Wednesday, November 25: The paperwork is done and the data is in: Adding a PV system is a good investment. If you've read Part 1 and Part 2 and are considering doing it yourself, this entry may be quite useful: It's all about paperwork and production. I'm not sure what to put in as images, but feel free to holler if you'd like something to look at.

Today I produced 4kWh of electricity. Not me really, the panels on the roof. The great thing is I didn't actually have to do anything for those 4kWh. A couple months have gone by and my small PV system has already produced 367kWh in total. It makes electricity when I'm home, when I'm away, when I'm watching it, or when I forget. And right now is the low-production time of year- 6 months from now daily production will be twice as high.

"So," you might say, as it is a popular prefix these days, "what does that mean in dollars and cents?"

The first electric bill arrived: $7.05. The electric bill for the same period last year: $52.37. The difference: $45.32, in a below-average production month (Past Fall equinox). Let's look at the cost breakdown in a little more detail.

Last year's bill: 200 kWh @ $0.0676070, 332 kWh @ $0.0820370, plus fees: $52.37
This year's bill: 200 kWh @ $0.0732540, 94 kWh @ $0.0956840, plus fees: $30.06
REC: 177 kWh @ $0.13: $23.01
Total: $30.06 - $23.01 = $7.05.

There's a bunch of things that really stick out in the above data. The three I consider significant:

1. Electricity cost less last year, about 11% less infact. That means any kWh I bought this year cost me more, making the savings all the more significant. And that price is only going up.

2. On the surface it looks like I used 238 kWh less, but most of that is from the meter spinning backward. The REC meter spins forward one for every time the main meter spins backwards, meaning by adding the REC total (177) one gets actual usage: 471. So it's true, I used 61 kWh less ($5.84) for the month this year than last. This is largely attributable to conservation efforts since last year, and possibly to mild weather.

3. REC payments are sweet. A few more kWh and PNM would have been sending me a check for using some of their electricity. Going by my bill history, this is going to happen some of the months in late Spring/Summer. Nice.

So, that's production. I'm still confident on making about 2 megaWatt hours a year (Though I can't help but think this 1kW system is going to become a 2 or 3kW system come this spring).

Let's talk about paperwork. There's a lot of it, but you only need to do a little bit at a time. Items 1-8 re-summarize the previous two blogs, but it's all here for the sake of keeping it all in one place.

1. Design a PV system with the help of your local neighborhood PV business. Do not purchase yet.

2. Read everything at PNM's Solar Webpage. Once you're done, complete the application form.

3. In a couple weeks, PNM will send you an acceptance (Or rejection, I suppose) letter. If they reject the system, they'll tell you what's wrong so you can fix it and resubmit. There's no cost to make changes and resubmit. Once you have acceptance, complete the order for the parts in step 1.

4. Shortly after your acceptance notice, you will get a contract from PNM is the mail. It's your application plus a few extra pages of legal terms, laying out exactly how many years they'll be providing REC credits. Sign this and return it to PNM.

5. If you're doing the wiring yourself, you'll need to get a permit for the work. I paid a contractor to do this for me, but a friend successfully did it himself. If you aren't a licensed electrician there is an open-book exam you have to successfully complete to obtain the permit. I'm told the exam is very easy (It asks you to copy sections from the NEC and local wriing codes) , so if you understand electricity but don't have a license, it should be easy to pass this test.

6. Do the installation. When you're done, call the city (or have your electrician call the city) to tell them it's ready for inspection. Current turnaround time is 1-2 days. They will inspect everything. If you pass, they put a green sticker on your cutoff switch and notify PNM that you've passed. Be sure you're home for the inspection- inspectors may not do their thing if nobody is home to give them access.

7. A few days will go by before PNM's meter department comes and installs the REC meter. If they don't show up in a couple days, call PNM to ensure the city notified them. Sometimes they forget. Infact, just call PNM after the green sticker is on so somebody on their side knows to look out for the city's notice.

8. Once the meter is on, PNM's solar team will do a final inspection, possibly on the same day, especially if you call them up and ask nicely. Congratulations, you're now making electricity.

And now for some real paperwork.

9. Register your solar rights. Download the declaration from the ECMD site. I found this to be the most confusing task, but got through it by asking questions of both the ECMD people and a supervisor at the County Clerk's office. Here's a breakdown of what to do:

9.1 Fill in the information on the first page, including the names and addresses of the property owners who the solar right might affect. In case you're wondering, that's anybody South, East, or West of you. The neighbor to the south of me is a tenant, so I looked up and used the actual the owner information on Bernco's Site.

