Customers complain of dangerous problems from BP Solar panels

520-bp-solarDANVILLE, Calif. (KTVU) — Frustrated customers who bought BP’s solar system tell 2 Investigates that the corporation has left them on the hook for dangerous, defective panels and a warranty that’s no good.

BP, the company that claimed it’s “beyond petroleum” is the same company that spilled the equivalent of 25,000 semi-tanker trucks of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP often advertises its corporate responsibility, support of jobs and its alternative energy leadership.

But some customers who bought into one of BP’s alternative energy systems say that the same corporation that fouled the waters of the Gulf is also fouling their homes and pocketbooks with defective solar panels that have a bevy of problems, including panels burning up, shattering, and putting homes in danger.

Solar firm prosecuted after roof fall puts installer in hospital

solar-safety-520The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has prosecuted a solar installer and a green energy firm in West Yorkshire for safety breaches following a severe injury to a worker who fell from a roof during a solar install.

The worker fell seven metres from a pitched agricultural barn roof, breaking seven ribs, his collarbone and bruising a lung. The worker, who had never installed solar before, lost his footing when it began to rain and he slipped off the roof.

Investigating the accident, HSE identified serious safety failings by Peter King, trading as Kingson Roofing, Building and Construction and Investment Renewables. The HSE found that Investment Renewables had subcontracted Peter King to undertake the installation of 56 solar modules on the roof. Both parties failed to identify and assess the risks associated with such an install.

The End of a Solar Era: The Legacy of the California Solar Initiative

520-cali-solar-installOver the last decade, most of the leading solar markets around the world have faced some kind of dramatic slowdown or freeze after starting out strong.

Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic have all had to suddenly adjust or eliminate incentive programs in recent years due to a frenzy of activity. In some cases, as in Spain and the Czech Republic, the solar industry virtually disappeared overnight after feed-in tariffs were retroactively rolled back.

American states such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have also gone through their own boom-bust cycles as incentive programs were changed, or tradable credit markets collapsed.

And then there’s California, which has had a much different experience.

 

Solar power keeps getting cheaper — but not for the reasons you’d expect

Photovoltaic Solar Panel Project at the Lester Public Library, Two Rivers, Wisconsin
Photovoltaic Solar Panel Project at the Lester Public Library, Two Rivers, Wisconsin

The price of solar power in the United States keeps dropping. Back in 2008, the cost of installing a rooftop solar system was about $8 per watt. Today, it’s about half that — and still falling.

Up until 2012, that price decline was largely due to the fact that the photovoltaic panels themselves were getting cheaper, driven by a glut of Chinese manufacturing and various technology improvements. This story got a lot of attention in the press.

Is Your State Benefiting From, or Missing Out on, the U.S. Solar Power Boom?

solar-means-businessIs your state benefiting from, or missing out on, the national solar power boom that’s well underway (note: click on the map to enlarge). That question is at least partly answered by the new Solar Means Business Report, released this morning by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Among other things, the report finds that the “average price of a completed commercial [solar] PV project in Q2 2014 has dropped by 14 percent year over year and by more than 45 percent since 2012.” That’s great news, of course, and a continuation of the long-term trend which has seen solar power costs fall by 99% since 1977 – a trend that’s continuing.

Here are a few more factoids from the SEIA report:

  • “Since 2010, U.S. businesses have installed solar systems at their facilities more than 32,000 times.”
  • “For the second straight year, U.S. businesses, non-profits and government organizations added more than 1,000 MW of new PV solar installations.As of mid-2014, there were 4,531 MW of commercial solar PV installed on 41,803 business, non-profit and government locations throughout the U.S.”
  • “American businesses are turning to solar because it’s good for their bottom line. For many companies, electricity costs represent a significant operating expense, and solar provides the means to reduce costs and hedge against electricity price increases.”
  • “While retailers have installed the most capacity, auto manufacturers, pharmaceuticals and food servicers, as well as companies in many other industries,have all looked to solar to lower operating costs.”
  • “The rest of the U.S. is catching up to the likes of California and New Jersey, the first and second largest state markets for commercial solar. Leaders in those states and others like them have put in place smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar.” Has your state put into place “smart, effective policies that have enabled businesses to invest in solar?”
  • “In total, 129 million people in 33 states and Puerto Rico live within 20 miles of at least one of the 1,110 commercial solar installations that were analyzed in this report.”

If that’s not enough to make you wonder why your state has not seized this tremendous opportunity, see an article which just came out this morning, Georgia Is the Latest State to Procure Dirt-Cheap Solar Power, by Greentech Media.  According to this article: “After a second round of bidding from developers seeking to build hundreds of megawatts’ worth of solar plants in the state, Georgia Power reported that the average price of electricity came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s 2 cents cheaper than last year’s bids.

