Buying a solar energy system will likely increase your home’s value. A recent study found that solar panels are viewed as upgrades, just like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement, and home buyers across the country have been willing to pay a premium of about $15,000 for a home with an average-sized solar array. Additionally, there is evidence homes with solar panels sell faster than those without. In 2008, California homes with energy efficient features and PV were found to sell faster than homes that consume more energy. Keep in mind, these studies focused on homeowner-owned solar arrays.
As always contact Solar Chief to discuss the best option for the most efficient, reliable, and cost effective system. Solar Chief offers Free Site Evaluations and Free Quotes.
Why add to
- Increased Electrical Usage: becoming more relaxed about energy use, example- purchasing an electric vehicle, expanding your home
- Smaller Installments: expand system slowly, offsets electrical bill, financial position
When upgrading your solar panel system, selecting identical solar panels is the best bet to ensure your solar array is efficient. The type of inverter is based on your system size, so your original inverter might not have the capacity to handle additional electricity. There are many different options when adding to your solar arrays. If your home’s roof is out of space for your expansion, you might consider a ground-mounted system. Consult Solar Chief to understand your best options for solar expansion.
What is Solar Energy?
Solar energy is the most abundant energy source on Earth, and as we continue to develop ways to capture it, it is an important aspect of our clean energy future.
During the day when the sun is shining, each particle of sunlight that reaches earth contains energy that fuels our planet. Solar energy is the ultimate source responsible for all of our weather systems and energy sources on earth, and enough solar radiation hits the surface of the planet each hour to theoretically fill our global energy needs for nearly an entire year.
This energy comes from the sun, which is like a massive nuclear reactor. Deep in the Sun’s core, nuclear fusion reactions produce massive amounts of energy that radiates outward from the Sun’s surface and into space in the form of light and heat.
How does solar power work?
Solar power can be harnessed and converted to usable energy using photovoltaics or solar thermal collectors. Although solar energy only accounts for a small amount of overall global energy use, the falling cost of installing solar panels means that more and more people in more places can take advantage of solar energy. Solar is a clean, renewable energy resource, and figures to play an important part in the global energy future.
How to harness solar energy for usable power?
There are many ways to use energy from the sun. The two main ways to use energy from the sun are photovoltaics and solar thermal capture. Photovoltaics are much more common for smaller-scale electricity projects such as a residential solar panel installation, and solar thermal capture is typically only used for electricity production on massive scales in utility solar installations. In addition to producing electricity, lower temperature variations of solar thermal projects can be used for heating and cooling.
Solar is one of the fastest growing and cheapest sources of power in the world and will continue to spread rapidly in the coming years. With solar panel technology improving each year, the economic benefits of solar improve, adding to the environmental perks of choosing a clean, renewable energy source.
Breakthrough in New Material to Harness Solar Power
Solar energy is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of clean energy. With new technologies being discovered, solar power is one step closer to becoming the most affordable and efficient way to harness the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source in the world.
A physicist at the University of Toledo, Dr. Yanfa Yan, has been pushing solar cells to new levels and recently made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make the new material to harness solar power.
Yan, who has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, envisions that the ultra-high efficiency material, a tandem perovskite solar cell, will be ready to debut in full-size solar panels on the consumer market soon.
Perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry, would replace silicon which as of now remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the suns light into electrical energy.
“We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations. We have a problem consuming most of the fossil energies right now, and our collaborative team is focused on refining our innovative way to clean up the mess.”
The research paper published in the journal Science discusses how the photovoltaics team is fine-tuning a mix of lead and tin to advance technology closer to its maximum efficiency. These efforts have recently brought the efficiency of the new solar cells up to about 23 percent, while silicon solar panels on the market today have about an 18 percent efficiency rating.
About five years ago Yan’s team at the University of Toledo identified the ideal properties of perovskites and he has since focused on producing an all-perovskite tandem solar cell that brings together two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum.
