Thursday, August 21, 2014

Top 10 Things To Know About Getting Solar (My Head Is Swimming With Sunshine)

Last night we attended a Solar Challenge Kick-Off meeting for our town to encourage people to try out solar power PV systems.  (PV being photovoltaic.) Dozens of facts about solar power for homes and businesses are dancing around my head so I am going to share some of them.

This information comes from the Mass Clean Energy Center. They graciously had a spokesperson there to give us what they called the Solar 101 speech. Here is their website if you would like to look further into it.

1) The best site for solar power collection is a south facing roof with little in the way of obstructions such as large trees. They said you should never cut down a tree as the trade off is not worth it in terms of increased costs of cooling without the shade but you may want to trim some back.  East or west facing roofs have potential as well so don't rule solar completely out.

2) If your roof will not work, you may be able to put a stand alone system in your yard.

3) Solar power can be shared amongst multiple buildings on the same lot. In some cases, you may be able to share it between multiple properties you own in the same area such as home and business.

4) Solar power will give you a credit towards your electricity bill. It will not provide you with a check in your pocket from the electric company; just a credit towards future bills.

5) If you lose power, your solar system will go down as well as it uses a small amount of electricity from the power grid to power the safety feature in the inverter that keeps people from getting shocked. Battery back ups are available but they stated they were prohibitively expensive. If you are truly worried, a generator may serve you better.

6) They said that the average home would get a 5kw system which translates into 5 kilowatts or 5000 watts. If you have an electric car, you may need the 8k system instead.

7) The federal government is giving 30% of the cost of the system as a tax credit through 2016.  You can spread the credit out over multiple years or take it all at once.

8) The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is offering a 15% credit; up to $1000. Mass Clean Energy Center is currently offering incentives as well but they are phasing them out.

9) Your system will generate Solar Renewable Energy Credits of somewhere between 3 and 8 per year. You can sell these back to the electric companies. The current going rate is between $183 and $250 per SREC. Your solar installer should be able to set you up with a broker to handle this. They take a fee of between 3% and 7%.

10) The average system right now pays for itself in 5 to 8 years depending on your site and how much sun you get. The panels are warrantied for 20 to 25 years. The inverter is covered for 10 years. You will need to replace the fan in the inverter in about 12 to 15 years. The current cost depending on your area is about $1500 to $3000.

Bonus Tip: In many cases, adding the solar panels to your home insurance is as simple as increasing your building coverage. Check with your agent but in my area the increase is less then $75 for the year.

Hopefully that answers a lot of your questions. Feel free to comment with any more and I will answer as best I can.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Solar Roadways

You have probably heard by now about a group that is working on solar roadways. If you have not, let me be the first to tell you that these panels seem amazing. These solar panels would replace regular parking lots or roads with panels that use the sun to power them. They have built in lights.

This allows the roads to have signs such as Stop Ahead or Left Turn Only or even simple painted lines right on them. Signs that can be easily changed.   I am so in awe of this concept that I participated in a recent crowd funding event to get them the money to built full size parking lots for testing and development.  They sent me a lovely thank you video--see below.

The panels would be self heating so snow and ice would melt off them. They would be heavy duty so that large trucks could run over them.  They will be able to warn a driver if something is crossing the road ahead because all of the panels would be interconnected and be able to communicate with each other.

I sincerely hope this idea grows and develops into a viable option to repair our failing roads here in the US.  I know right now it seems like a long shot but if we could even just use it for new development, it would make a difference. I am not the only one who thinks so.  Here is a link to a video with a lot more information and a pretty excited narrator. Check out "Solar Freakin Roadways".