I produced no solar power. Not one watt. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Not even a tiny bit. Not even one percent. Not even one hundredth of a percent. Zero. Nada. Zilch.
That’s according to Duke Energy, who say I owe them $64 for solar electricity. They say this because SunRun says I produced 3.65 kilowatt-hours of solar power – enough to power three average American homes – on a single day in April.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth because, again, I produced no solar power. Zero. Nada. Zilch. Not even a tiny bit. Not even one percent. Not even one hundredth of a percent.
So why does Duke Energy think I produced solar power?
The answer is simple. SunPower gave them bad info. When they called and asked me to confirm my power production (it’s standard practice whenever a utility company gets a little suspicious), I told them I didn’t have solar power. They asked for a demonstration – a real one, not just a demonstration model – so they could see for themselves.
That’s when I produced a small solar power plant at my house and we connected it to the grid. Sure, it was only a kilowatt or two, but it was enough for them to see what I was talking about.
What Is Solar Panel Insurance?
This is one of the more curious claims I’ve ever heard in my life. To answer this question, let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. Back in 2011, California passed a law requiring residential solar power systems to have a minimum level of insurance coverage. The purpose behind this law was to protect homeowners whose solar installations were damaged by a covered cause. Most solar insurance policies also include some sort of extra coverage for batteries, solar panels, and other gear connected to the grid.
This type of insurance is fairly new and, as far as I know, just a few companies offer it. One company offering this insurance is Island Energy. The company states on their website that their product is “recommended for homes that are located in a region where hurricanes and tropical storms are common.”
I guess if you want to be safe you might want to invest in some of these types of insurance policies. Just remember that they are fairly expensive and the premiums can add up fast. This is especially true if you have an average home that gets hit by a few tropical storms every year.
The most interesting part of this claim is that the utility company is using my house as an example of a “powerful storm.” Let’s take a quick trip down memory lane. In 2016, a powerful category 4 tornado struck Moore, Oklahoma, where I live. The twister was an EF4 and it was on the Fujita scale (a metric used to rate tornadoes on a scale of 1 to 5) the equivalent of a category 5 hurricane. The damage was incredible and it was later estimated that the tornado caused $15 million in property damage and killed 23 people.
Now let’s fast-forward to what happened in April. On the evening of April 19, a very powerful storm – a category 3 or 4 hurricane according to the Storm Prediction Center – hit the south-central coast of Florida. The storm was called Irma and it was nearly as terrifying as the Oklahoma tornado. In fact, the hurricane was more powerful than the one that killed 23 people in Oklahoma. The winds from the hurricane reached up to 130 miles per hour and it caused billions of dollars in damage as it marched up the eastern coast of the United States. Ultimately, the storm ended up becoming one of the five most costly hurricanes in US history.
The storm was so powerful that it was recorded as the first Category 4/5 hurricane in the National Weather Service’s 99-year history. To give you some perspective on how big a deal this is, these types of hurricanes only happen once every few years. The last time this kind of hurricane struck southern Florida was in 1928. So it’s safe to say this was a very, very powerful storm. And the irony of the situation is that, according to Duke Energy, my house is responsible for this storm. Let me explain.
Who’s To Blame For This?
You could point a finger at anyone in this situation. There was clearly bad information shared between the companies. But ultimately, the blame lies with Duke Energy because they are the ones who filed the complaint. It’s their responsibility to check the facts before sending someone to arrest me – a 62-year-old man with a full life who’s never been in trouble with the law. But this is what they get paid to do. It’s their job to investigate these types of complaints and put a stop to them. It’s a little tough to do your job when you’re trying to arrest someone for a non-crime.
If you live in Florida and experienced any sort of damage from the storm, you may be eligible for a federal tax credit. The amount of the credit will depend on how much damage your state suffered. The deadline to file for this credit is October 19th.
A Tax Credit Is On Its Way
At least one thing is certain. I will not be getting a tax credit for this. This is because the tax credit is for properties damaged in a “specified natural disaster.” The only reason my house was hit by a powerful storm is because it is located in Miami-Dade County, Florida. But the fact that it is located in a “specified natural disaster” area doesn’t mean that my home was damaged by a “specified natural disaster.” Therefore, I will not be getting any sort of tax credit.
This is something that the IRS has already determined. They’ve already started sending out letters to people who were impacted by the storm. So if you’re reading this and you live in Florida, there’s no need to worry. At least, not yet.
What About The Insurance?
This is another issue that the IRS has already ruled on. If you have insurance, you’re going to be fine. It’s not as if your house hasn’t been covered before. You’re going to be reimbursed for the damage done. However, if you don’t have insurance and you want to protect yourself from these accusations, you could try for an insurance policy that covers these situations. It’s just a matter of finding the right policy at the right price.
Just remember that these types of policies are fairly expensive. It’s going to cost you about five to six percent of your home’s value. For example, if your home is worth $500,000 and you want to buy a $100,000 policy, it will cost you $50,000. It’s also going to be expensive to prove that your house was actually damaged by a category 3 or 4 hurricane. The average settlement for these types of cases is around $10,000. This is much less than the cost of buying a house in Miami-Dade County.
Should You Trust Your Gut?
When it comes to matters of this nature, it’s always a good idea to follow your instincts. Especially when it comes to dealing with big businesses – like utilities – who are trying to get away with something. In this case, it’s probably a good idea to trust your gut. You know, sometimes the best policy isn’t the one you signed up for. It’s the one that you had no idea existed. In the end, it’s usually the little things that get you. Like me buying a couple of solar power plants to show Bay Area utilities that I meant what I said about not having any solar power. Or me getting an attorney to help me fight this particular battle. Or maybe me just moving away. These are the types of things that, in the end, will make the biggest difference. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find out what your best policy is. Especially when it comes to big companies who are trying to sneak something by you. In this case, it’s probably a good idea to ask a neighbor, family member, or friend for help. Someone who knows you better than anybody else. Someone who knows your home and knows what’s important to you.