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%; individual years were highly unpredictable, ranging from -3% to more than 8%. PG&E recently requested, in its California Public Utilities Commission rate case, an increase of $5.33 billion in rates over the next three years. If PG&E’s request is approved, electricity rates will, on average, increase 18.8% in 2014, and 6% per year in 2015 and 2016. To be conservative, our analysis for your solar system assumes only 3.6% annual PG&E cost increases.
PG&E puts you in a tough position: They operate a regulated monopoly (as the only provider of electricity), and you have no say over rate increases. Your bill simply increases. However, with solar you will benefit from PG&E rate increases. Generating your own power locks in the rate you pay for the next 25 years … as PG&E increases its rates, your savings magnify.

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. 24/7 monitoring and maintenance is included for a minimum of 20 years.

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 (since it’s a dollar-for-dollar tax credit) incentive to go solar. The Investment Tax Credit is available through the end of 2016 and may be carried back one year or forward for 20 years. 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. 

Is it difficult to switch to solar power?

No. Repowering your home with solar is simple and hassle free. We will get your solar system up and running as quickly and smoothly as possible so that you can start saving money and using clean energy. You won't experience any changes or disruptions inside your home. 

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 and tilted at an angle equal to your latitude yield the best yields. Shade from trees, other obstructions, or even clouds reduce – but do not eliminate – electricity generation. Other factors influencing generation are related to the efficiency of panels, the inverter, and the quality of the installation (wiring, connections, heat-reducing construction). Optimally oriented, high quality, stationary panels and inverters installed with best practices convert 13-18% of sunlight into electricity.

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 happens when it’s cloudy, raining or at night?

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 one month – 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.

How am I credited for the electricity my system makes?

PG&E’s net-meter, replacing your current meter, will track the power moving both directions – that is, the electricity produced by the system and sent onto the grid and the power drawn from the grid. Every six months, PG&E will “true-up” your electricity use and solar electricity generation. With solar, there is no disruption to your electrical service. The only change is a reduction in your PG&E bill.

Should I wait for new technology?

No, now is really the best time to invest in a solar system with the combination of proven technology, reduced solar system costs, ever-increasing PG&E rates, and Federal tax incentives. The underling benefit of turning sunlight into electricity will not change for as long as we still use electricity to power our homes.

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, the rain serves as a natural cleaning agent, and occasionally you may want to hose down your panels during dry seasons. When you repower your home, you receive one year of free monitoring and maintenance to ensure your solar system is operating at peak efficiency.