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Solar panels - lifetime productivity and maintenance costs

 

Solar maintenanceEveryone already knows that a solar photovoltaic (PV) system is good for the environment, but it has always been thought of as prohibitively expensive to install and maintain. The reality is that the costs of installing and maintaining such a system are falling every day. Over the years it has become an increasingly affordable and easy to maintain alternative source of electricity.

The primary costs for solar electricity are those associated with costs and installation. Converting a residential home can run the owner an average of 35K - 40K depending on what kind of system is purchased and how large their estimated energy needs are. On the positive side however, there are tax breaks and other financial incentives available to help those homeowners who are considering investing in a solar PV system. As the technology becomes more widely available, the costs are also decreasing.

At the same time, solar energy costs are higher than the use of coal or oil to generate electricity. Electricity from coal or oil is still produced at less than $.05 per Kilowatt Hour (kWh). On the same scale, solar energy costs average around $.37 cents per kWh. However what truly affects this number is the number of hours per day sunlight is available, ability to tilt panels in towards the sun and the 30-40 year lifespan of most current solar energy systems.

After that, there are minimal maintenance costs but even these diminish over time. A properly installed solar system does not require much maintenance. Over the course of its 30 year average life, there are few ongoing costs associated with the system as a whole, primarily with the batteries - for off grid systems (the majority of systems installed in the world are grid time systems). The average lifespan of the PV batteries is between 6 and 12 years. This means that within the initial 25 year warranty of most solar PV systems, the batteries may have to be replaced once or twice. However, depending on the included warranty, the batteries may be included and thus will cost you no additional fees.

In order to better compare solar electricity costs, one needs to compare it to what people are paying for traditional electricity. Understandably, the price of electricity varies from state to state, but it is still helpful to think about nationwide averages. With the price being the highest in Hawaii at $.242 per kilowatt hour (kWh), and the lowest in North Dakota at $.076 kWh, the average U.S. household pays $.115 kWh, for an average monthly electricity bill of $115 before taxes and fees.

Lifetime Productivity of SolarAs mentioned before, there are utility rebates and tax incentives to assist in purchasing the solar PV system. In many areas, owners also have the ability to sell unused energy to the utility company. Finally, there is an intangible benefit that needs to be discussed when comparing the costs of solar electricity to its conventional counterpart. Solar power is produced proportional to the demand. This means that at times when electricity consumption is greatest, the production of solar electricity is also highest, and the threat of suffering from a blackout is low.

With this in mind, there are many who would consider the initial capital and subsequent negligible maintenance costs of a solar PV system to be well worth it. Although the upfront investment is high, as well as the average kWh price, technology advances and increasingly available equipment decrease these costs every day. As new systems are designed to be even more energy efficient and last longer than 30 years, the kWh cost will continue to decrease, and it will continue to be a practical way to enjoy consistent and reliable green energy.

Solar systems generally have a 1-2% degrading factor per year depending on climatic conditions and can suffer up to a 8% production discount from soiling effects. Therefore it is important to clean your panels once a year and have your inverter and system in general tuned up. The Boston Solar Company offers yearly maintenance plans to its customers that can also be packaged with a system purchase.

 

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Solar panels increase Massachusetts home values

 

Solar HouseAs consumers across the country wake up to the fact that electric utility bills continue to rise every year, more and more homeowners are turning to solar energy to offset these increases and secure significant savings.  In fact, installations of photovoltaic (PV) panels in the U.S. has grown at an average rate of around 50% over the past 5 years, reaching a total generating capacity of around 2,700 megawatts.   

In addition to significantly reducing utility bills, residential solar systems can also increase home values.  The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that solar investments increase home value by $20 for every $1 decrease in annual electricity bills (reported in the Appraisal Journal 1999).  A more recent study from The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that solar panels add 3% to 4% to house prices in San Diego and Sacramento, California.  Increases in home values should be even bigger in states with higher utility prices like Massachusetts.

There are several options to benefit from residential solar energy.  The most popular are Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), Solar Leasing and cash purchases:

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs)

A PPA contract generally requires an up-front payment of $500 or more and will lock you in for 15-20 years, which is typically transferable to a new owner or new home.  The PPA provider charges a flat or incremental fee for electricity generated by your solar system.  You don’t have to worry about maintaining your system, which is done by the provider.  However, you don’t receive any tax benefits, state rebates and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), which go to the PPA provider.  At the end of your contract, you usually have the option to extend the contract, buy the system or have it removed free of charge.

