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Solar trees

Why Solar Trees are Trending…And Why you Should Get One Too

You likely know about solar panels. These items absorb energy from the sun’s rays. Next, a conversion process begins that turns this absorbed energy into usable electricity. Due to it being a cost-saving and environmentally-friendly energy source, many people are buying solar panels

But have you heard of solar trees? If not, that’s okay. Solar trees are a newer way for people, companies, and entire cities to explore everything solar energy has to offer. Here is more information about solar trees, the benefits of owning them, and why they’re becoming so popular.

What Are Solar Trees?

Solar trees are types of ground-mounted systems. They receive their name because the ground mounts and solar panels attached to them look like a tree. The pole mounted to the ground looks like the base of a tree, with the attached solar panels looking like leaves or branches.

These new kinds of trees are a small part of the growing solar energy revolution. Solar energy is becoming so popular that experts expect it to account for 48% of all renewable energy usage by 2050.

While they’re not actual trees, solar trees are a unique way to utilize this type of renewable energy. You can visit this gallery of beautifully designed solar trees for a closer look at where these renewable energy powerhouses are showing up.

The Benefits of Solar Trees

Now that you know more about solar trees, it’s understandable to research why they’re beneficial. With that in mind, here are four beneficial reasons to own a solar tree.

1. Saving money on energy costs – Solar trees can be major money savers. Since the panels on solar trees absorb energy from the sun, you’re likely using much less electricity than normal. Exactly how much money you’ll save depends on your location, kWh (kilowatt-hours), and how much sun you receive. However, research shows that solar panels provide average savings of $44 to $187 per month with a 5 kW solar system.

2. They don’t have to go on your roof – Unfortunately, certain properties can’t support solar panels. This might be due to a property having a small or oddly shaped roof. With that in mind, solar trees can do their job from an area of level ground.

3. They’re a unique way to go solar – Certain people want a more expressive way to show that they’re going solar. Fortunately, solar trees are a great way to express your uniqueness. You might even find that your solar trees inspire passersby to consider solar energy.

4. Having a shady spot to enjoy – There’s nothing like escaping a hot day under the shade of a tree. However, not everyone is lucky enough to have a big tree in their yard. Fortunately, solar trees can offer the shade you’re looking for. Certain solar trees even come with attached tables and chairs.

Solar Trees Vs. Solar Panels

It’s also understandable to wonder about how solar trees and solar panels compare to each other. Here’s a closer comparison of solar trees vs. solar panels.

The first way these two things differ from each other is how they look. A solar panel itself is a flat item. Solar trees come up out of the ground and feature attached solar panels. In some cases, the panels on a solar tree are far apart. Other times, the tree features one giant panel made up of several smaller ones.

When discussing how solar trees and solar panels operate, they essentially do the same thing. Solar panels usually rest on a roof to absorb rays from the sun. Due to the design of a solar tree, this structure automatically lets solar panels rest in a high location.

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/daveclarkecb/2810285920

Why You Should Get a Solar Tree

By this point, you might be wondering if a solar tree is right for you or not. Considering that, here’s how to determine if you should get a solar tree.

If you want to do something about paying expensive monthly electricity bills, solar trees can be a great way to save money. 

You might also decide to have solar trees installed because you don’t want to depend on fossil fuels that damage the environment.

Solar trees are also fun ways to spruce up a bare-looking yard. As mentioned earlier, you might use the beautiful designs of solar trees to inspire others to learn about renewable energy.

Whether it’s by choosing a solar tree or solar panels, this form of renewable energy is extremely beneficial. Consider choosing solar energy to enjoy lower bills while doing your part to help the planet.

Best Solar Design Software

Solar installers want easy accessibility and robust features in their solar design software. The easier they can provide sales proposals and financial analysis for their customers, the better.

The best solar software has to be able to streamline the solar experience. This includes making design easier, providing a hassle-free sales process, and speeding up installation and finalization so that contractors can handle more clients.

Convoluted software only serves to make solar PV technology more challenging than it needs to be. The good news is that there are some really great solar software brands available. As you will soon learn, you can improve your closing rate and provide your customers with an accurate, professional solar PV system through the use of this software.

If you are a contractor or plant owner, you owe it to yourself to check out these beneficial programs. You can soon turn your business into a profitable force, providing renewable energy in both the residential and C&I sectors.

HelioScope

Folsom Labs delivers one of the best solar system design software packages for PV system installers. HelioScope is a PV sol design tool that is used by many leading photovoltaic PV companies and for good reason. Its comprehensive features make it easy for users to manage their solar projects and provide their customers with renewable solar energy.

HelioScope’s CAD-based layouts and remote shade analysis ensure that you provide your clients with the best energy management. Just recently, the California Energy Commission approved HelioScope’s shade reports for use in verifying solar access.

Previously, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) validated HelioScope’s 3D solar PV simulation model for use in remote applications. This is great news and a huge benefit to solar PV installers. Less time on the customer’s roof means you can spend more time closing the deal on your solar PV system.

HelioScope’s remote shade analyzer works to provide you and your clients with a hassle-free sales experience. Users can present their designs for their PV systems via PV simulation much more efficiently, allowing you to take on more projects and increase your customer base.

This software makes it easy to submit sales proposals and close on solar PV technology. And if you currently use other apps, HelioScope easily integrates with a number of popular programs to give you a streamlined user experience.

HelioScope is the gold standard when it comes to providing clean, renewable energy. This powerful tool gives you everything you need to design, present, sell, and install a grid-connected solar PV system. HelioScope even offers a free 30-day trial so you can try it out for yourself before you buy it. But with its great reviews and feedback, HelioScope is sure to be a solid investment.

Aurora

Solar energy companies of all sizes use Aurora Solar PV design software. As the best cloud-based PV simulation software tool, Aurora serves to compile everything from modeling software to design tools for a user-friendly experience. This ensures that contractors can create a solar PV design for their customers quickly and efficiently.

From the PV Syst design to the homeowner’s grid-connected solar power system, Aurora’s solar PV simulation software gives you the tools you need to take care of your customer in a streamlined and convenient manner. You want to provide renewable energy as efficiently as you can, and the cloud-based software allows for quick access to the system design tools you need to make it happen.

Aurora uses its solar PV simulation software to help you build your PV sol system from the ground up. Designing solar systems is made easy thanks to a CAD interface. And coupled with handy shade analysis, you can design your photovoltaic system with precision and accuracy.

Similar to HOMER Energy and its HOMER Pro hybrid optimization model, Aurora allows you to easily manage your energy generation and solar system PV modules for greater efficiency. This ensures that you’re getting the most out of your PV design costs. There is even an automatic compliance system that checks the energy production to make sure everything is within NEC rules.