While Yan’s team has improved the quality of the materials and the process to manufacture them at a low cost, more progress needs to be made. “The material cost is low and the fabrication cost is low, but the lifetime of the material is still an unknown,” Song said. “We need to continue to increase efficiency and stability.”
“Also, lead is considered a toxic substance,” Yan said. “I am determined to work with the solar industry to ensure solar panels made of this material can be recycled so they don’t cause harm to the environment.”
Is going solar right for you?
If you are thinking about using solar power in your home, it is important that you consider a few things before installing your solar panel system.
The first thing you should do is review your utility bills and see how much energy you used in the last year and look at what your costs were. You should also see what part of the total bill is for “metered” electricity, and what portion of your bill is for other items, such as delivery costs because even if the amount of metered electricity is reduced, you’ll still need to pay the utilities fixed charges.
Another thing you should consider is how you use energy and how you can reduce the amount of electricity used in your home. Making your home and appliances more energy efficient and ensuring that your home is properly weatherized can help to reduce your energy needs.
Before installing solar panels, you should also consider how long you will be in your home. A residential solar panel system is typically designed to stay on your home for at least 20 years. If you think you may move in that time span, it is important to find out how installing a system will affect your ability to sell your house. You should also be sure to ask the solar company about its policy on transferring the contract to a new homeowner after your home is sold.
It is also important that you figure out what size system you need to meet your average energy usage, and that you learn about the different products available in your area.
Solar energy systems also use one or more inverters to convert direct current electricity from the solar panels into alternating current electricity which is used by your appliances and outlets. The amount of power you get from a solar panel system depends on the average number of house of direct sunlight your roof gets, the pitch, age, and condition of your roof, the size and strength of your system, and environmental factors such as snow, dust or shade that may cover the system.
Another important thing to do before installing a solar energy system is to contact your utility to see what arrangements it makes with homeowners who produce solar power. Your utility may use “net metering,” which pays you or gives you credit for excess power your system produces during the day and returns to the grid.
Lastly, if you have a homeowner’s association you need to find out if you need their approval to install and system.
Top 10 Solar Panel Myths Busted
Even as residential solar panel installation becomes more popular many myths about solar panels and solar energy are still very widespread. Here are the top 10 myths and the facts that prove them untrue.
Solar panels do not work well in cold climates
Typically, most solar panels work best in cold, sunny climates. Because conductivity increases in cold temperatures, having panels in cold, sunny climates helps make electricity flow more efficiently.
Solar power will get more efficient, so I should wait to buy or install
Although many companies are still working to develop new and improved solar panels, the current technology has been used since the 1960s and is very effective and well established. The potential amount of efficiency you may gain, and money you may save, from future panels, is very small compared to the panels readily available today.
I will not live in my home long enough to make my investment in solar back
Depending on the system, solar panels can pay for themselves within a 6 to 15-year time-frame and combined with the best state and federal tax incentives, you have the potential to start seeing a return on your investment in 2 to 4 years. Even if you do not plan to be in your house for the next 15 years, solar panels increase the resale value of a home by about $15,000, so you can still get a good return on your investment when you sell your home.
Solar panels require a tracking system to follow the angle of the sun
Solar panels are positioned to maximize sun exposure when they are installed, meaning that no type of tracking system is necessary for performance. Some newer solar panels do include tracking systems for an extra cost, but it is not necessary that you purchase this for your panels to be successful.
Solar panels do not operate well in snowy or cloudy conditions
Snow and clouds can reduce the amount of solar energy produced by solar panels, but they can still work efficiently. In snowy climates, most often panels are positioned in a way that allows for the snow to slide off once it has accumulated.
Solar panels require constant maintenance
Solar panels are built to be durable and require minimal maintenance. Many professionals recommend an annual inspection of the panels to keep them in top condition, but not much further maintenance is required.
Solar panels will look unattractive
Ultimately, the appeal of solar panels is subjective, but many professionals can install them in locations and positions that minimize the visual impact.
