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Sizing Your Solar Power System
Oct10

Sizing Your Solar Power System

You know you want to install solar, but how much solar do you want to install? There are many factors to consider when making decisions about system size. The system size will be dependent on how much energy you want to generate. If you are doing a grid-tied system, you will start by looking at your electric bills. You should add up the last 12 months of electric bills so you have your annual usage. If you only use one month or one season, you can end up way off because your electric needs can change dramatically from summer to winter.  Sample Electric Bill – look for the kWh! Once you know your annual usage, you should ask yourself some questions. If you have solar on your roof and you’re no longer paying crazy high prices for every kilowatt hour (kwh), what might you do differently? Would you turn the air conditioning setting down a couple of degrees so you never break a sweat? Would you buy an electric car? Do you have any other plans like installing a swimming pool? If you answered yes, then you will want to add some kwh to your current usage to account for the additional air conditioning run time, the electric car, the swimming pool or whatever else you might dream up that will use extra electricity.  The next big question is how much of this projected energy usage do you want the solar to offset. This will depend on your electric rates and how your electric provider deals with net metering. If your local utility company gives you full retail credit for every kwh that you feed into their system then you should consider a system that generates close to 100% of your projected usage. Going over 100% is generally not beneficial as most utilities will not pay much for the excess power generated over the course of a year.  Sample electric bill before and after solar If you are sizing an off-grid system, you will have to do a little more work to get your projected usage.  You will need to make a list of everything that will use electricity. Then you have to determine how many watts each of those items will use and how many hours you plan to run them. You can multiply the watts by the hours to get watt hours. Divide the watt hours by 1,000 and that will give you the kilowatt hours (kwh). Now you know what you need to generate but that still doesn’t exactly tell you what size system to install.  Because there are so many factors (like location, weather and...

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How Solar Works
Oct09

How Solar Works

If you look at the roofs around you, you will see that more and more people are installing solar but what is it all about and how does it work? The point of installing solar is to save money, but that is the end result and we should start this story at the beginning.  The solar panels are officially called photovoltaic modules. Photovoltaic is really hard to say, so most people call them PV modules or just go with the commonly accepted and less technical name “solar panels”. The solar panels should be installed at a good angle to the sun which is generally going to be south. East or west also works with west having an advantage of producing more energy in the afternoons which is desirable if you are on a Time-of-Use electric rate (you can see our other articles for more details on that). Most people install the solar panels on the roof but if you have the space, you can install them on a ground-mount rack.  Roof vs ground mounted solar When the sun hits the solar panels, they produce DC electricity. When you buy the solar panels, you will also want to get an inverter (or microinverters) to convert the DC power to AC power. In a Grid-tied system (which is the kind you want for your house unless you are not hooked up to the electric company), that inverter (or microinverters) will be connected to the main service panel of your house.  The power from the solar will flow to all the lights and appliances in the house and any excess power that you don’t use will flow out to the grid, spinning your meter backwards. Your electric company will give you credits for that energy that you give them and apply those credits to the energy that you use at night when the solar isn’t producing.  The amount of credit that you get for the energy you feed into the grid depends on your utility company. In some places customers get full credit, so for every kilowatt hour (kwh) you feed in, you get a kwh back later. In other places, you get less than full credit, but it is still a worthwhile amount. In the end, no matter where you are, every solar panel will lower your electric bill a little bit more which is why solar is a great investment. But, there is a limit to the savings. You can only save the amount of your electric bill. Except for very unusual circumstances, you will not be paid more than a few pennies, if anything, for excess energy generated over...

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ADU & Solar Go Together Like Peanut Butter & Jelly
Oct08

