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Waiting to invest in solar PV system.

COUNTRYSIDE: I'm writing in response to William L. Seavey's article "Why I won't be investing in solar PV or an electric car anytime soon."

I did enjoy his article. It was well written and informative. Although pointing out that he "could" afford these pricey PV systems/electric car(s), but chooses not to, twice in the article did seem a little flamboyant. That aside, I'm mostly on the same page.

I too, have been researching and desiring PV systems for 20-plus years. These high-end PV home systems are great, but the payback period, said to be 15-20 years, is high. That is, unless you factor in very regular and ever-increasing price hikes from utilities. That changes the math pretty quick.

Good friends of ours invested $25K in a 5.3kHw home PV system. They had been on the fence for several years with this decision. I pointed out this ever-increasing utility rate model. Our local power company, famous for large price increases, was close to getting another increase through regulators. Each rate increase will make your payback period shorter.

They did get the system-not solely based on my advice--and love it. They also, like Mr. Seavey's neighbor, got a grid-tie PV system so when the grid goes down, so does their power. Something I lobbied against.

The bigger point I'd like to make when debating the expense of a PV system, grid-tie or battery back-up, is what I think Mr. Seavey was getting at, but perhaps looking at it from another point of view. Our friends with the new PV system heat with wood, cook and heat water with natural gas, yet their monthly kWh usage is twice ours. We also heat with wood, but our house is all electric. They have three teenage boys at home and ours are grown. On one hand, it's easy to understand that they use more electricity--they have a house full--but their three biggest energy consuming household needs are not electric. Ours are, less heat, which has been a big one in Indiana.

Yet, they use twice as much electricity.... Okay, I've mentioned that twice and that is what the whole point about choosing a PV system should be. Rethink everything.

Most of us in the industrial world use an enormous amount of energy. Installing energy saving light bulbs and remembering to turn them off when you leave the room is not going to change anything. Actually, it can have the reverse effect. The 19th century economist, William Stanley Jevons, wrote, "... technological progress that increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of consumption of that resource." Known as "The Jevons paradox," or "Jevons effect" only accelerates our hunger for more.

So why not rethink your "life-flow?" (Like "work-flow" the procedures used in one's daily life.)

Think about a much smaller home. Wire it for DC and use LED lights. Solar PV systems are DC (as are batteries) and require an expensive inverter to convert to AC for most of our daily appliances. In addition, each conversion in energy forms uses (loses) energy. In northern climates think about a summer kitchen where your (new DC) refrigerator is effectively outside on the north side of the house. This eliminates your heat system from fighting your food preservation system in cold weather and keeps heat out of the house in canning season. Can and dry foods more. They don't require energy after their initial process. Get rid of your tv. Keep that 20-year-old car going rather than buying a new one. Use less; want less. You get the idea. And don't even get me started about how we all "make a living."

I know these things are not cheap or easy, but if you can go from a 1400 kWh monthly consumer to a 200 kWh monthly miser, a top of the line PV system, with back-up batteries, becomes very realistic and very smart.--Nino G.
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Title Annotation:Country conversation & feedback
Author:G., Nino
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Jul 1, 2012
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