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The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers
Jun19

The U.S.-China Trade Case Determination and What It Means for Solar Installers and Consumers

A few months back, we published a post on All You Need to Know About the US-China Solar Trade Dispute and how it might affect solar installers and consumers if the case isn’t settled. Well, a preliminary decision is in. The Department of Commerce (DOC) has made a preliminary determination on June 10th in favor of SolarWorld, the German/U.S. solar panel manufacturer who filed the suit. Before we get into the penalties being proposed and finalized, we should remind readers that there are two parts to this case: Part 1: The DOC Decision The first part, now in the preliminary determination stage, has to do with SolarWorld accusing China of illegally subsidizing its solar panel manufacturers with low interest loans and other cash-related subsidies that allowed Chinese manufacturers to manufacture solar panels and export them to the U.S. (and the rest of the world) at below their actual cost. The 2012 DOC decision determined that was the case and imposed over 23% to 254% in countervailing duties (CVD) on various solar cells made in China. However, Chinese manufacturers got around these tariffs by manufacturing their solar cells in Taiwan and other nearby countries, then assembling the rest of the panel in China. Consequently, this new 2014 DOC preliminary determination now includes solar cells and other basic solar panel materials being made in Taiwan and shipped back to China for assembly and export. So, how much in duties will be tacked on to the price of imported Chinese solar panels? The preliminary CVD varies and depends on the brand: For Suntech solar panels, the tariff is 35.21%. For Trina SolarEnergy, the tariff is 18.56%. For all other Chinese brands, the tariff is 26.89%. That means that the wholesale price of all Chinese-made solar panels coming into the U.S. may be increased by as much as 35.21%, and at the very least, by 26.89%! The DOC will make its final determination by August 18, 2014. But wait, there’s more: Part II: The ITC Decision Remember, we said that there were two parts. Now that the DOC has ruled, their evidence has been handed over to the International Trade Commission (ITC). The ITC is deciding whether China is intentionally overproducing (“dumping”) their artificially inexpensive Chinese solar panels on the U.S. market in order to flood the U.S. solar market, forcing SolarWorld to lower their prices to compete. The ITC previously said this was the case in the earlier 2012 decision, so most industry analysts think they’ll do so again, but now include solar panels and cells from Taiwan. Should the ITC rule in favor of SolarWorld again, then additional antidumping duties may...

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What’s wrong with solar permitting?  Q&A with Deep Patel, CEO of GoGreenSolar.com
Mar04

What’s wrong with solar permitting? Q&A with Deep Patel, CEO of GoGreenSolar.com

Experience any roadblocks while trying to pull a permit for a photovoltaic (PV) system in your city?   Paying too much?  You’re not alone.  Getting your PV system a permit can be a daunting task for both customers and installers. According to report by Clean Power Finance, about 23% of PV installations cost more than expected.   More than a third of solar installers actually avoid working with certain Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) because of their solar permitting processes. What’s wrong with these permitting processes and what can we do to fix it?  What’s being done right now? No standardized permitting process or fees have been set among AHJs, or the entities that have the power to determine and enforce code requirements for PV systems.  I’m catching up with GoGreensolar.com CEO Deep Patel to touch on some of these issues. From a solar contractor’s perspective, how do varying permitting procedures affect your business? It makes it more difficult to generate a proposal.  There really is not a cookie cutter solution, so unfortunately we can’t just generate proposal on the spot.  It often takes weeks because we have to call the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), leave messages, and wait for them to call us back. So when you’re trying to get a proposal out, it often takes up your time.  This increases the wait-time for customers and often drives up the soft costs of solar.  Would you say that this cost is passed along to consumers? Yes, proposals currently have to account for this unpredictability. When you’re running a business with that kind of uncertainty, you have to pad the proposal in case of any unexpected fees or codes changes. In an attempt to bring down the time and soft-costs that come with this inconsistent permitting process, the DOE’s Sunshot supported Clean Power Finance’s efforts to develop a National Solar Permitting Database.  The goal is to provide solar professionals a platform to give testimonials about different AHJs and coach each other through these permitting processes.  I guess you could say it’s like Yelp for solar contractors to review AHJs. A National Database can help solar contractors work more efficiently, but is it not placing a Band-Aid on a bullet wound?  Given that the DOE already has a standardized set of permitting policies known (solar ABCs), is it even fair that the burden of navigating these arduous permitting processes is imposed on those who are installing solar electric systems?  The problem is that the DOE doesn’t have the jurisdiction here.  The DOE can’t force the cities to follow a standardized permitting process, but they can make recommendations and city governments can choose to adopt them.  Meanwhile,...

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Texas $2 per Watt Rebate?
Nov27

Texas $2 per Watt Rebate?

