Solar Installs and the Federal Tax Credit

John Slaby

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#1
So, this is a bit off the topic, but I respect the opinions of this group so I'm going to ask you anyway.

As a result of becoming part of the Model 3 illuminati, I have become much more environmentally aware and have decided to take the plunge and get solar (with a goal of becoming grid-independent). I have evaluated a number of providers and, while the bias is probably evident, I have decided to go with Tesla.

Here's the problem. As a result of Tesla's support for Puerto Rico's energy crisis, powerwalls are in short supply. To get a solar installation with a powerwall will require me to wait until at least the first quarter of 2018. Just so you understand, I am totally in favor of this decision (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few), but we also have this administration who has just put out a new tax plan which, as a starting point, terminates the EV tax credit early. The federal solar tax credit is substantial (30%) and while it is not currently on the chopping block, I can see this as a really easy target for one of the compromises that will happen as they move forward trying to pass the bill. Even if they don't pass the bill until sometime in 2018, a retroactive end of the program is a real possibility, and then I'm out a lot of money.

So, my question is this. Would you move forward with the solar without the battery, to get installation complete before end-of-year to guarantee the tax credit of ~$13k, knowing that the cost of a separate installation of the battery is likely quite a bit more than doing it in one go, or would you work to the original plan and wait for the solar/battery combination in early 2018 and get both under the program assuming the credit is reasonably safe?
 
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3V Pilot

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#2
So, this is a bit off the topic, but I respect the opinions of this group so I'm going to ask you anyway.

As a result of becoming part of the Model 3 illuminati, I have become much more environmentally aware and have decided to take the plunge and get solar (with a goal of becoming grid-independent). I have evaluated a number of providers and, while the bias is probably evident, I have decided to go with Tesla.

Here's the problem. As a result of Tesla's support for Puerto Rico's energy crisis, powerwalls are in short supply. To get a solar installation with a powerwall will require me to wait until at least the first quarter of 2018. Just so you understand, I am totally in favor of this decision (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few), but we also have this administration who has just put out a new tax plan which, as a starting point, terminates the EV tax credit early. The federal solar tax credit is substantial (30%) and while it is not currently on the chopping block, I can see this as a really easy target for one of the compromises that will happen as they move forward trying to pass the bill. Even if they don't pass the bill until sometime in 2018, a retroactive end of the program is a real possibility, and then I'm out a lot of money.

So, my question is this. Would you move forward with the solar without the battery, to get installation complete before end-of-year to guarantee the tax credit of ~$13k, knowing that the cost of a separate installation of the battery is likely quite a bit more than doing it in one go, or would you work to the original plan and wait for the solar/battery combination in early 2018 and get both under the program assuming the credit is reasonably safe?
Don't worry John.....as a member of the Model 3 Illuminati with a good Star Trek quote thrown in for good measure....all you have to know is the secret handshake and all your tax problems will go away...lol.

Really, I wouldn't start to worry about changes that aren't even being talked about yet. How much more is it to add the battery on after the fact? If the price doesn't change that much go ahead and get it done this year and then no worries. However, you do realize that to be "off grid" it will take a lot more than one Powerwall, or do you mean by "grid independent" that you have enough juice to run a few lights and your refrigerator overnight, that is really what a single Powerwall will do for you. I had a 10.5kw system on my last house from Solar City, and loved it but it was before they started doing the Powerwall.
 

PatrickM

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#3
So, this is a bit off the topic, but I respect the opinions of this group so I'm going to ask you anyway. So, my question is this. Would you move forward with the solar without the battery, to get installation complete before end-of-year to guarantee the tax credit of ~$13k, knowing that the cost of a separate installation of the battery is likely quite a bit more than doing it in one go, or would you work to the original plan and wait for the solar/battery combination in early 2018 and get both under the program assuming the credit is reasonably safe?
I personally would get solar and then get the battery - for exactly the reason that you said. Plus Powerwalls were backordered before Puerto Rico. My father ordered two on the day that they launched and he still doesn't have them installed.

