Q: How does rooftop and ground mount solar work?
A: A solar electric system – using photovoltaic panels (PV) – generates electricity that can be used throughout your home or you can even get credited for excess energy generation that rolls back to the grid. PV panels generate direct current (DC), that is converted to alternating current (AC) by an inverter (AC). This allows the power to be consumed by your home or business. To learn more about how this works, we welcome you to attend an outreach event.
Q: What are watts, kilowatts, and kilowatt hours?
A: The size of a solar electric system is often described in Watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). 1 kW = 1,000 W. Watts are a unit of power, just like the horsepower of an engine. They express the maximum possible output of energy the system can produce at any point in time. When sunlight strikes solar electric panels, they produce electricity that is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). One kilowatt-hour is a kilowatt of power sustained for one hour. Kilowatt-hours are the units of energy you buy from your utility and use in your home to run your appliances, lighting and electronics. Your kWh usage will help to dictate the size of system you need to offset your energy usage with solar power. By submitting your monthly usage we can get you started with a free remote site assessment.
Q: Is it Sunny Enough for Solar?
A: You bet! One of the first pieces of information we use to determine if a location is an ideal spot for solar is determining solar irradiation, or sunlight intensity. This measurement over time is known as solar insolation. At 300 days of sunshine, the midwest has some of the best solar insolation in the country! We can then take solar insolation data and plug it into PV performance software to predict the kWh potential of an install site. Using this information we can determine that each kW of installed solar in Midwest will produce about twice as much energy as the same kW in Germany, the world leader of installed PV!
Q: Is my neighborhood/geographic region sunny enough for solar?
A: You can get an estimate of how much electricity you can generate by visiting pvwatts.nrel.gov and entering in your address and site information. This site uses weather information and specifics for your location, including a feature you can use to draw where your solar array will be located on your property to estimate output. If you have a limited obstructions, chances are you are a good candidate for solar.
Q: Is my house right for solar?
A: Solar Planet will examine your property and let you know if it is suitable for solar. In general, solar works well on south, west, southwest and east-facing roofs. There should be minimal shading from trees or buildings on or adjacent to your home.
If your roof is old or damaged, you may need to replace part or all of your roof before installing solar. If your rooftop is not suitable, you might consider a ground-mounted system. In some instances, an electrical upgrade may be needed if your home has older wiring. Your installer will help you assess these issues.
Q: What is grid-tied solar electricity, and do I need to be tied to the grid to participate in Solar?
A: Grid-tied solar uses your local electric utility grid for storage of the power produced by your solar system. Your system generates power that flows back on to the grid during sunny hours, and in turn, you use power from the grid during night time of use. Off-grid systems store power in battery systems.
Q: What is net metering?
A: When you install solar panel we help you complete a net metering arrangement with your utility. Your new meter will measure both the electricity you are purchasing from your utility and the electricity you are sending to the grid. The utility tracks both of these when it reads your meter, and you are charged only for your “net” energy use – the electricity you purchased minus what your solar system sent to the grid. If your solar system generates more kilowatt-hours than you purchase in a given month, you receive a credit on your account for those excess kilowatt-hours.
Q: Can I benefit from state and federal tax credits?
A: Through the end of 2019, those that purchase solar can earn a 30% deduction on their income taxes and if your liability is lower than the deduction, it can be carried over to the next year. It’s a dollar for dollar reduction and even includes a roof upgrade if one is needed. You must own the system and have tax liability. After 2019 the deduction lowers to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent in 2021 before sun-setting. The State allows local AHJ’s to decide whether solar is exempt of sales and property taxes.
Q: What financing options are available for installing solar?
A: Solar Planet works with credit unions to offer 100% financing. 12yr, 14yr,15yr, 20yr and 21 yr financing avail.
Q: What maintenance will my system require?
A: In general, the PV modules should be kept clean of debris such as excessive dust, leaves, sticks, bird droppings, etc. Accumulation of such material on the panels can affect power output, but rainfall is generally adequate to wash off the panels and keep that effect to a minimum.
We advise performing a visual inspection of the PV array and checking the system output production on inverter or monitoring system at least once every few months to ensure proper operation.
Q: How long will the installation process take?
A: Once your contract is signed, It will take approximately 2-3 weeks to get engineering and design permits approved and products ordered. Once we are on site, installation will likely only take 3 to 5 days. We will submit your net-metering application with the utility and the next step is to await interconnection and energization. Pretty easy.
Q: Does the material or condition of my roof matter?
A: Solar arrays can be installed on most roof types including shingle, metal and tile. If your roof needs replacing in the next twenty, you may need to replace it or consider a ground-mounted system. Your installer can help you determine the condition of your roof and what steps to take.
Q: How does my participation in Solar benefit the community as a whole?
A: Solar power offers energy independence so we don’t have to source energy from foreign sources, as well as keeps money in your local economy by providing jobs. Additional dollars are kept local because they are not going to the large power-supplying companies that are based far-away, where many utilities purchase their power.
Solar reduces our dependence on fossil fuel energy and is a wise investment- Nowadays, it cost more money to do nothing because the average solar system pays for itself in 7 - 11 years. For 30 years of energy, solar should be part of everyone’s portfolio.
Q: Why go solar with the Solar Planet?
A: Solar Planets program provides an easy, streamlined process for going solar. We can promise you that the people at Solar Planet care as much about your project as you do. We reward our staff based on quality of craftsmanship. We know how important and hard it is to find good people so when we do we keep them. We help our clients through each step of the process. Solar Planets also provides a simple process and package solutions for those who would like to go solar but were unable to afford it in the past, were overwhelmed by technical details or confused by having to choose between contractors. Solar Planet is part of the local community and our clients are our neighbors. We are going solar together.
Q: Are there building upgrades I should consider before going solar?
A: Yes- If you have high electric utility expenses that can be lowered with efficiency upgrades, get those done now or soon after installation. The cheapest kWh is the kWh not consumed. Additionally, if you are planning on a roof-mounted system, your roof should be sturdy and not need replacing within the next 20 years. Replacing an electric hot water heater with a hybrid heat pump electric water heater can save hundreds a year. Also replacing bulbs that are not LED as soon as possible saves more than waiting for them to burn out. Even fluorescent lighting is an energy vampire when compared to LED lighting. Small cracks or leaks throughout the home where hot or cold air can escape can be a big energy sucker. Insulation in the attic can help.
Q. If I buy energy efficient appliances should I still consider solar?
A. Yes- We should be as energy efficient as possible but the only way to be in control of energy cost is to own where it comes from. Over the last 10 years energy efficient trends have also been in line with large increases in energy costs.