Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Solar install Again this time in NM

We decided to have a Solar Power System put on this house.  I looked into it and it made sense.  I wanted to do it myself but the permitting process here is laborious and ridiculous.  I also wanted it to be all “official” so there aren’t any problems 10 years from now when we go to sell the house. I basically knew what I wanted since I did this before in our San German, Puerto Rico house.  We did not need battery backup here because the power is so reliable and clean.  I decided on a 2.75KW Grid Tie system with Enphase M215 Micro inverters.  11 pannels and 11 inverters ballast mounted at 10 degrees. Micro inverters are basically as cheap as central inverters are now and with this being the 4th generation of them I think they will be reliable.  I also didn't want a central inverter humming loudly in the garage.  The inverters we used are M215.  They peak at 225 Watts each.  Now if you’re paying attention you will say “you have 2750W in panels but only 2475 for the inverters”.  That is correct and I will lose some power because the inverters will clip the peak power.  This all becomes a wash for various reasons but the main reason is that the panels are at a 10 degree angle and thus will never be optimal.

“Why 10 degrees” you ask?  Because that makes installation much much simpler.  This is a ballast mount system and as you can see in the picture without panels that these tinny aluminum frames are just held down by small garden paving blocks.  That means very simple install and no penetrating the roof.  Ideally I wanted a 30 – 35 degree mounted system.  That is our Latitude and would have provided the maximum yearly harvest without adjusting the panels twice a year.  

The install was very fast and simple.  Basically two guys for 6 hours and an electrician for 2 hours.  That was it.  It really doesn’t get much easier.  But then comes all the inspections!  5 of them!  It was a headache for 3 of them where someone had to be home and the inspectors wouldn’t give a time when they were coming out.  That really is unacceptable and I felt like it was even worse than in Puerto Rico.

It took three months from start to finish but only one short day that any work was done.  It cost $11,000 but I will get back 40% in tax credits so the net cost to us is $6500.  It will be a 6 – 8 year payback based on savings however, it can be looked at as an immediate payback based on the value of our house going up at least $6500 right now.  With the crazy sun hours we have here our system is making around 18 – 19 KWH each day!  That is slightly more than we are using.

2016 is going to be tough for Solar installers as the tax credits go away along with rising grid connection fees for solar customers.  If you in NM now is the time to install solar!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Southern New Mexico and Arizona Trip

Jeff had a few days of vacation he needed to use and honestly, although I would love to go diving, I cannot imagine enjoying a "tropical" vacation at this point. I am afraid I would take a long plane ride only to get off and not enjoy the humidity, the bad food, the garbage and stray animals. When you vacation you don't really see all that stuff but after 7 years of it I am not ready to return. At least not to the Caribbean. We decided to head south and off to Tucson. It was a whirlwind trip that involved a lot of driving without all that much time in any one place. We found some places we want to return to and others we will skip. Definitely was nice to have a change of scenery.

First stop was White Sands. We drove 4 1/2 hours or so to Alamagordo, NM stopping at Elephant Butte (big lake/dam) and in Truth or Consequences (town name is more interesting than the town but we had a nice lunch). White Sands is amazing! Even though it had rained it was just a weirdly bright and strange area of gypsum dunes. Despite the overcast, cloudy day it was still very bright but probably not as white as usual. I was hoping for a sunset (cloudy) or sunrise the next morning (cloudy) but it was not to be. These were not interesting clouds. We headed off to a Space Museum and then headed out of town toward Tucson.

It took about 5 1/2 hours of driving for us to get there. There were interesting mountains on all sides with interesting rock formations and vegetation. When we got closer to Arizona the landscape changed and there were the giant Saguaro cactus and organ pipe cactus everywhere. No one was on the road and the roads were wonderful the entire way - such a pleasure! We didn't reserve hotels ahead of time so we had to figure out where to stay. This proved to be kind of a bummer since we hadn't really figured out what we wanted to do or where it was. Thankfully Tucson is small like Albuquerque and nothing was far away. I absolutely do not like hotels and don't sleep well. They are all overpriced (it is a bed for christs sake) but the difference between an $89 hotel and a $115 one is worth it. The Alamagordo one is not to be repeated. There was one in Tucson too close to the hi way and one we did like best of all of them except for some kind of annoying fan or ventilation system that was always on. We slept the best we could and did day excursions. On the first night we ate at a nice seafood place and plotted our couple days. We had visions of doing all sorts of stuff but Tucson has a surprising amount of stuff to do. Our hit list included a mine tour of the Asarco Mine, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Tohono Chul Gardens. A church was close to the mine and I am a sucker for the creepy statues and displays you find in churches and I appreciate the architecture. We managed to do only these things and other stuff on the list have to wait.

We went to the mine on day one but it was too muddy for them to take the tour up the roads. We went to the Tohono Chul Gardens instead for a couple hours. The gardens were nice and I got a few ideas for our courtyard. Next we went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for the rest of the day. You can spend HOURS at the place. It is a zoo-garden-aquarium (sort of) and it is extremely well done. Exhibits are thoughtful and natural...we had a nice lunch with a prickly-pear margarita...wandering for hours looking at super cool cactus and animals and  and and....

I was stuffed from lunch so Jeff got a light dinner and we were off to a different hotel. Once we found that we settled in. Went to the jacuzzi then to bed. The next morning was the mine tour which was amazing in all it's destructiveness. They had a nice museum and a nice tour. It is a huge open pit mine. It was pretty amazing what they go through to extract a little bit of copper from tons of rock. They actually seem to do a decent job of recycling water and restoring habitat but it is still a hugely destructive operation like most human activities. It was very interesting. We had to skip the space museums on this trip since we were headed back. We stopped at the Mission San Xavier del Bac which is an 18th century adobe Baroque church. It was beautiful and had all the creepy crap I like about churches...elongated fingers, fake bodies in glass, creepy candles and "offerings" little bowls of water...etc. Copper rock and barrel cactus at Asarco mine.

 All these carvings look like wood but are adobe.

We decided to head to Bisbee because we had heard the name mentioned in novels and elsewhere. It was not at all what we expected. It turns out that March is the high season in Arizona. There was some odd music thing in town and no where to stay so we had lunch, cruised the town quickly and since the mine tour there was fully booked we headed home. We saw a lot of stuff but didn't see a lot of what there is to do. I would consider flying to Tucson next time so we could actually do more or maybe drive the northern route to Sedona or take more time. There were space museums, observatories, museums (including photography museums) and botanical gardens. I would definitely be better planned next time since now we know how long a drive it is. All in all we had a nice time and it was a different kind of vacation for us!