Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Renting solar panels

Our local utility company asked the public service commission for a raise on costs of 9.54% on electricity and 4.96% on gas.  They always get what they request.  This means that if someone’s bill has been $100 they will now be paying $114.50.  If someone’s bill has been $200 it will now be $229.  Despite all the energy saving things I’ve done since I moved here my utility bill is still in the range of $150 a month.  This means I can now expect to pay $21.75 more each month.  That is a lot for a low income person who already struggles to pay the bills.

Our local utility company has offered customers who, for whatever reason, can’t have solar panels installed on their house an opportunity to rent solar panels from their new solar farm.  This would include apartment or house renters, houses with too  much shade, and other reasons for not being able to install the panels. Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it?  Sounds especially good to someone facing higher utility costs with an already strained budget.  The ability to have solar power even if you don’t own the panels.  I don’t trust a utility company to give anyone a bargain.  On the surface it appears to be a good idea but I’m not so sure.  I needed to know more about this before giving up a deposit I can’t really afford and committing to a year long contract that this would actually save me money.


The offer is to rent solar panels from the utility’s solar farm.  Each panel will produce between 18 and 38 kilowatt hours per month depending on the weather.  There is a $40 sign up fee and each rented panel will cost $6.29 per month on a year contract.  Excess wattage that is not used by the solar renter is used for the community but not given as credit on a future bill.  I don’t believe that the “community” part means low income people.  I believe it means it will be given to industries and businesses in our area.

I needed to do a little investigation into how this would benefit me if I sign up for the program.  For my investigation I used the figure of what a typical house uses per month of 1000 Kwh.  I used the average of maybe 20 Kwh produced per panel for easy math.  1000 divided by 20 is 50 panels needed.  Fifty panels at $6.29 each is $314.5o  That means if I am an average household I should rent 50 panels at a cost of $314.50 a month.  That is a lot.

My actual Kwh average in the seven months I’ve lived here is 447 Kwh per month.  (3129 divided by 7)  According to my math I’d need 23 panels producing at 20 Kwh each per month. I read I’d be required to rent in groups of 250 watts (about 12 panels at 20 kwh) per month.  I would need two sets to cover my average.  So 24 panels at $6.29 each is $150.96 monthly rent.  Last month my electric bill was $36.90 and this month it is $43.99.  Renting the solar panels would be far more than I pay now.  I do like the idea of green energy but not to benefit the pockets of the utility company.  Going green energy is not for the low income person or family who could benefit most from it.  Typical.  In order to save money you must have money.

I became curious about the solar calculator that the information pamphlet said I could find on the LG&E website.  I was curious if it would give me a different figure?   That’s where I saw the questions section and did some reading.  I read that other fees associated with using the rented solar panels would be added to the cost of renting the panels.  Fuel adjustment charges and solar capacity charges are two of them but there are other fees that would be added to the amount renters would pay.  These would be in addition to the existing extra fees already charged each month like the meter rentals and the cost adjustment fees.   Our utility company charges rent for the meters as I believe all of them do.   Here in Louisville, even if you have your utilities turned completely off and never use them, you are charged a rental fee for having the meters.  Removing the meters is not allowed.

I copied this estimated quote from the LGE solar calculator for 24 panels (2 sets) I estimated I would need to cover my average monthly Kwh usage.  The enrollment fee alone is far more than my current yearly electricity costs.

Solar Share Program calculator results

Initial, non-refundable enrollment feeShares (24) x $40 $960
Monthly capacity chargeShares (24) x 6.29 $150.96
Monthly solar creditShares (24) x rate (0.0402) x kWh (18-38) $17.37 – 36.66
Estimated monthly charge
(includes solar credit)*
$114 – 134

Their calculator tells me I’d be paying an estimated $114 to $134 a month after the solar is deducted and before adding the extra fees.  No way could I even consider paying $960 non-refundable enrollment fee.  That’s a bit too rich for my budget.  So now I know.  Renting solar panels from a utility owned solar farm is NOT going to be a financial benefit for anyone but the utility company.  It could be a possible charity deduction for the rich?  Not sure about that.  Keep this in mind if your local utility decides to build a solar energy farm near you.  Do your research first.  In my opinion this is another case of the rich get richer and the poor do without.  In my personal opinion the utility company would benefit a great deal more if the green energy was used to help the low income person or family lower their monthly bills.  I don’t know of a single low income person who would not jump at a chance to lower their utility bill if given the right opportunity and incentive.