How cheap is 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour? To put it in perspective, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the Average Retail Price of Electricity to U.S. residential users as of July 2014 was 13.05 cents per kilowatt-hour, while the average cost to all U.S. power users was 11.01 cents per kilowatt-hour. Again, the new solar power bidding in Georgia came in at 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour — far lower than the national average retail price of electricity.  So, if your state isn’t going solar big-time, you probably should ask your state legislators and utilities why that’s the case. The answer, or lack thereof, could be a real eye opener.

Solar power is casting a bigger shadow

rive
Does having your own solar power installation sound appealing? It apparently does to a growing number of American businesses and homeowners who are investing in what many tout as a cleaner and less expensive source of electricity. And that trend of buying into solar power is also growing internationally.

During 2014’s second quarter, photovoltaic (PV) installations in the U.S. went over the gigawatt mark for the third consecutive quarter, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). A gigawatt is equivalent to the amount of power needed for around 750,000 homes.

And while commercial solar power is still in its infancy (the Institute for Energy Research says solar makes up just 0.2 percent of the net energy produced in the U.S.), homes and businesses with solar panels are no longer considered an oddity. The SEIA says more than a half-million homes and businesses now have solar installations, and during the first half of 2014, 53 percent of all new electric capacity was from solar power.

Solar energy costs are also dropping. A report by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says the cost of energy sold to utilities from large-scale solar power operations has fallen by more than 70 percent since 2008.

“This marked the fourth consecutive year of significant price reductions for residential and commercial systems in the U.S.,” Galen Barbose, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement.

The solar industry has also become an important source of jobs for Americans. A report by the nonprofit Solar Foundation found the industry employs more than 142,000 Americans at a rate that’s growing 10 times faster than the national employment rate.

And as the Atlantic hurricane season continues, some analysts look to solar power as an important resource to help high-population regions withstand the impact of disasters such as 2012’s Superstorm Sandy. That monster knocked out power to more than 7 million people along the U.S. East Coast.

A report published earlier this month by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, the public policy research arm of the State University of New York, noted many Northeastern states are now considering solar-powered “microgrids” to protect essential buildings and operations against large-scale outages of the “macrogrid” and to minimize any economic damage from a long-term power outage.

Internationally, 2014 is expected to be a strong year for PV solar installations. The research group IHS Technology projects PV installations will rise globally to 45.4 gigawatts, with a third of those taking place in the fourth quarter alone.

Powering that “major acceleration,” as described by IHS’s senior director of solar research, is the U.S. and China, which are expected to account for over half of the world’s solar installations during the fourth quarter.

Despite declines in some European nations, IHS is forecasting that the U.K. will become the world’s fourth-largest solar power market this year, after China, Japan and the U.S. It also predicts the solar power market to slow down but “remain solid” for 2015.

1 State Exposes Solar Power’s Biggest Weakness

Solar_Panel_on_rooftop_near_Mamaroneck_AveIn Hawaii, electricity costs $0.38 per kilowatt hour, almost three times the national average. Solar power, which costs as much as $0.30 per kilowatt hour is a bargain in comparison. However, in Ohio where power costs around $0.14 per kilowatt hour, roughly the U.S. average, solar doesn’t compete nearly as well. So it’s no wonder solar projects fell off a cliff when Ohio passed Senate Bill 310.

A little help
Solar power is increasingly affordable and, thus, increasingly viable as an alternative for homeowners and businesses. However, it isn’t cheap enough to compete with utilities in most areas just yet. And it’s getting a big helping hand from the government. For example, last year Clean Technica estimated that power from a solar panel installation in Los Angeles would have cost around $0.11 per kilowatt hour. However take out government incentives and the price jumped over 40% to $0.19 per kilowatt.

And there are huge variations depending on where the solar is being installed, since some areas have better sun than others and housing codes and trends differ. Still, just a short way up the coast in Seattle the cost was $0.17 per kilowatt hour after incentives and $0.29 before—roughly 40% higher again. Although solar installation costs have come down since last year, the helping hand is the highlight. And that goes beyond the financial space; around 40 states have mandates for renewable power in some form.

That puts electric utilities in the hot seat to either invest in solar or help customers invest in it, whether they want to or not. And that’s a problem since the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that solar won’t be competitive with utility supplied power until as late as 2025. In other words, utilities are being asked to push solar even though it costs them less to run their current power plant fleets.

The big 310
That’s why in a place like Hawaii where power is so expensive (the state relies heavily on imported oil) solar is expanding faster than Hawaiian Electric Industries (NYSE: HE  ) can tie installations to the grid. In fact, it looks like many customers aren’t even bothering to tell the utility that they’ve put solar on their rooftops. It’s just not the same in Ohio, where SB310 put a freeze on the state’s renewable power mandates until 2017.

Subsequent to that bill, solar power installations went from a rate of about 1 megawatt per month to just around 100 kilowatts. Look out below, that’s a 90% drop! And the market for solar renewable energy credits, which can be used in lieu of building solar for utilities, has dried up, too. Although Ohio is a relatively small market for solar, the impact of the bill on the state’s solar industry was huge.

