Although under normal conditions it makes no economic or scientific sense to install solar panels way up here at 53° north latitude in somber northern Germany, generous subsidies make it risk-free. So either you jump through the hoop and take the money, or you pay through the nose.
I have to make a confession – our home, which is home to NoTricksZone, was outfitted with solar panels in late March.
Our home is ideally situated and so we decided to put 12 KW of rated capacity on our home. Our decision has nothing to do with the nonsense of “protecting the climate”. A customer of ours installs these systems on the side, and so I thought, what the heck. One hand washes the other. And like Dave Suzuki says: “Hey man, it’s for free!”
The entire system is financed by a low-interest loan and will start to pay back in about 10 years, using conservative figures. Without the subsidies, that period would be closer to 30, i.e. way beyond the lifetime of the panels.
There are lots of open issues, of course. What happens if the system has a problem and the manufacturer has gone bust, as many already have? In Germany there are hundreds of thousands of systems already installed. What about disposal and recycling of the panels 20 years down the road at the end of their lifetime? Our panels are from Sharp and current converter is from SMA.
Workmen preparing the roof.
The installation company is run by a real tinkerer, and he’s working on some ideas. The technology still has potential for improvement. Unfortunately the subsidies killed all the incentive to develop the technology. Development is expensive, and why do it if you can make money without it?
The installation is just about complete, and the power utility company will be hooking it up soon.
My apologies to German skeptic readers who now will have to pay for my expensive green electricity. 🙂
39 responses to “NoTricksZone Goes Green”
Hmmn, I love reading your blog. I had the opportunity to install solar pv but decided against it on grounds of principle, the poor subsidising the rich and all that. Frankly I’m surprised you’ve opted to install them. Perhaps I’m being a purist in these matters but I do have to say again that I’m surprised.
I just got fed up with driving through the countryside, seeing all the installations and thinking I have to pay through the nose for them. No way I was going to sit there and just take it.
It’s stupid for the government to have such an expensive program. It’s even stupider to volunteer to be the one to pay for it.
Some don’t have a choice, I know. But I was fortunate enough to have the choice.
That’s fair enough. I was teasing slightly. Mind you I think your’d be surprised by how long the payback is for measures you take like installing pv, double glazing etc.
This table from the building research establishment here in the UK and it’s quite astonishing. Of course I’m assuming they are not taking into account any subsidies, I can’t be sure, and it has to be said that double glazing and other measures don’t qualify for them. Take a look and go to the pub and test your friends on payback time. I promise you they will scoff and laugh in your face as if you are quite mad.
A colleague of mine told me “12 years” last year, for a PV installation. He declined the offer.
It depends on the cost, of course, if Pierre gets a good deal for the installation work, he might break even faster.
In 2009 my aged mother installed £13k worth of photovoltaic panels on her roof but the installer never completed the technical specs enabling her to get it registered for the feed-in tariff. Recently discovered the panels were of German origin which had never been fully accredited to be connected to the UK grid and the installer had subsequently lost his licence … Had to pay another £2k to get the panels replaced in 2012 before we could sell the house.
For sure – there are lots of sleazy players out there cheating unsuspecting buyers. It’s a good idea to know who you’re doing business with.
Sharp and SMA is as good a choice as you can make at the moment.
And it’s nice to hear that notrickszone now offsets its emissions and has become a sustainable blog. This way I don’t have to feel bad about the polar bears reading it.
I get the same feeling when visiting my sister. We both live in the London area.
When I was there recently, he got out the laptop to show in real time how much money he was making from the PV. He reckons the payback is about 8 years.
Of course, it only works because of the subsidy from all of our electricity bills.
The people that have been really caught out are those that have sold 25 years leases on their rooves to a variety of scoundrels including major electricity suppliers. Problem comes when you want to sell your house and you find some third party has a lien on your roof. Bansk and buidling societies just don’t like it.
More green crookery.
PS we are renovating an old house and are putting a wet panel up. No subsidy, but looks ok economically. We shall see.
Pierre, what would you do if the roof of your house were on fire?
Finally! They’re waking up in Australia.
Although there are grid isolation switches, the panels are still “live” when there is daylight. There are no standard means of isolating individual panels in normal PV installations so hazardous voltages must be assumed to be present. Most fire response teams don’t have the means to e.g. foam up the panels safely to reduce the risks.
The problem is of course more substantial in e.g. Germany because the roof space is often used as a space to live. So electrical appliances as well as open flames aren’t an unusual thing. That, and the traditional use of timber for framing as well as panels add to the likelihood of a roof fire.
In the long run, insurance companies will adjust premiums for those with PV solar.