You will have access to financial support, as well. Your project managers and decision-makers will find that it’s easier to manage your customer database, projects, products, cash flow, and more. There’s a lot that goes into renewable energy and solar PV system energy production.

Having a powerful tool like Aurora to handle it all in a robust system design package makes this solar PV system software worth every penny. And with the handy Fill Zones technology, you can be sure that your clients receive the best power generation from their solar PV system.

This part of Aurora’s robust solar design software automatically adjusts the entire database list of solar modules, inverters, and stringing to help you maximize the number of installed modules. Fill Zone ensures that you provide your customers with the best solar PV solution for their needs.

Furthermore, some news announced by the Department of Energy states that Aurora is developing a web-based application that allows you to see the solar potential of your customer’s roofs. This is a huge advantage for PV system installers, as it will allow you to see better weather data in relation to shading.

This will give you greater accuracy in the installation of PV solar panels, ensuring that your clients get the very best solar energy.

Solargraf

Solargraf is a user-friendly solution that uses web-based system design software and beneficial features. What’s really incredible about Solargraf is its ability to simplify and speed up the customer proposals process. Whereas some programs can take hours to project, management software like Solargraf does it in mere minutes.

That’s a huge advantage to contractors who have more installs on their plates and other customers waiting. The solar industry can get rather hectic at times. Having software that takes a big bite out of your time on projects is an invaluable feature.

Although this technology isn’t anything new, it is highly accessible, making it an excellent choice for solar panel companies. You can easily measure your project site surface area to help you create detailed line diagrams to support your PV design.

Other features include shade reports, rich map support, and simplistic yet effective financing tools. It’s nice being able to negotiate your sales proposal in real-time and make adjustments to your bill and privacy policy when needed. If you’ve been looking for an application that enables you to handle your financing easily, Solargraf is a solid investment.

Users can keep track of performance ratio, permits, customer sales database, and more – all from a mobile device for greater convenience while you’re away from the office. When your customer is ready to sign, Solargraf lets you collect electronic signatures for greater convenience.

The quote system is really handy, too. With this, Solargraf lets you detail solar energy estimates and usage so you can present it quickly and efficiently to any customer. And if you need assistance along the way, Solargraf offers a comprehensive support system to walk you through any questions with the app.

Managers will appreciate the monthly or yearly subscriptions offered by Solargraf. So you don’t have to lock yourself into a contract that you may not need if you run into a slow month.

Dvinci.co

Residential and commercial solar owners who are looking for the best deal on solar panels and renewable energy will find Dvinci to offer a wealth of energy resources. Although it is a relatively new startup, Dvinci has quickly proven itself in the solar market by working to provide customers with the best energy savings.

Founded in 2016 by Walid Halty and Ahmad Hodroj, Dvinci Energy’s dedication to streamlining national renewable energy had saved its clients more than $45 million by just the following year and is projected to save over $1 billion presently.

Solar panel contractors will also find support through Dvinci.co, Dvinci Energy’s solar power software platform. PV system designers will love the enterprise-level tool selection and system. And thanks to AI engineering design software, you can easily map solar power systems layouts for better solar management.

Customer service is made easy, too, thanks to the instant checkout tool and products marketplace. Homeowners and contractors alike will appreciate the multiple energy resources offered by Dvinci.co. You can compare local solar panel installers to ensure that you are getting the best price and get free quotes through Dvinci.

Solar PV owners can use Dvinci.co to check more than 300 rebate authorities to get incredible savings on their energy systems. Thanks to Dvinci’s easy-to-use PV system software, you can be sure that you’re staying on top of your energy management.

Whether you are a solar panel business or homeowner, Dvinci Energy will help you get up and running by streamlining the decision-making and design process.

Honorable Mentions

Now that you’ve seen the best, let’s list some other solar software that can benefit you in providing your customers with excellent service. You don’t have to necessarily use just a single program. You may find that you get better results when you combine the services of another solar program.

Depending on your area of expertise, some of the solar tools in the following list may not apply to you. Furthermore, some may not be needed if you’re going to be using one of the above software options.

Solar-Log Base

If you own one of the quarter-million solar PV plants worldwide, it pays to keep an eye on your energy storage. Thanks to Solar-Log Base’s solar technology, you can identify an underperforming solar plant in real-time.

This ensures that you’re getting the best power generation. Solar-Log Base provides systems and tools that make it easy to monitor your solar energy systems.

Solar O+M

Similar to Dvinci.co, Solar OM serves to connect home and business owners with the best service. This serves to ensure that they invest in quality PV systems and solar PV panels. As a consumer, you want to get the best solar energy possible.

Companies like Solar OM streamline the process by providing a full analysis of solar features to ensure that you are giving your clients the best solar power.

System Advisor Model (SAM)

From the National Renewable Energy Laboratory comes System Advisor Model, or SAM. This software facilitates decision-making for the solar energy market. Why is this software important?

For one, it’s free. And two, it models a wide variety of systems for renewable energy. From residential rooftop solar PV power to solar water heating, SAM is a must-have for managers and engineers.

SAM also offers financial models for solar projects – both residential and commercial. SAM features software that helps keep your client’s energy bills to a minimum through its generated power.

Laplace Systems

Looking for solar PV monitoring and analysis software? With Laplace’s software technology, you can present designs and simulations for your customers. Its database of tools and features makes it easier to determine solar module placement for your clients more accurately.

Laplace is a solid choice for beginners who are looking for an easy way to manage their business model and provide their customers with accurate solar service. You will find a wealth of sophisticated programs and tools that are designed to simplify the solar experience.

Laplace is made for the following PV professionals, but may be suitable for others, as well:

  • Engineers/Architects
  • System designers
  • Field technicians
  • Site surveyors
  • Salespersons
  • Analysts

You can request a free trial of Laplace’s Solar Pro so you can get a feel for how it might benefit you and your installation company.Free trials are important, as they can help you determine which software is best suited for your needs. Be sure to check out any free trials offered in the main review section, as you will get a first-hand look at why they are the most-used among solar installers.

 

How Net Metering Works

If you have looked into solar energy or solar panels for your home, you have probably come across the term “net metering.” At first glance this term may seem like technical jargon, however, net metering is actually a crucial component of your new solar array and it has many benefits.

Net metering is the policy which allows your electric meter to spin both backwards (during the day), and forward (at night), *this concept explained below.

This simple practice is what makes many of the residential solar energy systems today economically competitive with traditional forms of energy. In addition to reducing the payback period for solar energy, net metering also: helps to keep the costs to install an array lower, requires less maintenance, eases the strain on the public utility grid, and reduces the overall carbon footprint of the new solar energy system.

To first understand the implications of net metering, you should how it works and why it is important.

Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

 Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…

What is Net Metering?

