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Tue May 3, 2016, 02:11 PM


An interesting DIY solar power project at Kickstarter

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing this project, nor do I have any interest in it, financial or otherwise. I do not know anyone associated with the company, but I have bought a flashlight from the company. I currently have a roof mounted 7kW array, so I do know a bit about what these things require:


Summary: This is a small scale, "plug and play" solar array, designed to avoid contractor expense, which is about 2/3s of the cost of a traditional array. They use a "side mount" roof bracket to eliminate the need to run holes into your roof (which MUST be done correctly or your roof will leak). The side mount bolts into the eaves of your roof. You can also place it on your lawn with a simple "a-frame" set up.

Instead of hard-wiring the system into your breaker box, you plug it into an existing outlet, and it syncs up with your house's AC power and feeds into the system. This leads to my first caveat, the system can ONLY produce power while grid power is active. If you lose power from the grid, you lose array power.

My second caveat is that their savings calculations are based on electrical rates in San Jose, which are about 3 times the national average of 12 cents/kWh.

The third caveat is that these are pretty low wattage panels (100 watts, versus 250-300 for most panels today) in order to be light enough to avoid code requirements about installation (getting a permit, specifically, in order to install heavier panels on a roof and inspecting the roof to verify they can handle the load).

The fourth caveat is: It's a Kickstarter project.

Fifth caveat is that they mention the 30% federal tax credit, but will probably not be shipping until 2017. The credit expires 12/31 of this year, and with the current congress, very unlikely to be renewed. Your state, however, may be a different story.

With all that in mind, it seems an interesting enough project for folks with spare cash and a desire to play with a project of this type. Will it save you money? That depends on a LOT of factors. It seems to me, a neat way to get your feet wet, maybe do it as a family project with the kids. It also seems like a neat way to offset the power used for a BEV, or plug in hybrid.

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