mctom987
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Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Wed Jul 02, 2014 3:22 pm

Looking for more information on Plugged Solar. What information I've found so far has been marketing and hype, but nothing technical about the install.

Basically, at $3500 for the 1.5kW kit, around 1/10 the cost of a typical system. This alone makes the kit massively appealing. Sure, you won't get 100% bill reduction, but it's a nice step.

My main concern is the legality of such an install. The main selling point is the fact it's an appliance, and doesn't need any permits or certifications (much like plugging in a microwave or space heater). However, specifically with solar, regulations vary state by state, and even more granular at a city by city level. This is where it becomes very grey on legality.

The information I can find from electric providers is more oriented to larger installs that can't just be connected to a standard outlet. Most of what PG&E says vaguely references "Net Metering" but doesn't go into detail about how it works on my current rate plan (EV-A). I honestly don't know if I need a new meter in order for it to actually turn backwards.

I have PG&E, and live in Milpitas, CA, a city in Santa Clara County.
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2k1Toaster
Posts: 464
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Leaf Number: 420903

Re: Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Wed Jul 02, 2014 6:00 pm

mctom987 wrote:Looking for more information on Plugged Solar. What information I've found so far has been marketing and hype, but nothing technical about the install.

Basically, at $3500 for the 1.5kW kit, around 1/10 the cost of a typical system. This alone makes the kit massively appealing. Sure, you won't get 100% bill reduction, but it's a nice step.

My main concern is the legality of such an install. The main selling point is the fact it's an appliance, and doesn't need any permits or certifications (much like plugging in a microwave or space heater). However, specifically with solar, regulations vary state by state, and even more granular at a city by city level. This is where it becomes very grey on legality.

The information I can find from electric providers is more oriented to larger installs that can't just be connected to a standard outlet. Most of what PG&E says vaguely references "Net Metering" but doesn't go into detail about how it works on my current rate plan (EV-A). I honestly don't know if I need a new meter in order for it to actually turn backwards.

I have PG&E, and live in Milpitas, CA, a city in Santa Clara County.


Old meters (long long long ago) had mechanical gears. They only clicked one direction and prevented people from winding them backwards. Then there was a span of a couple decades where we had mixed electrical meters using sensors to dials or screens. Some of these could go backwards or forwards. But every meter in my area was replaced with meters (almost 10 years ago) that do not allow spinning backwards ("anti-theft"). In fact, they take the absolute value of the amps flowing through the sensor.

So if you pump power into the grid, they CHARGE you for that power you freely created as if you consumed it. You need a net meter.

Now when you ask your utility company for a net meter, they are going to say no unless there is a reason. Good luck explaining that you want to hack in a grid tie system without their approval. You will most likely get put on a black list and people will be out checking your meter and property more often.

I bought 4 dented panels (they wouldn't mount in a normal roof system because the rails were deformed), mounted them on wood 2x4's in the back yard and connected them to individual MPPT inverters that plugged into the wall. I actually plugged them into the wall via a Kill-a-watt to measure my production. They are anti-islanding which is good, but you better be sure to use all that power. My 4 250W panels put out about 500W in indirect light and upwards of 1200W in the winter when it is cold. Yes, more than the max rating after conversion losses. But my servers suck up about 2KW just sitting there so I am never producing as much as I am using.

I did verify that by unplugging my server (and letting it run on battery backup for the experiment) with no house loads (turned off at the breaker except the circuit in the garage which had nothing else plugged in) my utility meter was counting UP as the sun produced power. So in effect I was being charged for making my own power. Plug the server back in and it still went up, just not as fast as it otherwise would.

Tomorrow should be my final inspection for my 10.1KW system and hopefully the day the grid connection switch gets flipped.
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smkettner
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Location: Orange County, CA

Re: Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Wed Jul 02, 2014 7:52 pm

mctom987 wrote:Basically, at $3500 for the 1.5kW kit, around 1/10 the cost of a typical system. This alone makes the kit massively appealing.

You can get 1,500w of panels for $1,275 and an inverter for $1,500. What else is in the kit?
Also typical system is under $6 per watt installed, permitted and inspected. Nowhere close to $23 per watt (10x). Does the kit come with roof installation?
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RegGuheert
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Re: Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Thu Jul 03, 2014 3:27 am

I guess I don't see the attraction. As 2k1 says, the anti-theft feature on your meter will cause you to *pay* for any electricity you produce above what you consume (which may not be much with a 1.5 kW system since your house may be able to consume most, if not all, of that). But as smkettner says, the price is not great. You can go do eBay today and purchase a kit with everything you need to mount the panels including the microinverters for less than $2/watt. The only thing not included is a plug. Yes, the wiring does require some specialized skill, but you can learn that easily.

Frankly, it is nice to have it all hard-wired in and blessed by the utility so that when they come knocking on the door and ask about your bill, you are covered. (And my utility did just that before I got our system approved when I was away on a business trip!) Just remember, the utility owns the wires that the electricity would go out on and they have a vested interest in knowing how much where the generation is and that it is safe for their linemen.

And I don't think most utilities are as negative and heavy-handed about grid-tied PV as was once the case.
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BrockWI
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Re: Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Thu Jul 03, 2014 6:45 am

Our meter is also one that only counts power movement in or out and charges us for it in either direction. Our house setup has most of the loads downstream of our inverter (xantrex XW6048) and I have the inverter set to only add the excess solar power it's power downstream loads and not push back out to the grid (sell). About 80% of the time the house uses more power than the panels put out, but we also do laundry, run dishwashers and such when it's sunny out for just that reason. If it is really sunny and have no other loads and the leaf is at home I will plug it in to the trickle charger.