If you do not have a solar energy system on your home, your electricity comes from the utility lines that connect your house to the power grid. Most properties do not have energy storage systems (batteries) and therefore the electricity from the power grid is delivered at exactly the moment that it is required (this is called “On-Demand Power”).

Between your home and the power grid is a meter, with which you are probably familiar. This energy meter is used by the power company to determine how much energy you have consumed during a period of time and how much you will be billed.

Before smart meters, the typical electric meter was powered by simple diodes, which powered a large wheel within the energy meter. Through a series of gears, dials turned on the front of the meter and gave the power company an accurate measurement to the energy which was delivered to your home.

When you used energy, the term was coined that your electric meter was “moving forward,” or pushing energy forward and into your home.

In the early days of solar energy, when a home had solar installed on the property and more energy was produced than consumed, the meter would literally begin spinning backwards as electricity was pushed back onto the grid (FYI – electricity is like water, it follows the path of least resistance and can flow backwards back onto the grid if the path leads it that way).

At the end of the month you were only billed for the amount that was shown on your electric meter and, without having to make any calculations, the energy you were charged for was the “net” amount that was used during that billing cycle.

This method was somewhat unofficial in certain areas and many municipalities and utility companies did not have net metering laws. In fact, some meters were made without the ability to “spin backwards” as a reaction to this.

The recent growth of solar energy also coincided with the widespread implementation of Smart Meters. Smart Meters use a completely different type of method to measure energy and rely more on electronics and processors.

The newer smart meters are capable of sending signals back to the utility grid operators in real time, and with more detail that tells how much energy you were using at a and how much energy you might also be producing.

Because the new systems were capable of measuring so much more data and the popularity of solar had begun to grow, municipalities had to establish net metering laws in order to regulate the size, rates, and methods to accommodate solar energy.

Net Metering is simply a set of guidelines that dictate how you will be billed for the difference between the energy that you used compared to the energy that you produced. These laws vary from state to state and will tell you how to determine if you pay the “net” for the month and how your particular utility company will handle any excess energy that is produces and put back onto the grid (there are a variety of options).

How Net Metering Benefits the Homeowner

When You Need to Use Net Metering:

During the day, if you use more energy than you produce, net metering is not at play. However, because many solar energy arrays produce a bulk of their energy during periods when many homes are unoccupied, there are several scenarios where your home has a surplus of energy. These overages are kWh of energy that you are able to “push” back onto the grid and obtain credits for them, thanks to net metering laws.

The reason that net metering is important is because a majority of solar energy arrays built produce up to 85% of the properties annual energy consumption during the sunniest 6 months of operation.

Because homes use the least amount of energy when solar arrays are working the hardest, it would be difficult to offset your total usage if you were limited to only consuming what you produce and losing the extra energy without credits (unless you have batteries, which is covered below).

Many municipalities have recognized the benefits of net metering and the laws are not widespread. In summary, net metering allows you to produce excess energy during peak periods and retain those credits to use either later that month, or within a single year from the date of the credit.

Because you do not need to have on-site batteries and because you are producing energy that can service other neighbors, there are many benefits to this program. However, we recommend you also check with your local solar company to make sure that you understand if any costs might be associated and that those are taken into your evaluation as well.

Without net metering, in order to capture solar energy and not “lose it,” you would have to have battery systems to store the energy you produce during the day and make it available for your home at night or during the winter months when solar arrays product less electricity.

The Benefits of a Non-Battery System (Financial)

Batteries are expensive, and even though Tesla and other battery manufacturers have begun making great advances in battery storage systems, the fact remains that they add to the cost of your solar energy system.

With net metering, the homeowner has no need for a battery backup system in order to recoup their excess energy and essentially the power grid acts as a battery backup for them.

Although many homes are equipped with some form of battery system or a generator, the cost to handle the amount of energy an average solar array produces would be tremendous. Even on the lower end, batteries could add at least 15% to the cost of having an array installed. This is not even considering the cost to maintain the battery or normal replacement, which can occur in the 10 to 20 year range (most solar panels are warrantied for 25 years and will have a useful production life of 30 years).

Thanks to net metering and the avoidance of having to purchase batteries, the cost for a new residential solar array is much lower and requires less maintenance. Large, utility scale power plants do not have batteries either and by foregoing this purchase, the residential solar array systems costs are much lower and can be more competitive with traditional power production.

The Benefits of a Non-Battery System (Environmental)

In addition to saving the financial cost of a battery, you are also saving on the amount of raw materials required to make your new energy array. Because the goal of many homeowners who choose solar energy is to reduce their overall carbon footprint, skipping the battery bank is an added environmental benefit.

A simple car battery requires 140lbs of Lithium alone. This is in addition to the Lead and other metals/ plastics required to manufacturer a battery. A home would require up to 4 times the amount of energy storage in order to last through the night and on cloudy days when solar is less efficient.

As discussed previously, the resources required for batteries are tremendous and can be avoided thanks to net metering. The production of an average car battery can create carbon emissions to equal the amount of carbon that your car produces in 6 months. Imagine the impact that has on a battery bank large enough to power your entire home?

For residential solar arrays with an accompanied battery bank, it is estimated that in many cases the battery bank could add an additional year of production required to offset the carbon emission from battery manufacturing. Simply put, avoiding the batteries and subscribing to net metering is a good environmental decision in most cases.

Having said all this, there are cases where it makes sense to install a home battery back up system and when you’re installing solar is the best time to review whether a battery system is right for your home.

The Benefits of Net Metering on the Utility Grid

During the summer, it is becoming more common for energy companies to partake in “Emergency Cycling Events.” This is when the utility company isn’t able to produce enough electricity in order to meet the demand (imagine a hot summer day, home AC systems are running at their peak, office lights and computers are working away, etc). In some cases it would be too expensive to ramp up “peaker plants” which are auxiliary power plants that use natural gas or oil.

Therefore the utility company will instead dial down the amount of energy it sends to specific customers. These “rolling brown-outs” occur during the hottest times of day and because of grid strain, you actually see a bottleneck of energy being delivered. (*Note – blackouts are the same as brownouts but include times when electricity service is completely cut off to a specific area. This is a rare event in the United States and only occurs in the most extreme cases).

One answer to the grid strain is distributed energy production. In most cases this refers to smaller and utility scale solar arrays installed on commercial rooftops or farms. However, it can be argued that the array on your residential rooftop can serve that purpose.

During the summer, an average neighborhood may experience up to 5 “emergency events.” If everyone had solar, and energy production was at it’s peak (ironically, solar energy produces the most power during these types of events), it can be argued that grid strain will be reduced and your excess energy may also help keep your neighbors lights on!

One Last Issue to Consider

Although net metering is a positive policy which helps solar, one thing any homeowner must consider is the volatility of the market. Depending on your state and the local regulations, Net Metering may be determined by either (1) kWh produced, or (2) value of the energy when it is being produced. This 2nd measure basically puts a value on the kWh which the homeowner back feeds onto the grid and then issues a credit in dollars to their bill.

