NEWSLETTER #262 February 2007 House-Building Home Page

New House Building: Money Saving, Convenience and Healthy House Tips

Residential Solar Generated Electricity



  1. Introduction
  2. Detailed Description
  3. Economic Analysis
  4. Maintenance Requirements
  5. Conclusions
  6. Subscription Details
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Introduction to the Solar Technology.

Solar electricity is produced using Photovoltaic (PV) technology by converting solar energy into solar electricity from sunlight. Photovoltaic systems use sunlight to power ordinary electrical equipment, for example, household appliances, computers and lighting. The photovoltaic (PV) process converts free solar energy - the most abundant energy source on the planet - directly into solar power. Note: this is not the familiar "passive" or solar thermal technology used for space heating and hot water production.

A PV cell consists of two or more thin layers of semi-conducting material, most commonly silicon. When the silicon is exposed to light, electrical charges are generated and this charge is conducted by metal contacts as direct current (DC). The electrical output from a single cell is small, so multiple cells are connected together and encapsulated (usually behind glass) to form a module (sometimes referred to as a "panel"). The PV module is the principle building block of a PV system and any number of modules can be connected together to give the desired electrical output.

PV equipment has no moving parts and as a result requires minimal maintenance. It generates solar electricity without producing emissions of greenhouse or any other gases, and its operation is virtually silent.

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Detailed Description

The single biggest problem with PV solar systems has been the upfront cost to install such a system. The initial cost to install a solar system for a single family residence is more than $40,000 with the return on this investment, years into the future. Various states have offered low interest loans and rebates for energy efficient systems, but most of these cover only a fraction of the cost of a solar panel system.

The Citizenr? Corporation (CC) overcomes this problem by absorbing all of the upfront cost associated with the purchase and installation of a solar-panel system. In exchange for this investment, the consumer pays CC for the electricity generated by the installed solar system, and the consumer benefits by being able to sell the unused, excess electricity generated to the local electric utility company.

CC will design, install, finance, and maintain PV systems for residential customers. Their system includes a photovoltaic ("PV") array, inverters, and an exchange point ("XP") which is packaged to deliver energy to the customer, or to the local utility, from power generated at the home (REnU System).

Most systems that are installed are Grid-Connected. As you might have assumed, grid-connected systems are interconnected with the local utility. This interconnection maximizes the benefits and usage of electricity generated from the REnU system.

In a grid-connected system, the REnU generates electricity during the day when sunlight is available. The power generated is delivered to either the customer or the utility; and in some cases, power may be delivered to an energy storage device. A set of rules defines this operation. In any case, customer needs always take precedence.

Typically, because homeowners are gone during the day time, the power generated will be delivered to the utility. This will actually spin the customer's meter backwards. This reversal of the meter in effect provides credit to the consumer, so that when the consumer comes home in the evening, and when the REnU is no longer capable of generating electricity, the consumer can draw upon the credits that have been stored up with the utility. Therefore, this system is not designed to be used off the grid. It is set up to feed power back into the grid, so as to make us all less dependent on foreign oil, and become self sufficient.

The product that generates the electricity is a shingle that has built into it a PV cell, as shown below.

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Economic Analysis

Citizenr? Corporation program is built around a "lock-in rate". For example, the 2007 lock-in-rate in the Philadelphia PA area, which is based upon the local public utility (PECO) rate charged to consumers was about 7.7c/kwhr. Citizenr? Corporation's contract requires you to accept a lock in rate calculated for your area; it should be similar to what your current kwhr rate. This lock-in rate, locks the rate you will be charged for electricity for the duration of the life of the system. For example if 90% of your electricity is provided by the PV systems you will pay for that electricity at the agreed lock-in rate. For the remaining 10% of the electricity provided by your utility company, you will pay their going rate, which 10 year from now might be 15c/kwhr or more. Over time, as the charge or cost of electricity increases, your savings will increase because you will be paying the lock-in-rate.

The main drawback of this program is that Citizenr? Corporation is a startup company and construction of its manufacturing facility has not begun. Current projections are that the construction of this facility is at least a year down the road. And there is a possibility that the entire program may never go into effect.

The company is currently signing up interested parties. There is no cost or obligation to register to be in line and lock in current rates. In the future as the company gears up to begin manufacture and installation of these systems they will perform a field visit and develop a customized design for each residence.

If you don't want to wait for the company to build their manufacturing plant and install your system, and if you have the financial resources - about $40,000 for an average sized home, you can put this system in place now. One of the distributor's for this technology,, has a link that refers you to installers who can install similar systems today.

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Maintenance Requirements

The REnU systems require no real maintenance. If your area is dusty, the action of rain will normally keep them in a good clean condition. If you are in an arid, dusty area, a cautious wiping with a dry cloth should help. However beyond these things, there is generally NO homeowner maintenance.

There is also no ongoing maintenance cost from CC. The company can monitor the effectiveness of each panel in comparison to other neighbors with the internet connection. If one panel in a system loses efficiency, the company has an incentive to come out and replace it at no cost. They want to get their payback from the electricity generated, so they have a vested interest in maintaining your system in optimal operating condition.

CC will move a system one time if you relocate and are not able to sell it to the new home owner. Additional moves, beyond the first one, will cost the customer $500.

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In conclusion, this new concept in solar energy has been well thought out and provides the application of modern technology to the market. Hopefully, greater demand and acceptance and lower manufacturing cost and efficiency of production will make the product affordable to many more people.

While one must accept the uncertainties associated with this startup- namely that it may fail to generate a sufficiently large client base to justify building its manufacturing facility. This uncertainty is easily compensated for because of CC's no-risk program. Moreover, if the program ultimately moves ahead it will save consumers a significant sum of money, while reducing our dependence on foreign oil.

While there are many sources for solar panels and solar panel systems, CC's approach is novel because it eliminates the one major obstacle, for the vast majority of people, which is the upfront cost. That is something that makes this program unique and economically feasible and something worth your time to further explore.

Related Links:

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Summary and Other Considerations

Geothermal heating and cooling systems will save the consumer anywhere from 30% to 70% of their annual heating costs depending on whether they compare to force air natural gas systems or electric heating systems. There is a higher initial cost for installation and most of this increased cost is attributed to the outdoor loop systems, both closed and open that must be installed. The expense of installation depends to a great degree on the soil conditions that exist around your property.

Maintenance and longevity of these systems are about the same for indoor components as for traditional systems, however when installed properly the outdoor components are generally good for 50 years or more.

There are some locations around the US and Canada were consumers can take advantage of Geothermal heat naturally from the earth, however the majority of these have been developed commercially and generate significant amount of electrical energy for consumption. Geothermal exchange systems or heat pumps are becoming more and more common as consumers become aware of the energy savings and the pollution avoidance advantages of Geothermal exchange systems.

Aside from reduced operating costs and pollution avoidance, geothermal exchange heating and cooling systems also do not require chimney flu's and there is no chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. Since there is no outdoor unit, there is no noise to bother neighbors and there is nothing for vandals to bother.

Some states and provinces offer subsidies and other benefits for installing geothermal exchange systems. Check with your local government for details. Most vendors will be aware of these subsidies and should be able to assist in this area.

Geothermal systems require space on your property for both vertical and horizontal loop systems. Before investing always confirm with your supplier that you have sufficient space and there are no restrictions in terms of local permits that may be required.

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