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Breaker, Breaker, Tier 2 Year 2!

Paul Kando

News just reached me that participants in the Solarize Central Lincoln County project now collectively qualify for Tier 2 pricing, meaning that all participants get a $120 per peak kiloWatt break on the cost of their solar system – $600 for each house with an average sized 5 kW system. The news also means that this community is on its way to installing between 51 and 100 kW of new solar capacity, reducing their carbon footprint by 57,528 to 112,800 lbs. of CO2. There are still almost 2 weeks left of this round of SolarizeCLC, and it is entirely possible that a few of those now on the verge of deciding to install their solar system will push this collective achievement above 100kW, doubling the above savings for everyone.

It maybe also worth noting that solar systems and mini-split heat pumps are a wonderful combination; and they can even be financed together as a package. That is what my wife and I have done in mid-June 2014. Based on our experience since that time, here is what my soon to be solar neighbors can look forward to. Since it was installed to the end of this October, our 4.1kW system generated 6,836 kWh of electricity, most of it during the summer months. The lion’s share of that power was automatically fed into CMP’s power grid for credit. Under net metering rules, such credits must be used up within 12 months. We used that power, paying only a nominal fee to CMP for handling, over the winter months, reducing the cost of heating our home.

Even at today’s low price, it costs $25 to deliver a million BTUs of heat by burning oil. (Burning propane it costs $40). In contrast, the same million BTUs of heat only costs $11 when delivered by an air-source heat pump. At last year’s higher oil price it would have cost $3,658 to heat our house with oil last winter. This winter it would still cost $2,950. Instead, our heating bill through that relatively cold winter, came to only $1,298, saving us $2,360. This year the saving will be smaller, on the order of $1,652, but still nothing to sneeze at. This fall, with the thermostat set at a cosy 68-70ºF, our net metering credits covered our heating costs so far. We expect to begin paying $11 per million BTUs, beginning in December and ending in April. The heat pump also cools our house during the hottest days of summer – of which, alas, we look to have more and more, thanks to global warming. Speaking of that, getting off oil and generating solar power reduced our carbon footprint by 12 tons of CO2.

At this rate, our $11,900 net investment (after the 30% federal tax credit) will be paid back in five to six years. That’s a more than 16% annual return. Based on this experience, and since we know we could use more solar power, we are expanding our system.