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  • Solar pitfalls, what are they?

    Sorry to be general here, but I have a few key questions I hope this group can help me with. Feel free to pick on one, or give your pov on all and please provide any data or substantiation on your pov if possible. THX in advance!
    1. 25 year warranty sounds great, but what are the chances the company will be around that long? Who backs it, the installer or the manufacturer?
    2. Will Illinois credits get better or worse in the next year or so?
    3. Blue Raven offers Illinois SREC credits up front, why wouldn't i go with that!?
    4. Blue Raven, Sunpower, Vivint, Sunrun, I'm meeting these and possibly a couple more local Electric companies in my area. How in the world am I going to make my decision?
    5. Isn't financing through a loan and ownership the way to go? This way I can pay off the loan and save on some interest if I get some cash in the next several years.

    Thanks again!

  • #2
    Biggest pitfalls:

    1) Not doing the math upfront
    2) Not researching utility rate plans
    3) Not pursuing energy efficiency first

    In general, incentives are going to decline over the next few years. Utilities want to charge as much as possible for power and give you zero credit for generation; in general the PUC keeps them from doing that. But the trend is going to be towards less solar-friendly plans.



    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by jflorey2 View Post
      Biggest pitfalls:

      1) Not doing the math upfront
      2) Not researching utility rate plans
      3) Not pursuing energy efficiency first

      In general, incentives are going to decline over the next few years. Utilities want to charge as much as possible for power and give you zero credit for generation; in general the PUC keeps them from doing that. But the trend is going to be towards less solar-friendly plans.


      Thanks for this. When you say doing the math up front, do you mean what i pay today vs. the all in cost of the purchase?
      Also, can you expand on "researching utility rate plans" - not sure what you mean here, Im not well educated in that industry.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by ssliva View Post
        Sorry to be general here, but I have a few key questions I hope this group can help me with. Feel free to pick on one, or give your pov on all and please provide any data or substantiation on your pov if possible. THX in advance!
        1. 25 year warranty sounds great, but what are the chances the company will be around that long? Who backs it, the installer or the manufacturer?
        2. Will Illinois credits get better or worse in the next year or so?

        5. Isn't financing through a loan and ownership the way to go? This way I can pay off the loan and save on some interest if I get some cash in the next several years. Thanks again!
        If you are in northern IL, your biggest problem is going to be the ever present clouds shutting
        down your investment. This is pretty typical spring production here west of Rockford, it is
        worse in winter. If you are more south than this 42 deg lat, you might do better. Bruce Roe

        NSclouds.png

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi [USER="55584"]ssliva[/USER] ,

          Welcome!

          1) Close to zero for the installer. Maybe for the equipment. Generally, there are a mixture of warranties. Assuming you have a good installer, who has good customer service, and is still in business, this will be your first line of defense. Similarly, you'll generally want to go with a good local installer with at least a 5yr track record and good local reviews / word of mouth. Folks on this board, myself included, generally strongly discourage "big box" retailers (Sunrun, Vivint, NRG, Tesla, etc.). These are not installers per se, but mostly fly by night investment / Enron style companies. MFG hardware warranties on panels, inverters, optimizers, etc. are generally "better." Most companies like LG, Panasonic, Hanwha, Fronius, SolarEdge, are likely to still be in business. BUT, these companies don't generally deal (or deal very well) direct to consumer. Most expect to work through an installer. Qualifying for warranty coverage on the item is often not something you will be able to do yourself (unlike a TV). If your installer is out of business, you'll need to find another installer willing to service your existing system which can be difficult. Additionally, in the rapid shutdown / panel level optimization/inversion space technology is still moving fairly quickly. So a replacement product in 5-15 yrs may or may not play nicely with your existing system.

