Monday, April 11, 2022

What they say, what I see

Recently there was this report on how solar electric power doesn’t make sense for the the Northeast. The report had some seriously negative things to say about solar electric north of Boston. 

Over the weekend I went on a hundred mile trip across northern New Hampshire and northern Vermont. On the short trip, mostly along Rt. 2, we drove past thousands of solar panels. They were mounted on houses, barns, or mounted to stand alone arrays in fields. Apparently someone didn’t catch the report. 

My own solar electric system was installed over 20 years ago when the price of solar was much much higher than it is today. It still made sense for me. Back then the big markets for solar were NASA and northern California pot growers. In fact, after I installed my solar panels, I discovered a nondescript car parked a bit down the road. There was a guy in it watching my place with binoculars. On the second day I walked up and knocked on his driver’s side window. I invited him in for a coffee. The guy never said anything. He rolled up his window and drove away, never to be seen again.

But I digress. 

My system made sense at the time because the grid used to go down here all the time. The power company would not believe us when we called in to report the problem. They only had complaints from us. At the time almost all the other people on that power loop were seasonal cottages. Rather than get a big backup generator to power the house, we went with solar. It would handle all critical needs in an outage and provide power all the time for free too. Once I subtracted the cost of a quality generator, the price didn’t look too bad. 

What really sealed the deal for my solar array was the power company itself. My lovely wife called to complain about the poor service and constant outages. They insultingly told her there was nothing we could do about it. After she hung up the phone she turned to me and said we were getting solar. 

During an ice storm we lost power for about two weeks. The first couple of days some of the people around the lake fired up generators. Then they all ran out of gas. The roads were incredibly icy so going out for more gasoline was dangerous. That’s if you have found a gas station that had power to run the pumps. We had a lot of company over to watch movies and take showers at our house. Near the end we’d reached the point where either the sun would have to come out, the grid come back on, or we’d have to conserve power. As it happened the grid came back.  How do you put a price on that comfort and safety?

Anyway, it might be better to talk with people actually doing things that listen to some egg head’s report how it’s impossible.



  1. that's great if you have the cash. most of us don't.

    1. That's the problem. The money has to be spent up front. However, it is possible to start with a small system and build. I decided to spend some profit from selling a house but that turned out to be a once in a lifetime deal for me.

  2. There are a ton of options, though. Yopu can start small, you can lease for no money up front, I refinanced my mortgage when the rates dropped, took out money to put up panels and thanks to the lower rate, my mortgage payment is the same as it was but now I make my own power for free.

    If you plan to be in you home long term, it will pay off, and there are ways to do it.

  3. Solar is long term investment. Most people don't look far enough ahead. For the money it would have cost us to connect to the grid, we have a full off-grid system that has run mostly well for 9 years. It runs short 4-5 times over winter but we have a backup generator to top it all up. Fuel cost for gennie is about $50 per year. That and $200 of propane for cooking in summer are our only power bills. Our sealed lead acid batteries are not as strong as they once were but we hope to eke a few more years out of them.

    1. Glad it's working for you. It certainly is nice to have power that some company somewhere can't turn off.