That’s music to the ears of some market players, like FirstEnergy (NYSE: FE  ) andAmerican Electric Power (NYSE: AEP  ) , which operate in the state. However it shows just how vulnerable solar power is to such shifts in government largess. And SB 310 wasn’t the only win for renewable power opponents, House Bill 483, signed after SB 310, made it harder to build wind farms by materially increasing the distance required between a property line and a wind turbine. Clearly, there’s a push in the state to slow down on the renewable power front, and it’s working.

Solar’s not dead yet
Solar power is still growing fast, there’s no question about it. SolarCity’s (NASDAQ: SCTY  ) massive customer growth of over 100% a year since 2009 is proof positive of that. And it projects annual customer growth of 70% through mid-2018, which is notably lower but hardly a number to complain about.

But Ohio’s move is worthy of note. Not only does it show that there’s a push back against renewable power, but that without government support renewable sources like solar could start to look less compelling as an option. That may never be an issue in supportive states like California, but it’s something worth watching if you’re investing in solar power companies. If Ohio’s push back becomes a wider trend, the solar industry could come face to face with a notable headwind.

Google + SunEdison = Residential Solar Installations

residential-sunpower-google

This morning (April 23) SunPower and Google announced that they partnered on a new, $250 million fund to finance rooftop solar arrays on homes across the U.S. While the tech giant has created funds to support home solar installations in the past, the fund with SunPower is primarily funded by the solar company and not the search engine.

The news comes after Earth Day as Google notes in an official blog post today. “Just because Earth Day is over doesn’t mean we’re done doing good things for the planet,” writes Google’s Rob Parker, from its renewable energy team. Today, we’re taking another step towards a clean energy future with a major new investment. Together with SunPower Corporation we’re creating a new $250 million fund to help finance the purchase of residential rooftop solar systems—making it easier for thousands of households across the U.S. to go solar.”

Under the new fund SunPower is providing $150 million and Google is committing up to $100 million to support third-party ownership leases for rooftop solar arrays. The deal will help thousands of homeowners go solar.

SunPower, one of the most diversified solar companies, installing some of the world’s largest PV arrays as well as rooftop arrays, is increasing its residential pipeline in the U.S. It now has solar leases on about 20,000 U.S. homes. It’s also working with solar contractors in an increasing number of states and offering third-party ownership options to homeowners.

“We’re pleased to partner with Google to help make solar accessible to more families and allow those families to take control of their energy costs,” said SunPower CFO Chuck Boynton.  “With the increased and growing interest in reliable, cost-effective solar from businesses and homeowners alike, Google’s leadership is helping take solar mainstream.”

“We’re pleased to team with SunPower to make solar power accessible to more homeowners, and offer families a more effective way to reduce their carbon footprint,” said Kojo Ako-Asare, head of corporate finance at Google. “Our partnership with SunPower makes good business sense and supports our goals for a clean energy future.”

Google said it has now made 16 investments in renewable energy, totaling more than $1 billion in projects including two other rooftop solar investments. It previously partnered with SolarCity and Clean Power Finance. In all, the company has now invested in 2 gigawatts of renewable energy, including PV, concentrating solar power (CSP), wind and more.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Women: The Most Important Residential Solar Customers

what-women-want

What do women want from a solar sale? This is not a trivial question. As competition increases in the residential solar market and the industry works to lower soft costs like customer acquisition, it’s becoming all the more important to better understand the market. Women, it turns out, are a key part of that market.

Why women? According to leading expert on marketing to women Marti Barletta, women initiate 80% of home improvement projects. These controllers of the family budgets are the CPOs, or Chief Purchasing Officers, of the home.

Shining a solar marketing light on women

That’s what led Identity, a woman-owned solar and sustainability communication firm, to conduct the national survey “Shining a Solar Marketing Light on Women.” The survey targets American moms and other women homeowners to get a handle on their primary reasons for considering solar, as well as their solar marketing preferences.

Today, Identity announced that the results are in from this industry-first survey.

#SolarChat founder Raina Russo and solar marketing professional Glenna Wiseman, the survey’s creators, also announced that they have joined forces as partners in Identity3 and to further the Women4Solar initiative birthed out of this compelling data.

Russo and Wiseman worked with a cadre of solar industry professionals, prominent mom bloggers, and leading brand marketers to promote the survey over social media, garnering 270 responses from 34 states.

The 20 survey questions correspond to the 5 Stages of Buying that women go through, as outlined by Marti Barletta. Data were gathered according to these 5 stages to inform both marketing and sales in the solar industry.

What women want from solar

The survey found that women are the driving force behind the solar decision. A whopping 90% of the women surveyed said that they would make or participate in the decision to go solar in their home, and they also tend to be the ones to initiate the discussion about solar and do the research.

