I've been interested in photovoltaics since the early 1980s. The raised ranch that I built back then had the perfect orientation, but my wallet's orientation was far less than perfect. In the late 1980s I spent 2 1/2 years caretaking a remote island that was 12 miles from the mainland and the grid. Electricity on the island came from a noisy, smelly diesel generator that we ran in the evening mostly for lights and to charge the phone battery. Before moving to the island I looked into a photovoltaic system for the farm house there. It would have been about $15K, and when I ran it by person in charge, he replied: "I can buy a lot of diesel fuel for fifteen grand."
In the '90s I moved to western Connecticut with lots of tall trees, so solar was never an option in my home there. I moved to Cape Cod in 2005, and property I bought included the two story barn with a wonderful south facing roof that is completely unshaded. But with the recession of the aughts, going solar remained a pipe dream.
Then a couple of years ago, a local magazine hired me to photograph a large PV array in a nearby town (photo). That array supposedly produces electricity to power more than 200 homes. I spent some time with the owner of the company that installed array and told him of my solar dreams. He sent a rep to my house who confirmed that my barn roof was indeed perfect for a solar array—I was getting closer!
That company never followed through, but as often happens these days, my interest in PV triggered a bunch of emails with inquiries and offers. One email had a survey that I took. Again, no follow up, until I got a call from a company that acts as a broker for people looking for a solar company. They sent a proposal, and after an extensive phone conversation, I signed an agreement that promises to make my solar dreams a reality. But in an odd twist, the agreement that I signed is not for ownership of the panels. Instead they will be leased to me and I will buy back the electricity for about half of what I'm now paying. They call this a Power Purchase Agreement or PPA. For a very minimal down payment, I will have a low fixed price per kWh for the next 20 years—basically renting the sun. Installation is free, as is monitoring and maintenance of the system. I pay nothing until the actual installation. The company is scheduled to come by on Friday to do a site survey. The survey looks at the exact orientation of my roof as well as a look at the framing and the electrical access to hook up the system. I'm keeping my fingers crossed and I'll keep you posted with updates in future blogs. Wish me luck!!!