          2) Hard to say. I'm not familiar with Illinois program. But SREC's and other similar incentives are artificial markets subject to the whims of politicians and regulators. Values vary widely by states that have them: DC>MA>NJ>>>>PA last I checked. In NJ where I live the early market was very, very volatile -- peaking at high as 800+ dollars and dropping to less than 100. Some did well, so did not. It's gambling, just like the stock market. But many of these early incentives were designed to offset the high price of solar 5 to 10 years ago. The installed cost per Watt has been dropping fast over the last decade. Many such incentive programs NetMetering, Federal Rebates, State SREC and other incentives, are on the decline on general. Currently, the Federal rebate is being phased out over the next 5 years or so, at least until after the 2020 election when this might or might not change. Many states are phasing out or at least curtailing their net metering and SREC incentives so getting grandfathered in now may be advantageous,

          3) I've never heard of BlueRaven solar. But if they are peddling leases, PPA's, and advances on SREC credits, they are probably no better than the other big box installers. Steer clear. Here in NJ for example, Tesla is offering a cash advance in exchange for SREC ownership transfer. They are offering to pay roughly 6 years in advance at current rates, in exchange for the 10yr rights. It's unlikely they'll lose money.

          4) Don't choose any of them. Look at Angies List, Energy Sage, talk to neighbors in your local area. Talk to folks on this board who live in your area. Try to find a good local installer whose in it for the long haul and wants to build good customer relationships through high quality service and workmanship. E.g. the same way you would pick any other home renovation contractor.

          5) Never, never, never lease or enter in any sort of power purchase contract, You want to buy the system outright and own it yourself. Cash or loan (solar loan, home equity, 401K loan, etc.) your choice. If it were me, I would generally retain the SREC rights as well, unless it really looks like your local market is going to hell in a hand basket.

          A professionally installed Solar Solution will generally cost $2.50 to 3.25 per Watt. So you're looking at a $20-30K investment. First, figure out how much electricity you use now (in MWh) per year and how much it costs you. Based on this assessment and your location, once can use PVWatts or other tools to determine size array is needed to offset 70-90% of this usage. Based on the money you'll be saving how many years will it take to break even. Usually, this is 6-10 years. Will you still be living there at that time? Most people only stay in a home 8yrs on average. How old is your roof? Will you need to replace it first?

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by JSchnee21 View Post
            Hi [USER="55584"]ssliva[/USER] ,

            Welcome!

            1) Close to zero for the installer. Maybe for the equipment. Generally, there are a mixture of warranties. Assuming you have a good installer, who has good customer service, and is still in business, this will be your first line of defense. Similarly, you'll generally want to go with a good local installer with at least a 5yr track record and good local reviews / word of mouth. Folks on this board, myself included, generally strongly discourage "big box" retailers (Sunrun, Vivint, NRG, Tesla, etc.). These are not installers per se, but mostly fly by night investment / Enron style companies. MFG hardware warranties on panels, inverters, optimizers, etc. are generally "better." Most companies like LG, Panasonic, Hanwha, Fronius, SolarEdge, are likely to still be in business. BUT, these companies don't generally deal (or deal very well) direct to consumer. Most expect to work through an installer. Qualifying for warranty coverage on the item is often not something you will be able to do yourself (unlike a TV). If your installer is out of business, you'll need to find another installer willing to service your existing system which can be difficult. Additionally, in the rapid shutdown / panel level optimization/inversion space technology is still moving fairly quickly. So a replacement product in 5-15 yrs may or may not play nicely with your existing system.

            2) Hard to say. I'm not familiar with Illinois program. But SREC's and other similar incentives are artificial markets subject to the whims of politicians and regulators. Values vary widely by states that have them: DC>MA>NJ>>>>PA last I checked. In NJ where I live the early market was very, very volatile -- peaking at high as 800+ dollars and dropping to less than 100. Some did well, so did not. It's gambling, just like the stock market. But many of these early incentives were designed to offset the high price of solar 5 to 10 years ago. The installed cost per Watt has been dropping fast over the last decade. Many such incentive programs NetMetering, Federal Rebates, State SREC and other incentives, are on the decline on general. Currently, the Federal rebate is being phased out over the next 5 years or so, at least until after the 2020 election when this might or might not change. Many states are phasing out or at least curtailing their net metering and SREC incentives so getting grandfathered in now may be advantageous,

            3) I've never heard of BlueRaven solar. But if they are peddling leases, PPA's, and advances on SREC credits, they are probably no better than the other big box installers. Steer clear. Here in NJ for example, Tesla is offering a cash advance in exchange for SREC ownership transfer. They are offering to pay roughly 6 years in advance at current rates, in exchange for the 10yr rights. It's unlikely they'll lose money.