Solar panels will damage my roof
Professional installers are skilled at installing panels on all roof types. These professionals will not damage a homeowners roof, and in many cases, solar panels can even extend the life of the roof by protecting it from the elements.
Only a few states offer financial incentives for installing panels
Almost every state in the United States offers incentives for solar energy. In addition to any state incentive offered, the federal government is also offering a 30% tax credit for any solar systems installed by the end of 2019.
Most solar systems will store excess energy in batteries
Most home solar power systems do not store energy in batteries. They are instead connected to the power grid via net metering, and homeowners are credited with the energy that their solar panels generate and add to the electrical grid.
Ground-Mounted vs. Rooftop-Mounted Solar Panels
When thinking about going solar, one main thing you will want to consider is if you want ground-mounted or rooftop-mounted solar panels. While both are good options, they both offer different benefits and it is important that you choose the one best suited for you and your needs.
If you have a large yard or a lot of space near your home, ground-mounted panels could be the right choice for you. Having a large amount of space can allow you to install a much larger solar energy system, and will free you from any sizing restraints due to the size of your roof.
Installing ground-mounted panels can help ensure that you are getting maximum solar energy out of your panels. Solar panels are supposed to face either south or west to get the most sunlight possible. If your roof does not face either of these directions then ground-mounted panels could be a good option for you. Since they are not restricted to the direction of your roof, you can install ground-mounted panels in any direction which could potentially allow for more sunlight.
While solar panels are typically low maintenance, there may be a time when you need to clean them or have a repair done and since ground-mounted panels are low and easily accessible this will be an easy task. The only thing to keep in mind is that owners of ground-mounted panels will need to be sure to keep them free of snow in cold weather since the snow will not be able to slide off if it has built up high on the ground around the panel.
Ground-mounted panels can be a great option for someone with lots of space, however, a couple of things to keep in mind are that they tend to be a little more costly and can sometimes be very noticeable in your yard. Installing the panels on the ground requires additional time, materials, and labor so they can tend to be more costly. They also typically sit a few inches to several feet above the ground and can tend to look bulky, so you may want to consider rooftop panels if you have a very manicured lawn and garden.
With rooftop-mounted panels costs are usually lower than ground-mounted panels. Rooftop panels are much more common and they are usually easier and faster to install. One of the only extra costs you may want to consider is the condition of your roof. Panels must be installed on a roof that is in good condition and is expected to last at least 20 years, so if your roof is in bad condition you may have to have it fixed before you can install your panels.
Rooftop panels also offer the benefit of being less noticeable, and can even sometimes be installed on the back of your house so that they are not as visible from the front. They can also help save you space in your yard by being installed on your roof instead, however, this can sometimes limit you on how large of a system you are able to install.
With rooftop panels, two of the main issues that could arise are positioning and cleaning. Since they are being placed on your roof, the panels are restricted by the type of roof, the angle, and the direction of the roof. Also, with the panels being up on the roof owners will have to be more cautious when it comes to cleaning their panels and will possibly need to invest in a professional cleaning and check up each year.
A ground-mounted solar array is a great option when going solar, especially when a roof does not provide enough space for an efficient solar array. The disadvantage of the ground-mounted solar array is the landscape maintenance around the system. The grass could get too high and cast shade on the panels, which will reduce energy production. Luckily there is a great eco-friendly solution to this problem… Solar Sheep. Below are the benefits of investing in sheep to maintain your ground-mounted solar array. Source: Nicole Duimstra
1. Solar sheep reduce operation and maintenance costs
At the Carilion New River Valley Medical Center near Roanoke, Virginia, the site of the 1.3 megawatt ground-mounted solar array installed by Secure Futures in 2017, takes about two days to mow with mechanical equipment and costs about $3,000 a pop. That’s no sheep date! Multiply this by a few times a year and the cost really starts to add up. Maybe we’re sheep-skates, but we would rather cut out the cost of mechanical mowing and pass along the savings to our customers.
