How do I get a site visit?
Arranging a site visit is easy, just give us a call at 802-223-7014 or fill out your information on our contact page.
What is Net Metering? How does it apply to a solar system?
Net Metering is an agreement with your utility that allows solar electric systems to have a one for one exchange of energy with the utility grid. When a solar electric system produces a surplus of energy, the electricity is sent out onto the utility grid to be used. At this point the utility meter quite literally spins backwards and the system owner begins building Kilowatt hour or kWh credits. When the building needs more electricity than the solar system can supply, kWh are drawn from the utility grid. At this point the meter spins forward adding kWh to the utility bill. At the end of the month after all the ins and outs of electricity the utility meter is read. The meter now shows the Net usage or Net Production for the month. In this arrangement the value of the solar electricity pushed into the grid is the same as the energy drawn from the grid. Solar designers use this arrangement to produce 100% of the energy needs for a home or business. During the sunniest part of the year, the system produces a surplus of energy and kWh credits are built up with the utility. During winter when there is less sun, the owners of the system can draw off these credits to reduce their utility bill. Many of our clients produce 100% of their annual electrical needs in this manner. In Vermont there is a rolling one-year period for Net Metering. A kWh credit made in June can be used at any point until the following June.
What is Net Zero?
Net zero is the term given to structures that produce as much energy as they consume over the period of a year. Installation of a solar system that can produce 100 percent of a structure’s electrical needs is Net Zero.
How do we size a System?
The size of a solar system will be dependent on a lot of factors. The goal of many clients is to size a system that can produce 100% of their annual needs. In this case we use past electrical bills to estimate future usage. Then we use 30-year solar insolation data to estimate the solar system production over time. For some clients and businesses 100% production is not always achievable. Due to limitation of viable panel space of budgetary concerns, some systems produce a percentage of the annual electrical needs. Return on the investment is the same, but production is limited to 25%, 50% or 75% of the necessary power. For off grid installations a detailed energy audit is performed. Accuracy of load estimation is imperative to proper off grid design. We work with our clients in this process and size systems to meet their needs.
What Happens when utility power goes out?
In systems that do not include batteries, there are automatic safety procedures that the inverters go through. In a fraction of a second, the inverter senses that the utility power is out and automatically disconnects. This prevents the solar system from “Islanding” or becoming an independent source of power for the grid. It would be hazardous to the safety of line workers if systems energized when working on the lines in an outage. When utility power is restored, the inverter senses it, goes through a safety delay procedure and then resumes normal functioning automatically.
Are Batteries used in Solar Systems?
Most modern solar electric installations do not use batteries. The energy flows from the panels and is inverted directly for use in the home or business. However, many systems still include batteries for energy storage. There are two types of solar electric systems that include batteries, Off Grid and Battery Back up. Off grid systems are not connected to the utility grid and operate independently as electrical systems. These systems are most common in remote locations, cabins and homes where the grid is not available. In this application, all of the energy coming off the solar electric panels is sent to the batteries. Batteries store the energy for later use when other sources are not available. In areas where power outages are frequent, or buildings have electrical loads that must stay powered, there is the option of battery back-up. These systems function like a traditional utility inter-tie system, however there is a small battery bank that powers loads when the utility power fails. The inverter powers a critical load panel that often includes water pumps, heating systems, lighting, freezers and computer servers. The system runs all the critical loads off the batteries until utility power returns. The inverters then automatically resume normal operation.
Are there Grants and Tax Credits Available for Solar Installation?
Yes there are a variety of incentives available for solar installations on both home and business. There is a State Incentive program in Vermont that supplies cash incentives for homes, businesses and schools. There are both State and Federal Tax credits available. The tax credit is 30% of the installed value of the solar installation. If all the credits are not used in one year then they can be carried forward to the next. There are also production credits that are offered through specific utilities.
The incentive amounts and programs change quite frequently. Please contact us to get the most up to date information. As a client we will guide you through the entire process, taking care of permitting, incentive applications and providing any technical and financial data necessary for tax credits.
How efficient are panels and systems?
Solar panels vary in efficiency. With solar electric systems we are talking about conversion of sunlight into useful electrical energy at specific condition. There is a difference between cell efficiency and panel area efficiency. In brief, the following numbers are panel efficiencies. Some very high efficiencies have been achieved in labs and special circumstances. However, in solar installation we use products designed and tested for installation in real world conditions. Amorphous Silicon panels have the lowest efficiency, moving up from around 6%. String ribbon and polycrystalline cells range from 10-14% efficiency and Monocrystalline Cells average just a little higher. Multi-junction cells are the highest maxing out around 19-20%.
Should I use a Tracker System?
Tracking systems are only appropriate in specific sites where sunlight is available early in the morning and late into the evening in summer. The Solar Specialists has tracking systems in the field and has been monitoring data on their production over the years. Most trackers are performing close to their estimated production or 25-30% more annual production than a fixed mount. For this reason trackers are a good choice in these sites. They are not appropriate in most sites and do have long-term maintenance issues.
What are my Financing options for solar installation?
Solar can be financed in a variety of ways. Large-scale installations usually differ from small scale in financing. There are more and more people offering green lending programs both locally and nationally. Consult with your current bank or lending institution. You might be surprised to find that they are eager to talk about this topic.
Refinancing of homes and property is common for renovations and improvements to the structures including solar.
New construction offers more opportunity if solar is part of the plans. Do not let the solar installation be an afterthought in financing or design.
We can provide financing through national equipment distributors. Rates are often similar to those of banks for small personal loans. Some offer loans interest free rates until all tax credits and incentives have been processed.
There is the option of leasing a system. This option is ideal for those trying to reduce the amount of upfront cost. For business this option offers tax benefits over loans.
Some people transfer some of their investments from one type to another. In the current market solar is a very stable and predictable investment.
Will I need new Appliances or Wiring in my House if I install solar?
No, you will not need to buy new appliances or alter the wiring of your home. In rare occasions we have to alter the service panel to meet current code standards.
Will My Property Taxes Increase if I go Solar
No. Although going solar will immediately increase the value of your home, you will not experience a property tax increase in Vermont.
Do solar Systems have warranties?
Yes, all solar components have warranties. Most solar panels have a 25 year production warranty. They guarantee that the solar panel will still be producing 80% of the nameplate rating in 25 years. Inverter warranties average 10 years.
Do the solar panels need to be mounted on the roof and how much space to they need?
Panels are commonly placed on roofs if they are unshaded and face towards the South. Most residential grid connect systems range in size from 150 ft2 to 500 ft2. If the roof space is not ideal we commonly install panels on ground mounts. This will be determined at the site visit.