"Watching the wheel in our HELCO electricity meter spin backward is a lot of fun"
Back in 2006, we decided to look into purchasing a photovoltaic system. Our goals were to reduce our electricity bill, to reduce our carbon footprint and to contribute to the sustainability of our community. Our grandkids on the Mainland had reached fun ages and we were beginning to travel to visit them more. So, we also needed some offsets for the bad karma we were creating by causing a lot more pollution and global warming with our travel. (The amount of carbon dioxide generated by a roundtrip flight from Hawai’i to the middle of America is an eye-opening 4,000 pounds per person.)
At that point, the only company that would return our calls was ProVision Technologies, Inc. out of Hilo (969-3281). After investigating the situation, it looked like a net-metering photovoltaic system that would be connected to the HELCO grid might make sense. We decided to purchase a net-metering system that would generate almost as much power as we would need, but to have it installed in increments over a three year period, in order to maximize the percentage of the system that would be covered by State and Federal income tax credits. That would also let us try out the first third of the system the first year and see how much electricity it would produce here in rainy Waimea. I might note that as of 2009 there is no longer a dollar limit on the 30% Federal tax credit, so that changes the tax credit calculation for the better. That is why we waited until 2009 to install the last increment.
In sizing the system, we first replaced almost all of the light bulbs in the house with high-efficiency light bulbs. The payback from that investment was almost immediate at the high electricity costs we experience on Hawaii island. We could not replace bulbs that are controlled by dimmers or those that we need to turn on and off rapidly, because energy efficient bulbs do not work in those applications. We also purchased and used a Kill A Watt™ meter (now available for loan) to see how much electricity various appliances were using, which motivated us to replace an old refrigerator in our ohana dwelling with an Energy Star rated refrigerator that would pay for itself in energy savings in about three years.
Our energy consumption was still greater than most people’s houses because I have a home office with lots of equipment in it. Having two refrigerators and a freezer, plus a cable box and a towel warmer added extra load, too. It turned out we need a system with 27 solar panels instead of one with 16 panels that most people would need. Our inverter (the device that converts the direct current produced by the panels into alternating current) had to be larger than average, too. Our solar panels are installed at the same slope as the roof on the southwest-facing (back) roof of our garage. According to ProVision, that made more sense that tilting them up more to catch more sun. Having just experienced the October 2006 earthquake, we were easily convinced to tie the panels down to the roof securely.
In our situation, Federal and State tax credits paid for $23,316 of the system cost and we paid for $24,081. So, tax credits paid for 49 percent of the system cost. Most people would need a system that is only about 60 percent as big as ours, and that would be proportionally less expensive to purchase. The third increment was installed in February 2009, so we do not have any operating data on the whole system, but we can predict its performance from our monitoring of the operation of the first two increments. We record the cumulative amount of electricity produced (and greenhouse gases saved) as reported by the system at the end of every month to allow us to do that.
First, let me say that watching the wheel in our HELCO electricity meter spin backward is a lot of fun. If I had the time, I would be sitting out there all day staring at it. Unfortunately, HELCO replaced our old-fashioned meter with a fancy one (without a wheel) so it can keep track of the amount of electricity we use over each one-year period. That was done so we only get charged for the net amount of electricity we consume over that period, even if we go for a trip and switch off everything in the house, feeding all of the electricity produced by our system back into the grid.
Over the last 12 months, the first two increments generated an average of 454 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month. During that period of time, electricity cost us about 39 cents per kWh. So, the first two increments system allowed us to avoid paying HELCO $2,120 per year. If we ratio that up by 27/18 to account for production from all of the panels, the full system will allow us to avoid paying HELCO about $3,180 every year. So, if electricity costs remain the same, it will take about 7.6 years for the system to pay for itself. If electricity costs increase, it will take fewer years and vise versa. In that the system is warranted for 20 years, the system could (at current rates) produce about $39,400 in profit (tax free). Better than the stock market, huh? It will definitely reduce our household’s carbon footprint by about 8,200 pounds of carbon dioxide per year (that will offset two roundtrip flights to the Mainland per year).
Another way to look at the economics of the system is to calculate how much the electricity costs that it produces. In our case, the retirement money we invested in the system would have alternatively been invested in a municipal bond returning about 5 percent in interest. If we use that interest rate to determine the mortgage payment we would have to pay to finance the system over its 20 year life, we find that the electricity produced by the system costs us about 27 cents per kWh. That is about 31 percent less than the current cost of power we buy from HELCO of 39 cents per kWh. That works for us.
