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Solar 101

Solar an Opportunity

Owning a rooftop solar power plant represents a fundamental shift in the way you power your home or business. In short, you produce your own electricity every day rather than buying it.

As grid energy suppliers fight to keep up with demand, distributed rooftop solar systems will play an increasingly vital role in keeping the power on and maintaining affordability.

While No One Knows the Future, Switching to Solar Energy Helps:

Saves Money

Pay a lower per-watt price for solar energy than what you currently pay for using grid power.

Increase the Value of your Home

Bloomberg News recently reported that for buyers, solar panels today are what granite counter tops were 10 years ago as “an amenity…that’s becoming a standard option for buyers in U.S. markets.”

Protect yourself

Electricity prices have historically and will continue to increase by more than the rate of inflation; produce your own solar energy and insulate yourself from the hand me down energy increases dictated by the energy market.

“Solar is simply what’s next, and 1 in 5 homes built in California this year will have solar. In 50 years a centralized energy grid predicated upon the consumption of fossil fuels – which must be extracted, refined, transported, burned and transmitted across vast distances – will be viewed as an antiquated practice in the same light as killing whales en masse for their oil. “

The Solar Components

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Solar Panels that create electricity are called Photovoltaic Panels or PV Panels for short. Each panel is a make up of a grid composed of thin slices of a semiconductor material, usually silicon, laid flat and sandwiched inside the weatherized rectangular PV paned. When exposed to sunlight, the silicon wafers free extra electrons. These electrons are collected inside the panel in a positive and negatively charged grid of metal wiring. As the electrons are freed and are directed along the metal grid you end up with an electric current — a.k.a. electricity.

The solar panels are laid out in an array with each panel facing the sun in the same angle and plane, thereby duplicating the current from panel to panel. As the sun’s power is in Direct Current, and our homes and businesses run on Alternating Current, the electricity from the solar panels runs to an Inverter, which converts the DC power of the sun to usable AC power.

Different solar panels produce different watts of electricity, and obviously, the more solar panels you have the more electricity your system will produce.

While all solar systems will have the basic array and inverter equipment, this is where the similarity between a high quality and sub-par system ends.

In other words, not all solar systems are created equal and we are compelled to tell you why.

The Panels – A Closer Look

Hot Purple Energy Olive Residential SolarWhile the Coachella Valley has abundant sunshine, we also have extreme heat as well as freezing nights. Any solar panel that plans to spend the next 25 plus years in Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells, Palm Springs, or anywhere else in the Coachella Valley, better be built to withstand our extreme weather conditions. The truth is only a few panels have the heat index needed to perform properly here, and fewer still have truly been tested to earn the index they carry.

As the solar industry is an evolving global industry with some good companies and some not so good. As a company dedicated to the long term, we scrutinize the solar panels themselves but also the people and companies behind them. It’s common sense, but as people get excited about solar savings, they often overlook the fine print.

For example, the Sunpower Maxeon® solar cell is fundamentally different. And dramatically better. With its unique copper foundation, the cell delivers unmatched reliability and allows Sunpower to build panels with the world record for highest efficiency.

Sunpower

It’s easy to see why conventional panels just don’t stack up against SunPower® Technology.

Inverters – A Closer Look

The inverter is the piece of electronics involved in an otherwise passive collection of electricity. In converting the DC to AC power, the inverter has heat gain. As electronic equipment does not like getting hot, think about your computer, it is important that like the solar panel, the inverter is rated for high heat. It should also be mounted in a shaded and ventilated location.

While there are some moves in the industry to use one per panel micro inverters, we are concerned about the heat gain when putting the inverters just under the panel, and feel the chances of the micro inverter getting fried are just too good to chance. In a shady condition or at the beach, it’s another story.

Balance of System

Beyond the panel and the inverter, the balance of the solar system in made up of the roof stands and racking, as well as the methods and materials that attach the panels to the structure, the wires and conduit that moves the electricity from the panels to the inverter, the inverter to the electric panel. In short, all of the other things complete the balance of items needed to integrate a solar system.

