We really like doing whatever we can to be self-sufficient. One of our major projects, which we did about three years ago, was to install solar panels in our yard. Our Colorado sunshine made this an ideal way to be able to produce electricity and cut our electric bills. Since we finished them, we have produced enough electricity every month to cover what we are using. We are so glad that we decided to take on this project!
This is our solar project when it was more than half done. It had been a very involved process, but we were sure it was going to be worth the time and expense when completed.
We have a total of 16 panels that are approximately 40″ x 60″ per panel. Each panel is rated for 240 watts. When it’s all said and done, with the cost of electricity today, we estimated we would produce about $1000 a year in electricity. We use less than that, so we should have a net return from the electric company at the end of the year, plus the electricity we use will be (more or less) free. We are figuring a break-even point of about 8 years and the panels are guaranteed to produce for 25 years, so we should get around 17 years of free electricity.
On to the project:
Our yard has a lot of rock in it. We had a guy come out and actually drill holes in the rock for the posts for the base of our panel structure. He had a really cool machine that did it and he got it done in very little time. After the holes were drilled/dug, Jack welded rebar together and cemented them in 10 feet down into the rock. He wanted to make sure that our crazy wind wouldn’t take the solar panels on a wild ride through the sky… 🙂
Once the rebar and cement were set up, it was time to start working on the base for the structure. Jack spent a lot of time building it and getting it ready to put the panels on. The base is made of wood and the angled part that holds the panels is made of metal tracks. It’s built so it can be “tilted” to adjust for the sun level, but we’ll probably leave it stationary. It wouldn’t produce a lot more electricity by adjusting the tilt, so it doesn’t seem worth the effort (it’s extremely heavy) to attempt semi-annual adjusting.
This is the framework for the panels. Jack got it all finished and braced yesterday, then had a couple of guys from Cripple Creek come today to help with the panels. They were able to get all 16 panels up and secured in about three hours since Jack had checked and double checked to make sure everything was ready to go and was going to fit.
Here it is with part of the top row of panels on. It’s already looking different. I went outside to look at it and was surprised at how much bigger it looked once it had some of the panels attached to it.
Bottom right is the full array of panels. Bottom left is what it looks like from the underside. Now all we (Jack) have to do is finish the electrical connections, have the state electrical inspector come and check it, and then have the electric company inspector come check it and hook it up to their meter.
Ta da! We’re producing our own electricity and are one step closer to being as independent as possible.