This becomes an issue because the homeowner is subject to market conditions of the “spot market,” which is the value of electricity based on current market conditions.

For example, in the late spring when solar panels are getting maximum exposure but temperatures might not be that high, most houses use little to no electricity during the day if they are unoccupied and the owners have their HVAC turned off (as often the case in states like Massachusetts, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia).

In this case, many solar systems in a concentrated area or a simple overage of energy being produced can drive the market rates for energy extremely low. (In a rare case in Texas, there was such an overage of electricity that a Texas wind farm had to shut down operations because there was actually a “negative” value on energy, meaning they had to pay a penalty for producing it.)

If your local municipality has net metering laws which are centered on value, the financial payback for solar can be affected. It is recommended that you to speak with your solar installer about these fluctuations and consider various scenarios accordingly.

The way your net metering values are calculated can greatly affect your bottom line.

In summary, net metering allows the utility grid to act as your own personal battery system. In most cases there are associated fees with keeping the credits you have pushed back onto the grid, however those are minimal compared to the energy savings you will be rewarded with in the long run.

Net metering has allowed many homeowners to install larger systems for less money, which is something that benefits us all.

Please see the sources listed below and a great reference for solar energy regulations is https://www.dsireusa.org, a non-profit with an excellent system for viewing all available credits for solar, wind, and other home improvement projects. 

How Massachusetts SRECs Work

If you are a homeowner and are considering having a solar energy system installed, you’ve probably seen the term “Solar Renewable Energy Credit” or “SREC”. Although not a widely known concept, if you choose to install a solar array, understanding SRECs is incredibly important.

Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC)

A Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) is a certificate that confirms your solar array has produced a specific amount of renewable energy in a year. Because many state energy distributors are required to purchase or offset a percentage of renewable energy each year, the SREC is a certificate they can purchase in order to contribute to this requirement.

When you have a solar array installed, the contractor should register the system with the grid operator and file the details of your system. This is the start of the process.

Depending on the amount of energy that your system has produced each year, you will be given number of SREC certificates (1,000 kWh = 1 SREC). They are usually electronic records; so don’t expect an actual paper certificate. Each certificate has a value and can be traded as a commodity. The sale of SRECs takes place in SREC Auctions handled by SREC Traders (again, your solar install company should help register for this).

Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

 Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…

SREC Value

The value of the certificate is based on the penalty the distributor would otherwise have to pay and the market, or number of certificates available at a given time. As you would expect in any free–supply and demand market–the more certificates available, the lower the price you will obtain for that SREC.

Because of this rule, the more solar that is available in your state, lower the SREC price will be. The price will affect the solar payback period and you should speak with your installer or SREC broker about current a pricing before to making the decision to install solar panels.

What about Massachusetts (or your state)?

Massachusetts initiated their first SREC requirement in January, 2010. The initial goal was 400MW and then increased to 1,600 MW in 2013. (*For reference, the average home uses 12,000 kWh of electricity per year. 1 MW of solar typically equals the usage of 125 to 145 average American homes.)

The idea was that Massachusetts wanted to spur solar growth and by subscribing to a renewable portfolio standard the Massachusetts SREC market was born.

The Massachusetts SREC and solar market is widely viewed as one of the most stable and prominent SREC markets in the United States. When you have a Massachusetts SREC, that certificate is equal to 1,000 kWh of annual production. The average 6kW solar energy system in Massachusetts will produce roughly 7,000+ kWh per year and you therefore, have 7 SRECS which are currently valued at approximately $300 each or $2,100 annually (as of 12/14/17).

The amount is typically paid quarterly as the various auctions operate on that schedule.

By installing a system and “opting in” to the SREC program via your installer or broker, you may collect and sell SRECs for 10 years from the date of your first day of operation.

For up to date information on the Massachusetts SREC Market, please visit:https://www.mass.gov/service-details/solar-carve-out-current-status

Solar Panels: Are They Worth the Investment for your Home?

The history of solar panels can be traced as far back as 1839 when Alexandra Edmond Becquerel placed a special compound of chemicals on a copper sheet and felt an electric charge. During his experiment, the sunlight reacted with the compound and the first solar panel was created.

In the 1950s, Bell Labs worked to refine this technology, the 60s brought solar to space, then the 70s saw it installed on the White House. Americans began to embrace renewable energy, however, there has always remained a debate about the value.

In order to help you answer this question of value, we are going to look at 3 different system scenarios and measure payback. This should give you a full understanding of whether solar may or may not work for you (but we highly recommend you consult with your installer and financial advisor prior to making any decisions).

This assessment is strictly financial (there are other benefits of course like helping the environment and making your home more independent of the grid) and we do not cover solar leasing in this article, only purchasing the solar panels.

Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

 Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…

The 3 Scenarios

The scenarios covered are:

  1. Solar without incentives
  2. Solar with incentives
  3. Solar with incentives and financing

When measuring financial benefits of solar, we will show you how to calculate the payback in a) years, or, b) annual savings compared to purchasing energy from the utility grid.

Assumptions

For each of the scenarios we are assuming the following system is installed:

  • System is installed in Baltimore, Maryland (the financial calculation is heavily impacted by your state and local municipality but this is one example case)
  • Rooftop System
  • 6 Kw, or 6,000 watts annually
  • $3.25 per watt installed or a total cost of $19,500 for the installation (also varies substantially by location)
  • System production is 8,359 kWh annually
  • Local Energy rate is $.14 per kWh delivered
  • Warrantied production is 25 years and useful life is 30 years.

First, we want to show you how to determine the total amount of kWh produced. For this, we recommend you visit the website (http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/). The calculation is complicated and needs to consider the average solar exposure for your exact location, and the size of your system, energy loss due to inverters, shading, position, etc. The calculator above is widely accepted as the most accurate and reliable source to determine your energy production during the first year. Rest assured, it is as easy as entering your address and giving basic details on the size of your proposed system.

To determine the Total Energy Production, use the number provided via PVWatts and multiply it by 30 years, the useful lifespan of a solar array. You must also consider panel degradation because your solar panels will produce less energy each year due to the organic materials breaking down over time—we will explain that below. Many manufacturers warranty at least 90% of the initial production for the first 15 years and at least 80% for the remaining 10. For the purpose of our calculations we will estimate a blended rate of 87% during the lifetime.

Calculation of Total Energy Production

The system in our example produces 8,359 kWH of energy during he first year. Each year, the amount of energy will decrease as stated above. Our blended annual production rate for this system is 7,272 kWh annually or 218,169kWh in total. (8,359 x .87 x 30).