            4) Don't choose any of them. Look at Angies List, Energy Sage, talk to neighbors in your local area. Talk to folks on this board who live in your area. Try to find a good local installer whose in it for the long haul and wants to build good customer relationships through high quality service and workmanship. E.g. the same way you would pick any other home renovation contractor.

            5) Never, never, never lease or enter in any sort of power purchase contract, You want to buy the system outright and own it yourself. Cash or loan (solar loan, home equity, 401K loan, etc.) your choice. If it were me, I would generally retain the SREC rights as well, unless it really looks like your local market is going to hell in a hand basket.

            A professionally installed Solar Solution will generally cost $2.50 to 3.25 per Watt. So you're looking at a $20-30K investment. First, figure out how much electricity you use now (in MWh) per year and how much it costs you. Based on this assessment and your location, once can use PVWatts or other tools to determine size array is needed to offset 70-90% of this usage. Based on the money you'll be saving how many years will it take to break even. Usually, this is 6-10 years. Will you still be living there at that time? Most people only stay in a home 8yrs on average. How old is your roof? Will you need to replace it first?
            Wow - this was AWESOME and so helpful - THANKS!
            Couple of responses (not sure you were really asking). plan to stay here for 15+ at least. Roof is 9 years old. '
            As for SREC, Im not quite clear on these yet. how does it work? is this an annual rebate I get from Illinois? Im assume I need to ensure its in my contract that i retain the rights.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by ssliva View Post
              Thanks for this. When you say doing the math up front, do you mean what i pay today vs. the all in cost of the purchase?
              Figure out your usage AFTER you reduce power requirements. (i.e. after replacing fridge, light bulbs etc) Then use PVWatts to estimate what a given size system will produce in your area. Figure out how much money you will save based on those two inputs, taking into account any tiered rate plans, time-of-use metering etc. That will give you your payback time.
              Also, can you expand on "researching utility rate plans" - not sure what you mean here, Im not well educated in that industry.
              There are flat rates (you always pay the same per kwhr.) There are tiered plans (you always pay the same up until some limit, then you pay more. So reducing your energy to get you out of the top bracket is very cost effective.) There are TOU (time of use) plans where you pay more during the day. These can be very effective when used with solar, because you are producing during the "highest cost" parts of the day.

              Comment


              • #8
                We are being charged increased property tax in Michigan....Have a 7k system and property tax value was raise ~$20k and yearly amount we have to pay went up $244.... This really kills pay back.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by NewBostonConst View Post
                  We are being charged increased property tax in Michigan....Have a 7k system and property tax value was raise ~$20k and yearly amount we have to pay went up $244.... This really kills pay back.
                  many states have property assessment exemption incentives for solar (and often other green power systems too).
                  OutBack FP1 w/ CS6P-250P http://bit.ly/1Sg5VNH

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by ButchDeal View Post

                    many states have property assessment exemption incentives for solar (and often other green power systems too).
                    Lovely Illinois, doesnt look they have any tax exemptions for solar. Oh well

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I just had a solar power system installed, 6.6kW solar array and 27kWh of battery. In the process, I did a lot of research. There's no substitute for building your own knowledge base.

                      1. 25 year warranty sounds great, but what are the chances the company will be around that long? Who backs it, the installer or the manufacturer?

                      Equipment warranties "should" be backed by the manufacturer. The installer should warranty their workmanship (i.e., roof penetrations, etc.).

                      2. Will Illinois credits get better or worse in the next year or so?

                      No idea, as I'm not in Illinois. However, as a general trend, as more people install solar, the less "need" for incentives. YMMV.

                      3. Blue Raven offers Illinois SREC credits up front, why wouldn't i go with that!?

                      Again, no telling. Are you buying your system based on credits/cost, or ???

                      4. Blue Raven, Sunpower, Vivint, Sunrun, I'm meeting these and possibly a couple more local Electric companies in my area. How in the world am I going to make my decision?

                      If you don't know, then you probably shouldn't. I was in the same situation. Read up on panels. Read up on various ways that solar can be used. Understanding things like performance warranties, temperature coefficients, etc. supports making objective assessments of panels being offered. Understand the difference between string, power optimizers, and micro inverters.
                      Most importantly, know what your rationale for making a decision is before talking to any salesperson. If not, all you're really doing is comparing sales pitches...and that's a losing proposition.