   

Solar Leasing Agreements

A solar lease requires little or no down payment.  You’re typically locked into a 15+ year term, which is generally transferable to a new owner or new home.  The big difference from a PPA is that you don’t pay for the energy produced by your system.  Instead, you pay a monthly fee for using the system.  Maintenance and repairs is also covered by the lease provider, who receives any tax benefits, state rebates and solar renewable energy credits (SRECs).  At the end of your contract, you usually have the option to extend the contract, buy the system or have it removed free of charge.

With both PPAs and leases, you’re still tied to the grid and have to pay for any energy consumption that isn’t covered by your solar system.  Also, to take advantage of either option, you’ll need a good-to-excellent credit rating (over 700).

Cash Purchases

Both PPAs and home solar leases are good options if money is tight and you can’t afford a large initial investment.  But if you have available funds or access to either a home equity loan or an energy efficiency mortgage, you’re better off buying the solar system outright.  This allows you to reap the full value of these tax benefits, rebates, and SRECs.

For the average homeowner, the increase in home value can be sufficient to cover most or all of the installation cost of the solar system.  And that’s not all. . .Solar can make it easier to sell your home as buyers are increasingly more interested in energy efficient and low maintenance homes.

So what are you waiting for?  Contact us now to find out how to reduce your utility bills and increase your home value at the same time.

 

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9 Advantages of Solar Energy As An Alternative Power Source

 

Solar power is an important energy resource that needs to be part of America's future. Some experts predict that with government support of large solar power plants in the southwest, over two thirds of America's electricity could be produced by solar power by 2050, (National Geographic.com).  Its time for America to take the advantages of solar energy and put them to work.

Massachusetts SolarTop 9 Advantages of Solar Energy:

  • #1:  Sunlight is the world's most abundant renewable energy source. Sunlight will never run out. On a clear day at noon, the sun provides over 1,000 watts of energy for every square meter on earth, (Infinite.org). 

  • #2:  Solar is almost completely green (non-polluting).There is some pollution involved in the actual creation and transportation of solar cells; however, once that's accomplished, solar offers power that's completely pollution free.

  • #3:  Solar power can be made available to very remote locations. With the right technology, remote and often poor locations could become energy rich through the use of solar power.

  • #4:  Solar power systems have little or no moving parts. This means they have fewer mechanical failings and can last for a very long time, and they require very little upkeep, just an annual cleaning, and they'll keep providing power for well over 25 years.

  • #5:  Solar power is very quiet to generate. So, there's very little sound pollution involved.

  • #6:  Individuals who install a solar energy system in their business or home can eventually see a return on their investment. The initial investment can average any where from $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the size. However, eventually, solar power users can start making money from their system by putting electricity, that their solar energy system generates, back into the electric grid.

  • #7:   Residential solar systems are relatively easy to install.  However, in most states, including Massachusetts, you need to hire qualified installers to be eligible for the generous rebates and incentives.

    Solar PaybackSolar energy is starting to be used to power all kinds of appliances in the average home including:

    -Water Heaters

    -Home generators

    -Home Heating Systems

    -Hot Tubs

    -Solar Powered Outdoor Lighting Systems

    -Solar Powered Pool Heaters & Pool Covers 

  • #8:  Solar power continues to become more affordable. The government is helping more Americans use solar power in their homes and businesses by offering great rebates and tax incentives.

  • #9:  Solar power systems are very compact. They don't require a lot of space to install. Also, they can be installed in unused places like on rooftops or in deserts.

Advantages of solar energy are clear. Solar energy is finally taking its place in American's energy future.

 

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Combining solar PV with solar thermal for greater savings

 


SunDrum PanelTo understand how a combined system like the SunDrum Solar SDM100 Collector works we must first understand the differences between photovoltaic solar systems, and thermal solar systems. Photovoltaic solar systems use the sun’s energy to create electricity directly. The electromagnetic radiation present in visible or ultraviolet light, measured in photons, is absorbed by the PV module and generates a charge. The main drawbacks to PV solar are: inefficient energy capture, and the fact that electricity can only be generated when the sun is shining. Photovoltaic solar systems are readily available from many companies such as LG, Trinar or REC.