Coserv’s per Watt Rebate If you’re one of the 141,000 member-owners of the  Coserv Electric Cooperative in Texas and you’re thinking about going solar, you’re smart. You might have heard that this co-op utility offers a $2 per DC Watt rebate on solar generation. $2 per Watt? This rebate means homeowners in Texas can get $2 per DC Watt installed.  Many solar rebates are based on the size of the solar system in AC Watts,  which is a measurement of the system after the electricity has been converted from DC to grid-quality AC power.  A $2/ AC Watt rebate would already be a very strong incentive, but this rebate is in DC, which means more money in your pocket. $2/W DC  >  $2/W AC For example:  you’re installing a 2kW (or 2,000W) grid-tied solar system.  That number “2kW” is based on the sum total of watts in your solar system – we’ll call it eight 250W solar panels. In this case, you would qualify for a rebate of $4,000, given that the funds allocated towards this rebate program haven’t yet been exhausted. Depending on the size of your system, this  rebate your 2 kW (or 2000 Watt) solar system will yield a couple hundred dollars more. This utility rebate program caps off at $5,000 for each system, which is equal to a 2.5kW solar system.  Contact us today for solar design help and while you’re at it, fill out the Coserv solar rebate application form.  All 2013 funds were reserved in early 2013.   Check their website at the beginning of 2014 for any changes to this rebate and get on the list so they can reserve funds for your project.   Rebates are paid out after your solar system is installed and inspected by a Coserv Auditor. On top of this rebate from Coserv, you’ll also qualify for the Federal Tax Credit.   After any state/local/utility rebates have been subtracted (including Coserv’s solar rebate), 30% of this net cost is returned to you in the form of a tax credit that directly reduces the dollar amount you pay on your taxes....

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No CA Rebate without Solar Panel Monitoring?
Nov15

No CA Rebate without Solar Panel Monitoring?

Homeowners using the Enphase Envoy to monitor their solar panel output can qualify for an upfront, lump-sum rebate through California’s Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB). What’s the EPBB Rebate? The Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB) is one of two incentive options offered by the California Solar Initiative (CSI). The EPBB is an upfront rebate for small businesses and homeowners with systems 30kW or less (as opposed to systems greater than 30kW, which would qualify for 5 years of monthly payments through a Performance-Based Incentive).  If you qualify for the EPBB rebate, you’ll get the entire payment at the time of installation. The EPBB rebate is determined mainly by the expected performance of a photovoltaic system, which is based on factors including CEC-AC rating, tilt, orientation, location, and shading. To qualify for the EPBB rebate, you need to get a monitoring system like the Enphase Envoy Communications Gateway to track the output of your solar panels.  With a reporting accuracy of ±5%, Enphase monitoring is sufficient for the EPBB rebate, whereas revenue-grade meters with ±2% would be required for PV systems of 30kW or greater under CSI’s Performance-Based incentive.   Enphase monitoring systems include: Enphase or Siemens Microinverters Envoy Communications GatewayTM Enlighten® web-based monitoring and analysis software For more information about monitoring requirements, visit the CSI Website.   How does Enphase work? The Enphase Envoy is designed for PV systems with Enphase Microinverters, which attach behind each solar panel, turning the DC electricity from each solar panel into usable AC electricity. With each microinverter working independently, Enphase systems are optimized for locations prone to shading from nearby trees and make it easy to add solar panels to your system in the future. Each mircoinverter is connected to the internet with it’s own IP address, so the web-based software Enlighten provides data about your system’s output – whether you’re at home on your PC or using your the Enlighten app your iPhone.   Each microinverter operating independently means you can see the output of individual panels in your array, making troubleshooting issues much easier than a string inverter would. Enphase microinverter systems are recommended for small grid-tied systems, systems with multiple arrays, and systems with potential shading concerns. Benefits of Enphase Systems: Easy installation Design flexibility & scalability Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Optimized for shading Remote monitoring capability...

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Solar on every U.S. roof? Infographic
Nov07
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Will solar prices increase soon?
Jul23

Will solar prices increase soon?

Representatives from GoGreenSolar.com just attended InterSolar North America, one of solar’s leading networking events.  Businesses from more than 70 countries met in San Francisco to showcase new technologies, watch presentations, network, and discuss the future of solar.       Having had the opportunity to talk with suppliers, manufacturers, distributors, and service providers, we’ve discovered some key information that suggests that the days of low solar panel prices might soon be coming to a close.  Though no one has a crystal ball, industry-insiders believe that the prices for solar modules will be going up soon, meaning that the days of  $0.72 / Watt solar panels may not be around much longer.  Over the last several years, the surplus of solar panels being manufactured drove margins down, consequently pushing multiple manufacturing companies out of business.  While solar panels continue to get cheaper to produce, this consolidation process is now helping manufacturers that are left in the game. If you recall the trade scuffle we talked about this last year, the Chinese government was found to be providing illegal subsidies, allowing their manufacturers to sell their products below fair market value in the United States. In response, the U.S. government imposed anti-dumping tariffs of roughly 30% on Chinese solar cells.  As you might expect, Chinese manufacturers have been circumnavigating these duties by manufacturing solar cells outside China.  Taiwan, which now manufactures these cells, is now having difficulty keeping up with the increase in demand.  This could cause prices to increase. As the dominant solar panel manufacturer in the world, China recently swung back at the U.S. by implementing their own import duties on polysilicon coming from the United States.  Because this is a raw material used to make solar panels, this new tariff could also drive up the cost of solar panels. Though these issues may indicate a coming increase in solar panel pricing, even manufacturers can’t foresee what will happen several months into the future.  As you might imagine, this can pose a problem for solar projects that are scheduled months if not years into the future.  Imagine a multi-MegaWatt solar project- even a matter of a few cents would make a massive difference.   For a homeowner looking into a residential application, several cents per Watt isn’t exactly pocket change. While prices are still low, request a no obligation solar quote or call 1 (866) 798-4435. _____ Tom Jackson...

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