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I have really been thinking about "going green" but not in a patchouli stinking tree hugger way. More like "greenbacks" type of way.

I am sick and tired of paying for crap. I want to do something with the home I own right now, and I am thinking about doing some solar / wind energy stuff and trying to get my home as much "off the grid" as possible.

So.. what I am looking for is anyone who has done any kind of work with solar energy, or maybe converted a shop to run off solar.. anything like that.

Anyone here have a job doing solar power projects??

The industry seems to be just getting started. If anyone has anything to add or share I would be really appreciative to hear what you have to say. :thumbup1gif:
 

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I've thought about doing the same. There are lots of consulting/install companies around up here. I'd assume (maybe wrongly) that there are a bunch around you too??

Certainly lots of options - On the generating side there's solar electric, solar heating, wind electric, electric that you can sell back to the grid, microhydro (if you're near a stream), geothermal, generator backup, etc. There's the effeciency side to it too - LED lighting, improving R values, etc.

-Jer.
 

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If the economics and technical benefits/hassles work for you, go for it. Although I believe in alternative sources of electricity, the criteria for making it work properly can easily become a budget buster.

When I worked for the crap-hole known as NREL www.nrel.gov we (Facilities Engineering Group) were given the task to design a guard shack for the NWTC (National Wind Technology Center). This was a good idea gone bad. When the scientists got wind of it, they kissed the lab director's butt to make this 10' x 16' (yes, a piddly 160 square feet folks) shack a 'net zero' building. So the building's primary purpose of housing two guards became an experiment first, a guard shack second. With all the inverters, etc inside the building, it's real cramped for the two guards.

Final cost for this taxpayer funded fiasco was in the $1,000 - $1,200 per square foot range with an estimated 300-year payback. The best part is that there is no permanent bathroom and the nearest indoor plumbing can is literally a half-mile away. After some serious thought by the brain trust I worked for, it was decided that a Port-a-Potty would be installed by the building.
 

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I did the install myself. It was a lot of time. The problem was that the various companies in this area were charging about 2x what the parts cost to do an installation. So my install, which cost $40K, was quoted up in the $80K region. If I was doing this for a living, this would be a 1 week job with 2 people and a skidsteer with auger and front loader. And two of those days would be half days due to concrete curing and inspections. Roof mount systems would be more time and costs.

The various companies in existence also refused to just let me order a 8 to 10 KW system. They all insisted that they had to do an energy audit, measure the load of equipment in the house, and then work up the financial information needed to determine what size system to put in. This was all just nonsense to justify the extreme mark ups.

There was a class at a community collage in this area on doing solar PV installations, and it was full. In some ways, the "move to green" is similar to the satellite TV craze of the 80's, swimming pools for the last 30 years, computers and other areas. People get lured in by the high profit margins, then the mixture of competition and reality lay most of them to waste.

So if you're getting into this, you'll need some very realistic idea of what your costs are and what you need to charge. If you can't pay cash for the tools and equipment, I wouldn't get into it.

I also think that there is another problem down the road. A lot of the installations now are a sort of low hanging fruit. People putting this stuff in (and I fit in this category to a degree with my system) have addition reasons to do so beyond simple economics. When those customers have their systems, the pool of potential customers goes down a lot.

There are two problems keeping people from jumping in. The cost are very high, so the payback periods are very long. The second problem is that most people won't do something that has a payback period beyond 3-4 years. One of these problems has to change to see wide spread adoption. People are very reluctant to change. While some of the costs are technology based, the pannels (which are the predominant cost) are manufacturing limited and not subject to a "Moores Law" semiconductor type of price decreases. The only other thing that can change is if the price of electricity goes up, this is the "other" way of having the payback period get short enough that people will buy this stuff.

I think there is some hope for going into a broader field of energy related products. As Jer talks about, toss in emergency generators and there's more to sell. I don't see LED lighting as a money maker. Solar hot water also looks good and has OK cost/payback. Note that a key part of any of these energy related areas are being an electrician, plumber, and equipment operator. If you can have these licenses, then you have less subs and better control of the project. And of course, if you have these skills there is lots of "normal" plumbing and electrical work to do for all those satisfied customers to fill the gaps between the big jobs.

So someone going into this because they see big profits today will get crushed. Someone developing general skills and getting the appropriate licenses will be able to do energy related tasks as part of a viable business.

You know, people have been looking for short cuts around competence for a long time, it just never works. The posters here are not in that class, I'm sure.

Pete
 
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