I have a tendency to get carried away with technology, and so it was that I decided to invest in a solar power system for the house.

I'd already replaced as many bulbs as practical with compact flourescents, and everything I buy is energy star rated. Other than insulating the house properly, which is very hard and very expensive, this was the next thing to do.

Yes, it's very expensive for what you get in return - one of the "problems" with Roseville is that the power's cheap here (8c per KWh for the first 500KWh a month, in 2007). To offset this, they offered a very generous rebate of $4 per watt of capacity, up to a maximum of $10,000. Add to this the federal tax credit of 30% up to $2,000, and half of the system's getting paid for by somebody else. Excellent.

I ended up going with a 16 panel system, with a capacity of just under 2.5KW, and it was fitted right at the end of 2007.

There are a few things to be aware of:

  • When the power goes out, so do I...

The way the system is set up, rather than use a pile of car batteries and run the house off them, I just use the grid as a large, very efficient battery. When the grid drops out, my system stops generating electricity, otherwise somebody working on the downed cables or whatever could be electrocuted

by my solar system. That would suck. Roseville Electricity has one of the most reliable systems in the country, so that isn't such a problem.

  • The meter might turn backwards, but they'll never send you a cheque for extra power.

In California, the local utility has to take excess power you generate, they just don't have to pay you for it. So, I have a system that should do over half of what I need, and if I generate more, they'll offset it against future bills for up to a year. They just won't ever send me money for power I generate.

Power we've had to pay for - the electrickery bill.

Power we've generated. The hot tub was turned off between March and December 2009, as the cover was leaking.

In the winter we have shorter, less sunny days, so we generate a lot less power :o(