Shining a Solar Marketing Light on Women Survey q12

If anyone still needed proof that women are a significant part of the market, here it is.

However, women also indicated that the solar industry is not speaking their language or reaching out to them with techniques they will respond to. That means there’s a lot of room for improvement in this huge, largely untapped solar market.

A few other things that stand out about women solar customers:

  • Women care about solar savings and the environment. While a majority of women, like men, say that lowering their power bill is the most compelling benefit of solar, the environment comes in at a close second.

  • Women tend to think solar is still too expensive. While most Americans share this misconception, it’s especially important to get the message about plummeting solar costs to the CPOs of American households.

  • Women want the facts. They’re savvy about advertising and don’t appreciate a hard sell. Women want to understand how solar will help their families and lower their bills.

  • Women look to online information sources. As the digital divas driving the majority of social media, women need to be reached online. While most people aren’t thrilled to be interrupted by a knock on their door or a phone call, busy moms and other CPOs especially prefer online information and feedback.

  • Women are key for solar referrals. Women are more likely to trust companies that get good referrals. With 61% of women surveyed saying they know someone who has solar, and given women’s networking tendencies, solar companies should pay attention to women as a great source of referrals.

While women may differ from men in some respects as solar customers, the main takeaway is not the differences but the importance of women in the residential solar market. The industry needs to include women and address them directly.

Wiseman and Russo advise against emphasizing women’s role in the home or treating them differently. The point is to direct questions to the woman of the house, give her an opportunity to answer, and listen to what she says.

Learn more

 There are a couple great ways to learn more about this important solar market:

 Purchase the full report: Solar industry marketers are encouraged to purchase the survey, which is available at https://identity3.com/shining-a-solar-marketing-light-on-women-survey/. A portion of the survey proceeds will go to the Heather Andrews Scholarship Fund at Solar Energy International (SEI) to further its mission of women’s solar training. The SEI Women’s Program provides in-person, technical workshops in a supportive learning atmosphere to bring more women into the renewable energy field.

Attend next week’s #SolarChat: To get further insights from the experts, join #SolarChat on April 9, 2014, which will feature a host of leading experts on marketing to women — including Marti Barletta of Trend Sight, Leah Segedie of Bookieboo LLC and Mamavation.com, Andrea Luecke of The Solar Foundation, Krystal Glass of The National Women’s Business Council, and Glenna Wiseman of Identity3 and Women4Solar. PV Solar Report will also be there. The panel will be moderated by Raina Russo, recently identified as one of the Top 10 Women of Solar.

Survey making news

The survey has been getting attention since initial results were featured at Solar Power International 2013 and in numerous publications. Solar Power World Magazine recognized the topic recognized as one of the 10 Trends That Shaped the Solar News In 2013. The November #SolarChat “Marketing Solar to Women” generated 6 million impressions, drawing 177 contributors into the #SolarChat Twitter “room” and topping the Twitter charts nationwide.

The survey was cited in the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census 2013: “A recent #Women4Solar survey found that women represent the largest block of residential solar purchasing decision makers, suggesting that women are not only paying attention to industry trends but are driving adoption rates.”

Rosana Francescato is the Communications Director for Sunible.com, an online portal that’s radically simplify the home solar buying experience. She also combines her passions for solar power and community as a community solar advocate. Rosana is on the board of Women and Cleantech and Sustainability and the steering committee of the Local Clean Energy Alliance. She has hands-on experience installing solar with GRID Alternatives, where she’s been the top individual fundraiser four years in a row. She’s excited about new ways for the 75% to participate in solar and has invested in several Mosaic projects. Follow Rosana @SolarRosana.

Original Article on Mosaic

Mosaic Launches Residential Solar Crowdfunding Fund

residential-solar-installThis morning (FEb. 6) Mosaic announced that it partnered with Connecticut’s green bank, the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) and Sungage Financial to fund $5 million in crowdsourced loans for solar installations.

Over the past year or so Mosaic has announced numerous projects throughout the U.S., from New Jersey to California and elsewhere, all of which are crowd funded. Most of these projects were for municipal buildings, schools and more. Now it is taking the capability to crowdsource solar to the residential solar market, allowing people to invest in other people’s solar power systems.

Mosaic said it’s the first such product introduced and uses projected energy savings as the basis for the loans. “Mosaic sees great potential in the home solar finance space and is excited about this partnership,” said Greg Rosen, CIO of Mosaic and former VP of Solar Finance at Union Bank.

“This partnership is creating an entirely new ecosystem for solar financing in which individuals can take part in and benefit from home solar installations,” said Sylvain Mansier, CFO and co-founder of Sungage Financial. Sungage Financial helps homeowners to apply for and contract financing for solar installations. “This new loan product represents the next generation of solar financing and Sungage Financial is thrilled to be partnering with CEFIA, Hampshire Foundation, and Mosaic to help homeowners save more through solar ownership.”

