VIEWS: A Solar Panel Story - Part III

Dispatch from SSC Consultant, Lorre Walker

This series of blog posts covers my parents’ decision to install solar panels on their house in Dallas, Texas, the trials and tribulations of the process, and lessons learned after installation was completed. 

Journal  cont.

January 8, 2010 – The service provider rep called, responding to my email. He said that when Oncor emails us the interconnection agreement, we need to sign it, send one copy to Oncor, save one copy for ourselves, and send one copy to the service provider rep for final application to Oncor. He said that it may take one or two months to get permission from Oncor to turn on the solar power system. He told me to not take down the permit on the front door. He gave me the name of the Oncor contact.

January 12, 2010 – Got the Interconnect Agreement from Oncor today. So progressing on getting the solar panels turned on. Still jumping through hoops to get it done, but I am encouraged. They ordered the DGR meter on 12/28 and Oncor installs it. Should be done with that part in a couple of weeks.

Called the service provider rep. Told him I faxed Agreement to him and Oncor. He wanted me to talk to the Oncor rep and ask when we could turn on solar power. The Oncor rep says after the inspection, we should be allowed to turn on solar in 10 – 15 days. Oncor rep says he needs the blue paper back from me after I receive it from Oncor and sign it. Oncor rep tells me to tell the service provider rep about the blue paper. He also needs the green tag, city approval. I gave it to electrician, but the service provider rep needs it.

The rebate will be after all paperwork is done. The Oncor rep will need meter #. The service provider rep will need meter # when we get it. The Oncor rebate will follow when the service provider rep gets green tag, blue paper, and forms to Oncor. Left voicemail message for Oncor rep. Asked when to expect inspection and schedule to have solar power turned on. Oncor rep emailed me that:

  • He received my fax.
  • The DRG meter was ordered 12/28/09.
  • The meter can take up to three weeks to arrive and be installed.
  • He will see if they can get it done faster.
  • The Interconnection Agreement is secure.
  • The Agreement will be countersigned by Oncor soon.
  • Then we will need the DRG meter set to complete the Oncor piece of the project.

Sent email to Oncor rep asking if the DRG meter would be delivered, or if Oncor would schedule the installation. We lock our gates, so an installer would not be able to access the meter if he arrived unannounced.

January 13, 2010 – Oncor meter installer, called to schedule a time for the DRG installation. He planned to be here to install on 1/14/10, Thursday, first thing in the morning.

January 14, 2010 – I turned on the solar power this morning. By 9 AM the last meter was installed and the Oncor rep gave me permission to turn it on. YEAH!!!! Now for a sunny day. I tried to switch on the inverter (Sunny Boy). Called the electrician and told him only the orange “fault light” was coming on in the Sunny Boy. He gave me the instructions/steps to turn everything on.

  • Turn on the breaker switch in the electrical panel.
  • Switch on the solar power box (the disconnect/connect).
  • Turn on the Sunny Boy. The electrician said the Sunny Boy would take five minutes to cycle on.

January 15, 2010 – Called the service provider rep and told him I emailed him that Oncor meter installer told me I could turn on the solar power and that it was on. I asked the service provider rep if he received the green permit from the electrician and if he had everything that he needed to submit to Oncor for rebate. He needed only the interconnection agreement countersigned by Oncor. He wanted to know if we had received the second part of the loan for release to the service provider rep.

January 16, 2010 – We signed check for last release of check to the service provider rep.  The service provider rep wanted to stop by that night or on Saturday to pick it up. Mail arrived from Oncor with the countersigned agreement. We are totally approved. The agreement is the last form the service provider rep needs to add to document and send to Oncor to get the Oncor rebate.

January 18, 2010 – The service provider rep showed up on Monday to pick up check. We also gave him a copy of the countersigned Interconnect Agreement. That afternoon the service provider rep called and told me he was emailing me an invoice for our signature, to be included in the package of documents for the Oncor rebate. We printed off invoice and signed. Faxed signed invoice to the service provider rep. The service provider rep called and said font size on invoice was too small for Oncor to accept for Oncor’s imaging. The service provider rep emailed me another version of the invoice with a larger font size. We signed and faxed it to the service provider rep.

January 21, 2010 – The service provider manager came by to view the installation work and show it to a visitor he brought with him. The service provider manager could not tell which meter did what and needed me to explain it to him. Also he did not appear to know how to read any of the meters. It was as if he had never seen this set-up before. 