HPE FACT: It was seeing how poorly solar contractors dealt with the balance of system that got us into the industry in the first place. Systems can be made or broken depending on how they are installed. A system can be hidden from view or an become an eyesore. A roof can leak or not. A system will either last or it won’t; success or failure is based on the equipment, sure, but how well it is installed is just as important.

Palm Springs’ Hot Purple Energy makes it simple by first using the best solar panels and inverters that prove to be the most appropriate for the desert, but also by our focus on the balance of systems. In the end our systems perform better and last longer. It’s why our warranty is the longest, but more importantly why our customers have the HPE peace-of-mind that their system is the best.

Designing Solar

Designing a solar system is not a 30,000 foot in the air Google image alone process. Each system should maximize solar production per watt of panel as a rule, but also should be customized to each client…to fit the energy loads per the particular lifestyle and time of year usage as well as the structures systems and architecture

Aesthetic-Oriented Design

Systems either blend in or are hidden entirely with no exposed wires, zip-ties or other visible hallmarks of a lazy and sub-par installation.

One Size Does Not Fit All

Your energy solution is unique to you based on the size, shape and age of your house, its fixtures and appliances, your consumption habits, your finances and your short and long-term energy goals.

Comprehensive Energy Oriented Solutions

While solar is often an appropriate element of a comprehensive energy solution, it is certainly not the only component. Finding cost effective ways to lower energy consumption is therefore a must in every HPE energy review.

If that old pool pump is skyrocketing your electricity bills, then we’d rather replace your pool pump and offer a modest solar component than have you purchase a large, excessive system while ignoring the root inefficiencies of your energy problems.

A PENNY SAVED IS A PENNY EARNED

The Cost
  • The cost of solar energy is a difficult thing to summarize.  System sizes vary for two families living in similar houses. Not to mention, there are cheap panels and poor installs, we see them all the time, and there are good systems with quality installations, the kind we are proud of.
  • For round numbering, the average 2,500 sq-ft. house could use a system that costs between $25,000 and $35,000, with the 30% tax credit coming off of that.
  • But what this means in the number of panels and the watts of power will depend on the solar exposure, quality equipment and installation itself.  This is the fine print and points towards cost/value comparison beyond price per watt.
  • The best thing to do is contact us to truly review the costs, the production, and the savings.  On average our systems have a conservative estimated payback of 6-7 years.
  • We are not trying to be vague in the numbers, quite the opposite, we want to be calculating and exact and without taking into account all the design, equipment and lifestyle parameters, a guess at pricing would be just that.

We encourage multiple bids and support comparisons.  This is a long term investment and needs study.  In the end we are confident in our systems and trust you will come to that same conclusion.  Knowledge is Power!

The Rebates and Incentives

The California Solar Initiative rebate for SCE territory is all but used up. There is a small and depleting amount remaining.  At this stage it is a case by case as to whether there will be any CSI rebate applied.

There is a Federal Tax Credit of 30% of the system price to be credited towards your Federal Tax Liability. This credit is applicable to the year the system was commissioned or divided out into 2016 when the credit is set to expire.

Financing

The methods to finance solar are evolving, so we review all options as part your personal review:

Finance TypeDescriptionTerm (years)Interest RateOther
CashTraditional cash purchase. Buyer entitled to 30% federal tax credit. Highest possible rate of return over system’s useful life.N/AN/AN/A
SunPower LoanAllows buyer to finance a system’s purchase without paying the entire system-cost out of pocket.122.99%Origin Fee equal to 12% of System Cost
PACE LoanProperty Assessed Clean Energy loan allows buyer to finance a system’s purchase for as little as $0 down; however, unlike a traditional loan, the cost of financing is added to buyer’s property taxes and collected by county assessor.206.95%Document Fee $250
LeaseAllows buyer to capture benefits of solar without the up-front costs; third party owns and leases system to buyer, where new electric bill plus monthly lease payments are less than current monthly electric bill20N/ANone

Summary

Solar power is a tremendous resource no matter what financial vehicle is used.  But to be clear, we at HPE support solar ownership for our clients. We see that as the market for energy evolves, those who own the power will have the power. At a minimum it is a secure investment that adds value while lowering operating cost.

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