The loans are being offered by participating Connecticutsolar installers and include guarantees on system performance, allowing homeowners assurance that there will be money to pay for the loans. The Hampshire Foundation made an early commitment to invest $1 million in the loans and is participating in the transaction with Mosaic.

The initial investment of $5 million for the fund was provided by CEFIA. “This transaction represents what a Green Bank is designed to do,” said Bert Hunter, CIO of CEFIA. “Together with Sungage, we created a residential solar loan product that is easy to access and optimized for solar. We then went out and sourced investment partners who understand the industry and recognize the value of these consumer loans with the green bank aggregating these loans and providing critical credit enhancements.”

People can invest in the loan pool through Mosaic’s Web site. Investments will carry a 15-year term and yields of approximately 5 percent, Mosaic said.

Residential Demand Response: A Crucial Ingredient of U.S Energy

residential-demand-response-usa

The complex task of managing peak energy demand is not something that should be addressed in a piecemeal fashion, and this is particularly true in the demand response industry. For reference,demand response (DR) balances supply and demand, providing peaking capacity to utilities without investments in new plants. DR incentivizes change in customer energy usage patterns to reward lower electricity use at times when system reliability is jeopardized or the price of electricity is higher.

While Comverge supports both residential and commercial and industrial (C&I) demand response programs, it’s important to remember that the residential sector is an incredibly valuable and essential part of any energy management program. The infographic above illustrates why residential demand response is so important to our nation’s energy mix.

Residential Energy Consumption is Increasing & Comprises a Disproportionate Amount of Peak Energy Use

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, the residential sector currently makes up 20 percent of total energy demand. In addition, total residential square footage in the U.S. is expected to increase by approximately 41 percent by 2040, bringing the total delivered electricity up as well.

It’s clear that residential energy use makes up a sizeable portion of the energy pie, but interestingly it accounts for over 50 percent of peak energy load in certain parts of the country. Since demand response was initially created to manage peak load, the residential segment simply can’t be ignored as part of any utility’s energy management strategy.

The Value of Predictability

Being able to manage peak load is one thing, but being able to do so at the touch of a button offers a whole different level of reliability and predictability. This provides utilities with a rapidly-dispatchable resource that delivers guaranteed results – which is especially critical as utilities add more variable sources of generation to the grid like wind and solar. Bottom line: residential demand response delivers energy relief to the grid that is always available when it’s needed. Furthermore, the speed at which the energy reduction can be achieved is remarkable.

Consumers Want to Manage their Energy Use

Residential demand response gives customers what they want by helping to address environmental concerns, enhancing communications and providing a wide range of choices. This is important as people don’t just want to monitor energy use; they also increasingly want to engage with their utility on their energy consumption. A residential demand response program provides a great tool for utilities to engage with their residential customers, and can be an inflection point to start thinking about participation in other energy management programs available to them.

So, why does residential demand response matter? Because it makes sense, and it has proven to be a critical part of our nation’s energy mix.

Original Article on   EDF Energy Exchange Blog

Top 10 U.S States for Residential Solar

beautiful_solar_home_huff_post

How does one decide which states are the best for rooftop solar? There’s a plethora of considerations. In terms of overall solar irradiation, the answer is clear: Arizona. It gets more sun than any other state. In terms of capacity already installed on residences, California has the most and New Jersey has the second most. In terms of the cost of electricity, solar makes the most sense in Hawaii, which has the nation’s highest energy costs. But different states have very different incentives skewing the answer for which states truly offer homeowners the best return on their solar investment. But it’s a rapidly-changing target since programs change, get fully subscribed, or new legislation or regulations are enacted. And as a state’s solar incentive program gets filled for a year or even multiple years—like California’s, other state’s incentive programs rise up on the list.

Luckily there are a number of organizations, such as Nerd Wallet and Solar Power Rocks, that rank the best states for solar. Both sites compiled the large quantities of data related to energy prices, solar incentives, solar policies (like renewable energy portfolios and carve-outs for solar), net-metering policies, solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), payback rates, state and local rebates, tax credits and other factors. Solar Power Rock’s site offers a much more in-depth explanation of the reasoning behind their evaluations. But it made its rankings based on a host of factors. The most important factor for the homeowner though, is payback time or return on investment. The shorter the payback, the better for the homeowner. Therefore, in this particular ranking, the states with the shortest payback period and the highest energy prices top the list.

An important factor in going solar in any of these states is third-party ownership (TPO). In states that allow TPO arrangements, the impact of going solar is often nullified since a power-purchase agreement (PPA) or solar lease can allow a homeowner to go solar without having to fork out the $25,000 or more up-front for a 5 kilowatt array. In such states TPO options are designed to be equal to or less than the amount homeowners are paying for electricity from their utility when their system starts producing solar power. They are also often designed to save homeowners more as electricity prices creep up in subsequent years. To find out whether TPOs are available in your area, contact a local solar installer.