January 24, 2010 – If I am reading the meter correctly, we have produced 48 KWH in ten days, even with a number of cloudy days. I am eager to see the saving reflected in our bills in the coming months. Our house is relatively small, a three-bedroom, approx. 1,700 sq. ft. abode, that was built in about 1965. The installation of the solar equipment required replacing our “federal” type electrical panel. It was no longer up to code. We average about 961 KWH a month at an average cost of $126. So, we used 11,538 KWH in 2009 at a cost of $1,395 for the year. We expect to cut our power bill by about half.

January 27, 2010 – The Oncor rep, called to answer some of my questions from a recent exchange of emails we had. I had questions about blogs I had read in the Treehugger website discussing TXU and solar energy. He also noted that if we had not made an agreement with TXU Energy, any excess energy we produce would not be bought by TXU. He confirmed that we had received all the contracts and requirements for City of Dallas, ERCOT, and Oncor. But we needed to contact TXU and get the contract. To do that I needed tell TXU my ESI number. 

He informed me that within a 13-day period we had had the solar power system turned on, we had flat-lined our household needs at some points and had put 6 KWHs into the outside electrical grid. We had no contract with TXU and were unaware that we were producing any excess power.

I asked him about smart metering. I want to see my meter usage in the house, without going in the backyard to read the meter. Also I had seen some appliances that read the wattage used and convert it into dollar cost. He said that he thinks the new DRG meters have a Zigby chip that should facilitate that, but did not know if the applications were set up yet to utilize that feature.

Contacted TXU by phone. At first the rep told me to call Oncor. She was unfamiliar with the TXU program. I explained that I had talked to Oncor and Oncor directed me to call TXU. She then directed me to the TXU website, www.txu.com/surplus, regarding the Surplus Power Purchase Agreement and Distributed Renewable Generator.

Payback for solar generated power is 7.5 cents per KWH. Wind generated power is 6 cents per KWH. Once the contract is received, it takes 45 days for the contract to go into effect. Payments on power generated and sent into the grid will be made by check at least every quarter.

January 28, 2010 – Faxed in the Surplus Power Purchase Agreement and Distributed Renewable Generator contract to TXU.

February 2, 2010 – Had not had a response from contract legal dept at TXU about the Surplus Power Agreement. Called them and inquired. They had no record of receiving our faxed request on our account. They advised me that I may need to fax it again. I emailed the dept. again, asking for a response. I called the service provider to discuss three things.  Left message. The service provider’s rep called me back. We discussed:

  • That he confirmed that he had turned in all forms to Oncor for the rebate, waiting on Oncor.
  • I made him aware that I was in the process of getting a Surplus Power Agreement with TXU, that he needed to inform his other customer about it that (since they did not bother to mention it to us).
  • He still needed to tell me the solar panel manufactures name, the panel model number, and how much wattage each panel produces.

February 3, 2010 – The service provider called and left a message asked for the serial numbers on the solar power meter and the inverter. He gave me the makers name and the model numbers of inverter and the solar panels.

  • Sunny Boy Inverter is SB3000US model (it is SRC compliant)
  • Solar Powered panels are made by Sanyo, model # HP215NKHA5
    • There are 10 panels.
    • Each panel should produce 215 watts.

February 4, 2010 – I received a voice mail from a representative of TXU’s legal contract group. She called to tell us that TXU had received and acted on the Surplus Power Purchase Agreement and Distributed Renewable Generator contract we had faxed to TXU.   Yay! I emailed the service provider rep a list of the meters and inverter serial numbers. I read the serial numbers by flashlight, and I think I have the right sets of numbers for the inverter and meters. FYI - The Oncor rep said that the service provider you would need the DRG meter number so I included it. The service provider should let me know if he needed anything else or if he had anything to update me on, like the Oncor rebate.

February 5, 2010 – Called the service provider rep and confirmed the information exchange.

February 8, 2010 – A representative of the Clean Energy Association called to schedule an inspection of the solar panel system installation. The Clean Energy Association manages the rebates for Oncor. This was news to me. In order to receive the Oncor rebate, they have to inspect the solar power system on-site.  Just when you think you have jumped through all the hoops, more hurtles are presented to you. The inspection is now scheduled for Thursday, 9 AM. (Snow is predicted for that day.)

Next…

Check back in a couple of days for a summary of lessons learned from my parents’ solar panel installation experiences. To continue the discussion on the SSC Consultant Discussion Board, click here.

For SSC clients, it may or may not make sense for you to consider installing solar panels or making other energy-saving additions to your building. We can help you figure that out by conducting an energy audit or a green audit. For information about our products and services in this area, click here or contact us at info@sustainabilityconsulting.com.