2. Sheep drastically lower the need for mowing and herbicides
Of course, there are many options to maintain grassy fields. Mowing and the use of herbicides are the traditional choice to keep weeds at bay – although the use of gas-powered mowers and toxic herbicides seem counterintuitive for a solar farm, which should boast a low environmental footprint. By contrast, sheep can organically maintain a majority of the fields with much lower emissions from fossil fuels while trimmers and herbicides are only used to clean up what the sheep won’t eat.
3. Other livestock don’t compare to sheep
Don’t let other cute farm animals pull the wool over your eyes. Other livestock have been used to maintain solar farms, but without much success.
Cows and horses, like mowers, are so tall that their bodies cast shade on solar panels while they’re grazing. Bigger animals also can bump into solar panels and racking, causing damage. Goats, as you’d expect, do a great job of grazing not just the field but the solar equipment too. Apparently, goats enjoy chomping on electrical wiring as much they enjoy chewing on grass.
Solar sheep are the answer. They are low cost, quietly do the job, and look cute doing it too.
4. Solar sheep provide opportunities for partner-sheeps with local farmers
Solar farms are actually providing a new market for farmers across the Ewe-nited States. Partnerships between solar farms and, well, plain old farms are becoming increasingly popular. For example, in North Carolina, a state known for many large solar arrays in rural areas, sheep farming has jumped from 21,000 to 30,000 livestock in just a decade. Sun-Raised Farms alone provide 4,000 sheep for their partnerships with solar developers at 28 separate solar farms.
Shepherds lend their sheep to graze as they would at a normal pasture without fear of overgrazing farm land, and the sheep can be sold at a profit at the end of the grazing season. Solar sheep boost the agricultural industry and promote an even lower-cost source of clean energy.
At Carilion’s New River Valley location, Secure Futures is partnering with local Pulaski County, VA shepherd Cecil King. In a barter agreement, Secure Futures will prepare the site for sheep and provide Cecil with free pasture for his flock and he will cut the grass and weeds at no cost. This partnership is an agreement promoting both renewable energy and local agriculture. I think the folks on Wool Street would call this a win-win-win situation.
5. Sheep maintain pasture, rather than paving over paradise
Of course, you can avoid mowing altogether if you pave over a site before you install a ground-mounted solar array. Asphalt or concrete will certainly keep weeds, and any other living things for that matter, at bay. But paving creates its own problems for a ground-mounted solar array – it increases both stormwater runoff and excess heat that damages solar panels. By contrast, sheep can maintain pasture and restore otherwise depleted soil by natural means (yup, you know what I’m saying).
By maintaining a pasture, sheep also support native vegetation and pollinators. With less mowing, herbicides, or pavement, solar farms can be retrofitted with native vegetation. While solar sheep maintain local vegetation, pollinators like butterflies and bees can flourish in an environment with little noise or chemicals.
6. Solar panels maintain sheep health and shepherds’ well-being
Solar panels benefit sheep and farmers by providing shade. Livestock are susceptible to heat stress from sun exposure. A sheep’s thick wool usually serves as great insulation from the sun, but sometimes this isn’t enough to save them from the Virginia heat.
Heat stress can cause or worsen several health problems in sheep, such as weight loss, reduced milk production and quality, shorter pregnancies and underweight births, compromised immune systems, and reduced male fertility. The effects of heat stress are passed onto a farmer’s well-being, where a flock’s health is particularly significant in terms of profit.
Although the effects of heat stress are serious, the fix is relatively easy. A simple shade shelter, like hanging tarps or cloth, significantly reduces the likelihood of heat stress.
Mounted a few feet off the ground, solar panels provide the sheep excellent shade from the heat while they graze underneath. As an extra bonus, the Carilion solar array has a tracking system, which means the solar panels follow the sun during the day to maximize production. So, at the hottest time of the day, the panels are at “tabletop” position – providing great sun cover for sheep.