The following is a run-down of which states are the best for solar in terms of payback time:

Hawaii Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.1. Hawaii: Hawaii has the nation’s highest electricity costs at an average of 36 cents per kilowatt hour—that’s more than triple of Louisiana, which shares the nation’s lowest electricity costs with Tennessee, both of which average 8 cents per kilowatt hour. That high cost of electricity is because most of Hawaii’s energy is imported from the U.S. mainland in the form of diesel, which is used in generators on the state’s island. That high rate of electricity means solar is a winning proposition there, with a four-to-five year return on investment—shorter than some car leases. The state also has strong solar incentives, including a 35 percent state tax credit up to $5,000. The state also has the nation’s highest overall renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requiring its utilities to source 40 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Delaware Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL. 2. Delaware: Delaware, the first state and the tax-free state, also carries a five-year payback period for going solar. That’s despite having much lower electric costs that average about 14 cents per kilowatt hour. The state offers tiered rebates for residential systems. For each kilowatt (up to 5 kilowatts) homeowners are eligible for a $1,250 rebate ($6,250 for a 5 kilowatt array). For the next 5 kilowatts, homeowners are eligible for a $750 rebate. In all, a 10 kilowatt array would qualify for a $10,000 rebate. The state’s renewables efforts are also bolstered a 25 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2026.

In Delaware, a 5 kilowatt array will cost about $10,518 after the first year, according to Solar Power Rocks. The system will save the homeowner about $66 a month in energy costs and, acocrding to NerdWallet, the average electric bill in the state is around $132.80 a month.

Washington, D.C., Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL. 3. Washington, D.C.: Washington, D.C. isn’t technically a state, but perhaps more of a state of mind. That doesn’t stop it from making the list, however. Like Hawaii and Delaware, D.C. has a five-year payback period for going solar. That’s despite having a relatively low cost of electricity at 12 cents per kilowatt hour. The Capitol city offers a healthy rebate of $1,500 per kilowatt for the first 3 kilowatts, $1,000 per kilowatt between 4 and 10 kilowatts and $500 per kilowatt for kilowatts between 11 and 20. A 5 kilowatt array would qualify for a $6,500 rebate and a 20 kilowatt array a maximum of $15,500 in rebates. In addition, D.C. has a strong solar renewable energy credit market, with SRECs maxing out at $500 but averaging $320 per SREC in 2012—about $1,800 a year for a 5 kilowatt array. The district’s solar rooftops program is bolstered by a 2.5 percent carve-out for distributed solar generation as part of its 20 percent by 2023 RPS.

Connecticut Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.4. Connecticut: Connecticut has the nation’s second-highest average energy prices at 19 cents per kilowatt hour. Those high prices and Connecticut’s solar incentives mean that homeowners can recoup their investment in solar in about six years. Connecticut offers either a rebate or the opportunity to renewable energy credits produced by a solar array. The REC payments are low in the state—about $55 per credit and are expected to remain low for a while. Since it’s a market-based solution the price can go up or down. On the other hand, the state also has generous solar rebates thanks to the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund and the Clean Energy Finance Authority (CEFIA), which is tasked with supporting 30 new megawatts of residential solar by 2023. For systems up to 5 kilowatts homeowners can get a rebate of $2,450 per kilowatt—that’s $12,250 for a 5 kilowatt array. For systems between 5 and 10 kilowatts, the state offers a rebate of $1,250 per kilowatt, maxing out at $18,500.

New York Solar Radiation. Courtesy NREL.5. New York: New York, home of the Big Apple, is in the middle of the list this year. The state’s electric prices are higher than many states at about 16 cents per kilowatt hour, and a solar array pays for itself in about six years. The state has continued to bolster its residential solar offerings. A 5 kilowatt system in New York qualifies for an $8,750 state rebate and a 25 percent state tax credit (which caps out at 5 kW) or $5,000. That’s $13,750 off the price alone. In all, a 5 kilowatt array in New York carries an out-of-pocket cost of $5,455 after the first year—or $10,455 before the state tax rebate. However, the state doesn’t have an SREC market. Solar Power Rocks said the average electric bill savings is $77 a month. Nerd Wallet said the average electric bill in the state is $111.60 a month.

North Carolina Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.6. North Carolina: North Carolina has a lower cost of electricity than many other states on this list at 10 cents per kilowatt hour. Yet the state still has an estimated six year payback period for going solar. The North Carolina system is a bit hinky compared to most other states on the list. It doesn’t have a strong RPS or mandated rebate program across the state. “For now only customers of Progress Energy are eligible for a rebate. If you’re one of them, you can get a rebate of $1,000/kw on the installation of your solar power system, as well as a credit of $4.50/kw on every monthly bill,” according to Solar Power Rocks. However, the state does allow homeowners to take a 35 percent tax credit on a solar array up to $10,500. The state also has SRECs, which are solar through NC Green Power. Homeowners selling their SRECs need to sign an agreement with NC Green Power and their utility to sell them, however. For every kilowatt hour generated, NC Green Power pays 10 cents and the utility pays about 4 cents. Together that’s more than the cost of electricity in the state at 14 cents per kilowatt hour.