For what it's worth, I have solar from Solarcity (Tesla) and I am thrilled with it. I've had it for over 4 years and I'll be in the black on it (paid off the system with the energy produced) in a little over 3 more years - not counting referrals. I referred 11 other people and the only complaints that I got about all eleven people who ordered solar systems from Solarcity was that they overspec'd the system at the time of the sale and then had to back off when the engineers looked at it, and that they do a bit of a cookie-cutter install. But that's 12 people worth of complaints, and everything else that they have said has been more or less glowing... almost no complaints about anything and otherwise super happy people. We have all been pleased with the systems. They installation went quickly and professionally and looks great, the financing went smoothly, the system has been totally reliable and the output has matched the estimate almost exactly - although one snowy year they sent a check for under-production. I consider solar from Solarcity to be the best decision that I've made regarding upgrades to my house ever.
 
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MelindaV

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#4
So, my question is this. Would you move forward with the solar without the battery, to get installation complete before end-of-year to guarantee the tax credit of ~$13k, knowing that the cost of a separate installation of the battery is likely quite a bit more than doing it in one go, or would you work to the original plan and wait for the solar/battery combination in early 2018 and get both under the program assuming the credit is reasonably safe?
yes, get the solar installed now and wired to have the power walls added when available. for that matter, there are many (most?) current solar customers who have had a deposit down for power wall(s) for some time and are still waiting.
the Tesla Daily Podcast recently had a guest on who talked thru his experience with Tesla for his solar install and it did this exact thing. (show link)
 

Rusty

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#5
So, this is a bit off the topic, but I respect the opinions of this group so I'm going to ask you anyway.

As a result of becoming part of the Model 3 illuminati, I have become much more environmentally aware and have decided to take the plunge and get solar (with a goal of becoming grid-independent). I have evaluated a number of providers and, while the bias is probably evident, I have decided to go with Tesla.

Here's the problem. As a result of Tesla's support for Puerto Rico's energy crisis, powerwalls are in short supply. To get a solar installation with a powerwall will require me to wait until at least the first quarter of 2018. Just so you understand, I am totally in favor of this decision (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few), but we also have this administration who has just put out a new tax plan which, as a starting point, terminates the EV tax credit early. The federal solar tax credit is substantial (30%) and while it is not currently on the chopping block, I can see this as a really easy target for one of the compromises that will happen as they move forward trying to pass the bill. Even if they don't pass the bill until sometime in 2018, a retroactive end of the program is a real possibility, and then I'm out a lot of money.

So, my question is this. Would you move forward with the solar without the battery, to get installation complete before end-of-year to guarantee the tax credit of ~$13k, knowing that the cost of a separate installation of the battery is likely quite a bit more than doing it in one go, or would you work to the original plan and wait for the solar/battery combination in early 2018 and get both under the program assuming the credit is reasonably safe?
I would go ahead with solar. You spread your tax refund because you have to have the tax liability to get the refund and you get to start reaping the advantages of solar sooner.
 

John Slaby

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#6
Don't worry John.....as a member of the Model 3 Illuminati with a good Star Trek quote thrown in for good measure....all you have to know is the secret handshake and all your tax problems will go away...lol.

Really, I wouldn't start to worry about changes that aren't even being talked about yet. How much more is it to add the battery on after the fact? If the price doesn't change that much go ahead and get it done this year and then no worries. However, you do realize that to be "off grid" it will take a lot more than one Powerwall, or do you mean by "grid independent" that you have enough juice to run a few lights and your refrigerator overnight, that is really what a single Powerwall will do for you. I had a 10.5kw system on my last house from Solar City, and loved it but it was before they started doing the Powerwall.
Yes, I was not being specific about batteries for a couple of reasons. Right now, in Massachusetts, you can't use batteries for power unless the grid is down, so it is only a backup solution. I would start with one to have basic backup if needed. There is legislation which would require electric companies to allow this, but it is unclear when and if it will pass. I would actually need 3 powerwalls for full independence. One of the things I am doing is sizing my solar to support this, including the Model 3 needs. It seems you can't extend an existing system once installed, and I don't want to have to install a second system at a later date.
 

