NoTricksZone Goes Green

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”

  1. Paul

    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.

  2. matthu

    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.


  3. DirkH

    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.

  4. Paul Maynard

    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.

  5. Casper

    Pierre, what would you do if the roof of your house were on fire?

    1. Bruce of Newcastle
      1. Bernd Felsche

        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.

  6. Harry Dale Huffman

    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.

  7. WojciechM

    Dear Pierre,
    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

    1. DirkH

      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.

  8. DeNihilist

    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.

  9. Brian G Valentine

    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.

    1. Bernd Felsche

      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.

  10. Steffen Hentrich

    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.

    1. Ulrich Elkmann

      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…

  11. Steffen Hentrich

    @Ulrich: That’s what my spellchecker made out of Bastiat. Sorry.

    1. DirkH

      It is not uncommon to transliterate first names of famous personalities. Americans often refer to Friedrich Nietzsche as Frederic Nietzsche. Ulrich is pedantic.

      1. Steffen Hentrich

        No, he isn’t pedantic, I didn’t realize that my spellchecker took Bastiat and transformed it to Baptist.

        1. DirkH

          Oh. Didn’t see the “Baptist”.

          1. Ulrich Elkmann

            Déformation professionelle. When you spend your time proofreading academic publications and bibliographies…

  12. Bob in Castlemaine

    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.

  13. GregO

    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.


  14. Bernd Felsche

    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.

  15. Bernd Felsche

    Pierre wrote:
    “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.

  16. Joe

    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).

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