How to Fuel Switch

Solar electricity

Solar electricity is at the heart of the Fuel Switch concept. Solar panels harness the power of the sun to create electricity without creating any harmful byproducts. Solar panels, also called photovoltaic (PV) systems, have no moving parts and are extremely reliable.

Net Metering

Net metering is an electricity exchange system whereby the solar energy your PV system harnesses during the day is used by your home, and any excess energy is pushed back on to your community’s electric system (known as “the grid”) to be used by your neighbors.

The main idea behind net metering is that your local electric utility company “buys” any of the extra solar energy produced from your solar PV system and resells it to your neighbors. The utility company “pays” you in credits for the power you send back to the grid. If you find yourself in need of extra electricity at any point, you can use your credits to buy back that energy.

In essence, your power company adds up the amount of energy you provide to their grid, subtracts the amount of energy the grid sends to you, and you either pay the difference or receive payment for the extra power you provided.

How does this help?

Net metering allows you to use your community’s energy grid as your own energy storage device. You help reduce the need for fossil fuel power by producing clean renewable energy that you can supply to the energy grid. Your energy meter keeps track of the clean power that you are creating for the grid, and you can easily get it back when and if you need it.

What about batteries?

Net metering removes the need for batteries that store excess solar energy because the grid itself acts as a storage device. There are some advantages, however, to having a battery system installed in your house. For instance, when electricity demand is high, the cost of power goes up, and when the demand is lower, the cost goes down. This variation in the costs of electricity throughout the day is called “time of use” rates. Some utilities in the US have mandatory time-of-use rates while others make it voluntary or are simply not available.

Having a charged battery system to hold your extra electricity can be financially helpful because it reduces the need to buy back electricity when its demand is highest and therefore most expensive. Additionally, battery backup systems can be used to power your home during a blackout. With a battery system in place, you will always have a store of power, which can be a big advantage in areas prone to power interruptions. Solar battery systems require minimal maintenance and derive their own fuel directly from the sun, making them superior to gas generators in terms of energy efficiency.

Is solar expensive?

Yes….but also, no!

The cost of solar power has gone down drastically in the last decade. Like most renewable energies, the costs of harnessing solar power are all upfront costs, as systems have very few (if any) upkeep costs over their lifetimes. Most solar panels are guaranteed to last 25 years, and many solar panels developed in the mid-1960’s as part of the Apollo space program are still functioning today!

Electricity is purchased by the kilowatt hour (kWh). In many areas, the cost of a kWh is about $0.12, increasing at an average rate of 3% per year. Broadly speaking, the average monthly electric bill is between $50 and $150 per month. When our experts size a solar PV system for a home, they assess the number of kWh it will produce in a given year, and the number of kWh it will produce over 25 years. More often than not, the 25-year cost of a kWh is well below today's retail rate, and we frequently see the 25-year cost of a kWh to be half of today's rates.

All of this means that by purchasing a solar PV system today, you are locking in the cost of your power for at least 25 years, and you are protecting yourself from the inevitable inflation of energy costs. Depending on how your solar PV system is financed, your monthly costs can be the same as today's power bills, and less expensive than future inflation-adjusted power bills.

The long term cost per kWh of a given rooftop PV system will vary based on

  1. the size of the system (larger systems cost less per kWh)
  2. the simplicity of the installation (one big array is less expensive than lots of smaller arrays) and
  3. the overall system efficiency (direction of panels, shading from trees, etc.).

To buy vs. lease

Leasing was very popular in years past, when the upfront cost of solar was vastly more expensive. Today though, for many of the same reasons that home ownership is preferable to renting, we believe in freeing yourself from the control of your power company by owning your power source.

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