We are in the same situation that grid tieing wasn't economical, right now solar off sets out on peak or high demand rates of 22 cents a kwh, basically we have no load at those times essentially paying us the 22 cents per kwh, while if we were grid tied through a utility required second meter we would get 4.5 cents per kwh and have to pay 22 cents per kwh for what we used. Also with a grid tie solar setup if the grid went down we wouldn't have access (without a lot of re-wiring) to the grid tied solar power.

Our main reason for solar for us was for automatic backup in the event of a grid outage. There have been many times our neighbors commented on the power being out for a few hours and we never knew it. I look at our solar setup like a good stand-by genset that can produce power when its sunny and eventually pay for part of itself as opposed to a genset that requires fuel and makes noise and can't ever pay anything towards itself.
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mctom987
Posts: 333
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Re: Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Thu Jul 03, 2014 8:38 am

smkettner wrote:
mctom987 wrote:Basically, at $3500 for the 1.5kW kit, around 1/10 the cost of a typical system. This alone makes the kit massively appealing.

You can get 1,500w of panels for $1,275 and an inverter for $1,500. What else is in the kit?
Also typical system is under $6 per watt installed, permitted and inspected. Nowhere close to $23 per watt (10x). Does the kit come with roof installation?

Yes, the only thing not included is the labor. It's supposed to be simple enough for a DIY job.

Typical system > 1.5kW
Most installers have a minimum size, 2-3kW seems to be common. At $6/W, 6kW would be $36k. This is what I was referring to.

2k1Toaster wrote:So if you pump power into the grid, they CHARGE you for that power you freely created as if you consumed it. You need a net meter.

Now when you ask your utility company for a net meter, they are going to say no unless there is a reason. Good luck explaining that you want to hack in a grid tie system without their approval. You will most likely get put on a black list and people will be out checking your meter and property more often.

That's what I was thinking, but wasn't sure.

2k1Toaster wrote:I did verify that by unplugging my server (and letting it run on battery backup for the experiment) with no house loads (turned off at the breaker except the circuit in the garage which had nothing else plugged in) my utility meter was counting UP as the sun produced power. So in effect I was being charged for making my own power. Plug the server back in and it still went up, just not as fast as it otherwise would.

Good to know. I actually have my servers in a datacenter, which with PG&E rates is actually cheaper… (:
The "backwards reverse" is what I was afraid of. I don't have a huge load during the day (I'm at work), so it would probably mostly feed back into the system. Though, it sounds like I could then run my air conditioner 24/7 and not worry about the electric bill :D
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July: 1443.8mi, 4.8mi/kWh
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Nekota
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Re: Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Sat Jul 05, 2014 2:49 am

mctom987 wrote:
smkettner wrote:
mctom987 wrote:Basically, at $3500 for the 1.5kW kit, around 1/10 the cost of a typical system. This alone makes the kit massively appealing.

You can get 1,500w of panels for $1,275 and an inverter for $1,500. What else is in the kit?
Also typical system is under $6 per watt installed, permitted and inspected. Nowhere close to $23 per watt (10x). Does the kit come with roof installation?

Yes, the only thing not included is the labor. It's supposed to be simple enough for a DIY job.

Typical system > 1.5kW
Most installers have a minimum size, 2-3kW seems to be common. At $6/W, 6kW would be $36k. This is what I was referring to.

2k1Toaster wrote:So if you pump power into the grid, they CHARGE you for that power you freely created as if you consumed it. You need a net meter.

Now when you ask your utility company for a net meter, they are going to say no unless there is a reason. Good luck explaining that you want to hack in a grid tie system without their approval. You will most likely get put on a black list and people will be out checking your meter and property more often.

That's what I was thinking, but wasn't sure.

2k1Toaster wrote:I did verify that by unplugging my server (and letting it run on battery backup for the experiment) with no house loads (turned off at the breaker except the circuit in the garage which had nothing else plugged in) my utility meter was counting UP as the sun produced power. So in effect I was being charged for making my own power. Plug the server back in and it still went up, just not as fast as it otherwise would.

Good to know. I actually have my servers in a datacenter, which with PG&E rates is actually cheaper… (:
The "backwards reverse" is what I was afraid of. I don't have a huge load during the day (I'm at work), so it would probably mostly feed back into the system. Though, it sounds like I could then run my air conditioner 24/7 and not worry about the electric bill :D


Before PG&E upgraded my SmartMeter to a NEM meter the meter would show negative power generation but stopped at zero output. It did not add the negative energy back to my meter as suggested by others. A coworker of mine did a self install but it did not pass the city codes and therefore was not registered by PG&E for NEM. He replaced the smartmeter with the analog 'spinning disk' meter which does run backwards and gives credit for the negative energy produced. But he gets a one for one kwhr on PG&E E1.
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foolios
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Re: Plugged Solar - Appliance type solar electric

Thu Jul 17, 2014 10:00 pm

Gotta be real careful playing with the plug-in stuff. If that plugged in generation is not put into a branch that's at the end, it could be in the middle of a circuit. If there's amperage at one section coming from the utility and then there's the generated amperage going through that section to another load, the total amperage can be more than the wiring can handle. When this happens, the circuit breaker will not trip because it will not see the added amperage totaled with the rest of the usage, and it won't trip when the circuit is over what the breaker is suppose to trip at.

I'm not an authority on that kind of stuff, but some of that info may be a good heads up for someone who's utilizing that practice and needs the info for safety's sake.
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