John Slaby

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#7
So, this is a bit off the topic, but I respect the opinions of this group so I'm going to ask you anyway.

As a result of becoming part of the Model 3 illuminati, I have become much more environmentally aware and have decided to take the plunge and get solar (with a goal of becoming grid-independent). I have evaluated a number of providers and, while the bias is probably evident, I have decided to go with Tesla.

Here's the problem. As a result of Tesla's support for Puerto Rico's energy crisis, powerwalls are in short supply. To get a solar installation with a powerwall will require me to wait until at least the first quarter of 2018. Just so you understand, I am totally in favor of this decision (the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few), but we also have this administration who has just put out a new tax plan which, as a starting point, terminates the EV tax credit early. The federal solar tax credit is substantial (30%) and while it is not currently on the chopping block, I can see this as a really easy target for one of the compromises that will happen as they move forward trying to pass the bill. Even if they don't pass the bill until sometime in 2018, a retroactive end of the program is a real possibility, and then I'm out a lot of money.

So, my question is this. Would you move forward with the solar without the battery, to get installation complete before end-of-year to guarantee the tax credit of ~$13k, knowing that the cost of a separate installation of the battery is likely quite a bit more than doing it in one go, or would you work to the original plan and wait for the solar/battery combination in early 2018 and get both under the program assuming the credit is reasonably safe?
Thanks for all of your feedback on this. With the delays people have already seen in getting a powerwall, it seems to make most sense to move forward as quickly as possible to get the solar installed to start taking advantage of the clean electricity. Then, as the powerall becomes available, add it on as basic backup in case of a grid outage. Eventually, I can add additional powerwalls to support my energy needs full-time once MA laws allow it.
 

John Slaby

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#9
Did not know that. Strange.
The Tesla engineer came by today to do the survey. We spoke about restrictions on using batteries while the grid is up, and he indicated it is not MA preventing it but National Grid, and they are in the middle of some litigation to get them to allow it. Eversource already allows it. So, it depends on your provider.
 

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#10
The Tesla engineer came by today to do the survey. We spoke about restrictions on using batteries while the grid is up, and he indicated it is not MA preventing it but National Grid, and they are in the middle of some litigation to get them to allow it. Eversource already allows it. So, it depends on your provider.
I got in touch with National Grid a few weeks ago about Time of Use. First, it is documented on their site and it states it IS available:
https://www9.nationalgridus.com/masselectric/home/rates/4_tou.asp
I contacted their web support and they responded and claimed yes it just takes a phone call to set up.
However when I called customer service (which admittedly is a different phone number) they just said NO they don't offer it and hung up.
So maybe it is somewhat in limbo. I will press harder when I am closer to delivery.


I have a few scenarios here.

1. Stay the course, use my Audi as a trade-in, and get my 1st Production Model 3 in my Dec-Feb time window.

2. Sell the Audi now to my interested 3rd party, purchase a CPO or alternatively, non-CPO used Model S. In this scenario, I'd drive the S for a year or so, and trade that in towards my P--D-L Model 3.