Scenario #1: Solar Without Incentives

Often a political hot button, the owner of a solar array is able to capture several incentives for the investment. Incentives are typically offered in various forms on every level of the government from federal down through your local municipality, who may offer property tax incentives or even an expedited permitting process.

To look at the solar energy payback without incentives is extremely easy to calculate, although hard to compare with traditional forms of energy. This is due to the fact that in the United States, all forms of energy receive several layers of similar incentives.

Therefore taking incentives out of the equation gives the homeowner a good idea to the “raw payback” but not a fair assessment vs. other forms of energy production.

To calculate the payback, follow the formula below:

Solar calculation

Below we have used our sample system described above, and run the calculation for your reference:

For Total Savings the calculation is slightly tougher:

First, calculate the average cost for electricity including inflation, then run calculation #3 and #4:

In this case (without incentives), the total payback for the system is approximately 17 years, however the overall savings is $32,943.50. When you consider the environmental impact of solar energy combined with the savings, many would choose solar.

Scenario #2: Solar With Incentives

Incentives are an integral part of the Energy Market in the United States. Across the globe, all energy is subsidized in order to lower the overall cost and spur economic development. The United States is no different.

The first major federal solar incentives that are still in use today were enacted and signed during the presidency of George W. Bush. This includes a program for a federal tax credit. Commercial systems can also depreciate the system on an accelerated schedule, however, we will not use this in our calculations below.

In Maryland, a homeowner choosing solar as their next home improvement project can utilize the following incentives:

Federal: 30% Tax Credit

State: $1,000

Baltimore County: $2,500 property tax credit

In order to determine the payback with the incentives, we have used many of the same calculations from the example above. However, we will add the incentives listed above. Most of these savings are “front-loaded,” meaning they are recouped within the first few year to accelerate the payback period.

As you can see from the illustration above, the payback period occurs toward the end of the 4th year (highlighted in green). With individual homeowners now able to obtain many of the tax credits and/or grant programs that large corporations obtain when building utility power plants, solar energy becomes a more attractive financial play for homeowners.

Scenario #3: Solar With Incentives and Financing

Finally, financing a solar energy system can provide a stronger incentive to have the solar array installation. When comparing your new solar array to the option of staying on the public utility grid, you must take into consideration that you will likely have to spend some money up-front.

Financing the system can often reduce this requirement and can make your new solar energy system more attractive.

Conclusion

Whether or not solar energy is worth it depends on each individual circumstance. The information and calculations above were for specific examples and may vary from homeowner to homeowner but you can see that countless financial scenarios are possible.

Every person has various sensitivities for risk and the assumptions above are reliable, however they are for example purposes only.

For instance, we did not consider maintenance, replacement of equipment, insurance, or other items that you may or may not encounter. Financing your new solar array may come with varying terms and may also affect payback.

Often, banks and installers offer different terms for solar energy installs. Please consult with an attorney, accountant, your installer, or another qualified professional prior to making any decisions to partake in a solar installation.

There are two main take-aways we hope you get from this:

  • Installing solar panels is typically a financial benefit, at least over the long term
  • A solar energy system is a very complicated purchase because of the many factors and incentives involved. It’s a good idea to talk to a solar professional as well as your accountant, at a minimum, before making any decisions.

*Derate Factor – Solar panels are warranted to produce electricity for 25 years. Because they are made from organic compounds, the cells degrade over time. Thus, a derate factor is assumed because each year the panels will produce slightly less electricity than the year before. A .87 derate factor is used.

How to Get Solar Incentives and Rebates

When it comes to incentives, it is important to consult a professional. We recommend speaking with both your installer and personal accountant prior to making any decisions on purchasing and having a solar array installed in your home.

Solar incentives can be great, after all, they allow the average homeowner to reap the same investment benefits that used to be reserved for large corporations and utility power plant operators.

Solar is an excellent way to reduce your energy bills and help the environment. Because the recognition of this is widely accepted, many Local, State, and the U.S. Government have various incentives designed to provide financial benefits for those choosing to install solar on their properties.

Some of these incentives are in place to make the actual installation process more efficient (thus less expensive), or reduce the period of time to recoup the initial capital outlays. These are all part of an overall objective that the United States must switch to clean, energy independence, and by installing a solar array on your own home or property, you help contribute to this effort.

Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

 Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…

Solar is often referred to as the “individual’s power,” or “power for the masses,” and below are some of the incentives that you can obtain by installing solar on any property you manage. As a professional, solar incentives are usually broken into 3 categories (1) Federal, (2) State, and (3) Local, with 2 subsections (a) credits, or (b) rebates.

Incentives vary from location to location and the type of credit can either come in the form of a credit against a financial obligation or actual disbursement of funds from relevant sources.

*Please note- these incentives were in place during the time of this article being written (December, 2017). It is important to consult with a qualified and local professional to verify your personal ability to participate in each of the programs.

Federal Solar Incentives

As an individual, many of the federal incentives are designed to help you capture the same tax credits that large utility operators have enjoyed for years. Because large companies often have large tax burdens, the individual Federal Incentives help a homeowner obtain the same credits but in a way that might be more suited for an individuals tax scenario.

Individuals do not have a relatively large tax burden and therefore the federal government allows the credits to be taken which are designed in a way to benefit the individual over the corporation. These include:

  • Through 12/31/21, individuals installing a solar array may recoup up to 30% of the system cost via a Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This is not a deduction against your annual income but a credit on the taxes which you would otherwise have to pay. In summary: If your solar array costs $20,000, you may deduct $6,000 from your annual tax payment to the Federal Government. In many cases, if you are unable to use the full credit in a single tax year, you may consult with your personal accountant and determine if that value can be spread over several years.
  • There are also several Federal Loan Guarantee Programs which are offered through FHA financing. These systems offer a guarantee instrument for various upgrades (including the installation of new solar arrays) which provide the homeowner with lower interest rates and an ability to access equity in their homes via a simpler process. Homeowner must have a meet a minimum threshold for credit worthiness (660 Score, Debt to Income Ratio of 45%) but they may be eligible for funding up to 100% of the system cost.

State Solar Incentives

If you live in Massachusetts or Maryland, we previously discussed the various incentives in these two states here; (Mass) (Maryland). The incentives in states are typically state-wide rebate programs, Interconnection Standards, Sales and Income Tax Credits, Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, and often small grants provided through local utilities or municipalities.

An excellent resource to review what is available in your state can be found by visiting www.dsireusa.org, a website that is maintained by The N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center. This website is widely viewed as the most comprehensive list of State and Local incentives, and it is update regularly. We also highly recommend consulting with a local professional that has experience in working within your municipality and understand the various application processes and permitting systems.

Other solar leaders are: California, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, Georgia, Texas, New York, and Maryland.

