Solar Should Be Simple – Contractor #2

Guest post by Ian Clarke about their journey to solar in New Jersey, part of the Solar Should be Simple series written for Green Lifestyle Consulting.

Previous chapter: Contractor #1 

Contractor #2

We embarked on a quest for another contractor and identified one who seemed to be on the ball and whose pricing was reasonable. My only hesitation was the 15% commission they wanted to charge for selling our SRECs; I was able to negotiate that down to 7%, which is still rather steep. Yet a major plus was that they were willing to agree to guarantee me the then-current forward prices for N.J. SRECs for the next five years. That would automatically lock in the breakeven period and ensure that my project would pay for itself within those five years.

Again, this seemed rather too good to be true. The contractor, and especially the salesman, had only a passing understanding of forward trading, and I found myself educating them on the nuts and bolts of it, and hedging in general.

Still they signed an addendum agreeing to those forward prices and submitted the relevant project paperwork to the state, including a consumption forecast for the car and dryer. The problem was that they didn’t sign the application to the state, so it too was rejected, again about two months after it was submitted. We lost about $5,000 in state rebates as a result of that lapse.

To boot, the day before the contractor submitted the paperwork, the state changed the rules and disallowed the use of forecasts. It seems that, shockingly, people were gaming the system to profit from the high price of SRECs by installing more capacity than they needed, based on inflated consumption forecasts.

New Jersey Clean Energy Program - Your Power to SaveAt this point, I opted to contact the folks at the N.J. Clean Energy Program, or NJCEP, to get a first-hand idea of what we had to do to get a system of the size we wanted and ultimately were going to need. The upshot was that we needed an electric utility bill that showed prior 12-month power consumption at the level we expected to consume in the future. The alternative was to build a smaller system and expand it later. Given the hassles we had been through thus far, the last thing we wanted to contemplate was being put through the wringer twice.

Suffice it to say that the winter of 2010-2011 was the warmest and brightest ever at the Clarke household. To boost our consumption, we switched to electric space heaters, which dramatically knocked down our gas bills and commensurately increased our electric costs; ironically the net impact on our energy expenditures was minimal. We also screwed back in the incandescent light bulbs, kept them on most of the time, and took our time taking down the Christmas lights.

Continue to next chapter, Contractor #3

Ground mounted solar array
Solar Should Be Simple Series

This chapter is a part of the Solar Should Be Simple Series written by Ian Clarke about his family’s journey to install a residential solar array at their home in New Jersey.  You can read more about their journey to solar or check out our own journey to solar in Massachusetts in our Going for Solar Series.  Happy Greening!

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