Solar surplus- A conundrum

Boone Guyton

We have now had a battery back up and enlarged solar system for about 6 months and have driven our electric LEAF for about 5,000 miles over that time.   We also bought and EGO self propelled electric lawn mower that I should be using right now. I talked about that awhile back-

At the end of the net-metered year which comes on May 31 we had over 600 Kwh surplus generated from our solar system. On that date the unused credits that we had built up through the year transfers to Duke without compensation. It is sort of weird but that is how it works. Environmentally it means we have just donated 600 kwh of solar electricity to Duke so they won’t need to generate as much from gas or coal which is not a bad thing though it is not a choice. Where those kilowatts go is a little vague but basically –  “what happens when solar panels generate more electricity than the homeowner can use during the day – is that, in an area that has net metering, the excess electricity flows back to the grid to serve nearby neighbors while your meter essentially runs backwards.”


So basically we have some surplus we can work with and that is partly why we went for the electric lawnmower  and are now looking at other electric tools like an electric chainsaw. That would not be a big user as we probably run our chainsaw about 5 hours a year and are hoping to keep it at that or less. We are basically frustrated with our fairly new chainsaw that has always been frustrating to start.   In the 5 years we have had it we have had it in the shop 4 times. I have had older chainsaws that were so much easier to start. So we could get a EGO battery powered 16inch chainsaw that has the same battery and charger as our mower. With two 56volt batteries there would be little, if any downtime for the amount we use it. That would not absorb many Kwhs of our surplus but I know it would start a lot easier and be quieter and not spew the 2 cycle gas and oil mix exhaust fumes. “ Two-stroke oil is expensive, and you need about 4 ounces of it per gallon of gas. You would burn about a gallon of oil every 1,000 miles if you used a two-stroke engine in a car.”

The next consideration is our weed eater. We use it about 4-5 hours a month May-September or 30hours total. The Ego with compatible battery takes less than .50 kwh per charge so the total consumption is around15 Kwh. Not much of a dent in our 600 Kwh surplus. Our 2 cycle gas/oil weed eater is 6 years old and they pollute more with age.   The biggest drawback would be that I don’t think the battery version can handle a brush blade which we use rarely but it is nice to have now and then.

Basically I think there are good reasons to switch to the solar powered battery powered equipment, less noise and less pollution but it will not dent our surplus. Also the 600 Kwh surplus may not be real by next year. We didn’t get our electric car until February and so we haven’t had it for the hardest months for running it, November,December and January. Solar production is low during those months and the electric car gets worse range when the heater and/ or defroster are used. Still 600 Kwh translates into about 2,000 miles of range for the LEAF, which is a nice buffer. Probably enough left over for the chainsaw and weed eater. IF we trade up to a 200 mile range car all bets are off.

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Boone Guyton