Solar Basics 101 – Facts about Solar Energy
Integrity uses Green-Power panels, one of the highest efficiency solar panels available. The exact solar panel system cost will depend on the system size (see What Size Solar System Do I Need?), ease of installation, and state incentives and federal tax credits. As of 2010, a 3 kW system that could power a typical California residence with good southern exposure would have an estimated net cost of about $15,000, after all solar rebates and tax credits.
Each person’s situation will be a little different. Your solar power system should be tailored to your lifestyle and will depend on your electric usage, sun exposure, and your available roof or ground space. Ready for your free site analysis?
Current California rebates and a 30 percent federal tax credit have made solar more affordable than ever, and you can save a substantial amount off the cost of your system. With attractive financing options, your payment can be less than what you are currently paying to your utility company. It’s like you are being paid to use solar energy!
With the rising costs of electric rates, your savings from solar actually increase each year, creating a cost-efficient investment and a hedge against inflation. When your solar energy system is generating immediate positive cash flow and cleaning up the environment at the same time, a more appropriate question may be, “How much will a solar power system save me?”
When calculating the amount of savings realized by installing a solar energy system, it is important to think long-term. Electric rates have been rising about 6.5 percent per year on average in California since 1970. As time goes on, with the rising cost of electric rate inflation, your savings actually increase each year.
For example, if your electric bill is currently $250 per month, you will spend approximately $176,663 over the next 25 years with the current rate of electric inflation. Depending on conditions, you may be able to save up to 100 percent of your electric bill. Your savings could be as much as $176,663, less the cost of the system and financing (if any), that would be available as a cash savings to you.
The cost of a solar system is a small portion of the above savings amount, and financing options are available that can put solar to work in your home for no money down. You can also save up to 40 percent off the price with current rebates and tax incentives. You could pay less on the financing of your PV system than you pay to PG&E.
You may be thinking that you won’t be staying in your home for the time it takes to accrue the savings over a 25 year period. Well, the warranties are transferable, so the other benefit of installing a solar power system is that it increases the value of your home at 20 times your annual savings.
Another type of savings is the impact on the environment. Solar energy is a renewable alternative to building power plants that burn fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gases. Peace of mind comes with doing your part to keep our planet safe and healthy, thus leaving a better environment for our children, grandchildren, and all of their families for years to come.
So when you are evaluating solar savings, keep the following points in mind:
The actual monetary amount that you will save depends on the cost per kilowatt that you pay and on whether you live in a very sunny location, in a forest, or someplace in between. It is important to get a free analysis on your home to see what type of system will work for your needs and to see just how much you can save by installing a solar power system.
The Green Power solar panels used in our PV solar systems have a 50-year design of life expectancy and come with a 25-year warranty.
The warranty includes the following benefits:
- 25-year power module output.
- 5-year module workmanship & defect.
- 15-year micro-inverter or 10-year conventional invertor.
- 10-year labor on the complete system.
The benefits of California solar power
- Increase your property value.
- Save money by reducing or eliminating your electric bill.
- Generate your own pollution-free, clean electricity.
- Invest money into your home, not your utility company.
- Fix your electricity cost over the next 50 years.
- Enjoy a 25-year warranty on solar panels and a 50-year design-life.
- Hedge against future utility rate increases—own your own power for decades.
- Enjoy the convenience of no batteries; bank your extra energy in the local utility grid (net-metering).
- Own a California solar energy system that requires very little maintenance.
- Enjoy monthly positive cash flow from day one.
- Change to a solar system without changing your lifestyle; use California solar power the same as you currently use electricity.
- Utilize the freedom to be more comfortable while saving money.
California Solar Energy Is Easy
Integrity is a turn-key operation—from the free site analysis to the final inspection. We do it all in-house. We provide many solutions to making your home more efficient and comfortable. So we can guarantee your satisfaction. If you have a lot of questions about solar power in California—or even just a few—give us a call or write us. Our highly-trained consultants are available to meet with you and discuss the best solution for your home. Are you ready to experience the Integrity difference?
Solar Power in California Is Affordable
Reducing or eliminating a bill you already pay allows you to finance a system without adding more debt. Finding money for solar is easy. A new solar loan would provide a fixed payment, unlike rising utility rates (PG&E’s rates have been rising 6.5 percent each year for the past 25 years), and it is usually cheaper than what you were paying to the utility company. This means you can save money; more than 90 percent of our customers have a positive day-one cash flow. The California Solar Initiative (CSI) is currently offering a solar incentive/rebate along with the 30 percent federal tax credit. Check with your local utility company, if you are not with PG&E, to see what might be available to you! You can’t afford not to go solar!
Relax, It’s Easier Than You Think
While the science of converting sunshine into electricity is complex, the idea is pretty simple. Solar electricity is generated by a group of solar modules, called an array, that’s installed on your roof or on your property. When sunlight falls on the solar modules, a DC electrical current is created instantly. The DC electricity is fed into an inverter that changes it to standard AC electricity—the same kind your home already uses.
