Getting our solar array constructed and connected was a lot like seeing an avalanche set in motion. At first, just a few balls of snow break off a cornice and start falling down the mountainside. As they gain momentum and pick up a little more snow, the slide becomes larger and more noticeable. Suddenly, a huge mass of snow breaks loose, and running faster and faster down the slope it finally crashes to a stop in the valley below. While the installation of our panels was nothing like the destructive power of an avalanche, the way the whole thing happened was a lot like that. First there were all the preliminary steps like moving dirt, cleaning up piles of wood and rock to do. Then we decided that rather than put the inverters into a shop that needed refurbishing and then have to work around them, we would do the refurbishing first. And then it seemed like the holes would never get dug. But once they were, the whole thing took on a life and momentum of its own and it was a positive dash to the finish. Last Thursday was the “witching hour” when our local utility company sent a crew out to replace our one meter service with the two meters required for grid tie solar. Our own electrician was here too, to make the actual physical connection of the solar power to the meter. Here is the progression, in photographs. The solar array: The pole: Incidentally, I want to say a huge thank you to all the people who worked on this for us. Our designer, Stan Kramer was an invaluable source of information and expertise, not to mention a power house of a worker on the physical labor side. Our electrician, Harold Ewing was a true craftsman, efficient, and fun to talk to. The crew from Laclede Electric that did the meter installation were also artists in electrical work, efficient, professional and pleasant. The inverters: The million volt lightning arrester (there are three, one per inverter and one at the meter): The reason we have two inverters is because of the generating capacity of the solar array. It turned out to be less costly to buy two smaller inverters and hook them into the grid in series than to buy one inverter with enough capacity to serve the whole array. Each inverter has a panel that gives you information about how much power is being generated right at the moment you look, how much was generated each hour during the past hours, how many kilowatt hours you have generated that day, and then it also tells you how many megawatts have been generated since the system was operational. These are the two panels taken yesterday afternoon: So, of course the question always comes up as to how much did it all cost and was it worth it? The total cost of the whole thing (not counting the improvements to the barn) came in just shy of $18,000. We will be receiving a 30% tax credit for the system on our federal income tax. That credit can be spread out over a couple of years because the caveat is you can’t make your tax bill less than zero. Yep. That’s a lot of money. But since the system has been running we have generated 125 kiloWatt hours of electricity. That is in five and half days. Two of those days were overcast and on one it actually rained. The system still generated power that day. We are expecting a return on our investment of between 5 and 6 percent annually. If that doesn’t sound like all that much to you, I invite you to investigate just how much interest you get on a savings account. Around here they are paying 0.05% on a savings account. Our stocks and mutual funds did not lose money this year, but they also did not earn anything. So a guaranteed yearly ROI of 5% looks pretty good to us. Also, let me just point out that we don’t expect the price of electricity to be going down any time soon. (!) Every time the rates go up, our ROI will get better. Plus, it is putting our money where our mouth is: cutting back on our carbon footprint in a pretty big way. That feels really good right now!