Thermal solar systems work by concentrating the suns energy to make heat. The concentrated heat from the sun is used to drive a heat engine; which generates electricity. Thermal solar system’s drawbacks include its high cost and inefficiency. A few such companies investing in thermal solar energy are Abengoa in Spain, eSolar in California, and Brightsource in Israel.

Conventional PV systems only capture 15% - 20% of the sun’s energy. The un-captured energy escapes in the form of heat.  The SunDrum Solar system increases the solar collector’s performance to 60% - 70%. By combining PV with thermal solar systems, SunDrum is able to increase the efficiency of the PV system by keeping it within its ideal operating temperature. The SunDrum system is able to capture the heat energy that is usually wasted and use it to generate additional electricity. The thermal energy can also be used to heat or cool the residence; as well as heating water.

SunThermalThe potential savings with a thermal solar system such as SunDrum Solar’s SDM100 Collector when combined with a traditional PV module are significant. With solar efficiency boosted to 60% - 70% from 15% - 20% your cost per watt for generating electricity is greatly reduced. Depending on where you live; there are numerous local, state, and federal tax incentives for going solar. With the Commercial Investment Tax Credit you can reclaim as much as 30% of the cost of installing a solar system. A modest investment in solar energy could see returns anywhere from 5% - 17% in the first year.

The environmental benefits are even greater. The vast majority of electrical energy generated in the United States is achieved largely through the burning of some type of fossil fuel. Whether it is coal, natural gas, or petroleum, the negative consequences are inescapable.

Fossil fuels are a non-renewable resource; meaning once they are used, they are gone. Solar power is a renewable resource.

Fossil fuels are dirty. The exhaust from the continued burning of fossil fuels is toxic and a large contributor to global climate change. Solar power emits no fumes, exhaust, or greenhouse gases. A small amount of greenhouse gas and waste are generated in the construction of solar panels, but once created they are continual clean energy source.

Fossil fuels are becoming increasingly scarce and must be extracted at great human and environmental cost. Solar power requires no military intervention to ensure a reliable supply, the sun is everywhere.

A typical solar PV system can reduce CO2 emissions from residential setups by as much as 2 tons (2 KW) every year. With Sun Drum Solar's unique solar PV / Thermal hybrid system, those savings increase to 6 KW per year.

With combined environmental, tax incentive, and energy savings the SunDrum solar hybrid system is a strong investment in your future and will be another step towards energy independence.

 

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5 Important Considerations - Home Solar Energy

 

describe the imageIf you are interested in installing solar energy in your home, here is a list of 5 key considerations to help you maximize your savings.  In some cases, answering these important questions can make or break the home solar dream.

1. The importance of location

Location is key.  This includes the geographical location and physical layout of the home.  In terms of geography, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has a useful analysis tools available online.  With this tool, home owners can determine the suitability of their local area in terms, which is essentially driven by the amount of sunshine it receives. 

There are a number of variables in the physical layout of a home that can impact the viability and performance of a solar system.  For example, a South facing roof is best for capturing sunlight, whereas shaded areas are the worst.  But just because the house is not perfectly positioned, or the roof is partly shaded by trees does not mean that solar is not a viable option.  In addition to traditional roof-based models, there are ground-mounted systems that could be considered.

2. Determining the budget

The next key factor that needs to be considered is the cost of a solar system, including:

  • base cost of system

  • any roof repairs or other improvements required for the installation

  • local energy buy back potential

  • state and federal green energy incentives

  • fiscal savings over time

  • boost in home equity

  • maintenance costs

As with any home improvement project, it's key to set a realistic budget and stick to it.

