LETTER: Solar Battery Retrofit Monopoly

I installed solar panels December 2015 and received a 55% tax credit. My purchase and installation was $22,000 with tax credit of about $12,000. I could only find 2 companies installing in Utah at the time, with the other company quoting $52,000 for purchase and installation. Pretty ridiculous cost difference.

In that the house was a new construction, I rolled the purchase and installation cost into my mortgage, and I feel it has been well worth the initial expense, especially with the tax credit, as I save about $150 per month on electricity. Although, it was a hassle working it out with the city as they had no real experience as I was the second home in Hyrum to install solar, that is another story. I didn’t see a need for a backup battery at the time and it is still a stretch as the only real need is if the grid goes down for days or weeks such as after a hurricane in Florida or possible earth quake in Utah.

Now that I feel a possible need for a backup battery, I have encountered a monopoly on backup battery purchase and installation, even worse than when I purchased and installed my solar panels. I spent a lot of time contacting or was contacted by several (maybe 8+) companies for purchase and installation of a retrofit solar battery. When I said I just need a battery they just hung up except two companies did give me a quote. One quote was just flat $20,000. The other company gave a verbal quote of $15,000-15,500 but came back with written quote of $18,500 with the added cost because “they did not install my panels.”

Searching the internet last November, Tesla quoted they sell one Tesla Power Wall for $8500 with expected cost of $11,500, after instillation. However, Tesla only sells to a solar distributor. Therefore, I can’t purchase one and then hire a qualified electrician to install. In that I need some hardware (maybe $1000 worth) besides the panel, a $15,000 quote still seemed high. Further internet searching resulted in “they can charge whatever they want” because distributors have a monopoly. Rocky Mountain Power says they will install a battery at no cost to you, but you have to be on Rocky Mountain Power and they can tap into the battery whenever they want to.

So, do I really need a backup solar battery or is it just an expensive luxury?

Randy D. White, Ph.D.

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  • Abe Lincoln February 24, 2023 at 9:00 am Reply

    That sounds more like an oligopoly than a monopoly if there are 8+ companies giving you quotes.

  • Ron DeAngelo February 24, 2023 at 9:40 am Reply

    I would think that someone with a Ph.D. would understand that financing a $22,000 purchase over a 30 year period would be a silly financial decision.

  • Barny Rubble February 25, 2023 at 4:13 pm Reply

    Jeesh Guys! Give a fella a break! Couple of negative Nancys!
    Just because a guy has a PhD doesn’t mean he knows everything! And when you don’t have an extra $22k hangin’ around, that’s what you do for long term investments. It makes more sense to take care of it while the home is being built than cutting and poking holes in your house later.
    Now I don’t claim to know everything either, but I have looked into this a little. I do agree it’s ridiculous to pay those high prices.
    I’m pretty sure a battery controller can be purchased from a company such as Platt or some other electrical distributor and save you a bunch. They may even have the batteries. Then again with the economy as of late, maybe that’s where prices have gone. Get on their website and check them out. If batteries for solar aren’t available for decent pricing, I’m pretty sur marine batteries are a pretty good alternative. They can be purchased at any auto parts store or even Sam’s Club or maybe CostCo. They would just need to be connected together correctly so the voltages are right for the controller.

  • Happy February 28, 2023 at 9:34 pm Reply

    Yes you do. With a little research you can figure out everything that you need. Then hire an electrician to do the install.
    With out the back up batteries, when the grid goes down you go down at the same time.

    I am a paid provocateur.

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