A conversation with some Daniel Island Solar-Powered Pioneers
Daniel Island Park residents Bob and Carol Wood have had solar panels since September. They were installed by local EmPower Solutions representative Bill Cannon, a Daniel Island resident and fellow Rotarian. Though EmPower has installed hundreds of systems through the southeast U.S. and Central America, the Woods’ project was the company’s first in South Carolina. Next up for Cannon and his crew is a “high-profile” installation at the Daniel Island Club. But, first, there was the solarizing of the home of Bob and Carol Wood…
Daniel Island News: Do you own your solar energy panel system, or are you leasing? How many panels are installed for your home?
Bob Wood: We decided to purchase the solar panels, rather than leasing them. We have 30 panels, each rated at 250 watts, for a total system capacity of 7.5 kilowatts. Because of our roof shape, we have three different arrays on different parts of our roof.
DIN: What was the process for getting the system approved by the Daniel Island Architectural Review Board (ARB)?
BW: The ARB appeared to be concerned about visibility from the street and by neighbors. Our home is situated such that our southern roof exposure, which is best for solar installations, is only visible to our neighbors next door. They were very kind and wrote a letter to the ARB that stated that they did not object to our planned solar installation. After reviewing our plans and considering the letter, the ARB approved our installation.
DIN: Are you still on SCE&G’s grid? Do you participate in “net metering?”
BW: We are still on SCE&G’s grid. We considered adding battery storage to provide electricity at night or on cloudy days, but Bill Cannon advised against it at this time. Storage technology is improving rapidly, and it may make more sense to wait a few more years. Also, we do have net metering, which guarantees that, for the next ten years, SCE&G will buy back the solar power that we generate at the same rate that they sell it to us, currently about 13.9 cents/kilowatt-hour. Thus, storage really wouldn’t gain us anything, despite a fairly large outlay. Also, a new incentive program provides that SCE&G will pay us an additional four cents/kilowatt-hour for the power we generate. To take advantage of this new program, we had to install a second meter, which we completed in November.
DIN: What kind of cost savings have you observed so far?
BW: We have definitely noticed significant savings. Our last electric bill for December was $11. (This does not include the charge for natural gas.) For the last three months we have averaged about $130 per month in savings when compared to the previous five-year average per month. Of course, I’ll have a better idea when we see our bills in the summer, when we have the longest exposure to sunlight. With state and federal tax incentives, it appears at this point that our payback period will be about eight years. However, we may be underestimating the benefit, since we haven’t seen what our solar production will be in the summer yet.
DIN: Would you say the transition to solar was fairly seamless? Any glitches encountered so far?
BW: Bill (Cannon) used an installation team from North Carolina, and they were thoroughly professional and did a very neat job. We were concerned how our roofs would do after the torrential rains last fall. Despite the need to penetrate the roofs to anchor the solar panels, our attics remained bone dry.
For more information about solar energy systems from EmPower, contact email@example.com.