Yesterday, our solar panel installation project came to a close. FPL, our electric company, came to install the reverse meter, we flipped the switch, and voila: our house now captures solar power to generate electricity.
We are not off the grid. Florida law prohibits that, and we don't have enough room to store the equipment and batteries we would need to be off the grid. Should there be a huge storm that blows away our solar panels, we'll want to be on the grid--although if it's that big a storm, it might be awhile before we have electric service again--those solar panels are securely attached to the roof.
We've wanted to do more with solar power for years now. At the end of 2015, we finally made the plunge. We had some money saved up to invest in the house, and the time seemed right, with a renewable energy tax credit that might disappear, depending on the outcome of a 2016 elections.
We didn't think it would take the 7 months that it has taken to get the project finished. My spouse thought we'd be done by February. I knew that the permitting and inspecting process with the city could add more time to the project, so I thought we'd be done by April. That process took even longer than I thought it would.
I didn't realize how much paperwork we'd need to file with FPL, and I worried about the ways it could go wrong. For example, the paperwork had two different addresses telling me where to mail it back. I expected it to get lost and to have to do it again. I worried that they might reject us outright. Happily, those fears were not realized.
This process has been more stressful for my spouse than for me--he's been the one at home during the noisy process of attaching the panels to the roof. He's been the one waiting for various inspectors.
And now we will see what happens. We tried to install exactly as many solar panels as we need to generate the amount of electricity that we will use. If they generate more power than we use, at the end of the year, FPL will send us a check. They will buy the "extra" electricity we generate at about half of what they would sell per Kilowat hour to us. So, in many ways, it doesn't pay to have more panels, since we have to pay for each panel and its installation, and the return on investment is a much more long term one. And there's only so much room on our roof.
We've been fans of solar power for decades--really, for our whole lives. It's cool to live in this time when homeowners can do their small part to help generate renewable energy--oil is cheap now, but it won't always be. And I feel fortunate to have sold our old house 3 years ago when we moved to this one, so we had the money to make the investment.