Solar Panel Project – Inception

I have been wanting to setup solar panels for several years now. It all started way back in August 2015 when for the first time the electricity bill touched Rs. 2,000. We don’t even have air conditioner so what gives? At this point I started looking at the past bills and noticed the slow rise in unit rates. If you are interested, I already wrote a post on the inflation of electricity bill. That got me thinking if it is time for some solar panels.


The start of the journey

So in 2015 I started my research into solar power. I made estimates of how much it would cost to buy panels and how long it will take to recover the cost by saving on electricity bills. According to my calculations in 2015, it did not seem like a good investment since the price of solar panels is far too high.


In 2016, I called up a couple of companies that install solar panels. The best quote they gave me was Rs. 48,000 for installation of 500 W panels. I made some mental calculations and was still not satisfied with the return on investment. This was also the time I was aggressively pursuing early retirement. So I did not want any distractions.


Then in 2017, as the retirement date was nearing, I wanted to see if I should go solar before I retire. I again made some calculations. If I setup 1 KW solar panels, I could be saving about Rs. 9000 per year. And the cost of setting up 1 KW solar panels is almost Rs. 90,000. So it would take at least 10 years to just break-even. The assumption was that the electricity bill inflation will cancel out any returns I could get out of my initial investment into solar panels. I was still not happy with this return on investment.


Post retirement

After retiring in 2018, I took the solar panel project quite seriously. I made an exhaustive list of costs, savings, return on investment (in years) etc. The goal was that if I could come up with a configuration that will give back my return on investment in 5 years, I will go for it. I hashed out different plans. How much it would cost if I start small (say 250 W solar panel) and then increase it later. What if I did the whole project myself instead of hiring someone to do it? I prepared a spreadsheet to track all that.



Every year since 2018 I would track the costs until in 2020 the costs came down so much so that I could break-even in 5 years or less. This is was the plan

No. of units consumed in Jan 2020229
Number of 335W panels planned3
Solar panels will generate these many units120.6
Units used from grid108.4

We were consuming an average of 229 units per month in 2020. Using 1000 W solar energy (three 335 W panels), we can generate around 120 units. The cost to setup a 1 KW solar farm as quoted by a solar installation company is as follows

Panels28950
Solar converter kit2395
Mounting structures5500
Installation6000
*Batteries and UPS not requrired since we already have them
Tax7712
Total50557

And the number of years it would take to recover the cost came out to about 5 years! So that was the plan.



Conclusion

I was all ready to go for the solar panel installation in 2020. Unfortunately COVID-19 happened and we went into a lock down. A lot of things become uncertain and the more troubling fact was that I am coping with a few other lows in 2020. See the following posts for details


So I postponed the project to 2021. Unfortunately, this year did not turn out to be that great either (financially speaking) :). Will explain in some other post. Anyway, even with mounting set-backs I decided to go forward with the project. More details in my next post. Interestingly I came across an article that mentioned that the electricity tariff is going to be hiked by an average of 30 paise in Karnataka soon. So this project is starting at a good time!



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7 thoughts on “Solar Panel Project – Inception”

  1. I have been on the same boat as well. Have been running the numbers and following the developments of the panel quality & price change.

    My requriement however, is slightly bigger comapred to your’s with atleast the capability to run 1 AC at a time, if not 2. I talked to the Loom Solar guys about totally going off-grid.

    They suggested I would need a 4KW setup which would cost me somewhere to the north of 4.5L!

    We otherwise pay around 3-3k/month as our electricity bill.

    As of now, I am back to re-running the numbers again and re-evaluating my requirements to see if I can bring the required consumption down.

    Look forward to seeing what you decide to do.

    Cheers!

  2. Nice! I don’t know if going completely off-grid is workable with such high consumption. You will need decently sized batteries to cope with cloudy days and nights. A 4KW setup seems correct and the cost is reasonable too because you will need at least 4 batteries. Do let me know when you decide your plan.

  3. Yeah, cost wise it makes sense however, I am not sure if I would want to put that kind of money without re-reunning the numbers once more.

    By offgrid, I meant I will still have the grid connection but with the facility for me to manually turn it off.

    Since the part of the country I belong to (Assam), we generally have good sunlight throughout the year, save for, say, 3-4 weeks a year during the monsoons when its dark.

    That’s when I can manually turn on the grid which can take over.

    I am still in the planning phase and I am pretty sure your setup will be done well befor me 🙂

    Look forward to reading how your one goes 🙂

  4. Yes makes sense to run the numbers again. I understand now what you mean by going off-grid. BTW when you said Assam, a beautiful scenic greenery wrapped my eyes :). Lucky you. My setup is actually already done (mostly). I am writing retrospectively. All the best for your journey. Hope my posts help you.

  5. Thank you, it’s indeed beautiful here and one of the lucky ones on that front 🙂
    So, here’s some greenery for your eyes – https://www.flickr.com/photos/hackernewbie/42120555690/ 🙂

    I was in Bangalore for around a decade & in the US for a while but then decided to head back … I wrote about it here, in case you want to waste a few minutes – https://webguy.in/life-2-0-bye-bye-bangalore/

    Read your latest post before reading the comment so, I ‘already’ know you writing it retrospectively 😉

    Nonetheless, I am taking it as a guide and following it keenly 🙂

    Cheers!

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