The Solar 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 solely buying it from your Utility Company via the Electric Grid.
As Electric Grid Energy Suppliers struggle to keep up with growing demand, distributed rooftop solar systems are playing an increasingly vital role in keeping the power on and maintaining affordability.
SOLAR SAVES MONEY
The underlying advantage of solar energy is that the per watt cost for the electricity it produces is less than what you currently pay per watt using grid power. Depending on your usage it could be 1/3 of the cost, netting real savings per month and per year.
SOLAR INCREASES THE VALUE OF YOUR HOME
Decreasing the cost to operate your home, increases its value. Long-term value is based on the production of the system, which is a direct result of the quality of the solar panels and installation as well as the aesthetic consideration of the design and placement.
SOLAR OFFERS ELECTRIC RATE PROTECTION
If solar can be 1/3 the cost per watt of grid power today, imagine what the margin of savings will be in 10 years. Electricity prices have historically and continue to increase by more than the rate of inflation; producing your own solar energy insulates you from the never-ending energy rate 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 mass for their oil.
THE SOLAR COMPONENTS
Standard Solar Panels that create electricity are called Photovoltaic Panels or PV Panels for short. Each panel is a made up of a grid composed of thinly sliced wafers of semiconductor material, usually, silicon, laid flat and sandwiched inside the weatherized rectangular PV panel.
When exposed to sunlight, the silicon wafers free any extra electrons. These electrons are collected inside the panel in a positive and negatively charged grid of metal wiring. As the electrons are freed the +/- charged wires direct them along the metal grid creating 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 (DC) and our homes and businesses run on Alternating Current (AC), the electricity from the solar panels are run to an Inverter which converts the DC power of the sun to usable AC power.
Increasingly, panels are made with the inverter components included in each panel. These microinverters convert the power from DC to AC at each individual panel location eliminating the need for the string inverter.
BALANCE OF THE SYSTEM
Beyond the panel and the inverters, the balance of the solar system is 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, and the inverter to the electric panel. In short, the balance of the system is all of the things beyond the panels and inverter needed to properly install and integrate a working 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. Panels are rated for production but that can be significantly reduced depending on the quality of how they are installed and the balance of system items. A system can be installed to be hidden from view or can become an eyesore. A roof can leak or not. Since most publicized system information is the panel and maybe the inverter, the quality and integrity of the balance of system is often where contractors cut corners to save money and time.
Not all solar systems are created equal. It’s important to look past production claim and annual savings numbers to assure your 25 plus year solar system truly will stand the test of time in our extreme desert climate.
A solar contractor should be able to demonstrate the entire system to you and the reason and integrity of every component. They should also walk you through the panel location(s), conduit runs, and any disconnects or junction boxes taking care to protect the architectural integrity of your home or business.
SOLAR PANELS: A CLOSER LOOK
While the Coachella Valley has abundant sunshine for solar production, we also have extreme heat as well as freezing nights. Any solar panel that plans to spend the next 25 plus years on a roof here better be built to withstand our extreme weather conditions. The truth is only a few panels have the heat index needed to perform properly in such extreme conditions, and fewer still have truly been tested to earn the index they carry.
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.
The California Based, industry leader, SunPower Corporation has developed the most efficient solar panels utilizing their patented Sunpower Maxeon® solar cell. Its construction is fundamentally different and dramatically better than any other cell on the market. With its unique copper foundation, the cell delivers unmatched reliability and allows SunPower to build panels with the world record for highest efficiency. This efficiency is very beneficial for retrofit rooftop applications where usable square footage is limited.
Name Plate: Every solar panel has a nameplate sticker on the underside that tells you the brand, and electrical characteristics including the maximum wattage output of the panel. One thing that is important to note is the +/- % noted next to the wattage. In some cases, panels will have as much a -5% rating off of the nameplate wattage. It’s a subtle distinction, but 5% less production out of the box amounts to 5% less savings over time.
All solar panels produce less power over time. Any solar production warranty will have a written plan of power degradation. Savings predictions should always take this planned degradation into account. This is an important schedule as cheaper panels will decrease production (degrade) faster curbing the long-term savings.
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 the panel as a rule, but also should be customized to each client to fit the…
- energy use per the particular lifestyle, size of the home, and planned use
- the structures systems and architecture and solar exposure
- budget and desired rate of return
Systems either blend in or are hidden entirely with no exposed wires, junction boxes, zip-ties, or other visible hallmarks of a lazy and sub-par installation.
No one expects to have an ugly installation, but many installers focused on quick installations, literally plan to get on and off your roof in one day.
A 25 plus year system attached to your home with proper heat mitigation and aesthetics should be thought through, and each client should be happy with what the final system is going to look like.
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 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 real cause of your energy problems.
Any solar company that ignores your energy consumption and simply prescribes solar is looking out for their bottom line over yours.
SOLAR 101 CONCLUSION
Solar is an amazing product that has very little maintenance while producing measurable long-term energy output. All systems are not created or designed equally and need to be done to match our extreme environment as well as the aesthetics and desired financial return.
We encourage multiple bids and support comparisons. This is a long-term investment as well as a long-term addition to your home, therefore deserving a thorough study. In the end, we are confident in our systems and our holistic approach to energy solutions and trust you will come to the same conclusion.
Knowledge, after all, is Power!