Yet another way to judge the economics of our investment is to use the rule of 72 to determine our rate of return. The rule of 72 states that “you can determine what your annual compound rate of return is by dividing 72 by the number of years it takes your money to double.” At the current cost of electricity, it will take about 15 years for us to double the investment we made in our system ($24,081 * 2 /$3,180 = 15 years). That means our (tax free) compound rate of return will be about 5 percent at the current electricity cost of about 39 cents per kWh. Our rate of return will be higher if electricity costs increase and lower if electricity costs decrease over the next 20 years. Compared to the rate of return of the rest of our investments these days, that looks like a pretty good deal.
Waimea, Big Island
"A worry free “turn-key” system and valuable advice"
We just received our first electricity bill since installation of the SunPower/Satcon Photovoltaic system and were pleased to see a significant reduction in energy usage. Considering the unusually cloudy/rainy weather we’ve had, it was surprising to see how efficiently the panels can capture energy. We expect the system to pay for itself in 4.5 years.
I must tell you how great it was to work with and Provision Technologies. With our refrigeration/freezer running at .47 cents a kilowatt hour, one of the highest in the nation, we were looking for alternatives but knew little about photovoltaics. Contracting Provision essentially provided us a worry free “turn-key” system and valuable advice like leveraging tax credits. Your engineering team and sub-contractors were the best; efficient, educating us, always keeping us “in the loop”. We had no business interruption and the installation finished weeks ahead of schedule.
Please extend our appreciation to the rest of your team for a job well done. We will not hesitate to recommend you to anyone interested in solar power for their home or business.
Friendly Market Center
"A true pleasure working with the professionals of ProVision"
ProVision Technologies, Inc. of Hilo, Hawai’i was hired in 2006 to design and implement four photovoltaic systems at our two stores, Molokai Drugs and Kamoi Snack-N-Go. One of the four systems was partially funded by a United States Department of Agriculture grant and required detailed planning and financial documentation during and after the completion of the project.
All of our systems were built under very tight timeframes during two build-out phases in 2007 and 2008. Marco Mangelsdorf, president, and his team of employees and subcontractors constructed the items based on our budget and deadlines. In fact, our systems were up and running prior to our established start dates.
It was a true pleasure working with the professionals of ProVision Technologies, Inc. We highly recommend them for commercial photovoltaic systems and would work again with ProVision Technologies for future projects.
Please free to contact me directly at 808-553-5790 (work), 808-553-5536 (home) or firstname.lastname@example.org if you need any additional information.
Molokai Drugs and Kamoi Snack-N-Go
"Every aspect of the installation was meticulous"
Woodbury Inspection Group Inc.
65-1170 Spencer Rd.
Kamuela Hawai’i 96743
808-322-5174 Fax 322-5178 Cell 640-1566
September 19, 2007
Woodbury Inspection Group Inc. has a reputation for being very particular with all aspects of construction and related installations. Photovoltaic systems are no exception. We expect the best and settle for nothing less. It is for this reason that we chose Provision Technologies to install a net metering system on one our personal residences in Kamuela.
Three things sold us on Provision.
Provision’s product was far superior to that of other competitors. The Sunpower equipment installed was a huge selling factor. It was more efficient that other brands, had better warranties, and provided more installation flexibility.
Douglas Bath, Marco Mangelsdorf and Jessica Shweig ensured that our questions were answered in a timely manner and definitively. Through every aspect of the transaction Provision was professional and conscientious.
As consulting inspectors we know what defines a good installation. Provision kept the site clean and organized and ensured that every aspect of the installation was meticulous. The workmanship of the installing electrical sub-contractors that Provision used exceeded our expectations. The performance of our system tells the rest of the story. We have had 9 months of continuous total offset of our electrical usage. We expect to have full return on our investment in roughly 5 years and have added value to our home while doing our part to offset our carbon foot print. Go green! Go Solar! Go Provision!
Woodbury Inspection Group Inc.
Kamuela, Big Island
"I am completely confident that I made the right choice"
Last year I installed a ProVision Technologies solar electric system on our auto dealership, Island Dodge in Kahului and I’m very glad I did so. ProVision provided skilled design work, top quality components and coordinated the installation with the electrical contractor. I was very impressed with the professionalism of the staff at ProVision, and would recommend you highly to those who may be considering solar electric for their home or business.
