Monday, June 3, 2013

How much does a solar system cost?

In the first nine months of 2013, the average per-watt cost of residential solar systems installed in Santa Cruz County was $4.90. For example, a typical home will have a 6 kW (DC) system with a turnkey investment of $24,000 (or less). Your system’s size and cost will depend on your home’s energy use and how much of your PG&E bill you would like to offset.

Are PG&E’s rates going to increase?

Over the past 30 years, PG&E’s electricity rates have increased an average of 6.7%. PG&E operates a regulated monopoly (as the only provider of electricity), and you have no say over rate increases. However, with solar, generating your own power locks in the rate you pay for the next 25 years.

Will solar increase the value of my home?

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) recently released an analysis that found solar panels add between 3 percent and 4 percent to the value of a home. Their conclusion is consistent with a 2013 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study that found solar panels have a “sizeable effect” on home prices.

Can I finance my solar system?

Yes. Financing allows homeowners to own the solar system, and pay for it over a period of 20 years. Like other loans, you make a monthly payment until the balance is paid off. Depending on the length of the loan and your energy usage, the total of your loan payment plus remaining PG&E bill should be less than your previous electric bill. 

What rebates and incentives are available?

If you purchase your solar system, you will receive a Federal Investment Tax Credit of 30% of your total system cost – in essence, a 30% discount incentive to go solar. The Investment Tax Credit is available through the end of 2016. If you lease your solar system, your solar company will receive the Investment Tax Credit since they will own the solar system.

What are the warranties?

The solar panels and power inverter have standard, 10-year warranties. The panels have a 25-year production warranty, guaranteeing power generation.

How long will my solar system last?

Most solar systems outlast their 25-year production warranties; many of the first solar systems installed more than 30 years ago are still going strong. 

What determines how well my system generates electricity?

The efficiency of generating electricity is primarily governed by the amount of light (photons) striking your solar panels. Panels facing south produce the best yields. Shade from trees, other obstructions, or even clouds reduce but do not eliminate  electricity generation. 

How do I benefit from electricity generated but not used immediately, and do I need batteries?

PG&E’s grid acts as your battery. When you produce more than you use, you generate credits that are applied against what you use. You only pay for the power you use.

What is Net Energy Metering?

Under PG&E’s Net Energy Metering program, you receive a credit for every kilowatt hour of electricity your solar system generates. You will maintain connection to PG&E’s grid and will thus continue to draw power from PG&E (regardless of whether your solar system is generating electricity).

How long does it take to install my solar system?

From start to finish, the process will take less than two months – our goal is to get your system up and running as quickly as possible. The length of installation depends on the complexity of your roof, the permitting process, and PG&E interconnection.

What about maintenance?

Your solar energy system requires very little maintenance, largely because it has no moving parts. There is no need to wash or dust photovoltaic panels, but it is important to keep them clear of shade and debris to maximize power generation. We suggest you keep an eye on trees that may shade your system and keep them trimmed. Fortunately, rain serves as a natural cleaning agent.