It’s been exactly three months since we had our solar panels installed. We’re quite pleased with their performance. The funny thing is . . before we got the solar panels, I would have sworn that every single day here was hot and sunny and now that I’m watching our power being generated on top of our roof, I’m surprised at how many cloudy or partly cloudy days we have. Even a mildly overcast day results in a decrease in power production. Thankfully, we relied on various calculators that took into account the number of “sun hours” we have here so our system is producing exactly what we had hoped.
At the same time our solar panels were installed, our area became deregulated which meant the provided we had been using no longer could be used as our “REP” (retail electric provider). You may remember the problems we had because there were only three REPS who would do net metering (buy our excess power). The first two, who had better deals, said they would do it but in the end, said “Oh, you’re in the newly deregulated area. We can’t do this there yet.” So, we ended up with our third and final REP, TXU, and actually, I think we’re better off with them. For some crazy reason, they pay us more per kWh than we’re paying them for the kWh we buy from them. Weird but I’m not questioning it. Here, we pay about .0625 per kWh only or the power. By the time the line charges and other fees are added in, we’re paying close to .30 per kWh, which is outrageous. TXU pays us .075 per kWh for what we send back and there are no line charges (so far) on what goes back.
Then . . there’s our “TED” which stands or something about transmission and distribution. They’re who I refer to as the “line carrier” because they own the lines and we pay them so we can use their lines but we have no choice in our TED. You may remember that they came out and approved our system, told us to turn it on, then when the meter reader came out and saw the meter spinning backwards, he summoned someone to come pull our meter because they thought we were pirating electricity. Somehow, the fact that our system had been approved for solar had not been “transmitted” to the folks who read the meter. We got that all straightened out. Thank goodness I was home and stopped them from pulling our meter!
And, here we are three months into our solar production and the TED called yesterday and said “We think we’ve figured out how to report your usage!” YAY! Three months! I guess it could have been four or more!
Apparently it isn’t as simple as picking up the phone, calling the REP and saying “The Laquidaras used “X” kWh and sent back “Y” kWh. It has to go through ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and it has to be in a certain format or . . I don’t even know but I do hope it’s all figured out. I will say that the folks at our TED have been extremely nice, and very sorry for the hassle, including the electric meter incident.
In three months, we’ve purchased 2624 kWh. Last year, during this same period, we used a bit over 5,000 kWh, which means we used about 56 kWh per day last year. We’ve added a third freezer and other than that, I don’t know that we should be using any more power than we did last year.
During this same period, we’ve sent back 2413 kWh. We’ve used about 200 kWh more than we’ve produced and I knew that would happen in July through September because we run two central air conditioners and 1 stand alone a/c. I think if we were running just one central a/c or mini splits, one at a time, we would be able to stay within the power we produce. Also, if we had been “banking” kWh since January, we would have built up enough that we wouldn’t run over, but since the system was only started in May, we didn’t get enough credits to stay within our production range. Our contract with TXU says we have to be a “net user”, meaning that we have to use more than we send back, on an annual basis. I don’t think that’s going to happen and I’m not real sure what will happen with that but we’ll see.
A lot of words, a lot of calculations in my head but in the end, on an annual basis, we’re going to be sending back more kWh than we’re using and I can’t wait til battery technology, or some storage technology, exists so that we can go completely off grid. For now, we can’t but if we could figure out how to cut back our usage at night (air conditioner), we’d be pretty much operating off our own power.