18 comments on “Renting solar panels

  1. ermadunk
    January 28, 2017

    I got a $2.00 raise on ss and water company raised everyone bill by $3.00 but we were lucky they were talking about a $20, raise on everyone bill

    • Anita
      January 29, 2017

      Just wait a bit, the utility company will get that $20 in $2 raises at a time. Nickel and dime it through.

  2. Jackie
    January 21, 2017

    Wow! All that math made my head hurt! Lol! Good for you figuring it out before jumping! Smart gal.

    • Anita
      January 21, 2017

      It made my head spin a bit too but my curiosity had to be satisfied. I should have been a scientist.

  3. T
    January 20, 2017

    I think until any consumer is charged exactly the same electricity rate as another and the rate is published and advertised with no trickery most of their nonsense is designed to fool and rip off the consumer, whatever the company and whatever their purported motives eg ‘green energy’.

    I for one will be glad if all this ridiculous pricing cr*p is outlawed once and for all.

    If companies were really committed to green energy they would make it affordable and invest in it themselves, not just another gimmick to increase their profits.

    • Anita
      January 21, 2017

      I agree with you. Big companies, including utilities, care about only one thing…. money. No way will they ever care about the consumers. No profit in making utilities affordable for everyone.

  4. Kathy Thompson
    January 20, 2017

    Here in Arizona, where solar power is plentiful and ought to be Cheap, our Powers That Be (APS and Salt River Electric) have asked the commission for higher rates, especially for solar rooftop owners in order to “pay their fair share” of maintenance on the grid. NO opting out, either, even if you choose not to sell your excess. “They” will apparently do all they can to block the green or less expensive alternatives.

    • Anita
      January 21, 2017

      Yeah, that’s ridiculous. Why would someone be required to pay for something they don’t use? That’s sorta like asking the neighbors to pay for maintenance on your house in order to pay their fair share of keeping the neighborhood nice looking. Corporate greed!

  5. captnmike
    January 20, 2017

    Seattle City Light has a renewable energy option you can signup for – costs more than standard power but you can set a low % of your bill – I signed up to have some of my electric needs come from renewable – figure a few bucks a month is not too bad to encourage developing renewable energy

    some renewable’s are less expensive than traditional sources – but that is at the wholesale level – price to consumers stays the same most of the time I think – Wind is getting more popular – Texas has a lot of wind farms

    good luck – have you checked with your utilities? – some used to have insulation credits for customers and sometimes low income programs also

    • Anita
      January 22, 2017

      Yes, we have an insulation program here but its a one time deal and I already used it at the old house. I did apply for the low income heat assistance and got a small check but that is only once a year. I wouldn’t mind contributing to the renewable energy cause if I had the extra money to do it. The trouble is that the program in my area doesn’t work for low income households. Its either all or none. No low % of the bill.

  6. mem37814
    January 20, 2017

    I,too would love to have solar.I read about the solar panels on vans where people are boon docking.but so far I can not afford. I have also studied where they take the cola cans,paint black and do a homemade heat collector for the house..YOU TUBE explains it best..So i keep doing layered clothes,open-shut blinds etc.,keep heat set on 67 winter,79 summer and learn to enjoy. Keep up the good work, Anita

    • Anita
      January 20, 2017

      Yes, those can heat collectors were around during the 70s too. I don’t believe the cans are really necessary though. A simple black box works too. In the 70s people would paint gallon milk jugs black and put them in green houses to get hot during the day then give off their heat at night. The 70s were the big alternative energy days.

  7. Linda S
    January 20, 2017

    They are building a solar “farm” south of Boise & I was so pleased until I got the invitation to “buy a subscription”. What a crock.

    • Anita
      January 20, 2017

      I believe the solar farms are cropping up in several states along with a few wind farms. None seem to benefit the homeowner or low income houses.

  8. Donna
    January 20, 2017

    What a ripoff! Good thing you did your homework. I too am always suspicious of those wonderful opportunities offered. Once again everything gets raised but our SS.

    • Anita
      January 20, 2017

      You are so right about that!

  9. Cynthia
    January 20, 2017

    I agree, one must always read the details and most of the time the initial info is too good to be true. We would love to have solar panels as we live in the South and have plenty of sun, have looked into a few programs, and every one of them ends up too expensive. When I lived in Minnesota for about $1 extra a month one could buy wind energy and I always felt that was money well spent.

    • Anita
      January 20, 2017

      I’ve been a fan of solar since the early 70s but its always been too costly for my budget. I sure would like to know more about the wind energy program of Minnesota. I’d like to read more about it. Do you know if its still being used and available to read about it online?

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