This is mostly just funny, inspiring quirky, and snarky, thoughts of ridiculous apocalypse, as in: You have been suborned into the green elite, and come December 21, 2012 a small monkey off of a doomsday comet will take out your upgraded roof system. Rest in peace, NTZ. In reality, I predict you will just get bored and annoyed with it (especially if zealots without such a system start throwing rocks in an organized manner). It is just another “electric toothbrush”, just another convenience you don’t really need, but will find out you have been conned into thinking you do. That’s the way these things always seem to work out for me, anyway.
I don’t expect to earn much money with it, if any. As I said, one reason I bought is because the seller is a customer of mine.
People can throw rocks all they want – the system is fully insured. And rest assured – if the system turns out to be a flop, I’ll be the first to write about it.
I greatly appreciate your “coming out”. Surely better then having the picture of your home shown on some CAGW blog first.
However, having done what you have decided to be the best for you, how will you feel writing about scientists jumping onto gravy train of subsidies? They just do it because their colleagues also do it, and they want to have publications, and the money (also from their taxes) is available.
I think many of your arguments will lose their strength, unfortunately.
I like your blog very much, you did what you have decided to do.
Hopefully you will find a will to continue blogging
I don’t see how me putting panels on my roof changes anything. Solar energy in northern Germany is a folly – period. But the government is punishing those who don’t do it and rewarding those who do. We are already paying taxes up the wazoo. Why should I allow the government to punish my family even more?
It’s a pure business decision in market conditions I have no control over. When a skeptic like me puts panels on the roof, then view it as a sign of how out of whack things are.
Wojciech, as a programmer I often end up in projects that are in one or the other way subsidized here in Germany. For instance, the railroad sector is subsidized – passengers in regional trains do not pay fares that are enough for the upkeep of the system. The lands pay 7 bn EUR a year together for providers of regional public transportation.
I have also worked for 2 years in a technology project in the solar sector, partially financed by EU research money, and partially by company money from one of the German PV companies who could only thrive because of the Solar subsidies.
This never stopped me from railing against subsidies. You see, if these sectors I worked in stop getting subsidies and can’t afford to hire me again, I would probably find twice as many jobs in the unsubsidized sectors who would then have less taxes to pay and more money to invest.
Being in the trades, and hearing so much about how Germany is so far ahead of us here in N.A., I am totally surprised to see those guys on your roof without any fall harnesses! Does this “friend” who does this on the side carry insurance? Workers Comp? You feature a story about deaths in the offshore wind industry then allow other humans’ to go up on your slate roof without protection?
Hope whatever government agency that looks after the health of workers over there does not see those pics, or you may receive a nice fat fine!
You site is on my daily go to list, but right now my stomach is churning. I would never allow any of my guys to go on a roof without full fall protection.
I’m not their nanny.
Um, you probably are legally. Here our ex-premier was just found liable when a roofer fell to his death off of the ex’s roof. The company the poor dead guy was working for had no insurance or workers comp. I would think in an advanced a country as yours, the same if not more rules would apply.
Anyway, nice to know you a bit better.
I’m all for safety, but puuulease.
A general contractor did the work and homeowners are not responsible for telling them how to run their business and to do their work.
I’m not an expert and I assume the GC knows what he’s doing. I suppose in your country the housewife is supposed to tell the electrician what wires not to touch?
Finally, advanced societies weren’t built by overzealous safety inspectors running around in yellow jackets and clipboards.
Anyway, thanks for the tips, but now its time for you to take your nose back to your own business.
DeNihilist, any legal work in Germany by a company is insured. The company MUST be member of a Berufsgenossenschaft, an insurance that pays for work-related accidents. The company is obliged to make sure the according safety regulations are met. Pierre has nothing to do with it. The workers must have according safety education. It’s regulated and mandatory.
Work like this on single family homes rooftops is regularly done without safety harnesses in Germany. Industry climbers, performing work on wind turbines or cleaning highrises, have to wear them.
I can’t see much of it, although it is an attractive home. Windows appear to be larger than typical windows in American homes.
Which town do you live? My brother in law is from Hannover. I have never visited there, I would like to.
I live in town with the strange name of Quakenbrück – which is about 2 hours west and somewhat north of Hannover. You really ought to visit some day.
Do visit. Quakenbrück’s a non-descript town in the countryside; astride mating rabbits 😉 Land appears to be mostly reclaimed from swamp (centuries ago) by the use of drains so the landscape can be used to calibrate the bubbles in spirit levels.
Adventurous visitors with lots of time on their hands (for unscheduled delays) and a bit of money in their pockets can take a train. The view from express trains gets boring after a while. It’s a short hike (~20-minute — I won’t say exactly) from the Hauptbahnhof to Pierre’s PV tax-compensation plant.
Driving in Germany isn’t a big deal and car rental is still a viable option if you keep in mind the price of fuel and the distances to be driven. Accommodation options are more flexible with a car, except in the larger towns/cities where parking may be limited. The flexibility provides potential cost savings or simply more interesting places to stay and visit than the usual, touristy ones; on your own schedule and your own route.
