Q: What is a solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system and how does it work?
A: Solar electric or PV systems use the sun’s energy to make electricity. When sunlight strikes an array of solar panels, electrons are freed by the interaction of sunlight with semiconductor materials. The movement of electrons creates current, thus creating direct current or DC power.
DC is the only type of current produced by solar cells. Appliances and machinery, however, operate on alternating current (AC) as supplied by your utility provider. The DC energy produced by the panels is fed into an inverter that transforms the DC power into AC power, which then feeds into the main electrical panel that powers your home or business.
Q: What is the availability of California Incentives/Rebates?
A: California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebates vary according to system size, customer class, performance and installation factors. The incentives decline in “steps” based on the number of megawatts (MW) of confirmed incentive reservations issued in your utility’s service area.
Q: What is the current status of the Federal Tax Credit?
A: The Federal Tax credit of 30% is set to continue through the end of 2016.
Q: Will solar increase my home’s resale value?
A: The answer according to the Report on California Home PV Values a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) study, is a resounding yes – at least in California.
Q: Property Taxes
A: You’re protected by Section 73 or of the California Revenue and Taxation Code, which allows a property tax exclusion for your system. Your property taxes CANNOT be increased because of a solar installation.
Q: System Costs?
A: The cost varies depending on many factors, including the solar energy system’s size, equipment options, type of roof and current utility bill. Typically, the installed costs are determined based on the size of the system’s output. The “cost per watt” is often used for comparing systems of different sizes.
A: Most Solar panel manufacturers provide a 20 to 25 year warranty with varying performance guarantees and most inverters include a 10 to 20 year warranty. The contractor shall provide a minimum 10-year warranty for no-cost repair and replacement of the system for any expenses not otherwise covered by the manufacturer.
Q: What cleaning or maintenance is required?
A: PV output can be impacted by dirt accumulation. The frequency of cleaning depends on the location. For example, locations closer to freeways or industrial facilities, or in high-wind areas are likely to accumulate dirt more rapidly and should be cleaned more frequently.
Q: How long does the installation take?
A: Installation times vary based on the type of roof, mounting system and size of PV system but can typically be completed within 2 to 3 weeks.
Q: How soon can I start seeing savings?
A: As soon as your utility company has issued a permission to operate (PTO) letter you can switch on the system and start seeing savings immediately.
Q: How much electricity will a PV system produce?
A: In California, a PV system will produce the most electricity in spring through fall when sunlight hours are the longest and the sun is positioned higher in the sky. A 1-kW system can produce from 1,400 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to 2,000 kWh per year depending on the location within the state. Generally, a PV system in Southern California will produce more electricity than one in Northern California.
Q: Do I have enough area to install solar on my roof?
A: The amount of roof space needed is based on the size, or generating capacity, of the solar energy system. Residential solar energy systems can vary in size from 50 square feet to 1,000 square feet. A rule of thumb is that a square foot of PV module area produces 10 watts of power in bright sunlight. For example, a 2,000 watt system would require about 200 square feet of roof area.
Q: Will solar power my house when the Utility Grid goes down?
A: If a power outage occurs, your solar energy system is designed to immediately shutdown for safety reasons. A grid-tied solar electric system does not provide power during outages unless it includes a battery storage system. Your power will be reinstated moments after grid power is restored; however, you may need to manually reset your solar system’s inverter back to service after your power is reinstated (most auto reset after power is restored).
Q: What is the payback period?
A: The exact payback period depends on a number of different factors including the amount of energy your PV system generates, the current price of grid tied energy in your area, the total cost of your installation including incentives and your choice of financing. A lease will provide the most immediate savings but if you own your PV system the savings will eventually far exceed the upfront installation costs with a typical payback of 5 to 7 years.