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Solar Energy and Us
Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into a clean, green source of energy. Solar is a hot topic in the electric cooperative world, and we want to provide our Members with the information they need to make an informed decision regarding this type of investment. While rooftop solar certainly works for many people, it’s not the answer for all. We want our Members to fully understand the true costs, the operational reality of this form of energy, and actual energy savings. Together, we can look at the total energy picture to help you determine the best options for your home. Our experience makes considering solar a simple, powerful, and efficient process.
Thinking About Solar
Contact Your Cooperative
A lot goes into the decision to invest in solar and many of these factors are specific to your unique situation.
We are here to help you navigate the decision at every stage by providing a better understanding of your electricity use, the
latest information on reliable contractors, relevant policies, and accurate rates that should be central to your decision.
Residential solar systems have four key features: solar panels, an inverter, a metering system, and the utility grid.
Photovoltaic (PV) Solar Panels convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity and can be installed on either rooftops or the ground.
An Inverter converts the DC electricity into useable alternating current (AC) electricity to power your home. A Metering System provided by
the solar vendor tracks how much solar you produce and consume. The Utility Grid provides power to the inverter and power to the home not produced
by the solar panel.
Keep in mind that solar panels will not be able to provide your home with electricity during a power outage, unless you have a battery.
Is Solar Right For Me?
Installing a solar PV system is a personal decision driven by financial considerations and your individual preferences.
Cost or savings of installing solar depends on many factors like how much energy you currently use, the size of the solar system installed,
whether your property is suited for solar, and the retail tariff governing the rates you pay for electricity.
Steps Before Installing Solar
1. Contact Mark Lemons - 806-447-2536 to understand how much electricity
you use and other important factors that can help determine what size system makes sense for you.
2. Understand the complete financial implications of owning solar. There is an upfront cost to install a system and annual
maintenance costs. Make sure the vendor you purchase from supports future maintenance.
3. Get multiple quotes from solar vendors and financing providers before you make any decisions.
Maximize System Efficiency
Multiple factors impact how much electricity your PV system will produce and will determine whether solar makes sense for you.
Not all solar panels are manufactured the same way and different vendors use different panels. Higher quality solar panels are often more
efficient and more costly. There are also multiple environmental factors that influence the efficiency of your solar panels.
The largest factors are shade, the pitch of your roof, the angle of installation, and the general climate. Solar panels should be placed
in a location that optimizes their efficiency. The vendor’s installation expert should identify the best location to install your PV system
and to estimate how much electricity it will produce. You can consult them to address any aesthetic concerns and tradeoffs.
Just like buying a car, there are multiple ways to finance a PV system. Outright ownership usually has the highest return on investment,
but it involves paying for your system upfront. Solar Loans have the same basic structure, terms, and conditions as other home improvement
loans and are an option if you want to own the system but need to finance the upfront cost. These financing options qualify homeowners for
financial incentives like the federal investment tax credit (ITC). Some vendors may offer 3rd party financing structures such as a Solar Lease
or Power Purchase Agreement (PPA), but these options are usually more costly. It is important to understand all available options and their
tradeoffs before deciding.
If my PV system generates power, why do I need to connect to the utility grid?
Unless your PV system includes a battery, you need utility grid power for the inverter and for times when the sun is not powering your solar system
(at night or cloudy days for instance). Most solar systems are designed to produce the amount of the home’s total energy consumption but not at the
time the consumption occurs. The difference comes from the utility grid. Keep in mind that a PV system without a battery must be tied to the utility
grid to work. This means that solar panels will not be able to provide your home with electricity during a power outage, unless you have a battery.
How long does a PV system last?
A PV system is made up of different parts and each part has a different lifespan. The solar panels usually produce electricity for about 25
years with some year-over-year decline in efficiency as the panels degrade. After 25 years, the amount of electricity a solar panel generates
begins to significantly decrease. Other parts of the PV system have a shorter lifespan. For example, the inverter is usually replaced every 10-15 years.
Do PV systems affect my homeowner's insurance?
Each policy is different so you should contact your insurance provider before installing a PV system. Most homeowner insurance plans consider
rooftop solar panels as part of a home and will cover them under your original plan. Ground-mounted solar panels usually require a separate
insurance policy or can be added to your existing policy. Speaking with your insurance provider about coverage limits and what is covered under
your existing policy is a great first step.
How long does it take to install a PV System?
The average time from receiving the first quote to installation of a PV system is 2 to 6 months. It typically takes several weeks for the vendor
to obtain the proper permits, design the system, and order the necessary parts. The physical installation will only take 1 to 3 days.
How often do PV systems need maintenance?
PV systems typically require minimal maintenance. The wiring around the solar panels is most susceptible to damage; however, most equipment
manufacturers offer extended warranties to cover any equipment replacement costs. Qualified solar professionals should inspect your system every
3 to 5 years to make sure it is working efficiently. Inverters will need to be replaced periodically and solar panels, while resistant to weather,
may suffer unexpected damage from wind or hail.
Do solar panels have to be installed on my roof?
No, solar panels can be installed on your roof or on a ground-mounted system. Ground-mounted systems are built with a frame, racking, and concrete
footing. They are a great option for large properties with wide open space away from trees. Major benefits of ground-mounted systems may include
more control of pitch and direction, larger size installations, and the avoidance of home roof issues such as needing to add additional support or
system removal during reroofing.
Why are vendor quotes so different?
Each vendor will design your system differently. Generally, vendors customize a system to fit your property and meet your energy goals. There are
multiple PV system equipment manufacturers that offer a wide selection of equipment and parts. Some vendors try and mix and match different parts.
Getting quotes from multiple vendors usually provides the homeowner with enough perspective to see which system best fits their needs. Make sure it
is a reputable dealer – buyer beware – sometimes you get what you pay for.
What happens if I need to reroof my house?
If you plan to reroof your house in the next 5 to 10 years, it generally makes sense to do this before installing solar panels. Reroofing your house
with solar requires the temporary removal and reinstallation of the solar panels and mounting hardware – a cost to the homeowner that can be several
thousand dollars. Most solar vendors offer this service and will include a fee estimate, if asked. Generally, the removal and reinstallation process
will take one day each but may require up to a month's advance notice depending on the availability of your solar vendor.
Can my Homeowner’s Association (HOA) prevent me from installing solar?
The HOA cannot prohibit solar panel installations outright under the most recent solar access laws. However, HOAs can place restrictions on where
and how solar is installed if it doesn’t make the proposed solar system less effective or more expensive. Homeowners that live in neighborhoods with HOAs
must still follow the normal home improvement procedures when installing solar. It is important to check your HOA rules before installing solar on your
property to avoid additional costs.
What zoning or permitting requirements do I need to consider before installing solar?
Permitting and zoning requirements are subject to regional differences and can frequently change, so these questions are best handled by your solar vendor.
Generally, you need three types of permits to install a residential solar system: an electrical permit, a structural or building permit, and a dedicated
solar photovoltaic (PV) permit. The specific permits needed vary depending on the size, location, and type of PV system. There are infrequent zoning issues
with residential solar, but your solar vendor should provide the latest information on any relevant city ordinances.