I was quite satisfied with the 32 kW system I installed in 2003. So satisfied, in fact, that I decided to expand the system to 52 kW this year. The decision to install a solar electric system not only made sense from an environmental standpoint, it also made good financial sense. This an investment that will pay for itself in a short number of years, and continue to provide clean, green power to our business for decades to come.
I can tell you that I carefully considered this investment, and I am completely confident that I made the right choice. I would certainly recommend ProVision Technologies for their competent staff and commitment to customer satisfaction. If a business owner is interested in pursuing an excellent investment, they should consider installing a ProVision solar electric system.
Owner, Island Dodge
"Extremely knowledgeable, professional, and committed to our satisfaction"
I would like to thank you for assisting Roberta and I in the purchase and installation of a solar photovoltaic net metering system for our home in Hilo. We were very satisfied with all aspects of the transaction. We found your staff to be extremely knowledgeable, professional, and committed to our satisfaction. ProVision was conscientious in designing the system, selecting the best quality components, coordinating the installation with the electrical contractor, and ensuring our complete satisfaction with the system once it was installed.
We are extremely happy with the performance of our system, and enjoy its many benefits, especially when we receive our monthly electric bill that shows our savings. We would not hesitate to recommend ProVision to others who are interested in experiencing the benefits of solar electricity. As I mentioned to you before, I would be pleased to speak with others who are considering a solar photovoltaic electric system.
Shine on ProVision!
Hilo, Big Island
"An eminently qualified and professional solar design firm"
This letter of recommendation is to acknowledge the service and attention, which the personnel at ProVision Technologies provided to Hawaii Electric Light Company during and after the installation of a 5.4 kW grid-connected photovoltaic system on our Engineering Building in Kailua-Kona. The system was installed in December 2001.
As this system is installed at a highly visible location at our Kailua-Kona baseyard, the quality of the system and installation, provided by ProVision recommended electrical contractor, needed to be exemplary.
ProVision Technologies provided the major components and design for the system in a timely and professional manner. Though the inverter, which was selected for the installation had some new product problems, ProVision was very responsive in addressing the situation with the manufacturer and in satisfactorily resolving the inverter problems. Moreover, after the installation was complete, ProVision personnel worked closely with us to make sure that the PV system was operating at its peak efficiency.
I can wholeheartedly and without reservation recommend ProVision Technologies as an eminently qualified and professional solar design firm.
Manager, HELCO Engineering Department
Kailua-Kona, Big Island
"A great investment and has dramatically lowered our electric bill"
I’m taking this opportunity to let you know how pleased we are with the ProVision solar electric system that was installed on our facility last year. As a business owner here on the Big Island, I’m looking for investments that make good economic sense and offer high value. Our grid-connected photovoltaic system made for a great investment and has dramatically lowered our electric bill. Over each of the past several months our net kilowatt-hour bill has been reduced to zero.
I also want to commend you and ProVision for providing us with detailed responses to our questions when we first considered installing a solar electric system, the prompt follow through in arranging for the installation and ProVision’s supervision of the project from to start to finish.
Being one of the first Net Energy Metered solar electric pioneers here in the state, we were excited to take advantage of this new program. Our ProVision system has exceeded our expectations and we can heartily recommend ProVision Technologies as a solar electric system provider.
Waikoloa, Big Island
"My best interests in mind at all times"
This letter is wholly unsolicited. After my 3rd purchase at ProVision, it really came home to me how pleasant and positive the experience has been each time, and how on all counts service, price and cordiality, I’ve been well taken care of by everyone in the office.
In particular, Marco mapped out a complete solar-electric system for me, even though my purchase amounted to just a few panels and components. He spent considerable time on several occasions both advising and helping me understand how things work. He even told me where to purchase certain components he didn’t sell. I had complete confidence that he had my best interests in mind at all times.
I know there’s lots of other small-volume solar consumers like myself that do not as yet know about ProVision, and I’ll not hesitate to recommend ProVision to them when asked about a place to buy solar-electric systems.
I hope this letter is passed on up the corporate hierarchy so that the efforts of ProVision to expand their market-share in the community are fully supported by HELCO decision-makers.
Pahoa, Big Island
"Very pleased with the service and competence of ProVision"
We have always had exceptionally high electric rates here on Kauai. We began thinking about a solar electric system and found ProVision Technologies, Inc. You provided timely and high quality information that allowed us to fairly assess that merits of the technology.
When we decided to go ahead with project, ProVision supplied us not only with the main components for the system, you also provided all engineering services, vendor relations, and a competitive bid between contractors for the installation. The installation process seemed well coordinated and did not cause significant disruption of our normal business.
