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Solar Paperwork – What’s Involved
Sep16

Solar Paperwork – What’s Involved

If you are thinking about installing your own solar, you should know that there is more to getting the job done than sweating it out on the roof and hooking up the wires. There is paperwork to be done before and after the solar panels go on the roof.  First, you have to get a permit from your local building department which will be the city you live in or the county if you are outside city limits. You will need what is typically called a “permit package” that will be several over-sized pages explaining to the building department exactly what you intend to do and proving that the work meets all the building and electrical codes.  This package will include a site plan showing where on your property all the solar equipment will be installed (including inverters and disconnects). There will be specifics on exactly how you plan to attach the system to your roof and details on the roof structure to show that it can handle the weight of all the solar panels and racking. You will need an electrical diagram that shows how all the solar components go together and how you will make the connection to the grid. Along with the diagram, you have to show all the calculations proving the solar components are compatible and that your interconnection to the grid will be code compliant. You will have to include the datasheets on all the equipment and you will probably also have to fill out some generic permit application forms when submitting all this. You will also have to do some paperwork for your local utility company. They will want to know the all details of the solar equipment that you are connecting to their grid. Every utility is different but most of them will want you to complete and sign a “net-metering” agreement. This is basically a contract with the electric company that outlines details of responsibilities of both parties and may also cover things like what your electric rate will be after solar and how you will be compensated for energy fed into the grid at times when your solar is producing more than your home is using at any given time. The utility company may also require justification of your system size, especially if it produces more power than you normally use. If you are lucky, there will be paperwork for a rebate or renewable energy credits (RECs). Rebates are often offered by state or local government. Sometimes they are offered by utility companies. Renewable energy credits are a way to get paid for the solar energy you produce and are...

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Home Solar Keeps Power On During Upcoming PG&E Outages
Sep11

Home Solar Keeps Power On During Upcoming PG&E Outages

Tens of thousands of California residents were affected by power outages this summer, as Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) company shutoff electric lines in order to mitigate fire hazards in high-threat zones.  Only those generating their own power with such systems as home solar were among the few that maintained access to electricity and could continue with life as normal.   PG&E Public Safety Power Shutoff map showing potential power outage areas for California residents.  Warnings leading up to the outages were abrupt, as PG&E’s system relies on variable weather conditions such as the wind to determine when and where to turn off the power. Cities in Northern California regions are currently among the areas hit worse, with the utility company alerting 5.4 million customers with texts, robocalls, and emails that power shutoffs might be happening in less than 24 hours.  One such shutoff that took place in August left more than 54,000 people in Santa Cruze, San Jose, and Marine County without power, spoiling food and disrupting businesses and lifestyles. “We ask that all our customers use this event as a reminder to revisit their emergency plans and build or restock their emergency kits to prepare for potential power outages during wildfire season,” said PG&E official Michael Lewis to the Sacramento Bee. PG&E expects this to be the new normal, with the scope of its grid outages and blackouts expanding across California and parts of Nevada in order to preempt wildfire risks, such as the state’s deadliest fires that occurred last summer due to historically hot conditions and downed electrical lines during high winds.  Having a reliable source of power combined with a generous 30% federal tax credit, which is scheduled to significantly decrease at the end of 2019, has spurred many California residents to install home solar.  Home solar companies such as Go Green Solar help provide people with some of the best cost solar install options in the country, offering professional and DIY options. For some in California, the era of reliable electricity in the wildfire-plagued state is coming to an end, while for others that are taking matters into their own hands, the future is looking...

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AC Coupling Versus DC Coupling
Sep09

AC Coupling Versus DC Coupling

It is becoming more popular to install batteries with solar power systems on new installations and as retrofits. One of the questions to be answered when planning the battery installation is how will the battery system tie in with the solar. The answer will be either AC coupling or DC coupling. Solar panels produce DC power and inverters are used to convert this DC power to AC power. The terms AC coupling and DC coupling are used to describe where in the system the batteries are connected. An AC coupled system has the batteries tied into the AC output of a grid-tied solar inverter while a DC coupled system has the batteries tied in before the inverter where the DC power is flowing from the solar panels. Deciding which way to do your install, depends a lot on what other equipment you plan to use or what equipment is already in place if you are retrofitting. For example, if you are using microinverters, these microinverters are changing the DC power from the solar panel to AC power right at the solar panels themselves. Because the DC power from the solar panels is being converted immediately under each solar panel, it would be difficult to tap into so you would definitely go with the AC coupling option where you hook up your battery-based inverter to the AC output of the microinverter system. If you are working with a string inverter, then you have DC power coming from the solar array to the inverter and you can easily use it. There are few different ways to do DC coupling. One way would be to connect the output of the solar panels to a charge controller which charges the batteries and then you would have a battery-based inverter that changes that battery power to AC power. This is a very typical set-up for an off-grid system like the Outback SystemEdge Villa or Cabin Series packages. Another way to DC couple is to use an inverter like the SolarEdge StorEdge that will take the DC power from the solar panels and allocate it to the batteries or convert it to AC as needed. This gives the system a much higher efficiency than most other battery systems because every time the power is conditioned or converted, there is a small loss. If you run from solar panels to a charge controller to the batteries to the inverter. You will have a loss at the charge controller, a loss at the batteries and a loss at the inverter while the StorEdge system manages the power from the solar array in the most efficient way possible...

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Are You Qualified for DIY Solar?
Sep04

Are You Qualified for DIY Solar?