9.2 Take the site map from your original PNM application and include boundary information about where the panels are on your property, including elevation.

9.3 Send a notice to the affected neighbors that you're planning on registering your solar rights. This needs to be sent certified mail with a return receipt. I have a good rapport with my affected neighbors and they already knew this was coming. They don't have to consent to your application- all that is required is proof that they received notice.

9.4 Print the document and have it notarized. Most banks have a notary on staff and will provide this service for free to their account holders. NMEFCU does this, for example.

9.4 When the return receipt comes back to you, go to the County Clerk's Office and have them record the document, including the declaration, map, notarized signatures, certified mail receipt and return receipt.

9.5 If your neighbors don't protest the declaration in 60 days, the solar rights are yours. Nobody may plant a tree, add a structure, or otherwise do something on their property that will materially impair your installation's ability to receive sunlight.

10. About a month after going live (Hey, they're busy), PNM will send back the duly signed contract from step 4. You'll need this for state tax purposes. The state requires a great deal of documentation in order to provide that 10% rebate. Fortunately, you already have the documentation, it's just in PNM format. Here's what you'll need to do:

10.1 Visit the forms section of the ECMD web site. Download System Certification, System Installation, Statement of Understanding, and the PV List Form.

10.2 Take a few digital pictures of your installed system. This should include the panels, inverters, meter box, cutoff switch, and anything else you're claiming a receipt on. Also take a picture of your green city inspection sticker- this will do in lieu of getting the inspector to sign your document as it asks.

10.3 For the Statement of Understanding, just sign it if you did the install yourself. Have the contractor sign it if they did the install.

10.4 For the PV List Form, fill in the data the same as you did for the PNM application. On question 4 you can be a little loose with the data. I used "Tilt is 12 degrees south, panels follow E-W orientation of the house." If you want to be pedantic, there are some handy online sites that will tell you when true noon is, at which time you can figure out solar-north by measuring shadow angle vs the actual panel installation. Or you can just go easy on yourself. Either way, you'll pass.

10.5 For the Solar Installation Form, fill in Taxpayer and System section. Check the box next to Contractor if you did the work yourself and leave it alone. Otherwise put in the contractor info and have them sign it. For Buliding Code Authority, the name of the inspector is on the Green Sticker. The city electric division's phone number is 505-924-3311. If you want to skip rounding up their signature, just take a picture of the sticker and include a printout of that picture. There's helpful information on how to fill all this out on page 2.

10.6 For the System Certification Form, you're essentially filling out 10.5 again. Add up all your receipts and include that value in the "Solar System Cost" section of the "Solar Systemdefinitely Information" section. Check Photovoltaic. Include your SSN so they can tell the state you're entitled to a refund. The checklist on page 2 of this document is killer. Use it, make sure you include everything, and you'll be set.

10.7 Print out all 4 documents, sign, date, throw in a manilla envelope. Make copies of your PNM interconnection agreement and include copies in the envelope. Include the site map and one-line diagram from the PNM application. Include pictures of the various parts. Include copies (not originals!) of your receipts. Mail it to the address listed on ECMD's main page.

10.8 About 2 weeks later you'll recieve a 1 page letter from ECMD notifying you of the amount you qualify for. This should be 10% of cost you claimed. Save this letter for your 2009 taxes.

11. For state taxes, take the ECMD later from 10.8 and combine it with The State Tax Credit Form. Or have your CPA do it for you.

12. For federal taxes, there is no application process, you simply claim the system on IRS Form 5695. Note that the 2009 version is still a draft form that won't be finalized until the end of the year. The 2008 form had a $2000 cap on residential systems, while the 2009 form has no limit (Thank you, stimulus bill). Give the PV system receipts to your CPA and let them do the magic on this one.

13. There is no thirteen. You're done. You're making electricity. You own sunlight. You're getting 40% of your system cost back from the state and federal governments. And while you're at it, why not reinvest that 40% into more panels next year? I know this all sounds like a lot, but remember this is something you'll be doing over the course of several months. Slow and steady, it's easy and worthwhile. Good luck.