Each state has various regulations, rebates, and credits. Some local municipalities also programs which can be limited to projects installed within a city or boundary perimeter. Because the programs vary in the type and amount of offerings, it is difficult to determine trends. Often the offering municipalities are diverse from each other and although renewable energy is often associated with more progressive ideologies, this is often not the case on local levels (remember, the current tax credit structure of solar energy was first signed into law under George W. Bush).

Local Solar Incentives

There are relatively few municipalities that offer solar incentives. Some cities and towns are very progressive when it comes to energy policies and offer incentives on top of the other federal and state incentives.

These incentives can range from a flat payment for each installation to faster or cheaper permitting processes and everything in between. Contact your local town hall for information specific to your location, but keep in mind that most cities and towns don’t offer anything.

Solar Equipment Incentives

Like any other product, there are sometimes rebates or discounts on the purchase of certain solar panels at certain times. Your installer would be familiar with these and they change over time and by manufacturer so there isn’t a better method than having the conversation with your installer. They’ll be more than happy to help you get the best deal on the equipment.

Incentive/Rebate Glossary

Credit: A way to help the homeowner offset paying an amount that would otherwise be due. Tax Credits are common for solar energy and although the homeowner does not get a check (as they do with a grant), the credit is an amount applied against the usual tax credit (income and property tax credits).

Deduction: This is an amount that is allowed to be applied against (reducing) your taxable income. Unlike Credits, this amount is not recouped on a dollar for dollar basis. Instead it is an amount that is subtracted from your taxable income to reduce your overall tax burden.

Distributed Energy: Smaller power plants that are typically limited to localized areas or single properties/ homes.

Rebate: The same as a grant, a rebate is a program that allows for actual monetary compensation. Typically they are tied to an earmarked fund and once registered within the system you space is reserved. Grants and rebates do expire so keep up to date with these and register as soon as a design is finalized.

State of Solar in Massachusetts

In the early 2000s, Massachusetts was one of the leading states in the initial solar energy revolution that began sweeping across the United States. The industry has grown tremendously since those early days and Massachusetts continues to be a pioneer, ranking in at No. 6 for Solar Growth and often providing some of the most aggressive payback period for homeowners in any state.

While many other municipalities have joined in and are now embracing solar, Massachusetts continues to promote the technology and experience some of the highest growth due of positive public policies and a solar friendly grid which helps promote renewable and other forms of distributed power.

Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

 Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…

In Massachusetts alone, over 14,582 residents identify as being involved in the solar energy industry within some capacity. MA is home to over 500 companies and estimates claim these numbers may double over the next 5 years.

Because of install and equipment price declines of nearly 55% over the last 5 years, the regions solar production is quickly approaching 2,000 MW of generating power. In fact, it is estimated the growth will continue to increase at an increasing rate and quickly top over 3,000 MW of capacity within the next few years.

Solar installations in MA

*Image source: seia.org

Massachusetts legislatures recently debated some of the issues that accompany such explosive growth and are currently looking at ways to address the explosive growth. Currently there are minimal effects on the public utility grid, however, officials are concerned that as the State approaches 3,000 megawatts, a majority of energy might be installed in places where the grids are not able to handle such large amounts of energy generation.

This would be due to an excess of energy being produced which is higher than the current demand.

Unlike other solar states, Massachusetts’ summer climate is much milder than southern states and this issue remains a great concern, especially in the higher elevations of the State and along the coastline.

Comparatively, these areas require less energy usage during hot summer months when solar produces a bulk of energy. Energy events are less common which means the supply of energy might exceed the grid’s capacity to carry the energy outside of localized areas.

This can cause grid strain and utilities are looking to enact measures that give them the authority that temporarily suspends net metering in order to prevent overcharging of power lines. (*in southern states, energy usage spikes higher during hot summer days than in these effected areas- these are called “events” and oversupply has a higher threshold).

If you are considering solar today, do not let this deter you. In fact, 2018 is expected to be one of the best years for solar in Massachusetts and local legislators are hoping for this to occur. In 2016 the Legislature and Governor passed An Act Relative to Solar Energy in order to continue promoting a homeowner’s ability to install solar on their home.

This legislative action raises the cap of solar energy allowed in the State to the maximum load that the grid may handle (raising from 5% to 8% of total state energy usage coming from Solar Energy).

The act was passed with a bipartisan measure which recognizes the positive effects that solar energy has on both the environment and economy of Massachusetts, especially smaller town or suburban area surrounding Boston.

If you are considering Solar Energy on your home, and live in Massachusetts, below is a list of the various benefits, laws, and incentives to take action now. As the State approaches the 8% threshold, many of the economic benefits may be reduces so therefor, we recommend speaking with a licensed solar expert to consider taking action as soon as possible.

Noteworthy Massachussets Solar Incentives:

  • Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC): A SREC is essentially a certificate which can be purchased by local utilities in order to offset their requirement to purchase and promote solar energy within their operational grids. Every new solar system installed can submit to this program which allows homeowners to register their certificates with a broker or auction house and sell the certificate every year for up to 10 years from the date of system commissioning. Currently (as of December, 2107), a SREC accounts for roughly 1,000 kWH of energy produced in a Calendar Year. A single SREC is valued at $310. Example: If you install a solar energy system that produces 8,000 kWh per year you will obtain 8 SRECS. This has a current market value of $2,480 per year (this figure does not include auction or broker fees).
  • Solar Arrays are exempt from Property and Sales Taxes and will not add to your assessment.
  • Many municipalities or grid operators offer up-front Rebate Programs for choosing solar. These include:
    • City of Taunton: $1.50 / watt up to $4,500
    • Concord Municipal Light: $6.50 / watt up to $3,125
    • Chicopee Electric Light: $.50 / watt up to $2,500
    • Town of Hudson: $1.25 / watt up to $6,000
  • Several Loan Guarantee programs or State Approved Mortgage programs that may sometimes allow homeowner to easily barrow the funding to have a solar array installed. Incentives include reduced interest amounts or some guaranteeing instruments.
  • Personal Income Tax Deduction from State Taxes what can be up to 30% if installed by 12/31/2019.

These incentives can be combined with several Federal Programs that include the same 30% tax credit that many homeowners are currently allowed to take.

As one can imagine, Massachusetts is a very serious state when it comes to cleaning up the environment and promoting the use of renewable and distributed energy products. As the State approaches the 8% limit, many of the programs are set to be reduced or simply expire, making 2018 to be the year of solar according to several industry insiders.

When you combine these incentives with the low cost of installing solar and various financing options, there are several scenarios where solar will make the best sense for Massachusetts homeowners.

How to Choose a Solar Installer & What to Expect

Once you have decided to go solar, the first challenge will be choosing the right installer. Because solar is a competitive but specialized field, you will find a great deal of conflicting information. But don’t worry, this often confuses even the savviest of homeowners.

