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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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Sunshine on a Cloudy Day – Why Solar Still Works in Clouds, Rain, or Shine
Sep30

Sunshine on a Cloudy Day – Why Solar Still Works in Clouds, Rain, or Shine

When it comes to generating power from the sun, there’s a misconception that home solar systems don’t work in cloudy weather. However, ask anyone who’s ever gotten sunburned when it is cloudy out, and they will tell you a different story. That’s because solar radiation, better known as Ultra Violet rays, can penetrate clouds and produce energy. Depending on the type of cloud cover, solar panels might produce 10-25% of their rated wattage. Thanks to significant increases in panel efficiency over the last decade coupled with their declining prices has allowed homeowners to install more panels for less, reducing the weather’s gross impact in performance. Solar panel efficiency has increased over time Solar panel pricing has decreased over time Famously gray cities such as Seattle and Portland are among the top 20 leaders in America in terms of solar capacity. Washington’s generous payback incentive and net-metering policy have helped encourage the adoption of solar, allowing homeowners to benefit from reduced electric bills and a greater confidence in their self-reliance should a power outage occur.  Similar to cloudy days, solar panels also work in the rain. Counter intuitively, the rain can actually benefit panels, by washing away dust and dirt debris on panels, allowing them to perform better when the sun peaks back through.  Homeowners planning for solar in a cloudy, rainy, or even seasonally snowy environment, should consult with a solar expert to size their system and design a solar array specific for their geographic location. Basic calculations to gauge a system’s size can be made with the following formula: Array Size (kW) = (Annual kWh usage) / (365 days/year) / (Solar Hours – 1.5/day) / (0.82 derate factor)  How Many Sun Hours a Day Do You Get?Zone 1      6 hoursZone 2      5.5 hoursZone 3      5 hoursZone 4      4.5 hoursZone 5      4.2 hoursZone 6      3.5 hours Since systems will usually yield less energy during the winter months, its safe to subtract ~1.5 solar hours to account for decreased sunlight and ensure your system will meet all your power needs. Home solar supplier GoGreenSolar carries panels that are best suited for cloudy, rainy or even snowy conditions —  Hanwha Q Cells, NEO and LG Solar are among the top performers in adverse conditions. To figure out what solar panels and system array is best for your home call for a free consultation:...

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Grounding Overview for Do-It-Yourself Solar
Sep23

Grounding Overview for Do-It-Yourself Solar

The grounding requirements are one of the most confusing aspects of solar installation. Grounding is also what city inspectors tend to scrutinize the most. That is not a good combination unless you really like hanging out with your city inspector and want to fail the first inspection so you can see them a second time. But don’t stress, we’ve got some tips to help you avoid common grounding issues. First, pay attention to what is shown on your permit plans. These plans have been approved by the city or county and if you follow those plans, the inspector should be happy with your work. There will be notes about the grounding that are very important. If you do not understand what those notes mean then you should ask the people who drew those plans for you.  Second, be aware of the grounding requirements for the equipment you are using. The NEC code says that all non-current-carrying metal parts must be grounded. This means any piece of metal that should not have electricity flowing through it has to be connected to the main grounding system at your house. This includes the solar panel metal frames, the racking for the solar panels, the metal conduit and all the metal enclosures of your inverter, AC disconnect and other components.  The majority of racking systems are set up so that you only have to ground one rail in each row. Fortunately, most of the racking companies have your back and designed their systems to do a lot of this work for you. The majority of racking systems are set up so that you only have to ground one rail in each row. From that grounding point, all the solar panel frames and all the rails in that row will be grounded through an integrated system that has been UL listed to provide a proper path to ground. In rail-less systems, you often only have to ground one piece of the racking and use a few jumpers to keep the ground continuous through the whole array. This integrated grounding will usually also include microinverters or DC optimizers if they are installed to the racking correctly. With that said, don’t make any assumptions. Read the installation manual for the racking system and follow the grounding instructions carefully using only parts that are specific to that racking system. Again, if you don’t understand the instructions ask the racking company or your distributor for clarification.  So now you have this grounding conductor (officially referred to as the Equipment Grounding Conductor (EGC) that will be on the roof, attached to the racking. You will run this EGC down...

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Massachusetts follows California, requiring new buildings to have solar
Sep23

Massachusetts follows California, requiring new buildings to have solar

Massachusetts state legislators are hoping to follow in the footsteps of California this month with a bill that would require new commercial and residential buildings to be equipped with solar panels. Democratic Senator James Eldrige, and Democratic representatives Jack Lewis and Michael Connel, jointly filed bill S.1957 entitled “An Act Increasing Solar Rooftop Energy” in both the state Senate and House on Sept 16, 2019.  If approved, the legislation will make changes to Massachusetts building code within a year to require all new buildings to have minimum construction standards for solar panel systems. The energy requirements for solar systems will be dictated by the type of structure each building is classified as, with single-family homes needing a system that would be large enough to meet 100% of its energy needs. In 2018, California approved a similar mandate requiring solar on all new construction, which is scheduled to roll out Jan 1, 2020. The California Energy Commission expects the bill to increase the upfront development costs of new homes by $9,500 while saving homeowners on average $19,500 over the life of the system. California’s mandate is part of an initiative to produce at least 50% of the state’s energy from renewables by 2030.  Likewise, Massachusetts has similar goals with regards to renewable energy production in its crosshairs. The state hopes to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 80% in 2050, according to the states Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020.   “At just under 3% of the U.S. economy and 1.2% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, Massachusetts could not, on its own, stop global climate change even if it reduced statewide emissions to zero instantly,” the state website reads. “However, Massachusetts is in a position to show the way to a clean energy economy – and reap direct benefits in economic growth – through the development of smart, targeted policies that reduce emissions by promoting greater energy efficiency, developing renewable energy, and encouraging other alternatives to the combustion of fossil fuels.” To help meet these goals the state already has several solar incentive programs in place. The Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target Program, which started in Nov 2018, pays solar energy system owers a fixed block-rate per kilowatt-hour of solar energy produced. Once blocked thresholds are fulfilled, the subsequent tier of kWH rates declines.   Massachusetts’ latest bill is what many environmentalists and solar proponents hope will soon become a trend on the state level to take ownership in the fight against climate change. Together with states such as California that are gearing up for its 2020 Solar Mandate to take place, the future’s looking bright. Installing a new...

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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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