The solar electric I installed on the house nine years ago is down. It’s supposed to feed that monster called the grid. Since April, I noticed that the electric bill is creeping up way beyond the usual seventeen bucks that the electric company charges home solar producers for the privilege of feeding their system — which, let’s face it, has a downside for them because the intermittency of so-called alt-energy disorders their operations.
I got a whopping folio of tax breaks and subsidies from the state and federal government when I decided to put solar electric on my house in 2013, though it finally still cost a lot: $35-K. I had intimations of living through a chaotic period of history, and the decision was consistent with my general theory of history, which is that things happen because they seem like a good idea at the time. Getting a home solar electric rig seemed like a good idea.
So, last week, after considerable hassle with my solar company setting up an appointment for a techie to visit and evaluate the problem here, the guy came up (at $150-an-hour) and informed me that my charge controller ($2,000) was shot. The charge controller processes all those chaotic watts coming from the solar panels on the roof into an orderly parade of electrons. He also told me that my back-up batteries — for running critical loads like the well-pump during grid outages — were at the end of their design life. Subtext: you have to get new batteries.
There are four big ones in a cabinet under the blown charge controller and the inverter (for turning direct current into alternating current that is the standard for running things). The techie had some bad news, though. New building codes forbid his company from replacing the kind of batteries I have, which are standard “sealed cell” lead-acid batteries. Some bullshit about off-gassing flammable fumes. Now the government requires lithium batteries, which would cost me sixteen-thousand dollars ($16-K) more to replace than new lead-acid batteries.
So in nine years major components are shot to a total of $18,000, not including labor and shipping. If he spends the money to repair it then he’s half way through the lifespan of the solar panels anyway.
In a low-grade epiphany while going through this ordeal last week, I realized that back in 2013, instead of getting the solar electric system, I could have bought the Rolls Royce of home generators and buried a 500-gallon fuel tank outside the garage, and had a manual water pump piggy-backed onto the well, and maybe even purchased a fine, wood-fired cookstove — and had enough money left over for a two-week vacation in the South-of-France. Silly me.
Of course, these travails with my home solar electric system are a metaphor for the complexity and fragility that is, all of a sudden this year, causing the operations of Western Civ to fly to pieces. My investment in solar was as dumb as what the entire nation of Germany did in attempting to run itself on “green energy.” (Not to mention their more recent dumb-ass decision to forego imports of Russian Natural Gas in order to please the geniuses at Tony Blinken’s State Department, the dumb bunnies.)
Of course, even when I get the solar electric back up-and-running again, something else is sure to go wrong. And in another ten years, the solar panels will be at least half-dead. So, if you’re reading this personal lamentation, consider bending toward simplicity. Wish I had.
My costs for Natural Gas and Electric are (per year) $2,500 to $3,000 in the NorthEast. If I wanted to spend serious coin towards hedging my bet on utility power and gas I’d add a wood or coal burning stove. The house is relatively new and fully insulated, with good (not great) double insulated windows, with exterior storm doors. The electric panel has a power transfer switch installed, just need an external generator. And stockpiled fuel.
The truth is that a lot of the solar panels you see on your neighbors roofs are in the same shape as this poor guy; failed or failing. The whole solar and wind thing is a huge con job.