Turning to “neighborhood” websites or social media for recommendations only provide half of the information and you can be certain that some of the information is biased (i.e. the referring source is related to the recommended party). 

Plus, you never know if the recommending person has the same perception of cost, quality, or timing (the 3 factors in judging any service provided).

Does Your Home Qualify for Solar Tax Credits?

 Click your state & answer a few questions to find out…

Hire a Solar Specialist

We have seen, far too many times, someone recommend a service professional for solar installations based on their experience with completely different tasks (like electrical work). This is an ever-growing problem. 

Our top recommendation is to collect multiple bids and try to obtain as much information as possible. Do this up front and seek ways that help you accomplish this task as efficiently as possible. Save your energy to focus on making the final decision (not the first round of filtering).

Finding the Right Solar Installer

In 2015, a national polling company released data that showed 30% of all homeowners believe the hardest part of any home improvement projects is simply finding the right person.

You are not alone is researching this topic and solar is no exception to this rule. Because the solar industry is so complex, it is often hard finding the correct information and that is what we are hoping to help you accomplish.

In the U.S., solar energy began to gain popularity in the late 2000’s. Prior to that, renewable energy was a niche market and, if there were a small handful of installers (by handful, maybe 2 or 3) in an entire market, it was probably “crowded.”

During this time you could usually call the panel manufacturer and ask for an installer. The industry was so small that the network of installers were actually connected from coast to cost. One could literally ask someone in Massachusetts for a recommendation in Florida. Chances are they would know someone!

Once solar began to grow, the industry became more complex and changed. Regarding the actual installation of solar, it is not that complicated. Any qualified contractor who is experienced and comfortable working on rooftops can probably “fake” their way to powering up the system.

But that is probably not what you are looking for, because we all want to have the system installed properly and be the most efficient system possible. The installation methods rely on the simple principals of roof construction and if the contractor understands this, he can handle the equipment install.

Avoiding Pitfalls of Installation

Most problems occur in the design and electrical portion of the installation, and that is why you first need to make sure your solar installer is a specialist. As you are likely aware, solar panels produce DC power and require inverters to invert (*not “convert”, technical jargon) the energy to AC (which is what you home uses). We also know that panels require sunlight but, do you know how shading or orientation can effect output?

These are questions that you average contractor may not fully understand but an experienced solar installer will take into consideration–almost by nature. You need to make certain that the installers you review, at a minimum are groups who understands all of the issues involved in designing, installation, and maintaining an efficient solar energy array.

Remember, your panels could be powering your home for the next 30 years- efficiency, design, and even aesthetics should be topics any good installer speak with you about, from the beginning.

7 Steps to Choosing a Solar Installer

In order to help you on this topic, we have put together the following items that we think will help. You have to first use your knowledge and intuition, the same skills that are implemented when hiring any home improvement professional.

Then consider the complexity of solar and how to insure that you hire the right pro. But don’t worry, with proper guidance you can find the right installer who will make sure the array you purchase is the best one for your unique home, and goals.

  1. First, in your research of solar (especially solar incentives) make a list of requirements regarding the contractor by your local municipality. Many grant, rebate, and even permitting processes require various training or licensing. Some state’s have solar specific license requirements while other use 3rd party verifications (such as NABCEP or manufacturer certificated). Visit dsireusa.org for a full list, also contact your local City or County and ask to speak with a permitting specialist.
  2. Collect a list of solar contractors that meet these guidelines. You can ask for recommendations from family or neighbors but make sure to check several sources and verify all licensing and certifications. You can also use a website that aggregates this data in order to make sure that any biasses will be countered from different sources.
  3. Once you have a list, contact each installer and ask for an estimate. Sometimes an installer will like to perform a site visit however true professional solar installers can use aerial images and engineering software to give an accurate estimate to start (trust us, even the smallest of installers should have this capability). You want to use this step to filter out substandard installers and obtaining up front information before a site meeting. This will also help you avoid having to endure several sales pitches and make the initial cut of contractors with minimal effort.
  4. After receiving the first few quotes, review the information. Take note of the equipment choices, experience, pricing, and availability of each contractor. Then, rank each according to your own preferences.
  5. Contact the top 2 or 3 respondents and ask for a final estimate. Be sure to discuss the equipment choices with each and if you have a preference, ask the installer to revise his estimates using your preferred equipment. A site visit is usually required during this step and it is good for you to begin establishing a face to face relationship with your installer.
  6. After receiving the final evaluations, make a list of the top factors in your decisions and evaluate the proposals on each of the recommended categories. Your list should include:
  • Availability
  • Equipment
  • Experience
  • Licensing
  • Price
  • Reputation
  • Services Provided
Explanations:

– Services Provided is an important topic. You want to find out what services are included in the contract. This should include permits, change orders, registration of SRECS, Utility Interconnection, etc.

– Regarding Price, do not automatically accept the lowest price. In fact, we recommend first choosing the highest ranking solar installer from your evaluation and then negotiate price with that specific person.

7. Finally, find out if the installer offers any financing or credit options. Even if you plan on paying for the system in full, some installers have special incentives such as interest fee financing to provide funding until rebates are obtained, etc.

Avoiding Pitfalls of Installation

Hiring a solar installer can seem like a daunting task at first. Although we discussed how the industry has grown, it is still small enough that you can obtain good information from various sources in your local area to double check everything.

Luckily, most homeowners who have already had solar installed, are passionate solar enthusiast and are happy to talk about their experience. The important task is to speak to as many homeowners as possible and make an evaluation that works best for you and your own goals. Go with your feeling and enjoy the process- most of us did!

Our Cheat Sheet of Filtering Questions:

  1. Are you focused on Solar Energy Alone?
  2. Do you have State Licensing and what are you insurance limits?
  3. Do you have any 3rd party certifications (manufacture or industry)?
  4. How many individual installs have you done in the last year (6 to 8 is adequate)?
  5. How much solar energy have you installed?
  6. How long does your typical install take?
  7. How many equipment manufactures do you work with?
  8. Can you provide 3 references that I can speak with our drive by?
  9. Have you ever had a home improvement complaint against you?
  10. Who designed each system?
 

Which Substance Is The Best Transmitter Of Solar Energy?

Due to the increased use of solar energy, solar panel manufacturers have come up with better photovoltaic panels. These new innovations are either introducing new products into the market or making the existing products better for increased efficiency.

Of course, the most improved panels will be offered at a relatively higher cost but it will produce solar power more efficiently.

Today, there are a horde of substances used as transmitters of solar energy including:

  • Crystalline silicon
  • Monocrystalline silicon
  • Polycrystalline silicon
  • Amorphous silicon
  • Other newer substances such as gallium arsenide

Which Substance Is The Best Transmitter Of Solar Energy?

