RESIDENTIAL SOLAR: GETTING STARTED

Thinking about going solar?  Great!  This flyer will help you start the process.  The majority of solar systems installed today are solar photovoltaic (PV for short) systems which produce electricity. They are very reliable, typically last for 25-30 years, and require little maintenance.  Solar hot water systems are another option.  Ideally you should have a large, mostly-unshaded, south-facing roof.

 

Why go solar?  First and foremost:  It’s a clean, renewable energy source that’s great for the environment. But it also reduces utility bills….increases the value of your home…provides protection from utility price increases…creates local “green” jobs…fosters energy independence.

 

First Step.  Your first step should always be to take energy-efficiency measures to reduce your electric load, whether or not you go solar. Concentrate on “low-hanging fruit”:  http://www.energysavers.gov, http://www.greenbuilding.com/, http://kenergysolar.com/files/ConservationIsAWiseInvestment.pdf,

 

Two financing options for your solar system

  • ·         Self-finance – If you have sufficient savings, and you pay taxes, this is probably the best way to go.  You pay for and own your home’s solar system.

Pros:  Substantial and immediate reduction in your energy bill.  You take advantage of all incentives and REC’s (see below).  After payback period of approx 7-8 years, your solar electricity is essentially free.

Cons:  Significant up-front cost.  You are responsible for maintenance, but that should be minimal.

  • ·         Solar Lease or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) – The solar installer (or their investment partner) buys, owns and maintains the solar PV system on your roof.  In exchange, you agree to pay for all power produced by the system or to lease the solar equipment for the life of the contract (typically 20 years).

Pros:  Little or no up-front cost (with good credit).  You are not responsible for maintenance. You pay less for solar electricity than conventional electricity.

Cons:  Less cost savings than owning the system.   Incentives belong to solar system owner, but not really a loss; you haven’t paid for the equipment.

 

Government Incentives (tax credits, grants, etc)

A full list of renewable energy incentives:  www.dsireusa.org

 

Renewable Energy Certificates

In addition to gov’t incentives, there is another revenue stream that reduces the cost of a solar system to the owner:  Renewable Energy Certificates or Credits – RECs (pronounced “reks”).  These are tradable certificates which are issued for every 1,000 kWh of electricity produced by a RE system (e.g., wind and solar).  RECs represent the environmental attributes of the power and are sold separately from commodity electricity. In states with renewable portfolio standards, utilities must purchase a certain quantity of RECs each year.  RECs are also sold on the “voluntary” market to individuals and businesses that want to say they are powered

by renewable energy. Solar RECs are called SRECs (“ess-reks”). They can be sold to a broker for a fixed price upfront or on a recurring basis, with prices varying by state and market conditions, and they can add up to a substantial sum. www.epa.gov/greenpower/documents/gpp­_basics-recs.pdf, http://www.flettexchange.com/, http://www.solsystemscompany.com/, http://srectrade.com/srec_prices.php

 

The “Solarization” Process

  1. 1.        Site Assessment – Proceed if you think you have a south-facing, mostly unshaded roof.
  2. 2.       Get educated – Read general material on solar PV; check out links on this handout.
  3. 3.       Roof – Is your roof ready for replacement or will be shortly? Replace before solar installation.
  4. 4.       Assess the financing options – Decide which one works best for you (purchase and own equipment or lease/PPA).  Some installers can price both financing options.
  5. 5.       Solicit Bids – Contact at least 3 solar installers to request bids.  Note: Solicit bids before choosing financing option.
  6. 6.       Things to ask or check – What solar panels will they use and why?  Warranty? Do you want U.S.-made rather than Chinese-made solar panels? (The former will cost you more.) What is projected output of the solar panels?  Is there a minimum performance guarantee? What if the system under-performs?  Who will check performance? Compare cost per kW installed by dividing the cost of the project by the size (kW) of the project. For solar lease or PPA, read terms carefully; understand that many terms are negotiable, e.g. price/kWh might be reduced, escalation clause can be deleted, etc.
  7. 7.       Compare Bids and Select Installer
  8. 8.       System installation – Your installer should handle all rebate applications, permits, and interconnection communications with your local utility.  Many will help you register and sell your SRECs.

 

 Solar Installers

**Disclaimer**  Adat Shalom does not recommend any contractor.  This list is provided for convenience only and is not a full list of area installers.  Do your due diligence–check references–GET THREE BIDS.

Astrum Solar – http://www.astrumsolar.com/

Capital Sun – http://www.capitalsungroup.com/

Kenergy Solar – http://www.kenergysolar.com/

(Adat Shalom’s solar PV system installer)

Maggio Roofing – combined solar and roofing jobs

Solar Solution – http://solarsolutionllc.com/

Standard Solar – http://www.standardsolar.com/

Solar City – http://www.solarcity.com/ (Solar Lease or PPA only)

 

Info on contractor licensing and certification – http://dsireusa.org/solar/solarpolicyguide/?id=23

 

Solar Communities

Join the solar community: Get help and advice — peer-to peer-support — get involved in solar advocacy

 

Ask fellow Adat Shalom members….

These AS members have kindly offered to answer questions about their solar PV experience:

Beth and Steve Kaufman – kaufmans5@gmail.com

Josh Zimmerberg – zimmerberg@gmail.com  

 

If you don’t have a suitable roof or are a renter, consider a community solar project which enables you to own a share in a large solar system, take advantage of gov’t incentives, and receive a credit on your electricity bill.   http://ases.org/2012/02/community-owned-solar-gardens-a-win-win/  Legislation pending in DC, MD and VA.

3/16/2012

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