math the solar modules would pay for themselves in 33 years. A few things then; anyone know about this stuff, is the general framework of the cost/benefit outlined above close to being right?
If so then how many people are going to convert to solar? Anyone building house where they need to bring electricity to the property could do it but if electric is already there or if it is an existing home then it does not seem to make economic sense. I would remind that the $21,000 is to replace a below average usage.
A possible use ties in with a joke I made along time ago about making desolate parts of Arizona and Nevada giant solar panel farms that the utility companies would then transmit into the home--I don't know what the economics of this would be but when I mentioned it a reader commented that there was something like this already in Nevada, on a smaller scale.
A hopeful item is that solar is a technology and the cost for most technologies comes down over time. There are cheaper concepts being worked on so maybe there can be something that could make more sense for more people. Given this, it seems difficult to get excited about the solar stocks for the next couple of years.
The psychic value of being off the electric grid is worth some amount of money (a different figure for different people). Maybe it is worth ten years worth of electric bills to do this, maybe only five years but for me nowhere close to 33 years.
Unrelated item, have you heard about this movie The International? My take from the commercials is that it is about a really bad bank. Given the timing of the release, why aren't there more jokes about this?