SOLAR IN CALIFORNIA
SolarHelp.Org was created to help homeowners and building owners quickly get the correct information to make a decision about putting solar panels on their rooftops. No confusing ads and pop-ups are on this site, just the info you need. We are here to help you, period. Please read on and in about 10 minutes you’ll be ready to start interviewing solar companies about putting solar on your roof.
WHY WE STARTED SOLARHELP.ORG
The first question you may be asking is, Why SolarHelp.Org? Well after selling a healthcare business last year, We wanted to do something that was interesting and that had a purpose, a greater good. I know this sounds cliché, but we really are interested in helping people out, and if it also helps our planet that is an added bonus. After racking my brain for months, I came up with SolarHelp.Org as a means to help me learn the solar industry and now to help people like you learn about how solar power and save you money, give you independence from the utilities(and big oil), and Save the Earth…a Trifecta!
SAVING THE EARTH IS A GOOD THING
In California solar produced more than 5% or our power. I know most people are putting solar on their roof because it saves money. Saving the Earth is a good thing too. Consider that scientists at MIT have predicted Earth extinct by 2100 on its current energy trajectory. Fortunately, MIT also forecasts a bright future for solar based on patents recently filed. Technology has changed the solar cost equation. 10 years ago when I looked at adding solar to my house the numbers did not add up. It would have taken 20 years to pay off me adding 6 Kilowatt hours(KWh) of solar panels to my roof. Today the ROI on a 6KWh system is more like 4 or 5 years. This is due largely to the more efficient nature of today’s photovoltaic (PV) panels. Solar panels today are also made with a lower grade of silicon which makes them much less expensive (turns out PV panels don’t need the high end silicon that semiconductors are made with). Solar Installations Are Performing Even Better than Promised. All of this has led to U.S. energy imports and exports to come into balance for first time since 1950s. It is not all good news, in 2014 the world’s oceans were warmer than they have been in over a century. Global warming is real, we all need to do our part, and with solar we can do our part will save some money too.
FUN FACT: The kilowatt hour (symbol kWh, kW·h, or kW h) is a unit of energy equal to 1,000 watt-hours.
If the energy is being transmitted or used at a constant rate (power) over a period of time, the total energy
in kilowatt-hours is the product of the power in kilowatts and the time in hours. The kilowatt-hour is
commonly used as a billing unit for energy delivered to consumers by electric utilities.
WHAT’S ON YOUR ROOF
What do they need to put on your roof to make power from the sun? Aside from the permitting and other Typical Solar Installation Steps, your PV system with need a mounting rack which attaches the panels to the roof. You will also need an inverter attached to your system, this converts the DC power made by the panels into AC power that you can use for your house/office power. The local utility also needs to make sure the system is correctly set up so that you can sell excess power back to them. If your are techie and need to know how the PV panels produce energy, go here for additional reading: How Solar Works – How PV Panels produce power
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SOLAR COMPANY
How do you know what company you should choose to install your solar system? It comes down to a few things, and in no order it is cost, quality of the panels, quality of the installers, quality of the company you are signing up with, and maybe how long it will take. The first think to understand is the different types of solar companies you are likely to run across in your search:
Types of solar energy companies
Top Solar Photovoltaic Panel Manufacturing Company Volume Ranking
2014 Rank Company Change from 2013* Share of US residential market (2013)** Headquarters 1 Trina Solar ↑1 17% China 2 Yingli ↓1 17% China 3 SunPower ↑1 17% USA 4 Canadian Solar ⎯ 6% China 5 Sharp Solar ↓2 4% Japan 6 ReneSola ↓1 4% China 7 Kyocera ⎯ 2% Japan 8 Jinko Solar ↑1 1% China 9 JA Solar ↑4 1% China 10 First Solar ↓1 1% USA 10 Hanwha SolarOne ↓1 1% China
*Source: HIS **Source: SEIA / GTM Research
Installers are usually local or regional. They usually were electricians or roofers that now install solar systems. This is a natural fit for most. Generally the installers will help with the rebate process, select the panels and all the accessories need to get the system up and running. The only downside is that they are the same as any other contractor…reliability, craftsmanship and longevity. Just make sure you do your homework when choosing an installer/contractor for your solar project. Some solar installers will install and provide the solar panels will even take care of the financing and maintenance, and arrange incentive benefits. These full-service installers usually offer solar leasing using manufacturers financing and warranties.
Today, the largest solar companies will do the solar module, mount manufacturing, installation, operations and maintenance, marketing and sales. This vertical integration may result in a better deal for customers, but it also means that the company is tied to its own specific technology – for better or worse.
Some solar companies don’t actually deal with the hardware or installation at all. These companies give consumers a sense of how much money they can save going solar, how much it costs, different options for going solar, available incentives, and more. Lead-generation companies take your information and pass it on to one or more solar installers on your behalf.
Key Figures from the 2015 Solar Market Insight Report
(click to see SEIA’s full article)
- The U.S. installed 7,260 MWdc of solar PV in 2015, the largest annual total ever and 16% above 2014.
- Residential PV was once again the fastest-growing sector in U.S. solar, installing over 2 GWdc for the first time and growing 66% over 2014.
- Utility PV also had a record year with over 4 GWdc installed, up 6% over 2014, with nearly 20 GWdc still in development.
- Thirteen states installed over 100 MWdc of solar each in 2015, up from nine in 2014.
- 110 MW ac of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity came on-line in late 2015, when SolarReserve’s Crescent Dunes project began sending electricity to the grid.
- For the first time ever, solar beat out natural gas capacity additions, with solar supplying 29.4% of all new electric generating capacity brought on-line in the U.S. in 2015.
- Cumulative solar PV installations surpassed 25 GWdc by the end of the year, up from just 2 GWdc at the end of 2010. Cumulative CSP capacity now stands at 1.8 GWac.
- GTM Research forecasts that 16 GWdc of new PV installations will come on-line in 2016, up 120% over 2015. Utility PV is expected to drive the majority of demand, accounting for nearly three-fourths of new installations.
Hopefully that is not too much information, bottom line is find out what type of company you are dealing with have them come out and propose the system, and then choose the best one. I will include my top four here(I am still researching companies for you, but here are a few of the larger established solar power companies doing business in California — SolarCity, SunRun, Sungevity, SunPower, REC Solar, PetersonDean, Verango )