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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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Grid-Tied and Off-Grid Solar 101
Jun28

Grid-Tied and Off-Grid Solar 101

Will I need batteries for my solar system?  How much does it cost to go completely off the grid? Let’s take a look at main differences is between a “grid-tied” solar system and the less common “off-grid” solar system. Grid-tied Solar Most photovoltaic (PV) systems are connected to the utility grid, hence the name “grid-tied.”  When your solar system is connected to the grid, you still have access to energy after dark without batteries.  Your grid-tied system simply pulls the electricity you need from the utility grid.   Here’s how it works:   A group of solar panels, known as the array, generate direct current (DC) electricity.  An inverter changes the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity, which is the grid-quality electricity that comes from the power outlets in your home. When the grid-tied system produces more energy than your home is consuming, the excess electricity is sent into the utility grid, spinning your meter backwards as credit toward your next electricity bill.  When your load requirements exceed the electricity being produced by your photovoltaic (PV) system, your home will draw electricity from the grid.  This is called net metering. Grid-tie solar systems are a cost-effective way to reduce your net energy consumption. Grid-tied solar systems are ideal for those whose utility provider bill them according to a tiered rate structure –  where rates you pay are higher when you’re consuming more energy (kWh). Grid-tied solar gets you out of the higher tiers on your electric bill to save you money. If you need help designing a grid-tied solar system, request a no obligation quote today. Will I still have power during a blackout? Not with a grid-tied PV system.  You’ll still experience blackouts when the power goes out in your neighborhood because your are connected to the utility grid.  Sending electricity into the grid during a power outage would be especially dangerous if the utility company has workers repairing power lines. For most people, a power outage here and there isn’t too much of a concern.  Just keep your refrigerator closed and charge your iPhone with a JOOS Orange Portable Solar Charger. But what about Armageddon? Or the zombie apocalypse?! I’ll need power to fight off the living dead! If you live in an area that is plagued by frequent blackouts, hurricanes, or maybe the living dead chewing on power-lines, battery backup may be an option for you. Keep in mind, battery backup is for critical loads, or the appliances that are imperative to survival.  So you really can’t blast the AC and leave the television running 24/7 in the aftermath of a natural disaster. In most cases,...

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How Long Will Solar Modules Last?

What is the life expectancy of a solar module?   When customers invest in a solar system, they often wonder how long their modules will continue to provide energy and how much they will yield over time.   Over the years, all solar panels will degrade somewhat, but crystalline silicon panels have a much slower rate of degradation than thin film modules. This means crystalline modules will work better for longer.    It’s common for crystalline modules to come with a warranty for twenty to twenty-five years, guaranteeing that the panels will be effective throughout the duration of the warranty.   For a module to be deemed “effective” by most manufacturers, it must operate at least 80% of its rated peak output.     Given the anticipated loss of efficiency between 0.5% to 1% every year, manufacturers are able adjust their warranties according to the calculation of a module’s expected performance over a period of time.  The module’s peak output will usually decline to about 80% at the end of a the two-decade warranty.  This is why crystalline modules are frequently guaranteed for this time-frame.    A solar module does not suddenly become useless, but instead has an output that steadily declines over a number a decades.  For this reason, a well-maintained, high-quality panel will often outlive its guarantee.  Solar panels can continue to adequately operate for a decade or two after their warranties expire.  There are plenty of solar panels that have been producing energy since the 1980s.  If your system is producing enough energy to meet your needs, there’s no sense in replacing these older panels.    Powerboost Solar Panel Cleaner Solar modules have no moving parts, so they require minimal care to remain functional.  Though other components of a solar system will probably need to be replaced after ten years or so, there are a few things you can do to make sure your solar panels continue to produce energy for a long time.  Be sure to trim surrounding trees that might shade your array.  Regularly remove leaves, snow, or any other debris collected on the modules that might prevent them from receiving maximum exposure to the sun’s light.  You should also clean your panels with some frequency, especially if you live in an area where bird droppings are rampant!  To make this process easier, you can pick up a Solar Panel Cleaning System Kit.   Selecting a high-quality manufacturer will also serve you well long-term.   A dependable manufacturer will be sure to encapsulate the modules’ metal and silicon appropriately, ensuring that you’re not working with faulty equipment from the start.  If your modules aren’t securely encapsulated...

