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Federal Tax Credit for Residential PV
Oct18

Federal Tax Credit for Residential PV

At GoGreenSolar.com, we are often asked about the federal tax credits that apply to customers who use solar electric systems to power their homes.  Though we’re not tax experts, we’ve spent some time gathering information about these federal tax incentives for residential PV installations.  Here’s what we’ve learned:  The federal government offers tax credits to encourage the adoption of renewable energy.  These tax credits are 30% of the net cost of your solar electric system.  What is a tax credit? Unlike a tax deduction that takes money off your taxable income, tax credits will reduce your taxes by a specific dollar amount, directly offsetting your bill.  Of course, you do have to be paying taxes to benefit from tax credits. Who qualifies for the 30% federal tax credit? If you have recently put a solar electric system in service on your property, you qualify for a 30% federal tax credit.  To receive the tax credits for a residential solar system, the home with the system doesn’t have to be your primary living place.   So if you put solar on a second home, you’ll still qualify for the 30% tax credit.   If you are renting your home, however, you would not qualify. Is that 30% of the total cost or do they calculate it differently? Total (Gross) Cost – Utility/State Rebates = Tax Basis for 30% Tax Credit   First, determine the gross cost of your solar electric system, including all equipment, labor, and qualified expenditures.  Next, subtract any rebates you received from your utility company and/or state.   The tax basis by which your tax credit will be determined is calculated after any state or utility rebates have been subtracted.  Unless they qualify as income on your taxes, these rebates need to be subtracted before calculating your 30% federal tax credit.  This will give you the net cost of your project, which will be used to calculate your tax credit.  Net Cost x 0.3 = 30% Federal Tax Credit Does this apply to DIY solar electric systems? Yes. Just like any other solar electric system, a DIY solar system qualifies for the 30% federal tax credit.    If you hire help for your DIY project, have them write you an invoice for their labor and bill you.  Just remember, as in any case, to save ALL your receipts for tax purposes! What form do I use? Use the IRS Form 5695 to claim your tax credit, and submit this document with your taxes.   Be sure to keep all receipts and Manufacturer’s Certification Statements for your records. For more information about incentives in your area, visit dsireusa.org.  ...

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Cross-Mating PV Connectors
Oct10

Cross-Mating PV Connectors

DIY Solar Tip:  Cross-mating may not be the best idea. There are over thirty other connector manufacturers in the PV industry today: Amphenol, Weiland, Radox, Tyco, Bizlink, and SMK, just to name a few.   MC4, or Multi Contact connector for four square millimeter cable, is the standard locking system in the PV industry today. There are some manufacturers that will make the claim that their connectors are compatible with MC4. It is important to note that even though it is often possible to physically connect these, it does not mean it is an approved connection.  Though H4 connectors are often marketed as “fully intermateable with industry standard,” this interconnection is not approved by UL, or Underwriters Laboratories. Amphenol, the manufacturer of H4 connectors, has released reports TUV tests to confirm the compatibility between H4 with MC4.  In fact, these connectors have frequently been intermated with MC4 connectors, but it still does not have UL approval.  Even if both connectors have UL approval individually, connecting the two is not approved by UL. Cross-mating can cause additional problems, therefore GoGreenSolar.com does not recommend cross-mating connectors as a general rule of thumb.    Unless the connectors come from the same manufacturer, they often times have different chemical compositions, which can lead to oxidation and other complications. When different connectors are interconnected, potential gaps in the connection can also cause arcing and ultimately, failure. Just because they will “fit” doesn’t mean it is kosher. ...

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Tesla’s Solar-Powered EV Charging Stations
Sep28

Tesla’s Solar-Powered EV Charging Stations

Tesla Motors recently revealed their first six solar-powered “Supercharger” stations for the all-electric Model S sedan.   Strategically located off major California highways, these charging stations have an output of 90 kW to power the sedan’s 85 kWh (or 60kWh) battery, providing 3 hours on the road at 60 miles per hour from only 30 minutes of charging.   The grid-tied solar-powered Supercharger stations can send excess power back into the grid.    Tesla’s six Supercharger stations are located throughout California, making a road-trip from LA to San Francisco possible.   Tesla CEO Elon Musk intends to build vast network of 100 Supercharger stations by 2015.  These Supercharger stations will be conveniently located at shopping destinations and restaurants.      Tesla’s all electric vehicles charge for free at the Tesla Supercharger stations.  Though most EVs cannot charge at these stations, it isn’t clear whether future non-Tesla vehicles will be allowed to use these charging stations....