Views: 193

Comment by ABQDWELL on November 26, 2009 at 10:06am
Great information. We installed a solar hot water system (done by 310 for $6,800 before 40% tax break) in June and our first gas bill with the system was $10.50 (about $40 less than the same period the year before). One negative. Several neighbors are complaining the panels are too visible. Their solution? Box it in. I had to laugh at that one. BTW they are both on our HOA board. Despite providing them information from the state that says HOAs have no jurisdiction on this they continue to look for ways to make us either take them down or mask them. Funny. But sad. Anyone else have a similar experience?
Comment by Brendan on November 26, 2009 at 10:30am
Abqdwell: I've certainly heard of HOAs trying to interfere with solar installations. It was enough of an issue that the 1978 Solar Rights act was amended in 2007 (Retroactive to 1978) that HOAs did not have the authority. The ECMD page has a succinct summary:

The amendments to the existing Solar Rights Act serve to prohibit cities from passing ordinances or codes and homeowners' associations from passing covenants that forbid solar installations, with the exception of historic districts.

A cease and desist letter from an attorney should go a long way toward taking care of this for you.
Comment by ABQDWELL on November 26, 2009 at 2:08pm
Thanks, Brendan. I actually provided that exact language to our board after their written request asking me to "mask" my panels. It has been two months since I have heard from them in writing but I have heard that these two "neighbors" continue to explore ways to get me to alter the panels. My next step is an attorney. In fact, a friend in another HOA controlled neighborhood did exactly that and never heard from his HOA again. I marvel at the antiquated thinking.
Comment by ABQDWELL on November 27, 2009 at 10:35am
I believe antenna's are banned. Satellite dishes must be hidden. I have fought them for three years on their lawn policy. They used to require that 50 percent of front yard be irrigated turf. I attempted to interpret this as allowing buffalo grass, a low water native grass. I received an email explaining that I would be sued if I installed this type of "irrigated turf." Unbelievable. I was also told that xeriscape devalues property values. I asked for empirical data on this. Of course, they couldn't provide it. I am confident I could have prevailed legally but wasn't willing to take the financial plunge at this point. I have got them to reduce the policy to 20 percent and recently ripped out much of my grass.

Several of our HOA board members make their living from lawn maintenance so it is very much in their interest to fight xeriscape policies. They are, of course, fighting a losing battle. I have detailed the region's increasing emphasis on water conservation with facts and figures but they seem to think that does not apply to them. As with many HOAs power is concentrated in the hands of a few regressive hands. Contradictions are the rule with this group: They argued: "People move here because of the grass." Then they argued: "If we get rid of the grass policy everyone will rip out their grass." You can't make this stuff up. They have done no polling of the residents on such issues so they have no idea if their views are shared by anyone but themselves. I suspect more than a few support the turf policy but I also suspect many would rip their grass out if given a chance.

I had to laugh when they challenged my solar panels. My response: Aren't you too busy looking at my grass to see anything on a roof? The truth is that on this issue it is really one board member (my neighbor) who feels it impacts his view from his deck. His house is at least 50 yards away. The irony is that he's the most vocal supporter of the grass policy (and one who is in the lawn maintenance business). What was really sad and I think cowardly was that instead of speaking with us to express his concerns he immediately had the board fire off a letter. And this is my immediate neighbor. At the risk of embarrassing our neighborhood I won't reveal its name but I will say that it rhymes with Rim Brose Rointe, is near the County Line Restaurant, and Double Eagle Elementary School.
Comment by stef on November 28, 2009 at 4:00am
Very good. Thanks for the important bureacratic links.
Comment by cc on November 28, 2009 at 7:45am
Brendan - just coming to this for first time - what a great service you have provided here - inspiration, too. Thanks!
Comment by Johnny_Mango on November 28, 2009 at 11:45am
I have been following this from the first. Thanks Brendan! Well done!
Comment by slamwagon on November 28, 2009 at 1:03pm
Thanks for detailing the process. This is a VERY valuable post (and poster).
Comment by Brendan on October 5, 2010 at 1:41pm
You only notarize it once. It's a weird document. I thought we need witnesses but evidently we did not. FYI, our neighbors changed their mind and protested the declaration after we filed so again be sure to talk to your neighbors before proceeding.
Comment by Brendan on October 5, 2010 at 1:49pm
I was likewise on a corner. The only conceivable light blocker would have been the neighbor to the immediate south so they were the ones I contacted. If your panels are high enough up that it's unlikely there will ever be a problem I wouldn't bother.


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