Every professional solar installer started off with no solar experience. Does this mean every twelve-year-old strong enough to swing a hammer should embark on a do-it-yourself solar project? Not so much. So, let’s talk about what it takes to be qualified to install your own solar power system. It would be a good idea to take a safety course like OSHA 10 The first thing that matters is safety. Most solar installations happen on the roof, if that is the case for your system, you will need to comfortable with heights and ladders. Knowing all the safety considerations for working on roofs is also important so if you are not experienced with this, it would be a good idea to take a safety course like OSHA 10. It only takes 10 hours and you will learn what you need to know to be safe. Basic construction knowledge is a must for a do-it-yourself solar installer. You will need to be able to find the roof rafters, drill holes in them and properly seal those holes. The flashings you purchase will have basic instructions on how to do this but knowing how your roof is put together will be helpful. You will also need to find wall studs to mount the ground level equipment and be able to mount it securely and level. The wall studs are easier to find than rafters. A simple inexpensive stud finder will work on the wall, but it will not help you on the roof because there are too many layers of roofing material in the way. Experience with power tools will be handy. You will be drilling the holes for the roof attachments, tightening bolts on solar racking and sawing the solar rails to the appropriate lengths. Experience with power tools will be handy. You will be drilling the holes for the roof attachments, tightening bolts on solar racking and sawing the solar rails to the appropriate lengths. Knowing the safety requirements for using these tools is definitely important. If you have any doubt, we are going to recommend that OSHA course again. Being able to handle some heavy lifting should be in this list of qualifications. Not only are solar panels about 45 pounds each, they are awkwardly sized at about five and half feet long and 3 and a half feet wide. Some higher wattage solar panels are even bigger at six and half long so if you are concerned about heaving these around while on the roof, check the physical size of the solar panels before you purchase them.       Solar installations also require electrical work. If you are going...

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Understanding Rapid Shutdown Requirements for Your DIY Solar Project
Aug26

Understanding Rapid Shutdown Requirements for Your DIY Solar Project

If you are installing your own solar, you will have to make sure your system meets the “Rapid Shutdown” requirements.  These requirements first appeared in NEC 2014 and were modified in NEC 2017. The purpose of these requirements is to make things safer for emergency responders. The basic premise is that the DC conductors of a PV system are typically live any time the sun is out. Without a rapid shutdown system, firefighters that need to shut off all electrical sources may have no safe way to turn off the DC wiring on the roof, in the attic and running down the side of your house. Generally, if firefighters are at your house, there is a big enough problem happening that there isn’t time to mess around with trying to figure out what to do about these live solar conductors so the wonderful people who write the electrical code came up with this solution. Rapid shutdown systems improve fire fighter safety Rapid shutdown requirements apply to any PV circuits installed in or on a building. In NEC 2017, they added an exception for ground mounted systems when the sole purpose of the building is to house the PV equipment.  Exactly where and how the conductors need to be controlled changed between NEC 2014 and NEC 2017 so it depends on which code version your city or county is following. NEC 2014 says that you have to control any PV conductors that are more than 10’ from the array or more than 5’ in length inside the building and the rapid shutdown system has to bring these conductors down to 30 volts or less within 10 seconds of rapid shutdown initiation. NEC 2017 gets a little more difficult. They want any conductor more than 1’ from the array or more than 3’ in length inside a building brought down to 30 volts and conductors within the array brought down to 80 volts within 30 seconds.  NEC 2014 made no mention of the location of the device that starts this rapid shutdown process but NEC 2017 makes it clear that it needs to be in a readily accessible location outside the building. Finally, it is required that your system be very specifically labeled that it is equipped with rapid shutdown so those firefighters know for sure what they are dealing with. So how do you accomplish this? Well, the simplest method is to install a system that is inherently equipped with rapid shutdown like the SolarEdge system that incorporates DC optimizers at every solar panel or Enphase microinverters that are installed at every solar panel. These devices easily shut off the...

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Price increase expected for solar panels — but not for the reason you might think
Aug23

Price increase expected for solar panels — but not for the reason you might think

The cost of solar panels has steadily decreased over the years but now some analysts are predicting an increase for the first time in nearly two decades — but not for the reasons you might think. A sudden rush to buy solar panels has created a rare seller’s market for panel manufacturers as U.S. solar developers are stockpiling resources for future projects to lock in the 30% solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that starts phasing out next year.   Among those hoarding inventory to claim the full subsidy are big hitters in the utility world, such as Duke Energy, 8minute Solar Energy, and Shell-backed Silicon Ranch. The demand has caused module prices to spike more than 10% from earlier in the year, according to a U.S. Solar Market Insight Report from Wood Mackenzie and SEIA.  Consumers who purchase residential solar before the end of 2019 will also be eligible for the full tax credit, however, unlike firms that only need to spend 5% of a project’s capital cost by the end of 2019 to lock in the subsidy, residential projects have to begin solar installation before the year ends. Current subsidies for residential solar will decrease to 26 percent in 2020, then to 22 percent in 2021, and finally, drop to 10 percent in 2022.  DIY home solar companies that sell directly to homeowners such as Go Green Solar are one of the few available resources for those not wishing to pay a premium for panels that have been marked up amid the blitz to beat the expiring ITC.  The U.S. solar industry has urged lawmakers to extend the solar tax credit, which has helped solar deployment grow by 10,000 percent since it was introduced by a Republican-controlled Congress in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. Last week Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) sent Congress a letter signed by nearly 1,000 U.S. solar companies to extend the credit, however, the recent spike in solar panel purchasing suggests the outlook for the credit’s extension is not favorable. Luckily for homeowners, direct to consumer home solar companies such as Go Green Solar can help people lock in their 30 percent ITC before it expires while giving them some of the lowest rates for panels on the market.  Check out their website to get a free estimate on how much you will save making the switch or call (866)...

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