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What Do Batteries Do for Solar?
Nov20

What Do Batteries Do for Solar?

Everybody already knows what solar panels do. They turn sunlight into electricity. But what does it do to add batteries to the solar panel system? The short answer is that the batteries store the electricity that the solar panels generate. So let’s talk about what energy storage can do for you. If you are installing an off-grid solar system, storing the power is going to be important. Solar panels only generate electricity during daylight hours and in most cases you are going to want to use some of that energy at night. There are some exceptions like solar well pumps for irrigation or for filling a large holding tank. In these cases, it is okay for the pumps to stop working at night so the solar panels without batteries are going to be just fine. But if your off-grid system is running just about anything else, you will want to store the energy produced during the day so you can use it at night.  Of course, most of you are installing grid-tied solar which makes the batteries less necessary, but they still might be useful. For one thing, even on the sunniest day, most grid-tied solar will not produce any power when the utility company has a power outage. The one exception is an SMA inverter which can be set up with one outlet so you have a small amount of power but only when the sun is shining and it is barely enough to run a refrigerator. If you want things in your house like the lights, fans, computers, microwave and dishwasher to work when power is off, you will need to add batteries to your solar. How much battery you put in will depend on what you want to run but it will typically be $10,000 – $20,000 to run your smaller appliances but if you want your whole house to work when the power is out you are going to need to spend some big bucks. There are also some financial reasons to install the batteries but it depends on your electric rate and net metering rules. A classic example is the time-of-use (TOU) rates which are getting more popular in places like California. Being on a TOU rate means you will pay a high (peak) rate like $.30/kwh on weekdays between the hours of 4pm – 9pm and a low rate like $.15/kwh for the other hours of the day. Solar is going to generate the most power around noon when the electric rates are cheap so the batteries can store that power and you can use it at 8pm when it’s too dark to...

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Grid-Tied Solar Interconnection Options
Nov19

Grid-Tied Solar Interconnection Options

If you are installing solar to save money on your electric bill, it is going to be a “grid-tied” system. When we talk about the “grid” we are talking about the electric company’s network of transmission lines and equipment that bring the electricity from the power plant to your house. The “tied” part of “grid-tied” means exactly what you would think it does, you are going to connect your solar power system to that grid.  The actual point of interconnection is typically your main service panel. This is the point where the grid ends and your home’s electrical system starts. It can generally be said that anything before your main service breaker belongs to the electric company and we call this part of the system the line side or supply side. Anything after your main service breaker belongs to you and we call this the load side because that is where your loads are. A load is anything that uses electricity like your lights, washing machine, air conditioner, etc. There are a few different ways to make that interconnection at the main service panel and that is the point of today’s article. The simplest method for the do-it-yourself solar installer is a load side connection made with a circuit breaker in your main service panel. This means you are going to add a circuit breaker in your main service panel next to all the circuit breakers that feed your loads and you will connect your solar inverter output to that circuit breaker. One thing to note about this type of load side connection are that the inverter circuit breaker will need to be as far as possible from your main breaker so you may have to move a few load breakers to make space for it at the end of the busbar that holds all your breakers.   Another thing you need to know about a load side connection with an inverter circuit breaker is that you have to follow the 120% rule (2014 NEC 705.12(D)(2)(3)(b) or NEC 2017 705.12(D)(2)(3)) where the main service breaker plus 125% of the maximum solar output must be less than or equal to 120% of the busbar rating. You can see our previous article about evaluating your main service panel for solar to understand the math on this but the bottom line is there are times when you can’t make this type of connection without an expensive main service panel upgrade, so let’s look at the other options that are available.  So, if you are not going to interconnect your solar power system on the load side of your main service breaker, that means...

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Homebuilders Seek Solar Contractors To Comply With California’s Newest Solar Mandate
Nov18

Homebuilders Seek Solar Contractors To Comply With California’s Newest Solar Mandate