3. Sell the Audi now, since it will never be worth more, and just sit on the cash in a one-car household, until I know more about my First Production delivery date.
I vote for #2 :)
 

aronth5

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#11
I got in touch with National Grid a few weeks ago about Time of Use. First, it is documented on their site and it states it IS available:
https://www9.nationalgridus.com/masselectric/home/rates/4_tou.asp
I contacted their web support and they responded and claimed yes it just takes a phone call to set up.
However when I called customer service (which admittedly is a different phone number) they just said NO they don't offer it and hung up.
So maybe it is somewhat in limbo. I will press harder when I am closer to delivery.
I vote for #2 :)
When I checked it became apparent I didn't use enough kWh per month to qualify for their TOU program especially since I have solar panels.
"Any residential customer whose average usage exceeds 2,500 kWh/month for a 12 month period may elect to take service under this rat effective with installation of appropriate metering." This not surprising when the average US household only uses 901 kWh per month.
https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=97&t=3
 

JWardell

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#12
When I checked it became apparent I didn't use enough kWh per month to qualify for their TOU program especially since I have solar panels.
"Any residential customer whose average usage exceeds 2,500 kWh/month for a 12 month period may elect to take service under this rat effective with installation of appropriate metering." This not surprising when the average US household only uses 901 kWh per month.
https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=97&t=3
So does that mean you have to first use 2500kwh a month for a full year before you can even choose to get the rate? That is idiotic.

In fact I think this language changed since I looked into it a few weeks ago. They previously mentioned after the first 12 months you could choose to switch back to standard rates and get a refund for the difference if you ended up spending more with TOU
 

aronth5

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#13
So does that mean you have to first use 2500kwh a month for a full year before you can even choose to get the rate? That is idiotic.

In fact I think this language changed since I looked into it a few weeks ago. They previously mentioned after the first 12 months you could choose to switch back to standard rates and get a refund for the difference if you ended up spending more with TOU
I took that wording to mean they would review the last 12 months of usage to see if the residential homeowner qualified. The 2500 kWh qualifying number was there last year when I first looked into using TOU rates.
 

Topher

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#14
(with a goal of becoming grid-independent)
For most people, being grid-independent isn't much of an improvement. Having just experienced a week without power, it sure is nice to have a backup (I used my Prius), but you don't need a weeks worth of batteries at full usage, you need enough to limp along. The rest of the time, batteries aren't doing anything (again, for most people). Being connected to the grid is a lot like having unlimited free batteries (if you have net-metering).

the cost of a separate installation of the battery is likely quite a bit more than doing it in one go
I wouldn't expect much increase. All you are adding is another trip to your house and back. My solar install took most of a day, adding batteries might have pushed it to two anyway.

Make sure that batteries count for any tax credits.

Thank you kindly.
 

RandyS

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#15
So now that I've had solar for 3 years, I understand a lot better about how it works....Here is a graph of my annual solar output from June 1 2016 to June 1 2017. I have 24 panels with microinverters, and the system is about 7.2 kW DC . The peak AC output is about 5.5 kW or so. In general terms they produce about the same number of kWh that I consume in a year with two EVs (about 11,000 kWh). I don't have batteries, but am interested down the road....

You'll notice, though, that while the system produces plenty of energy in the summer (about 47 or 48 kWh daily at peak), in the winter time with the shorter days, angle of the sun, and weather conditions, the output of the system dips down to as low as 10 kWh on some days...

Anyways, I'm posting this to show that if you want your battery installation to be successful through the winter, you'll probably need more panels than you might think at first glance....
 

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John Slaby

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#16
Thanks again for all of the feedback. This has helped clarify my energy goals which are: 1) getting solar so that we have a (very) small electric bill by the time we retire. By purchasing solar now, we will have paid off the investment and will be seeing savings before and into our retirement. 2) getting battery backup for power outages. While it doesn't happen very often, I want an alternative to a gas-powered generator when the power does go out. While batteries are an expensive alternative, they meet my clean energy goals and that is worth the extra investment to me. 3) take advantage of net-metering to effectively limit the cost of energy from the utility during the time the panels are not producing. It would be nice to be able to use the batteries to power the house during those times (and have even less dependence on Nat'l Grid) but it is not a short-term goal. In any event, you have helped me feel much more comfortable about my decisions and the direction we are moving as a family to cleaner energy.