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.