Solar shade will maintain sheep health by reducing the risk of heat stress, and shepherds will benefit from healthy solar sheep with a higher market value of their flock.
7. They’re living their best lives
What do sheep do? They bleep and they graze. Really, that’s it. The best part about solar sheep is that allowing them to simply exist on site is the most cost-effective, sustainable way to maintain solar farms.
These sheep are living their best lives. At Carilion, they will be enclosed by a high fence to protect both the sheep from predators and the solar panels from outside disturbances. After all, we don’t want any pesky deer eating our solar panel wiring.
8. You can peep the sheep at Carilion
This year, Carilion will host 30 sheep during the month of September. While everyone involved is excited to practice sustainability, promote renewable energy, support local farmers, and reduce cost for the medical center, livestock can be unpredictable. This September will serve as a learning experience for Secure Futures in how to best manage the solar sheep. If all goes well at Carilion, we will hopefully see more solar sheep at our sites.
The article below is from the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar Chief is a proud member of the SEIA.
Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. Many states have passed net metering laws. In other states, utilities may offer net metering programs voluntarily or as a result of regulatory decisions. Differences between states’ legislation and implementation mean that the benefits of net metering can vary widely for solar customers in different areas of the country.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads.
Giving Customers Control Over Their Electricity Bills
Net metering allows utility customers to generate their own electricity cleanly and efficiently. During the day, most solar customers produce more electricity than they consume; net metering allows them to export that power to the grid and reduce their future electric bills. California public agencies and schools will save $2.5 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years using net metering.
Creating Jobs & Encouraging Private Investment
Net metering provides substantial statewide economic benefits in terms of jobs, income and investment. Net metering increases demand for solar energy systems, which in turn creates jobs for the installers, electricians, and manufacturers who work in the solar supply chain. Today, the solar industry employs more than 250,000 American workers in large part due to strong state net metering policies which have allowed the solar industry to thrive.
Protecting the Electric Grid
Unfortunately, some utilities perceive net metering policies as lost revenue opportunities. In fact, net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.
Solar energy is now more affordable and accessible than ever before, and using renewable energy makes a positive impact on the environment. It’s like they say: what does a solar spill look like? A beautiful day.
Everyone wants to save money, right? A solar electric, or photovoltaic (PV) system may be the answer. The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA) requires power providers to purchase excess power from grid-connected small renewable energy systems at a rate equal to what it costs the power provider to produce the power itself. This means that any excess energy your PV system produces can actually put money into your pocket. The greatest benefit for homeowners is through net metering. With this arrangement, a bi-directional meter is used to record the electricity your home pulls from the grid, as well as the excess energy your PV system produces. At the end of the month, if you are in the black energy-wise, the utility will pay you retail price for that extra electricity.
PROTECT THE PLANET
At least for the next 5 billion years or so while the sun still shines, solar energy is a renewable resource. This means that you can use as much of the sun’s energy as you like and it won’t deplete it as a resource. Processing solar energy does not release carbon emissions, unlike coal, which many utilities use to produce electricity. According to the EPA, the average American household produces 6.8 metric tons of greenhouse gas emission from electricity each year. By using solar energy to power your home, greenhouse gas emissions from electricity could decrease considerably.
Side note: If you can’t produce solar energy at home, why not buy clean energy from your local utility?
INCREASE PROPERTY VALUE
Investing in solar energy will not only save you month-to-month on your electric bill, but it could also increase the property value of your home. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in California, PV systems added a $20,194 premium to the sales price of homes. Though solar can be expensive to install, the return on investment is approximately 97%, not including the savings associated with reduced energy bills.
The solar industry is growing rapidly. More homes are using solar energy and as such, new jobs are being created to meet this need. According to the non-profit Solar Foundation 2013 Solar Jobs Census, the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013. This is an almost 20% growth in employment since September 2012!