2014 California Solar Report

While it was a record-breaking year for solar nationwide, no state set the solar example in 2014 like California.  See just how much solar California installed in this infographic we put together:

california solar

 

Michael Powers: Newsmaker

This week, The San Diego Source did a feature video on Stellar Solar co-founder Michael Powers, interviewing him about Stellar and the state of the solar industry.  In the video, Michael speaks of Stellar’s reputation, not only in the residential but the commercial sector of solar installation.  He then goes on to explain the reasons why so many people have been going solar in the past few years.  Michael chalks it up mostly to financial reasons, but adds that public awareness of global warming has helped as well, as people are looking to reduce their environmental impact.michael powers

Michael goes on to explain why now is a better time than ever to go solar.  Currently, the “net metering” rule, as he explains it, allows you to sell the extra power your panels produce during the day back to the utility company for a credit.  At night, when your panels aren’t producing, you then buy power from the utility company using your credit.  This allows you to maximize your solar power production, as it is somewhat “distributed” evenly throughout the day.  California solar has been operating by these rules for the last 20 years.

The net metering rules are set to change once more than 5% of the meters in California are connected to solar.  At the rate that solar has been installed in California in the last few years, we are expected to hit that percentage in the next year or so.  Once we hit that percentage, the utility companies are allowed to renegotiate the rules by which solar is hooked up to their grid.  Michael comments on this renegotiation: “We don’t think there is going to be major changes, but the truth is we don’t really know what is going to be negotiated.”  The good news is that if you hop on the solar bandwagon before these changes, you will be grandfathered into the current net metering rules for the next 20 years.  As Michael puts it: “There has never been a better time to go solar than right now.”

Stellar Solar Makes Angie’s List Honor Roll

Angie’s List, the largest and most respected consumer review site besides Yelp, has just nominated Stellar Solar for their May “Honor Roll”.  The Angie’s List Honor Roll is awarded monthly to nine companies with outstanding reviews, and Stellar was honored this month as one of the top solar companies in San Diego.  Angie’s List is highly regarded as a consumer review site as no anonymous reviews are allowed, and therefore every review is legitimate and must be backed up.

stellar solar angies list

We at Stellar Solar are honored to receive such an award, and would like to thank our loyal customers for writing such complimentary reviews.  For our future customers, we encourage you to use Angie’s List to review our company.  Any feedback we receive is valuable, so please let us know how you’re experience with us was.

From everyone here at Stellar Solar, we just want to say thank you San Diego, for the reviews, and the business.

2014 Solar Industry Report

In 2014 the solar industry continued to see the exponential growth that is has been experiencing the last few years.  We put together this infographic to illustrate just how much the solar industry has grown.

2014 solar industry report

Clock Is Ticking on Solar’s Sweet Deal

For the past 10 years, utility costs kept growing and solar costs kept going down, so going solar just got better and better.

However, coming changes to solar rules suggest the best time to go solar is right now, because the outlook for solar in future years may actually be less rosy than today.

So, homeowners who have been putting off their purchase of a solar energy system until a “better time” should make note: the best time to go solar has now arrived.

For one thing, the very generous solar income tax credit – by which the federal government pays for 30% of the solar energy system cost — is set to expire at the end of next year (2016). That amounts to a 30% price increase on new solar.

For another thing, the present California utility rules on “net metering” — which allow solar customers to zero out their power bills, guaranteed for the next 20 years — will be changing sometime in the future (although the exact date is not certain).

The present favorable rules will apply until solar reaches 5% penetration in SDG&E territory. With the popularity of solar still growing, that deadline could be reached as early as December 2015, according to some industry experts. After that, who knows?

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 Homeowners who move forward in the next six months are guaranteed the best deals:

  • Greatest savings compared to the power company
  • Lowest prices on solar hardware
  • Fastest delivery times for installation
  • 30% solar tax credit guaranteed
  • 20-year guarantee to zero-out your power bills with solar

Past experience suggests that these future deadlines tend to cause longer delivery times and also higher costs, as materials and labor start to be in short supply.