3. Establish a goal for the solar installation

Though it sounds trite, a key point that is often overlooked when planning solar systems for home sites is setting a clear objective for the project. So, armed with clear data for how much power the household can absorb from the sun's rays and the realistic budget considerations, a home owner should establish clear objectives for their project. Points to consider when setting the project objectives include:

  • will the system feed back into the local power grid

  • does the system need to provide all the home's power on a continuous or occasional basis

  • will this installation provide heat or hot water

  • can the system be scaled up to provide additional power in the future

Boston Solar4. Optimizing and assessing home energy consumption

Before installing a residential solar system, it's important to have a good grasp of your energy needs.  Most local electricity providers will conduct a home energy audit to help owners identify areas for energy savings.  You could take the followingn steps to reduce your energy consumption:

  • upgrade to energy star appliances

  • install efficient lighting

  • use power strips to control chargers and other 'vampire' devices

  • add timed controls for the heating/cooling system

  • eliminate leaks such as poorly sealing doors, chimney flues or vents

  • install efficient windows/doors

5. Choosing the right residential solar system

Choosing the right solar system can be a daunting taks for the average home owner.  There are lots of variables that need to be considered and options to choose from.  Ultimately, the right choice will depend on the suitability of your home and your budget.  It is generally accepted that buying a solar system with cash upfront generates the highest financial returns.  Even if you don't have a lot savings or simply don't want to invest in a solar system, you can still enjoy the benefits of solar energy and reduce your overall utility bill by entering into a solar lease or solar PPA.

Do you have more questions or are you ready for a site visit?

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Calculating the True Cost of Solar Power & Renewable Energy

 

true-cost-of-solar-powerIn this era of environmental awareness, more and more people are considering adding alternative power enhancements to their homes. An increasingly popular choice for home and business owners is solar power, which is becoming more affordable through grants, rebates and other incentives. While not all property is suitable for solar panel installation, in most cases there is a way to make solar work for a given site. This means the biggest question lurking in the back of a project manager's mind regarding such a project is the true cost of solar power for the site.

The first thing to consider is the initial investment. There are a number of variables to consider: the direction that the home faces, the pitch of the roof, the available space for photovoltaic panel installation, and the condition of the roof all contribute to the installation costs. For the average home, a typical 5kW system requires an up-front outlay of $25,000-$40,000. 

Next, look into the incentive programs available to home owners installing solar systems in your area. There are a number of programs designed to help home owners offset the initial amount that solar power costs. Check with the local power supplier, look into state and federal tax credit offerings and finally, research whether there are any non-profit organizations in the area that provide grants or payments to households operating with solar power. In most areas households can recoup at least one third of the solar installation cost from these incentives alone.

The next point of consideration is the long-term savings on power bills. This is a two-fold savings, first because the solar installation decreases the amount of traditional grid-supplied electricity consumed by a home and so lowers the household's overall operating cost. The second source of savings comes to the majority of US home owners thanks to a phenomenon known as "net metering". This is an agreement, enforced by law in the majority of states, whereby a home with an alternative power installation is only billed by their electricity supplier for the net amount of power drawn from the grid. When the home is empty and using little electricity, the sun is still pouring power through a solar system - this power is fed back into the grid and the meter effectively runs backward, resulting in a refund for the difference. 

Last but not least, you should also consider the potential increase in home value from the installation of a solar system. While there are no hard and fast rules, it is generally accepted that improvements which reduce the overall operating costs lead to higher home value. According to the Appraisal Institute, a reduction of $1,000 in annual household electric billing is worth a bump of $20,000 in value.

While maximizing savings through rebates and incentives is a good way to improve the return on investment for your solar system, keeping your eye on the long game is definitely key to assessing solar power costs.

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Massachusetts save 6 1/2 Billion dollars with solar energy

 

Fall Foliage MassachusettsRed and yellow, plum and orange, Massachusetts fall foliage creates a yearly color kaleidoscope.  Yet, Massachusetts residents could be enjoying the calming effects of yet another color during every season of the year: green.  By switching to solar energy, each participating resident can be part of helping Massachusetts to save 6 1/2 billion dollars annually.  Some of that money is inevitably going to wind up in consumers' pockets.  In other words, Massachusetts has to go green to get green.

To promote this ongoing green campaign, the Massachusetts MassSave program outlines many ways that consumers can save money both individually and corporately.  By keeping energy efficiency in mind, consumers can qualify for various rebates, tax credits and other incentives.  The MassSave website provides consumer information on how to schedule a custom in-home energy assessment.  By signing up for this free assessment, the average household can discover how much wasted energy they pay for every month and how solar energy and other energy-efficient options can help them save. 