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Central Inverter vs. Microinverters: The Pros and Cons

So you’re installing a photovoltaic (PV) system.  Do you go with microinverters or stick with a central inverter? What does an inverter do? The task of an inverter is to convert the direct current (DC) electricity produced by your solar panels into alternating current (AC), which is needed for the overwhelming majority of electrical devices.  The AC power that isn’t used by your home is back-fed into the utility grid, hence the term “grid-tied.”Click here to learn about the basic components of a PV system. Microinverters Microinverters convert the DC electricity from each panel into usable, grid-quality AC electricity.   They attach behind individual solar panels in the array, allowing each module to operate independently instead of optimizing for the “weakest link.”  Turning the solar panels’ DC electricity into AC at a modular level means there is no single point of failure and you’re maximizing the potential output of your system. Because of this, microinverters are particularly advantageous for systems in locations that have shading or some potential coverage (i.e. dirt, snow, chimneys, etc). Microinverters also use a technology called Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT), which optimizes the electricity output by responding to the varying levels of light every couple of minutes. In addition to maximizing the yield of your system, micoinverters’ easy design, installation, and scalability have made them popular for residential applications.   Besides getting up on a roof and pulling a permitting, adding to your existing system with microinverters  like the Enphase M215 microinverter should be little trouble.   Each microinverter has its own IP address so it can be monitored remotely with web-based software.  Microinverters also allow for module level monitoring and comprehensive analytics, making it possible for you to view how much energy is being produced by each solar panel. The main disadvantage of microinverters is the price tag- they still cost more per Watt than central inverters.  Critics of microinverters have also made note that these sensitive electronics can exposed to elevated temperatures on the roof and there is lack of field data to go along with their 25-year warranty. Enphase Energy currently dominates the microinverter market and has been increasingly popular for residential applications, particularly in California.   Enphase offers a twenty-five year limited warranty on their microinverters. Microinverters are recommended for residential and DIY solar applications, especially if there are shading concerns or there’s a chance of expanding the system in the future. Pros: • Easy design, installation, & scalability • Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) • Optimized for shading • Remote monitoring capability Cons: • Less of field data • More expensive • Relatively new technology Central Inverter Traditionally, central inverters have...

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How much is a solar panel system for a 2,700 square foot home?

Everyday I get at least one email from a customer that asks, “How much is a solar panel system to power a {insert number of square feet here} home?” It’s quite impossible to quote you the size of system that will meet your goals without understanding your individual project site and needs. People who ask this question to me have not done enough research and typically indicate that they are just starting to explore solar power. More than often I lead customers who ask that question to the solar power calculator since it helps them realize all the variables required to figure out how many solar panels you really need. The following reasons are why I can’t give you clear cut answer to, how many solar panels you’ll need for a 1,ooo square foot home: #1 – The size of your home is not as important as how many kWh (kilowatt-hours) per year. This information can be found your last 12 months of electric bills #2 – Typically grid tie solar panels are used to offset your highest cost of electricity if your being charged on a tiered rate structure by your utility company. Solar panels are most cost effective if you use them to stay out of consuming electricity in higher tiers. Therefore not always do people purchase a system that “eliminates their entire bill”. #3 – Your location matters, in particular if there is shading due to trees, vents, chimneys, other buildings..etc. You’ll need more solar panels to meet your goals if you have to compensate for unavoidable shading. Different places across the world have variances in the number of sun hours they receive per day, which has an influence in the number of kWh you can generate per year in your location. Also the orientation #4 – what’s the intent of your solar electric system? Is it just to get started? Some people are satisfied to get started with a small solar electric system and then add more panels to their system later to keep the upfront investment of the system as low as possible to get started. The great aspect of a solar electric system it’s completely customizable to your requirements, particularly your budget. I hope this post highlights the most important key points that need to be analyzed before you can figure out how many solar panel you’ll need. got any...

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