Don’t let this great opportunity pass you by… the best time to go solar is RIGHT NOW!

So click here for your free, no obligation quote and remember: the sooner you go solar, the sooner you start saving!

The Solar Equipment Debate: Central Inverter vs. Micro-Inverter

Discussions about solar energy systems tend to focus on the solar modules themselves – the most visible component in the system — and often, neglect the other important piece of hardware: the inverter.

how solar power works

An inverter converts the DC electricity produced by the solar panels into AC electricity, which is what the home can actually use.

Some would argue that the choice of inverter is actually a more important decision than the solar module because the solar module plays a somewhat “passive” role in gathering the sunlight while the inverter is more actively managing it, while keeping track of (“data logging”) how much power is being produced.

There are two types of inverters: the “tried and true” central inverter (also called the string inverter) and the newer technology called the micro-inverter.  There is an ongoing debate as to which one is better.

Central inverters have been in use for more than 40 years.  Micro-inverters are still a fairly new technology, only in commercial usage for the last 10 years.  Central inverters are typically mounted on the side of the home near the main electrical panel, while micro-inverters are mounted on the back of individual solar panels on the roof.

The central inverter requires that panels grouped into “strings” or circuits.  If one panel in as string has shade that causes it to lose production, all of the panels in that string are also affected.  However, with a micro-inverter system shade only affects the single module being shaded; the neighboring, unshaded panels still produce at full power.  Each micro-inverter essentially manages its own solar module independently rather than in groups.

Similarly, the central inverter powers the entire solar energy system so if the inverter fails, the entire system stops working until the inverter is repaired or replaced.  If a single micro-inverter fails, the rest of the system is still working properly and producing power.

It should also be mentioned that a central string inverter usually weighs over 100 lbs and must be shipped via truckline (which  may take up to 1 week) and require at least 2  workers to replace it.  A typical micro-inverter weighs less than 5 lbs and can be shipped overnight and installed the next day by a single worker.

The most common question about inverters concerns the warranty.  Central inverters have a standard 10-year warranty and are typically a little less in cost depending on the size of the system; however, an extended warranty can usually be purchased.  Micro-inverters come with a 25-year warranty standard.

Finally, not all brands of solar panels are compatible with micro-inverters, due to their unique technology.  It is importnat to check with an experienced solar installation company who can recommend the best system for your needs, both in terms of equipment and financing.

Stellar Solar carries multiple brands of central sting inverters as well as microinverters and has been in business since 1998, supporting both commercial and residential solar energy system installation, so we can recommend the right system at the right price with the right financing for homes and businesses throughout San Diego.

 

How Valuable is a PV Solar System?

We’ve all heard it before.

The benefits of adding a photovoltaic solar system to your home are innumerable, but one that you always hear is that it adds value to your home.

photovoltaic solar system

That should be obvious, as the systems are expensive and save tons of money, but the question of just how much value they add to your home has mostly remained unanswered, up until recently.

 In conjunction with Sandia National Laboratories, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory have recently completed the largest study on the effect of solar photovoltaic systems on home values in history.  Researchers more than doubled the amount of solar homes evaluated from previous studies, looking at around 22,000 home sales, 4,000 of which had PV systems.  In order to open up the scope of the research, researchers also looked at eight states outside of California where solar is not as prevalent.  Considering all these factors, the study is the most extensive of its kind.

The research determined that home buyers will pay about $4 per watt of installed PV, which averages out to about a $15,000 premium per home.  This value is averaged based on information gathered from housing busts, booms, and recoveries, so if projections are accurate, it should remain consistent.

The next step towards achieving this standard of value for PV systems is for realtors to be able to more accurately appraise homes with systems installed.  Hopefully, researchers will continue to improve valuing methods that realtors will adopt, and the value of PV systems will remain consistent and measurable.

