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    Letter: I tested wind vs. solar for home energy. Can you guess which one was superior?

    November 18, 2021 - Norm Klahre


      When people come over to the house, they see we have a wind turbine and a solar array. I would be asked various questions like: "How much did they cost?" "Which one is better?" "How much energy do they produce?" "When will you break even?"

      This letter will attempt to answer those and other questions for the Somerset and Cambria County area.

      In 2010 we built a house in Somerset County. While building the house I was investigating the possibility of putting wind or solar in to help with the electric bills. We are heating over 5,000 square feet with a geothermal heat pump. Most of the house is ran on electric power.

      Also, the federal government had a 30% tax credit for clean energy systems. While pricing both, a wind turbine, and a solar array, I discovered the wind turbine was cheaper. A 10-kilowatt Bergey wind turbine was priced at a little more than $55,000 ($38,500 after the 30% tax credit) for the system and the installation.

      In 2010, I priced a 10-kilowatt solar array with installation. It was priced at a little over $72,000 ($50,400 after the 30% tax credit). So, I decided to install the wind turbine because of the lower price and because the house is located on top of the mountain in the east side of Somerset County.

      In the past 10 plus years, the wind turbine produced more than 117,640 kilowatts. During that time, the turbine was out of service for 501 days. The turbine collapsed twice, and the inverter needed to be sent back to Bergey for repairs and upgrades twice.

      Almost all the cost to put the turbine back up and repairing the inverter was paid by Bergey Windpower. It has a 10-year warranty and a 30-year life expectancy. The turbine produces about 60% of the electricity for the house. In the last 10-plus years, the wind turbine produced an average of 1034 kilowatts per month

      On Dec. 31, 2019, the 30% clean energy tax credit was going to expire, and I heard solar systems have gone down in price an estimated 65% since 2010. So, I investigated the current solar system prices to possibly installing a ground mounted solar array. I priced a 12-kilowatt ground-mounted solar array from a California company called Wholesale Solar. The total price of the system was $16,189 dollars ( including panels, racking system and inverter.)

      In August and September of 2019, I installed a 12-kilowatt solar array. The total cost of the solar array with all materials and labor was $28,077 dollars ($19,653 dollars after the 30% tax credit). The electrical portion of the array was installed by Green Solar Systems in Greensburg. In the last two years the solar array produced an average of 1,309 Kilowatts per month.

      So, comparing the cost of the systems and energy output, the clear winner is solar. The solar is cheaper and easier to install (ground-mounted system) and it has a faster payback from wind power.

      Also, with solar you can sell back your energy through the SREC program (Solar Renewable Energy Certificates). The program allows a solar generation owner to sell back the energy. Currently a solar credit is worth $39 for each megawatt in Pennsylvania.

      In the past two years, I earned an additional $936 in SRECs. Green Solar Systems processes my SRECs and sends me a check every few months. This helps pay off the solar array even faster.

      My current electric rate with all the extra charges is $0.1637 per kilowatt. The estimated time to pay off the solar array with the current electrical rates is seven years and eight months (not counting SRECs). The estimated total amount of money saved after a 30-year life at my current electric rate is $77,130 dollars. The estimated time to pay off the wind turbine is 19 years at my current electric rates. The estimated total amount of money saved after the 30-year estimated life of the wind turbine is $60,234.

      With the current low-interest rates, this would be the perfect time to put in solar or wind. In 2022 there is a 26% tax credit - also, an average 4.1% increase in property value as per the real estate website Zillow.

      Some suggestions if you are going to install solar or wind are:

      * Try to install a ground-mounted system for solar. The system can be aligned to the best angle to the sun, and I think it would be easier to install and maintain the system on the ground than on the roof. If you put the solar on the roof, make sure it will handle the extra weight.

      * Try to get a contractor that lets you keep your SRECs. Even at $39 for a megawatt, it can add up to over $14,000 at the end of the 30 years

      * Double the size of electric wires going underground from the array to the house. This is in case you want to expand your solar array in the future you won't have to dig again.

      * Put a tilt-up tower in with a wind turbine. This will save you the cost of a crane. A crane with an operator can cost an additional several thousand dollars.

      The best things I like about renewable energy is there is no cutting, stacking or burning wood, no shoveling coal or shoveling ashes, no paying a large oil bill. Best of all no paying an electric bill.

      Always try to buy "MADE IN USA."

      The next step is an electric Ford F-150 ...

      Norm Klahre

      Somerset County


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