Massachusetts Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.7. Massachusetts: As of fall 2013, a solar array in Massachusetts will take about seven years to make a return on investment in Solar Power Rocks’ ratings. However, with new a renewed renewable effort announced by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) earlier this year, that payback period could shrink to five years soon. At 15 cents per kilowatt hour, the state’s electric costs are slightly higher than the national average of 11 cents per kilowatt hour. Patrick announced that the state would expand its solar energy target after meeting its 250 megawatts solar target four four years early. Now the state is targeting 1.6 gigawatts of solar. Massachusetts’ PV rebate is a little complicated since it includes an income provision. The rebate maxes out at $20,000. The base incentive is $750 per kilowatt up to 5 kilowatts or $3,750. There’s an additional $850 per kilowatt for households making less than 120 percent of median income in the state, totaling $8,000 for a 5 kilowatt array. In addition, Massachusetts offers a $100 per kilowatt rebate for locally produced PV and inverters. The state also has a strong SREC program with long-term pricing and a floor price of $285 per credit. If a utility isn’t purchasing enough SRECs they pay the state $600 per missed SREC purchase.

Solar Power Rocks reveals the average 5 kilowatt array is $5.30 per watt in Massachusetts, costing about $12,025 out-of-pocket after all rebates and incentives are considered. That’s the price of a small car. Massachusetts also offers long-term pricing for SRECs, which few if any states offer, an important factor in choosing to go solar. Solar Power Rocks also said such a system should shave about $75 a month off the average electric bill in the state. NerdWallet found the average monthly bill in the state is $92.90.

Maryland Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.8. Maryland: Maryland also has an average electric price of about 15 cents per kilowatt and at eighth place on the list, it also carries an average eight-year payback period. The state offers a grant of $1,000 for a solar system but does not offer a rebate. However, the state does have a decent SREC market with prices that ranged between $190 and 280 per SREC generated (1 megawatt hour) in 2012. Maryland has a theoretical SREC maximum of $400 per SREC. After all rebates, incentives and the first year of solar renewable energy credits are considered, the average out-of pocket costs for a 5 kilowatt system would be about $14,753. At the same time, a system that size would cut about $73 off the monthly bill, which NerdWallet put at $137.20 per month in the state.

South Carolina Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.9. South Carolina: The Palmetto State has a payback period of eight years for a solar array. The cost of electricity is just a bit above the national average at 12 cents per kilowatt hour. The state has a tax credit that allows homeowners to take 25 percent of the costs of a solar array off of their taxes. But they can only claim $3,500 in any given year. However, they can claim the credit over a period of 10 years. The state also has the Palmetto Clean Energy (PaCE) Program, akin to an SREC market. The program pays about 10 cents for every kilowatt hour of solar electricity produced by systems under 6 kilowatts. The average system would cost about $12,163 after all rebates and incentives are included, according to Solar Power Rocks. It would reduce monthly electric bills by about $64. That’s nearly cutting the average $135 electric bill in half.

Lousiana Solar radiation. Courtesy NREL.10. Louisiana: Rounding off the top 10 in 2013 is the old boot, Louisiana. The state has some of the lowest electric costs in the nation at 8 cents per kilowatt hour. However, thanks to the incentives, the solar payback period is about eight years. Chief among the incentives is Louisiana’s solar tax credit, which allows homeowners to deduct 50 percent of the cost of an array from their state taxes up to $12,500. The tax credit is on a per system basis. So if a home has more than one meter, it could qualify for multiple tax exemptions. With the solar tax credit, the cost of a 5 kilowatt array in the state is about $12,500, Solar Power Rocks said. Average monthly utility savings with a solar array is $42 a month. Despite having low energy costs, the average electric bill in the state is $120 a month, according to NerdWallet.

11. Eleven and beyond. Just because a state didn’t make the list this year doesn’t mean investing in solar is a mistake. Many of the nation’s leading solar states like California, Colorado and Arizona have an approximate 10-year payback period. But solar doesn’t have to have an up-front cost anymore. In virtually all of the U.S. states on this list (and some not on the list) people can have solar installed without paying anything out of pocket thanks to third-party financing (TPO) companies.

Original Article on Solar Reviews

Top 3 Common Residential Solar Mistakes

residential-solar-home

Are you interested in residential solar power systems? They can be a great way to save money over time on energy bills. However, these systems are expensive, and unfortunately, many people make costly mistakes before and during the installation process. Knowing what to avoid can save you money and increase your overall satisfaction with your decision to go solar.