 

Source: http://www.utilitydive.com/news/study-rooftop-solar-adds-15000-premium-to-home-values/352862/

Solar Debate: Lease Vs. Loan

Third-party solar leasing has become very popular over the past three years.  Most of the national solar companies rely heavily on 20-year contracts such as solar leases or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).   These finance contracts are fairly simple to understand and easy for these companies to sell to customers who don’t know about better, less costly alternatives.  If a homeowner is not able to take advantage of the 30% federal income tax credit for solar, a lease or PPA may be beneficial, but that’s about the only time this is true.  In most cases, it is wise for solar customers to consider an alternative solar financing method.

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At Stellar Solar, we believe that owning a solar system is better for most people than leasing one.  So, we offer a financing called a “combo loan,” which (like the lease) requires no money down, but also allows you to take advantage of the federal tax credit; it’s called that because it’s really two loans in one.

 

 

  • First, your solar income tax credit (30% of the total price) is financed for 12-18 months at 0% interest, allowing you time to collect your tax credit from the IRS and then pay off this loan in full.

 

  • Next, the remainder of your solar energy investment (70%) is financed through a separate loan which extends for 12 years at 1.99% — with a fixed payment amount that is much less than your payments to SDG&E now.  Even better, there are no pre-payment penalties, so this loan can be paid off at any time. Most leases lock you in for 20 years of payments; the only exception is if you actually sell your home.

 

With this combo loan, you own your solar panels in 12 years rather than leasing them for 20 years.  There are no liens on your property (as with a lease), so you won’t have any hassles if you decide to sell your home.  With a lease, there are no guarantees that the next owner will want to take over your payments, but who wouldn’t want to own free-and-clear a solar energy system that drastically reduces or even eliminates their electric bill?

 

One seeming benefit of a lease is that the leasing company guarantees the solar equipment during the lease.   We agree that long-term protection against system problems is important, so we have contracted with American solar equipment providers that protect customers with a 25-year equipment warranty.

 

As the company voted the “Best Solar Panel Company in San Diego” by U-T readers for the past 3 out of 4 years, we believe this is the best solar financing program available, but you can be the judge.  Give me a call and I would be happy to put a custom solar proposal together for you.

Photovoltaic Panels: How Do They Work?

While solar panels are changing the way people power their homes and businesses across the world, very few people know just how their solar panels work.  We have covered how solar panels power your home, but we have yet to ask: how do solar panels create electricity?

standard solar picture

Solar panels as we most commonly know them; the large, black, waffle-patterned panels, are actually made up of many photovoltaic energy cells linked together.  The individual photovoltaic cell (photovoltaic means sunlight converted to electricity) is made up of two layers of semi-conducting material, usually silicon, that are stacked on top of each other like a sandwich.  The top and bottom layers of the sandwich have opposite charges, positive and negative, which creates an electrical field.

In order to get the two layers of the sandwich to have opposite charges, the individual layers are doped with chemicals to change their charge.   The top layer is seeded with phosphorus which adds extra electrons, resulting in a negative charge.  The bottom is dosed with boron, which takes away electrons, resulting in a positive field.

Once the charges are established and the electric field is created at the junction of the two layers, the panel is ready to create energy.  When a photon of sunlight knocks an electron free, the electric field will push electron out of the silicon sandwich.  At this point, metal conductive plates on the side of the photovoltaic cell collect the electrons and transfer them to wires, allowing them become usable power.

via NASA.gov.

So solar panels are made up of giant webs of these photovoltaic cells, forming a photovoltaic system.  While individually their ability to generate power is minimal, when hundreds are linked together they are very productive.  If you have any further questions about how photovoltaics work check out NASA’s fully comprehensive explanation:  http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2002/solarcells/.

How Solar Power Works: An Infographic

Have you ever wondered how solar power works?

How those weird looking solar panels convert sunlight into power for your home? We at Stellar have found that many people are in the dark about how the process of using solar power for your home works, so we put together this simplified info graphic to help you understand:

 

how solar power works

 

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