I’ve been interested in alternative energy for a long time. Early in our ownership of the ranch, I reached out to some friends and neighbors. I examined both wind and solar power, though neither seemed appropriate early on. I got bids from a places, but the payback didn’t seem to be worth it.
This post looks at the decision to actually get moving in 2021.
A Solar Ad
I was on Facebook one day and saw an advertisement about solar power in my area. I know these are marketing/sales reach out ads, but for some reason I clicked it. I put in some information, and within a day someone reached out to me. They wanted to schedule a free estimate and since I work from home, I scheduled one.
A younger guy came out, talked a bit, showed me some stuff in a presentation on an iPad and then took some pictures. He said he’d give me an estimate in a few days. It was a mini site survey, that reminded me of someone selling windows or some other product that uses a crew of younger people to serve an area and make initial contacts. He was a nice kid, about 24 or so, and I appreciated the time.
A few days later I got an estimate that seemed positive. It would generate enough power to cover our utility bill each month, at a lower loan cost than we pay for power. Too good to be true? Hard to know.
Making a Move
In July 2021, I saw a few posts on Nextdoor.com about people that had investigated solar power in my area. A number of responses from neighbors indicated a positive experience that was paying off financially.
That spurred me on to consider solar as an option. I reached out to a few companies and scheduled some estimates. Since this was during the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure how things would go. I ended up with a few different estimate from different companies that I’ll cover in another post.
The estimtes, presentations, and the experiences with companies were very different. Some really wanted to meet in person, some did things virtually. Some had strong sales pitches, and some were matter of fact.
It was very interseting, and as we eventually decided to move forward. All in all, I spent about 3-4 months thinking about this and slowly getting data and reviews. I looked for recommendations from others as well as reviews of products.
I’ll put down more details on the process, but we decided this made sense for us for a couple reasons.
First, the cost of power continues to rise and while Colorado isn’t expensive, I have seen friends that pay a lot more. I expect the cost to continue to rise over time. The last 20 years shows about 2% a year, on average, so that would change our $0.13-ish cost per kWh to over $0.20 in 15-20 years. We expect the panels to work for 25-30 years (product warranty), so this is a decision to freeze our cost of power at around $0.10 + finance costs.
This should result in a pretty good reutrn on investment over time. It’s about a 12-year payback, and then the savings grow as the cost of power grows.
The second thing is climate change. Everyone has their views, but climate change seems to be happening. You can debate the cause, but we ought to engineer things better, and our view is solar power is one way to help deal with the situation with a better engineering solution than continuing to work with fossil fuels.
The last one is that this is a technology change that’s kind of cool. Between experimenting with a Tesla and this, it’s a neat thing in my mind.
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