Don’t forget – some cities are declared environment zones – which means your car must have a green sticker. If you’re caught driving in a car wiothout the green sticker, then you’ll get fined. However, in Quakenbrück (pop. 14,000) there is no green sticker requirement.
Tip: Hire a rusty old tractor for the Green Zones. 😉
IIRC, even sleepy, desolate Osnabrück now has a Green Zone.
Some background info on my blog:
This reminds me on a phrase by Frederic Baptist: “The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” We all live in this fiction believing to hit the subsidiest jackpot. The illusion to be a freerider instead of a paying fool keeps this insane policy in place. Politicians and lobbyists are laughing up their sleeves.
The choice of being a free-rider or a paying fool? I guess that’s a way to define a redistributionist society. I’m fortunate I even had the choice. Many aren’t
Actually, the name is Frédéric Bastiat (“L’État, c’est la grande fiction à travers laquelle tout le monde s’efforce de vivre aux dépens de tout le monde”) – but then his spirit might be glad that it was mangled into another similar-sounding noun…
@Ulrich: That’s what my spellchecker made out of Bastiat. Sorry.
It is not uncommon to transliterate first names of famous personalities. Americans often refer to Friedrich Nietzsche as Frederic Nietzsche. Ulrich is pedantic.
No, he isn’t pedantic, I didn’t realize that my spellchecker took Bastiat and transformed it to Baptist.
Oh. Didn’t see the “Baptist”.
Déformation professionelle. When you spend your time proofreading academic publications and bibliographies…
Pierre whether your decision to install PV panels is likely to hasten or delay the demise of the warming scam is debatable. Obviously at some point the German economy will become a basket case as a result of unaffordable energy prices, and CO2 taxes. However, I feel you may have weakened your credibility somewhat and that warmist cabal will likely try to capitalise on your decision for propaganda purposes.
But as the saying goes let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I have a couple of skeletons of my own including, around ten years ago working on the design team for a large windfarm, a flawed concept well engineered (at that point I had not twigged to the warming scam). The other was accepting the government’s “free” pink bats (fibre glass insulation) in your ceiling offer. My rationalisation – I had made the decision to install insulation prior to the government offer and certainly would have done so at my own expense.
Negatives aside, I believe you do us all a great service by helping expose the warming orthodoxy for the monumental scam that it is – all power to your arm in that endeavour.
I have always said that solar has interesting niche applications and maybe putting an array on a roof of a private residence isn’t all bad depending on the execution, local grid particulars, municipal power rates, and of course, eventual lifetime.
Putting them up on an industrial scale out in the desert – madness. Can’t ever work. I live in the desert southwest of the US. I can assure you, nothing like a solar panel could economically survive that environment for too long.
Please blog on your solar system periodically and let us know how it works for you and what it is like living beneath those panels. As a fellow engineer, I am particularly interested in their output over time, how much and what type of maintenance you perform (if any) and just how you like their performance.
The situation in Australia is that installation of PV is subsidised according to the notional amount of electricity generated during the life of the system. One certificate is “worth” (IIRC) 1MWh of electricity to be generated. There is an infeed rate as well, higher than what any sane person would pay for the electricity, but not as generous as in many other places.
I struggle however to find where the amounts actually being generated are being autdited. From the orientation of many systems that I can see from the road, I guess that they would struggle to meet even half of the “contracted” amount to be generated; despite the insolation peaking at 1.3kW/m^2 around here in summer. There is of course the potential of future governments to claw back the certificates from those who benefitted, if they don’t appear to be actually producing the contracted amount.
Those with grid-connect install to optimise annual gross generated; which means at about 22° off horizontal. Those who look to be potentially disconnected from the grid, optimise for winter insolation, at 45° off horizontal or more. (Cloudy days are less frequent than partially-cloudy or clear days, even in “winter”.)
Domestic PV is limited around here to 3kW (nominal) because the infeed can lead to instability and the electrical distribution network can’t balance across sub-stations with supplies on the consumer side. Upgrading the distribution network is a cost borne (unfairly) by everybody; and never taken into account by the promoters of PV.
In-feed PV here, as I understand it, is based on the nett electricty provided by the “consumer”. At least that minimise the consumption perversion where those with PV can draw much more off the grid than what they generate, while still getting paid to do so.
“Our home is ideally situated and so we decided to put 12 KW of rated capacity on our home.”
Ideally situated it may be … orientation is another fettle of kish altogether. None of the larger roof surfaces faces exactly South. Pretty good, but not ideal.
Nowhere near as bad as some around here in Western Australia, which are on SSE faces. If it weren’t for the shallower pitch, they’d really only be useful for collecting subsidies.
If the government wants to play a giant game of “let’s pretend,” and can force someone to pay for it, don’t leave the money on the table – (as dirty as it is).