In this past year following the installation, ProVision had stayed in contact with us and showed a real interest in assuring the proper performance of our system. Frankly, I was a little hesitant as you’re located in Hilo and it’s a difficult journey to get to Kauai from there, but you’ve been more than responsive.
I am very pleased with the service and competence of ProVision and highly recommend you to anyone interested in joining our efforts towards a sustainable energy future.
King Auto Center
"We remain very satisfied customers after several months of use."
Last year we purchased a photovoltaic solar electric system from ProVision. ProVision and Marco Mangelsdorf in particular, listened to our wants and needs, studied our structure, did a good careful design, brought in competent skilled subcontractors, delivered on time and in budget, and followed up well after the installation. We remain very satisfied customers after several months of use.
We’re happy to be saving a couple hundred dollars a month on the electric bill, and we’re continually finding ways to conserve electricity inside the office, so we can get that bill down to around zero.
We’re pleased to recommend ProVision to other clients on the Big Island, and would be glad to answer questions about our system.
VP/Technology and Engineering Plum Hall, Inc.
Kamuela, Big Island
"Thoroughly professional (and professionally thorough) company"
I am taking the liberty of writing to you in this fashion in my capacity as a HELCO customer and a stockholder in HEI. I have enclosed this letter in another one addressed to ProVision (in Hilo) and asked that they forward it to your respective offices.
Last month we had a 3kW photovoltaic system (grid-connected, net-metered) installed at our home in Kailua- Kona. It has been in operation for three full weeks now and we are very happy with it. We have not yet received our monthly HELCO bill and so we do not yet know how it is effecting the bill financially. But, we have now produced 189 kWh of electricity and we are very happy about that.
The particular reason for this letter is to compliment your staff at ProVision, most especially Mr. Marco Mangelsdorf. Marco was very helpful and very professional. He answered all of our questions, provided us with literature and product information, and oversaw the installation of the system. We are aware of the fact that other companies claim that they can do it cheaper but we felt more comfortable dealing with a thoroughly professional (and professionally thorough) company. We were not as knowledgeable about electrical contracting and the installation of PV systems as perhaps some other people may be. But, we feel very confident that we avoided many possible pitfalls and were happy that the permitting and inspections proceeded so smoothly. We really do feel that Mr. Mangelsdorf saved us a lot of potential problems and eased the whole project considerably. This system represented a considerable investment for us Over $23,000.00 so we were very anxious to have it done well. We think that is was, and that Marco is a valuable asset to your (our!) company.
We look forward to many years of production from our PV system.
Kailua-Kona, Big Island
"Outstanding products and service"
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for all the help we received in choosing a complete solar system for our home. Every one of your staff members was helpful and very knowledgeable. You all took the time to make sure that every aspect of the system matched our particular needs. When we needed specific electrical engineering plans, you also referred us to Donald McLemore, an excellent electrical engineer. Your prices were very competitive as I shopped around a great deal. It was not only the price but the great customer service that made our decision easy.
I had many questions throughout the process of choosing and installing our unit and you never failed to provide technical support in a very positive and friendly manner. You spoke in a language that I could understand! My husband and I both felt that you went above and beyond the call of duty to insure that our job ran smoothly. It was our first experience with solar and you made it very easy and understandable for us.
We know we made the right choice coming to ProVision Technologies Inc., as we have been using our system for over a year now and it is providing reliable power for our home. We also appreciate the fact that ProVision has been there for us and will continue to be there for us should we have any questions in the future. We recognize that you are not the type of company that makes the sale and then leaves people high and dry. That is a commodity in today’s solar market!
We have referred you to many friends and will always highly recommend you to anyone who is looking to provide solar energy for their home. Thanks again for your outstanding products and service.
Puna, Big Island
"Focused, capable and professional"
I want to thank you all for the professional installation of a 3kw PV system at our home on the Big Island. From start to finish each Provision employee we worked with was focused, capable and professional in the assessment of our needs, the design of the system, the processing of all paperwork and approvals and finally the installation of the panels on our roof and the net metering tie in to HELCO.
We are very happy to be generating electricity every day and would not hesitate to recommend Provision to anyone looking to add a PV system to his or her home or business.
"Professional, extremely knowledgeable, and very pro-active"
ProVision Solar is professional, extremely knowledgeable, and very pro-active with their customers. Every question was answered timely and the staff and installers were fantastic! These folks have this process down to a science; the customer is kept informed every step of the way. Could not ask for a more perfect “union” of customer-to-solar power.