                      5. Isn't financing through a loan and ownership the way to go? This way I can pay off the loan and save on some interest if I get some cash in the next several years.

                      Finance or cash, "own" is the way to go. Everything else is "just a sales ploy" at best, and a "bad financial decision" at worst (especially the "we install and you buy power from us").

                      Pit Falls

                      #1 - Not knowing what your rationale is for getting solar (other than "I want to save money"). Little things like "how much are your current electric bills?", "what's your current/projected usage?", "is your utility going to net metering?", "is your utility going to time-of-use rate structures?" "is this 'strictly money saving', or do you want some stand-alone capability if the grid goes down?". Take the time to ask and answer these questions before talking to any salesperson, and then have them address how they're going to meet your objectives. This makes comparing proposals much easier.

                      #2 - Not understanding how solar panels work, and how to assess the capability/quality of any given panel. For example, take "temperature coefficient". Solar panel output is optimal at 25 degrees centigrade (about 77 degrees fahrenheit). And ,as a rule-of-thumb, a solar panel operates at about 20 degrees centigrade (about 36 degrees fahrenheit) above ambient temperature.The temperature coefficient indicates the amount of loss-in-production can be expected for each one (1) degree centigrade over 20 that a panel is operating at.
                      So, let's say you have 300w panels operating in an ambient temperature of 86 degrees fahrenheit. That translates to 30 degrees centigrade, or 5 degrees over the "optimal 25", and an "operating temperature of 50 degrees centigrade. A top-of-the-line panel will have a temperature coefficient in the 0.26 range. That means you can expect the panel's output to, maximally, be about 94.5% of its rating (1 - (temp-coeffecient * ( 50-25 ) ). A lesser-quality panel can have a temperature coefficient in the 0.40 range. The lesser quality panel will, under the same conditions, experience a drop to 90.0%. And, all this is without taking into account capacity degradation over time.
                      In my own analysis, a top-rated panel retained about 96% of its original capacity at year #10, 95% at year #20. The lesser-rated panel was at 91% at year #10, 85% at year #20. Put those panels on the roof in 80 degree fahrenheit temps, and a top-rated panel is operating at 90% capacity in year #10, 89% at year #20. The lesser-rated panel? 84% at year #10, 78% at year #20.
                      Of course, none of this will be explained to you by a salesperson, nor will this information be provided in the proposal. So, it's up to you to be informed and prepared. Fortunately, it only takes a bit of the ol' "Google" and you can find all this out for yourself.

                      #3 - Not understanding the different inverter options (to convert DC current to AC), and which you prefer.

                      #4 - Not getting everything, and I mean everything, in writing on the contract. My installer, after touting the virtues of the latest generation of the equipment it was promoting, only provided a partial product id in the contract. When I pushed, they admitted they were still selling the older version (they were trying to clear inventory). I refused to sign, and got the newer equipment specified, for the same price as the older (and, there was a significant difference between the two versions).

                      #5 - Not holding the contractor/installer to promises-made during the sales process (i.e., before the contract was signed). While my installer did a good job, they attempted to backtrack several times on "promises made".

                      Apologies for the novel, and you've probably already made a decision. But, hopefully, others who are earlier in their process may be able to benefit.

                      Cheers!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by lfrussell View Post
                        #2 - For example, take "temperature coefficient". Solar panel output is optimal at 25 degrees centigrade A top-of-the-line panel will have a temperature coefficient in the 0.26 range. That means you can expect the panel's output to, maximally, be about 94.5% of its rating (1 - (temp-coeffecient * ( 50-25 ) ). A lesser-quality panel can have a temperature coefficient in the 0.40 range. The lesser quality panel will, under the same conditions, experience a drop to 90.0%.
                        Hmm, so the 0.4 % coefficient panel would also see a bigger INCREASE in output in cold
                        weather, which we see gobes of in IL? Saw -31F recently, below zero is common in winter.

                        If you already know what level of energy conservation may be achieved, or your solar will
                        not cover all use, some of us think you should install solar immediately and start collecting
                        the benefits as soon as possible. You can never make it up later. However in IL I would
                        aim to have it operational just before snow, to be able to collect the Feb to Sept energy
                        in full. Do your conservation when practical as before. Bruce Roe

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