1. Forgetting about Overall Energy Efficiency

Prior to doing anything else, you should evaluate how energy efficient your home is as a whole. An energy audit is the best way to accomplish this, and if necessary, you can hire someone to assist you with one. An energy audit will point out ways that you can save money each month by using less power. For instance, you may need to add insulation to your home or make a few changes to your duct system so that it is more efficient. Once that is finished, you can move on to installing a residential solar power system. At that point, the system should take care of all of your energy needs on its own.

2. Trying to Install the System Yourself

While you may be quite handy, installing a solar power system is a complicated job. Most installers are trained fairly extensively, and they know where to put your system so that it will be able to generate the most power. They also know how to handle issues that might crop up along the way, like a leaky roof. Finally, a professional installer can guide you when it comes to the permits and paperwork that you will have to complete.

3. Thinking You Can’t Afford It

While it’s true that solar panels can be quite expensive, there are other options that can put you on the path to sustainability and still help you save a bit of money at the same time. Perfect for those just starting on a “green” path, plug and play solar kits don’t cost as much as solar panels and will cut back on your power usage. They are small and easy to use. You simply put them outside, on a flat service, and make sure they are near an outlet. You want the systems to be pointed at the sun as well, so that they draw in the sun’s rays. That’s all there is to it.

When it comes to the solar panels themselves, remember that there are financing and leasing options available to you. Some systems cost tens of thousands of dollars, which puts them out of reach for the average family. However, if you choose to finance, you won’t have to pay as much money up front. In addition, leasing can save you on equipment and installation fees. You would only be responsible for the power that your system generates on a monthly basis.

If you are ready to embark on the journey toward a greener life, solar power can certainly help you achieve your goal. However, it is important to steer clear of the most common mistakes homeowners make in order to get the most out of your investment.

Original Article on Greener.Ideal

solar output

Calculating Solar Panel Output

solar outputThe amount of electricity a solar panel produces depends on three main things: the amount of sunlight hitting the panel, the size of the panel, and the efficiency of the solar cells inside. We’ll break down what you can expect from a typical solar panel, and how that power output compares to the power you need for the gadgets and appliances you use inside your home.

What does the max power rating mean?

Your solar panels will have a number listed on the back that indicates how much power they will pump out during ideal conditions. This is called the maximum power rating. Labs that test solar panels calculate output using “peak sun,” or 1000 watts of sunlight per square meter of surface. That’s approximately equal to the power of the sun at noon, on a sunny day, at the equator.

Calculating solar panel output for your location

Since you probably don’t live at the equator, your roof will get a different amount of sunlight, and of course the amount of sunlight also varies based on time of day, the season, and the weather. You can’t use the maximum power rating to directly predict how much power you’ll get from a solar panel. It is possible to do a bit of math to get a better sense of how a solar panel will work in your location, however. Check out Weather Underground’s solar calculator– after you enter your address, you’ll get specific details about how much sunlight hits your house on average. The calculator also gives the option of entering a specific model of solar panel, and the square footage of the panel coverage on your roof.

What’s the power rating for an average solar panel?

A typical solar panel produces around 200 watts of power. There’s a little bit of variation on this, based on the size and efficiency of the solar panel you choose; you’ll see panels that produce 205, 210, even 230 watts. More efficient panels are a little more expensive, and are usually only needed if you have limited space on your roof. Your solar installer will work with you to figure out how much power you’re using, and then will size the whole installation correctly to meet your needs. It won’t matter as much how much each panel is producing as the whole array. A typical installation might be about a 5 kWh array, or roughly 25 panels.

How much power do my devices use?

There’s huge variation in power use between households depending on what you own and how often you use everything. Of course, every device is different, too. One basic old-fashioned lightbulb uses 60 watts of electricity; a CFL uses 18 watts. Laptops often use about 45 watts, and desktops can run between 150-300 watts. Window air conditioning can range between 500 and 1500 watts, and central air conditioning can use 3500 watts. In total, the average home uses about 958 kilowatts a month– with variations by season, especially if you use air conditioning or electric heat. Usage also varies between day and night. Unless you work at home, most of your electricity usage probably happens at night.

On or off the grid?

Since solar panels only generate power as the sun shines, you’ll need a way to store the energy. Though it’s possible to use a battery for storage, the easiest (and cheapest) solution for most people is to stay connected to the grid. If your solar panels are producing more energy than you’re using—when you’re at work, on vacation, or just not running many devices—excess power will flow back into the grid. In many locations, utility companies offer a program called “net metering” that can compensate you for extra power you produce. At night, or anytime you need extra power, you’ll pull it from the grid. With a grid-connected system, you’ll never need to worry if you happen to need more power than your solar system has been sized to provide. You may also choose to supply only part of your average electricity bill with solar, and use the grid for the rest. Your solar installer will talk to you about all of the options. Interested in getting a quote? Sign up with us to get a free consultation.