No Changes In How You Use Electricity
Solar electricity works exactly the same as the electricity you buy from the utility company. You turn on lights, plug in lamps, and power appliances the same way you do right now. In fact, if you didn’t see solar modules on the roof or on your property, you’d never notice any difference—except a lower electric bill.
The short version: Solar panels absorb the sunlight’s energy, which is then converted into electricity that can be used or stored or sold back if you overproduce.
The long version: The sun produces solar energy, which is transmitted to the earth in the form of electromagnetic radiation. When this radiation is absorbed by the solar cells, a chemical reaction occurs, causing rapid electron movement. This movement creates direct current (or DC). It then flows into an inverter, which converts the DC into alternating current (or AC), to be usable in homes or businesses.
Solar energy is when the sun’s rays that reach the earth are converted to energy through different processes. Solar can be converted to thermal energy, along with electricity. Solar is converted into electricity two ways: photovoltaic (solar cells) and solar power plants. Photovoltaic systems use solar cells or panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity for your home, including heating, air conditioning, heating water, the pool, or the entire house. Solar power plants indirectly generate electricity when the heat from solar thermal collectors is used to heat a fluid, which produces steam that is used to power a generator. There are 15 known solar power plants in the United States, but there could be more, because no statistics are kept for solar power plants that generate under one (1) megawatt of electricity.
Renewable energy refers to power harvested from natural sources, such as the sun, wind, or water, which are not in danger of being depleted. The five renewable energies are:
- Solar: power absorbed from the sun and converted to usable electricity through photovoltaic technology.
- Hydropower: power created by channeling water to generate turbine-produced electricity.
- Wind: power created by harnessing wind energy to generate turbine-produced electricity.
- Geothermal: power created by harnessing the steam given off when water is pumped onto underground rocks naturally heated by the earth’s core.
- Biomass: power created by harnessing the steam and heat given off by processing wood, green waste, garbage, or manure.
It depends on how much electricity you use. Two homes that are the exact same size will use different amounts of electricity and therefore, require different size systems. Major electrical loads within a home are air conditioners, electric heaters, pools, and other heating elements or motors.
That being said, an average 2,500 square-foot single-family home uses about 10,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year. A 5.0 kilowatt (AC) system will generate nearly all the electricity required for such a home on an annual basis. For a smaller home, an expandable PV system can be installed to allow for the possibility of a growing family or a home remodel addition. When a system overproduces electricity, the unused portion is fed back into the grid and will actually be credited back to your utility account in a program called net-metering.
Integrity solar electric systems require approximately 84 square feet of panel area to generate one (1) kilowatt of electricity. The Green Power solar panels used in our PV solar systems have a 50-year design-life expectancy and come with a 25-year warranty.
The actual amount of electricity produced is dependent on how much solar energy reaches your site. An optimally located array would face true south and have nothing obstructing the sun’s rays from reaching the solar panels. Actual system production can easily be calculated with a free site analysis.
Have you ever wanted to spin your electricity meter backwards? Now, you can with solar energy. If you decide to expand your solar system so that it overproduces based on your needs, you can sell electricity back to the utility company—guaranteed. Effective January 2011, utility companies are required to buy back overproduction of power.
Most utilities in California currently offer net metering, which effectively allows you to bank your energy until you need it, virtually eliminating your electric bill. Net metering allows you to use the electric utility grid like a bank account. You can put electricity into it that you don’t use immediately and then you can withdraw the same amount later on at no net cost to you.
Net metering lasts for a whole year, so you can build credit in the summer for those darker winter days. It measures the difference between the electricity you buy from the utility and the electricity you generate with your solar electric system.
With net metering, your electric meter tracks your net power usage, spinning forward when you use electricity from the utility and backward when your system is generating more electricity than you need. Your local utility or www.dsireusa.org can fill you in on specific details of the net metering program in your area.
When you are making more electricity than you are using—typically on summer days—your extra electricity automatically gets metered back to the utility grid. You receive credit for this power at the same rate that the utility sells it to you.
For more information on net metering legislation, please see the following article:
Gov. Schwarzenegger Secures Commitment to Continue Net Metering for Solar
For most customers, residential or commercial, the best location for solar panel installation is a location where there is a clear view of the southern sky.
If a roof application is desirable, it already has the structural specifications that the solar panels require. All that is needed is mounting hardware and appropriate flashings.
If the roof is not applicable or desired, installation of a ground-mount solar system will be installed with the best sun exposure to maximize production. Wherever you want the solar panel array installed, we have a solution to meet your needs. Green Power solar panels are the product of choice for Integrity solar customers.
Check out our solar panel photo gallery.
In California, solar panels generally require very little maintenance. A few times a year, the panels should be inspected for any dirt or debris that may collect. To clean them, simply use a standard garden hose to wash the face of the panels during either the early morning or in the evening. Avoid spraying cold water onto hot panels or you could risk cracking them. When cleaning your panels, be sure to towel dry or squeegee your panels in order to remove all water spots or residue that could leave a film, which would reduce your production of electricity.
Integrity has a maintenance program to take care of this so you don’t have to!