Starting next year, California will require the construction of all homes to include solar systems that offset their expected energy usage.  California’s new home solar requirement is part of the state’s Title 24 Building Energy Efficiency Standards, which the California Energy Commission updates every three years. The mandate is an attempt by the state to achieve Zero Net Energy in all new homes by 2020. Such demands will create new challenges and opportunities for home builders looking to comply with the state’s law while maintaining competitive prices and offering unique value propositions to potential customers.  As of 2019, approximately 15,000 solar systems were installed on new homes. By next year that number is set to quintuple to nearly 75,000.  To keep pace with California’s growing demand for residential solar, building contractors are looking to partner with established home solar companies such as Go Green Solar, which have both the experience and track record necessary to help them streamline the transition while keeping a lean budget. Offering a wide selection of solar equipment and roster of subcontracted roofers, electricians, and engineers to help get the job done, Go Green Solar has the following traits that building contractors will want to consider when working with a home solar installer: Comprehensive knowledge of California building code and Title 24 requirementsGo Green Solar started in California and has over 13 years experience in the solar industry. Its sister company Planet Plan Sets specializes in making the solar permitting process easy for any home builder in the nation — meaning that when it comes to the tedious details such as building codes and laws, the company has a long-standing track record of success. Flexible and easy to work withMost DIY solar companies sell the equipment for a person or company to convert their building to solar and the relationship ends there. Go Green Solar is a hybrid of sorts, offering the freedom of choice and ownership that comes with DIY along with the additional help and assistance of installing should it be something a customer requires. Quality workmanshipGo Green Solar’s reviews speak for themselves. Having helped thousands of customers nationwide make the switch to solar, the company has a roster of full time and subcontracted workers that have been stringently vetted to do their work, and do it well. A wide selection of BOMs Not every home is the same. Different locations and budgets require different materials. Go Green Solar has a variety of photovoltaic panels, inverters, microinverters, and energy storage solutions for contractors to choose from, knowledge of how to install them, and a nuts and bolts understanding of how they will perform.  California’s Title 24 requirements...

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Is Your Roof Right for Solar?
Nov15

Is Your Roof Right for Solar?

If you look around, you are likely to notice that more and more roofs in your neighborhood are getting filled with solar panels. Which makes sense because all those homes use electricity and the solar panels are going to save those homeowners lots of money. But not every roof is the ideal place for solar so let’s talk about what makes a roof right for solar. First, the weather where you live will make a difference in your solar output, but even places where it rains a lot like Portland get enough sun for solar to make sense. If you are getting a solar production estimate, it is important that you use the correct zip code so you get an accurate estimate, but any location is going to have enough sun to save you money. The next thing to look at is the orientation of your roof. Solar panels produce the most power when the sun is hitting them directly. While you may think that north-facing roof looks bright and sunny, the sun never hits it at a direct angle and it is not a great place for solar panels. But sometimes people do install solar on the north facing roof so let’s get into some details on this. In the continental United States, solar panels facing South at about a 30 – 40 degree tilt angle will produce the most electricity annually. If you are in the southern states, the lower angle is better because the sun is higher in the sky. If you are in the northern states, the steeper tilt angle is better because the sun is lower in the sky.  If your roof is not quite facing due south but it’s close (within 30 degrees of south on a compass), it will still produce almost the full amount of power. If it is facing east or west you will lose about 15% – 20% of the annual production. The steeper the roof is, the more you will lose. So if the roof is pitched 10 degrees to the west, it will only be a 15% loss but if it is at 35 degree pitch to the west it will be more like 20%. A north facing roof will be a 30% – 50% annual loss depending on the pitch.   The pitch also matters on a south-facing roof 30-40 degrees is ideal for annual production and a roof that is totally flat will be at a 10% loss in the southern US and a 15% loss in the northern US.    Now, there are times where annual production is less important and you want to optimize production...

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California upholds its vision to build all new homes with solar in 2020
Nov14

California upholds its vision to build all new homes with solar in 2020

The ink has yet to dry on California’s paradigm-shifting new proposal, Title 24, which will require solar on all new homes, and, already, utility companies are looking for ways to undermine the decentralization of power. Unfortunately for utility companies, California state commissioners doubled down on their vision of a state powered with a more decentralized grid.  Most recently, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) submitted a proposal to the California Energy Commission (CEC) that would create a loophole in the state’s solar mandate making it ineffective. SMUD’s proposal attempted to exploit the community solar option in California’s Title 24 mandate, allowing new homes to use power from far-off centralized solar farms, rather than requiring them to be built with self-sufficient solar systems.  During a time when power utilities have begun shutting off electricity to millions of consumers to avoid wildfires caused by downed power lines, many believed that SMUD’s efforts were an attempt to hold on to power and keep consumers paying high-utility rates. “This will be the end of the new home solar mandate as we know it,” said Benjamin Davis, a staffer at the California Solar & Storage Assn. The CEC voted to turn down SMUD’s proposal on Nov 14, securing a victory for California’s distributed solar and storage. The decision sends a loud and clear message that the state is serious about seeing its new buildings outfitted with solar power, drafting a more restrictive definition of community solar as it exists under Title 24.  A projected 2020 increase in demand for solar systems in California, coupled with the 30 percent Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) which is scheduled to phase out over the course of the next few years, has inspired a sudden uptick in homeowners contacting solar installers such as Go Green Solar, hoping to become more independent from large scale utility...

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