ADU & Solar Go Together Like Peanut Butter & Jelly

Accessory dwelling units (ADU), in-law apartments, laneway houses, backyard cottages, or just a good ol’ fashion granny flat — the home addition goes by many names, but one thing that remains standard throughout the nation is that building one with solar, makes a lot of sense.  That’s because residential solar and ADUs go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Sample Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) with Solar Take, for example, that the reason why the majority of people build ADUs is to provide an independent living provision for all of life’s necessities. ADUs act a self-reliant tiny home that is detached from a primary dwelling, but still on the same parcel of land, which can accommodate a person’s sleeping, cooking, and sanitation needs. Since land is usually the most expensive part of building a home, and the land costs of an ADU are already accounted for, each dollar spent building the unit has a direct Return On Investment (ROI) when generating additional rental income and is a great way to build passive income over time. Likewise, homeowners that install solar systems do so with the intent to gain independence from utility companies and take control of their electric bills. Much like an ADU, the addition of solar to a home will increase its value and can be viewed as a long-term investment, generating a net-positive ROI after the first 5-7 years it’s installed.  When it comes to do-it-yourself projects, again, both residential solar and ADUs attract the same type of go-getter. It might not come as a surprise to learn that both projects can be completed on or off the radar. To encourage more builds of both that are up to code, many municipalities around the nation have made them easier to install, rolling back legislation to address the housing and energy crisis. Nationally, Los Angeles was among the cities that saw the most dramatic jump in ADUs after changing its building code from 80 applications in 2016 to 1,970 in 2017.  Legislation has had a positive impact on residential solar installments, too. The federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) has increased solar installations by 1600 percent since it was initiated in 2006, giving homeowners a generous 30 percent back on the price of their systems. Starting 2020 the ITC will begin to roll back its credit to 26 percent and 22 percent in 2021, before dropping to zero.  Coupled with the sunsetting ITC, 2019 promises to be the most financially beneficial time in the foreseeable future for homeowners to start ADU and solar projects. The symbiotic duo is an undeniably beneficial...

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Solar is now cheaper than natural gas, new study shows
Oct07

Solar is now cheaper than natural gas, new study shows

Solar storage has reached an inflection point in cost with new Natural Gas Combined Cycle (NGCC) plants in many regions of the United States, competing both operationally and financially. The findings are part of a study by Fluence and a group of MBA candidates at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University, which analyzed data from 435 NGCCs across America to see how solar financially measures up against natural gas.  “In recent years, a consensus has emerged across the energy industry – and among regulators –that utility-scale solar-plus-storage (S+S) is now an economically viable alternative to natural gas peaker plants, “ the report states. S+S is a battery that is charged and holds the energy generated by a connected solar system such as a photovoltaic one.  The study uses the levelized cost of energy as the standard unit of measurement for comparing different forms of energy generation and assumed a project lifetime of 30 years, beginning in 2020.  Factoring in a 30% federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), the researchers concluded solar is more cost-effective in four out of the five grid service areas it identified. Using an example of a hypothetical S+S facility in California, the paper shows that the energy generation cost per megawatt-hour (MWh) would only be $39-48 using solar, as compared to $60-116 per MWh when using natural gas.  While the 30% ITC rate is only available for systems placed in service through December 31, 2019, before its rates phase out to 26 percent, 22 percent, and then zero percent each subsequent year, the research claims that S+S can still compete with NGCC financially in locations such as California and mid-continental US, with high solar irradiance or attractive prices for ancillary services.  Unlike natural gas, homeowners can generate their energy with solar, allowing them to become more independent from the fluctuating prices of utility companies. GoGreenSolar has professionals and DIY assistance for those looking to enjoy the benefits of utilities and take advantage of the ITC and S+S energy...

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Electric Rates and the Benefits of Solar
Oct04

Electric Rates and the Benefits of Solar

Installing solar will save you money on your electric bill. There is no doubt about that. The question real question is – how much money will it save you? That can only be answered if you understand your electric bill. If you are on a simple electric rate where you get charged a certain dollar amount per kilowatt hour (kwh), then calculating the payback on your solar power system is easy. Figure out how many kilowatt hours the solar will produce, multiply that by how much you per kwh and there is your number.  But it is not that easy for everyone because there are more complicated electric rate structures. The math gets a little trickier if you are on a tiered billing rate or time of use (TOU) rate and things get really interesting if you have demand charges. Another factor to consider is how your electric company pays you back for the excess power you feed into the grid when your solar is generating more than you are using.   Sample tiered billing system where the electric company charges you more per kWh when you use more electricity. Tiered billing is a system where the electric company charges you more per kwh when you use more electricity. For example, they would charge $.19/kwh for the first 10 kwh you use in a day, then $.24/kwh for the next 40 kwh and then $.42/kwh for anything over that. If you are very conservative with your power usage and stay at the $.19/kwh – $.24/kwh range, the solar takes longer to pay for itself because you are paying less for your electricity than someone who is using a lot of power and is paying that $.42/kwh rate.  On a tiered billing rate, the solar is still worthwhile for the conservative user who is only in the lower pricing tiers, but it will have a little bit lower return on investment than it would have for the excessive electricity user. This is because the solar knocks out the higher priced electricity and the more you save per kwh, the faster the solar pays for itself.  Sample time of use billing system based on when you use your electricity. Time of use (TOU) rates are based on when you use your electricity. A typical time of use rate would be that energy used between 3pm – 8pm (peak time) costs $.25/kwh and energy used at any other time of day is only $.15/kwh. The electric companies do this so that the consumer will try to use less power during summer afternoons when the electric company is struggling to keep up with the...

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