The idea of generating your own electric power with a “backyard” renewable energy system is appealing to many, and small solar photovoltaic systems and wind turbines are the most popular choices. Investing in your own generation, even on a small scale, is a big decision that deserves careful thought.
Do thorough research and know the facts before buying one of these systems. Location is everything when it comes to the actual production of these renewable systems. If you’re installing a solar PV system, make sure it is in an area completely free of shade at all hours of the day. This will maximize the output levels. If you’re thinking a wind turbine is better for you, make sure the wind levels at the location are high enough to keep the turbine turning as consistently as possible.
Get all the details from the salesperson in writing and don’t depend on him or her as your sole source of information. Do your research, and talk to Medina EC staff. Experts advise ignoring peak output numbers provided by vendors, as they are generally based on ideal situations that rarely exist.
Find out the total installed cost of the system—all parts, installation, interconnection—and how much maintenance will be required before you make a purchase. If the system has a warranty, be sure you know what it covers—you want one that covers parts and labor—and what it doesn’t.
Don’t hesitate to ask for names and contact information for individuals in your area who have purchased systems from the same vendor. Ask them about performance and reliability.
Know the rules your cooperative has for distributed generation systems, and don’t depend on the salesperson to provide those rules or any buy-back rates to you. Medina EC will buy back excess power produced by a DG system. The rate—called the avoided cost—varies monthly and is based on wholesale power rates, or the cost the cooperative avoids paying the wholesale power supplier for that electricity. You can see all the rules and a list of historical DG rates at MedinaEC.org/DG. Use those figures in your calculations, not figures provided by a salesperson.
For safety and metering reasons, the cooperative has to be made aware of the installation of a DG system. But it is also a good idea to have cooperative staff involved, so they can provide you with unbiased information. Medina EC has staff members who specialize in helping members who are installing DG systems; use the expertise they have developed over the years to your advantage. In addition, Medina EC is currently evaluating entering the solar market and possibly selling PV systems to members, and nonmembers, as early as mid-2018.
If you are considering installing a backyard renewable system, call Medina EC at 1-866-MEC-ELEC or email us at [email protected]. Our staff has worked with other members installing such systems and can provide you with advice on this big decision.