MassSave also proves beneficial to businesses and industrial professionals.  If a business constructs a new facility or addition, it may qualify for financial incentives, free energy assessments and other perks for choosing solar energy and other energy-efficient options.  Advantages seem obvious for certain industrial professionals.  For those professionals currently licensed to install solar panels, a greener Massachusetts means more green for their pockets.  However, increasing demands for energy-efficient solutions means more work for overworked professionals.  To increase the qualified workforce to meet demands, MassSave provides industrial training and incentives for professionals who install energy-efficiency equipment.  In addition, MassSave will include contact information for qualified professionals on government literature distributed to the public.  This amounts to free advertising for the professionals.  Obviously, going green benefits both businesses and industrial professionals.

Solar InstallerApart from perks derived from MassSave, Massachusetts has proposed the concept of net metering Massachusetts to provide further financial incentives for individual and corporate consumers.  The net metering Massachusetts program would require everyone serviced by a certain energy provider to install solar panels.  These panels would attach to meters monitored by the power company.  Every time the solar panels collected power, the meters would record the amount of energy generated at that location.  At the end of each month, the power company would assess bills based on the difference between the amount of energy generated and the amount of energy consumed by a particular consumer.  The net difference would determine how much that consumer owed the power company for the month.  However, if the consumer produced more energy than he used in a given month, he would receive a credit instead of a bill.  This describes net metering Massachusetts in a nutshell.

While Massachusetts already rates rave reviews for its fall colors, why should it not also have bragging rights when it comes to the color green?  Consumers can help to make Massachusetts a greener state in both energy conservation and financial savings.  Going green does not have to be a hassle or an inconvenience.  It can actually provide great benefits and help to keep the pockets of Massachusetts consumers a whole lot "greener," too.

 

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Is solar energy a good idea for your home?

 
Solar HouseThere are numerous sources of energy that provide power for homes and business, but relying on natural gas, oil, and coal can be risky due to climate change, diminishing fuel supplies, and high levels of pollution.  Yet there is a solution that avoids the pitfalls of dangerous fossil fuels and can transform the way energy is produced - solar energy.  Harnessing the power of the sun can be transformative not only for global energy production but also for the way you live your own life. 

Solar power is a smart solution for energy production because it:
  • is virtually impossible to exhaust the power supply

  • converts a home from a energy consumer to an energy producer

  • is already available, there is no need to wait on new technology

  • allows a home to run at a higher efficiency on less electricity

  • is sustainable

Solar HouseWhile researching if solar energy is right for your home, you should consider the following:
  • What size panels, and how many panels, will you need? This will determine your financial investment.  Take inventory of how much energy your home typically uses as well as the size and dimensions of your home.

  • Does your roof have a suitable south facing section? Facing south is the most effective placement for solar panels.

  • Is your home in an area that is conducive to solar energy?  Too much shading could make solar inviable for your home.  

In addition to installing solar panels, you can further reduce energy consumption and generate great savings: 
  1. Use additional insulation that will maintain heat in the winter and keep it out in the summer months.
  2. In new construction, carefully choose the orientation of the home's location to maximize sun exposure and protect it from wind.
  3. Strategically use plants to shade key living areas in the summer.  This will also benefit you in the winter as the bare plants and trees will allow for more sun exposure when it is cold.
  4. Use convection loops and cooling towers to cool your home and circulate air.
  5. Consider replacing appliances that aren't Energy Star certified.  Non certified appliances are less efficient and will offset some of the energy savings provided by your solar system. 
  6. If you have a sunroom, use it to capture additional solar energy.
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Boston Solar now proudly offering SunDrum Thermal Modules

 

 

Boston Solar and SunDrum© - the high efficiency solar solution

SundrumLogo

Boston Solar is now proudly offering its customers SunDrum© Thermal Modules.

Now solar customers can capture three times the energy. SunDrum© Solar collectors retrieve the wasted heat energy from solar panels by creating hot water for your home. Adding SunDrum© modules to your solar system changes your system's efficiency from 15-20% to 60-70% !

Made in USASunDrum solar collectors are made in Hudson, Massachusetts. Your energy is generated in the United States; your SunDrum© collectors are also manufactured in the United States. 