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What is the Smart Grid?
Sep26

What is the Smart Grid?

Just in the last two decades, we’ve seen our daily communications progress from landlines and pagers to smartphones.  Though the devices we use on a daily basis have been dramatically improving over the years, we’re charging our iPhones with century-old grid technology. The North American electric grid, otherwise known as the “largest machine in the world,” is the intricate network of power stations, transmission lines, transformers, and distribution lines that power our daily lives.  The idea for the North American electric grid was developed about a hundred years ago.  A hundred years ago, the average person’s energy demands were quite modest in comparison with today.  A centralized energy model used to make sense. US energy consumption is expected to increase 41% by 2030. With a drastic increase in demand for energy from a growing population, the North American electric grid is under enormous pressure.  We’re currently experiencing an increase in blackouts and brownouts because of the stress on this dated infrastructure. Though the grid is actually 99.97 % reliable, Americans still pay $150 billion every year because of these disturbances in grid electricity. Long story short- the grid is old and in need of change.  This is why everyone is talking about “Smart Grid.”  With all the hype about Smart Grid, it has many wondering what its defining feature is. Truthfully, the Smart Grid is more of a concept than one specific technology. The goal of Smart Grid is to adapt the existing infrastructure to 21st Century demands by implementing modern communications technology. The easiest way to conceptualize what “Smart Grid” means is to imagine the entire electrical infrastructure connected to the internet.   The Smart Grid is a vision of a more flexible, efficient, and reliable grid that will support renewable energy and engage consumers in new ways.   This won’t be an overnight change, but rather a gradual move towards this ideal. The Smart Grid will be able to collect and respond to data collected throughout the entire electricity grid.   Transmission and distribution sensors will be installed throughout the grid, enabling communication between the devices themselves and with utilities operations.   This will allow the grid to determine the most efficient way to transmit and distribute electricity, saving money and keeping the cost lower. Remote control and automation technologies make the entire system more reliable and efficient.  The Smart Grid will enable us to understand and improve the generation, transmission, distribution and consumption of electricity, creating a more balanced and efficient grid. Utilities will be able to predict, detect, and respond to blackouts/brownouts immediately by without having to wait for a customer to call in and notify the...

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Community Solar Bill Dies

Senate Bill 843, a piece of legislation that would have extended the benefits of renewable energy to millions of Californians, died last Friday in the state’s Assembly Committee on Utilities and Commerce. Currently, 75% of households cannot install residential solar (and other renewable energy) systems for one reason or another.   One of the most significant factors is that 44% of households in California rent, rather than own their homes.  Typically, the only people who can use solar energy are well-to-do homeowners with good credit and minimal shading challenges on their roofs.  Senate Bill 843 would have made clean energy a possibility for Californians who don’t necessarily fit this restrictive criteria.  It is a shame to see this bill die.  Supported by a volume of groups including the Sierra Club California, the California School Board Association, and the Department of Defense, Senate Bill 843 aimed to help Californians the opportunity to make use of virtual net metering from off-site renewable energy plants.   Essentially, this bill would have made possible the indirect consumption of clean energy for Californians who could not otherwise access solar, or some other form of renewable energy.   Proposed by State Senator Lois Wolk, Senate Bill 843 would have created 2 GW of solar energy through community facilities throughout the state of California.   Senate Bill 843 would have made it possible for utility customers within the territories of PG&E, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric to purchase shares of power from these community-based  facilities that have medium-scale renewable energy systems (up to 20 MW).  Customers would sign contracts with the facility and pay a monthly fee for their share of electricity sent into the grid.  These community energy facilities then report the customer’s percentage of the facility’s power to the respective utility.   This amount of solar electricity would then be credited towards the the customer’s utility bill.  This is how virtual net-metering would function with these community-based renewable energy facilities.  The renewable energy facilities’ economies of scale would have given way to a cheaper cost per kWh than standard residential systems- a savings that would keep the cost of electricity down for Californians who wish to utilize renewable energy through virtual net metering. These small to mid-sized solar power plants could have been built at existing establishments such as schools or churches, reducing the need for large-scale solar power plants in the desert, which often pose environmental concern.     These community-based renewable energy facilities also would have created an estimated 12,000 jobs without spending any state funds. Despite all Wolk’s compelling arguments to pass the bill, Senate Bill 843 died in California’s Assembly Committee on...

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