Re: Solar Panels
From: Fred H Olson (
Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2007 06:25:48 -0700 (PDT)
Joel Plotkin <joel.plotkin [at]> is the author of the message below.
It was posted by Fred the Cohousing-L list manager <fholson [at]>
because the original post contained html only which the server can not
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Hundredfold Farm in Orrtanna, PA, mandates solar panel set-ups for our 14
houses. We have seven houses up and running now. We also use solar hot
water to preheat our high efficiency, natural gas-fired hot water heating
systems. The average house has a 3.3 KW system. We are grid-interactive
with our REA Coop, which subtracts energy generated from energy used in
any month and banks any overage for repayment at the end of the year, at
the wholesale generation rate.

I have one of the smaller systems (2.0 KW) and still produce more than I
use most months. The community mandates Energy Star appliances, as well,
so my usage is low. In my previous energy-efficient house, I averaged
about 400 KWH per month. With my Energy Star appliances (and compact
fluorescents, common sense, etc.), my average usage is around 150 KWH per
month. Given my low usage, I will probably never see an actual cash
payback for the PV system. Our developer (whose name I'll omit because I
DON'T recommend him) charged us the full retail price of about $10 per
watt, so my system cost $19,000. Although he jollied us along with
promises of a rebate, PA used up all its money before we completed the
project, so we paid full price.

We are hoping to figure out how to sell Green Credits (any advice is
appreciated) to make some money, but we are accepting that our payback is
mostly moral: having a low impact ourselves, showing other communities how
to be Green, etc.

Solar hot water, however, is a different story--easily installed,
relatively inexpensive, with almost immediate payback, especially if
combined with geothermal heating (a less expensive and lower-tech
alternative to PV). The new evacuated-tube arrays are three times better
than the older flat-plate technology which we have, and not much more

We can exchange technical information off list, if you like.

Good luck (and look at other paybacks than cash).

   Joel Plotkin
   Hundredfold Farm
   Orrtanna, PA

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