Before You Go Solar

Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of solar.  We installed solar on our business and I plan to install solar on my home one day.  But, before you install $20,000 ($7,000 after rebates) worth of solar PV panels on the roof, please perform an analysis of your current energy consumption habits. Check out what I did at the business to be more efficient.


Lengthwise Brewing Company, my workplace, installed a small solar system that produces 1.2 kWh per hour for five hours a day.  After a quick investigation, I found that the system would not even provide enough energy to power the 25 track lights that provide ambiance lighting!  Each track light bulb was a 50 watt halogen bulb.  Therefore, the math goes like this:


Consumption Math (halogen bulbs)
25 bulbs x 50 watts = 1250 watts or 1.25 kWh
The lights are on for 12 hours a day
12 hours x 1.25 kWh = 15 kWh


Solar PV production Math
1.2 kWh x 5 hours = 6 kWh per day

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According to the info above, the track lights consume 15 kWh per day and the solar PV system provides 6 kWh per day.  So, it appears that we need a larger solar array.  Wrong.  We need to install more efficient bulbs.  All halogen track lights were changed out to compact fluorescent spot lights that consume 7 watts per bulb per hour but provide approximately the same amount of light. New math:


New Consumption Math (compact florescent)
25 bulbs x 7 watts = 175 watts per hour
12 hours x 175 watts = 2.1 kWh per day


Bulb change out cost
25 compact fluorescent spots x $8.00each = $200


Solar PV system after rebates cost
1.2 kWh complete system = $7,000


The point is this, reducing your energy consumption through efficiencies will by far out weigh a hasty solar PV installation.  Our simple $200.00 bulb change will save us 12900 watts per day or 4,708,500 watts per annum! 


Jeff Williams


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Jeff Williams is a co owner of Lengthwise Brewing Company located in Bakersfield California. "Being green is good for the environment and good for the wallet!" It seems that sometimes we humans cope with inefficiencies and inconveniencies when we really do not have to.