For consumer applications, monocrystalline and polycrystalline solar panels are the most common. There are several other substances used for transmitting solar energy though, and new ones under development. Each of these transmitter substances (photovoltaic materials) has its own advantages and disadvantages. Read on to learn more.

Crystalline Silicon

Silicon is the most used photovoltaic material with up to 90 percent of all panels produced in the world being made of silicon or its variant. In the US, for instance, 95 percent of all panels produced have crystalline silicon as the transmitter substance.

The cells of crystalline silicon are arranged in a crystal structure making it an excellent transmitter substance. When the crystal structure is perfectly aligned, silicon transmits solar energy better.

To enhance the transmission of energy, other substances might be added to crystalline silicon. For instance, crystalline silicon is coated with some substance to reduce the rate of reflection and enhance absorption of light. These added material makes crystalline silicon more expensive. However, crystalline silicon is able to produce up to 22 percent more energy compared to other photovoltaic materials.

Monocrystalline Solar Cells

Monocrystalline solar cells are made of pure silicon which is first purified into ingots and then cut into panel pieces. These way, the panels are made of a single continuous silicon structure. They end up having the same look. Due to the pure nature of the silicon and the continuity of the silicon structure, monocrstaylline silicon cells are the most efficient for consumer applications.

These panels last relatively longer and perform better in areas with low light intensity and higher temperatures. Due to their high efficiency, these solar panels are able to produce more energy in small spaces. For instance, small panels used on outdoor solar lights are mostly monocrystalline to increase energy output.

Their efficiency comes with a higher price tag since they are more expensive to produce. During production of these cells, the cells are produced in form of a cylinder and then trimmed into squares. In that process, a lot of panel goes to waste.

Even worse, the continuous crystalline nature of the panels make them susceptible to breaking when they are covered by shade, dirt of snow. Granted, consumers have to take great care of the panels for them to last long without breaking.

Polycrystalline Silicon Cells

Polycrystalline solar panels are made of raw silicon molded into small squares. Since the cells do not go through the purification process, these panels are less expensive to produce and therefore less expensive compared to monocrystalline cells.

When the raw silicon is molded into squares, the crystal structure of silicon is broken and this makes polycrystalline cells less efficient. Compared to monocrystalline cells, polycrystalline cells are 16 percent efficient while monocrystalline cells are 20 percent efficient.

To produce as much energy as monocrystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, these panels need to be larger. The panels are also susceptible to high heat conditions and they do not last as long as monocrystalline panels.

Amorphous Silicon

These solar panels are made of amorphous silicon. They are commonly referred to as thin film solar cells. Because amorphous silicon does not have a crystalline structure, it is only 7 percent efficient in producing solar energy.

Besides the fact that they are relatively less efficient, thin film cells are light in weight and flexible enough to be used in small applications such as power calculators. The panels are inexpensive and can survive in high temperatures and shaded regions.

The fact that thin film solar cells are flexible makes them more useful in recent innovations such as calculators and tarps. Nevertheless, because they are less efficient in producing solar power, they have to be extremely large to produce the same energy as other photovoltaic materials.

Other Photovoltaic Materials

New photovoltaic materials are coming up. One of these materials is gallium arsenide. It is a highly efficient material with an efficiency of up to 12 percent. However, gallium is a rare material making it very expensive and arsenic is a hazardous material. Though it is an efficient material, its use in residential applications is not practical.

Which Transmitter Substance is the Best?

There are many more photovoltaic materials most of which are still under research. From the list of transmitter substances above, there is no one single substance that can be labeled as the ‘best’. Each of the units has its advantages and disadvantages; choose based on your needs and budget.

What Part of the United States is Best for Capturing Solar Energy?

Thinking about going solar? That’s great, for you and for your energy bill! But what you might not realize is that your geographical location can actually affect the performance of your solar panels. Certain places in the United States capture more solar energy than others.

Curious to learn more? This post will tell you everything you need to know about how your location affects your solar energy.

Which locations in the United States are best for capturing solar energy?

It would be hard to rank every city or state in the US by how well they can collect solar energy, but we can estimate. In general, the best places for capturing solar energy are in the South Western region of the United States. Arizona, New Mexico and parts of Southern California see more sunlight per day than most other regions of the country. 

Because these areas are farther South, the days tend to be longer – especially in the winter – compared to Northern regions. They are also arid areas that see more days of sunshine per year than other regions.

Why does location matter?

Solar power works by capturing energy from direct sunlight and converting it into useable energy. It is a great alternative to more traditional energy sources in terms of budget friendliness and sustainability, but if you can’t capture enough sunlight during the day, installing solar panels in your home probably won’t be worth the money.

There are two factors that can impact how much sunlight a solar panel will be able to absorb: the length of the day, and the strength of the solar radiation.  The best places in the US for solar energy are the places that see the most sunlight per day – that’s why areas in the South of the country are generally better for solar energy.

Solar radiation also makes a difference. Arid, dry regions of the country see stronger sunlight than others, which means solar panels will be able to absorb more energy while the sun is shining.

What other factors should you consider?

Of course, you don’t have to live in one of those regions to make the most of solar energy. There are a few other factors that you can take into account to know whether or not solar will be worthwhile.

For one, you should consider the amount of energy your home uses. How often you run electronics and other devices will make a difference in your energy consumption. If you live in a hotter area and have to run an air conditioning unit on a regular basis, that will also affect your energy consumption – the same thing can be said for heaters in cold areas.

Another important factor is what other energy sources are available to you. If you live in an area that does not see much sunlight, but has plenty of wind, you may want to look into wind energy as a more viable natural alternative.

Using multiple energy sources in your home is also an option. Get in touch with your energy or power provider to learn about adding solar to your regular energy plan.

Do I need to live in an area that gets a lot of sunlight to use solar?

While it is true that certain parts of the United States will be able to capture solar energy better than others, there is no reason you can’t install solar panels wherever you live. The only difference is that, if you live in a region that does not see as much daily sunlight, you will probably want to have an alternative energy source to fall back on in case your solar panels cannot absorb enough energy to meet your daily needs.

Of course, solar energy is not only used to power homes. There are tons of devices that are powered exclusively by solar, from outdoor lights to ordinary electronics. You definitely don’t need to live in a certain region to use smaller solar-powered devices – just leave them somewhere they will see plenty of direct sunlight during the daytime, and maybe have a backup power source in case sunlight isn’t available.

Conclusion

If you are considering powering your home with solar, you are on the path to a more affordable and efficient home – but where you live can make a difference. Hot, arid regions in the South of the country see more strong sunshine per day than other regions of the United States, so solar panels will be able to gather more of a charge there. Most of Arizona, Southern New Mexico and some parts of Southern California are great for capturing solar energy.

If you don’t live in one of those regions but still want to go solar, don’t worry – just monitor your home’s energy consumption, and have a backup source of power just in case your solar charge isn’t quite enough.