Typically, solar panels generate roughly 200 watts each, but when a SunDrum collector is attached to the back of a solar panel, the combination unit now produces 600 watts of energy. 

In addition, solar panels that have SunDrum collectors attached run more efficiently since they stay cooler due to the continuous water flow beneath them.

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SunDrum© is the Total, High-efficiency Solar Solution. Your solar panels run cooler and more efficiently with the attached SunDrum© collector creating hot water for heating and regular household use. 

Have a Boston Solar sales consultant out to your home or project today. We will perform a full site survey from roof top to basement and hand you a custom proposal for your home's energy generation. 

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Massachusetts Personal Tax Credit for Solar Systems

 

Solar CreditProtecting the environment through the use of solar-powered residential energy systems can save homeowners money in the long run. As the use of other fuels becomes more expensive, solar systems will prove to be cheap and efficient alternatives, as well as being healthy for the environment. However, replacing old systems and/or installing new solar panels has an obvious up front cost.

The initial expenses can seem too much for some people. To help environmentally-minded citizens upgrade to a better fuel source, the state of Massachusetts has offered another great incentive. The Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit act rewards owners of solar systems, providing a return on the resident's income tax equal to 15 percent or 1,000 dollars, whichever one amounts to less money.

Under the definition of the act for Massachusetts personal tax credit, solar systems can help save money for the conscientious resident. 15 percent of the net expenditure is given back to the owner in the form of tax credit. Net expenditure means the total cost of the solar system. This includes the system itself, separate parts required for production or efficiency, and the expenses for installation. In order to get the rebate, the owner of the system must prove that the system meets regulation standards when it comes to quality, safety and efficiency. It must also be shown that it can be expected to run efficiently for at least five years.

While they tend to be the most common in the claim for the Massachusetts personal tax credit, solar systems are not necessarily required in order to get the rebate. The Residential Renewable Energy Income Tax Credit extends to anyone who installs any kind of energy-saving system. While this includes water heaters and heat storage that run off of solar power, it also covers wind systems and photovoltaics that save energy when heating, cooling or lighting a building. Some examples of solar-powered energy systems are rock beds, collectors, and heat exchangers. Wind-driven products would be power generators, windmills and turbines, although not many residents find room for a turbine on their property. However, any supplementary fuels or devices that produced heat and energy would not be included in the tax credit. Systems or parts of systems that employ oil, gas, or heat pumps would be excluded from the total amount.

Solar Hot WaterThere are also some methods and devices that save energy that are not eligible for credit. While caulking doors and windows, adding insulation and modifying the opening on a flue might cut down on energy use in heating or cooling a building, they are not defined as energy-saving systems. Instead of just preserving heat or cold within a house, the system must use an alternate energy source to make use of the Massachusetts personal tax credit, solar systems being one of several.

In order to obtain the Massachusetts personal tax credit, solar systems purchases must be initiated with the taxpayer and be used for residential purposes only. People who are eligible for the rebate are those who are installing a solar system in their primary residence, rather than a vacation home or beach house. While tennants in apartment complexes may qualify for the tax credit, they can only apply for it if they have purchased the system or parts themselves. If a landlord buys and installs the system, then the tax credit goes to him or her. If two or more people own a residence, they must split the credit amount between themselves, rather than getting 15 percent each. To qualify, the resident can't be a dependent of another taxpayer. While rebates and tax credits exist for energy-efficient business offices and practices, this particular act is not one of them.

The size of the equipment is not specified by the act, since the tax credit cap on the project cannot exceed 1,000 dollars. The tax credit is taken out of the resident's total income tax. However, if the resident owes less in income taxes than the agreed-upon 15 percent credit, then the excess credit extends over to the next year. This will continue to roll over to the next tax period for a maximum of three years.

Residents who find that they are eligible for this tax credit, who are Massachusetts residents, and who have installed their solar system no earlier than January of 1979, may apply using the Schedule EC Solar Wind and Energy Credit form. This form can be submitted with other tax materials and the credit will be awarded by the Massachusetts state government.

Politicians throughout the country have been calling on citizens to change the way that they use fuel and generate energy, but the Massachusetts lawmakers are actually offering fiscal incentives to switch to alternative energy. 

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