Q: How does solar power work?

The solar panels convert the photons from sunlight into DC current.  In a grid-tied system the DC current is converted to AC current with an inverter.  From the inverter the current flows into your fuse box.

Q: Is Michigan’s climate wrong for solar?

A: Michigan has more sunlight per year than Germany (approximately 8.5% more according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory) yet Germany leads the world in solar power produced.  Solar electric panels work better when cold.  Michigan’s climate allows for excellent solar production.  Warmer climates limit the amount of power that can be converted from sunlight.

Q: Do solar panels work when it is cloudy?

A: Yes they do.  Think about the calculator on your desk that has the little solar panel in it.  It has never seen the sun but works great.  All solar panels need is light.  When it is cloudy the light is defused, just like household lighting.

Q: Can I use wind power at my house or business?

A: Michigan has the 14th best wind resources in the country. Building and zoning codes regulate the use of wind turbines. Most municipalities require that the tower be able to drop in any direction without hitting any structure while stating back from the setback clauses of the municipalities. This normally requires property of at least 1.5 acres.

Q: Can I sell my extra power to the electric company?

A: In October of 2008, Michigan adopted true Net Metering Laws. This means that the utility company has to accept any electricity that you put onto the grid. When your system produces more power than you consume, your meter will spin backwards. When you consume more than you produce, your meter spins forward. You are only billed at your net consumption.  Digital meters will quantify inflow and outflow to and from the power grid.  Here also you will be charged only for your net consumption.

Q: Isn’t solar and wind expensive?

A: Solar and wind power has come down tremendously in the past few years. Their efficiency has gone up. With skyrocketing electricity prices and increasing state and federal incentives, renewable energy has never been cheaper.  Electric rates have never been more expensive.  Solar has over an 8% annual return on investment.  Basically there are two choices – Buy your electricity from the utility company paying more each year as rates go up. At the end of about seven years you have earned the right to keep paying them for the rest of your life……. OR……. Install solar and freeze your bill, it will never go up again.  After about seven years all the electricity the system generates for the next thirty-five plus years is free!

Q: How long does it take to get a payback?

A: Electric rates in Michigan have gone up 8.4% a year since 2004.  The EPA is levying penalties to utility companies that use coal.  These penalties will be passed along to you.  Michigan uses 15% more coal to generate our electricity than the national average so our rates will increase 15% more than the national average.  It may take as little as six years and maybe as long as eight years to have your investment returned.  The system will be warrantied for between seventeen to nineteen years after your investment is returned!

Q: How long are the warranties?

A: Our panels and inverters are warranted for twenty-five years.   With a life expectancy of forty + years, it should be the only system you ever buy.  The company that makes our panels, SolarWorld, has been making panels since 1975.  They have thirty-five year old panels that are still producing within factory specs.

Q: Are there incentives for renewable energy?

A: There is a 30% federal tax credit (not a deduction!). The USDA Rural Development Division has 25% grants and federally backed loan guarantees. Michigan has a true Net Metering Law (check out the FAQ “Can I sell my extra power to the electric company?”).  We can help you sell your SREC’s to generate even more money.

Q: What is an SREC?

A: An SREC is a solar renewable energy credit.  For every mWh of electricity you generate from solar our monitoring system will generate one certificate.  These certificates can be sold to utility companies (to comply with their government mandate), to companies that want to market their green initiatives (Google, MSN, WalMart, Kohls, etc buy millions of dollars’ worth of a year), and to green minded individuals that want to support your investment.  The certificate legally allows them to claim the green value of your power.

Q: Can I generate all my own power?

A: Most properties can generate some power. Many can generate enough to supply all your needs. Some can generate far more. See the FAQ “What is a good location?”.

Q: What is a good location?

A: For wind a good location is where the turbine is thirty feet higher than any obstruction within 300′.   For solar electric a good location is one where you have unobstructed southern exposure without any shading.

Q: When is the best time of year to have a solar array installed?

A: Spring is the best time for solar production per sunlight hour.  The cool weather allows the panels to operate at the utmost efficiency.  If a system, that is sized to offset your annual usage, is commissioned in the early spring it will cover your usage and start building credits. These credits will build through the summer and fall and cover your usage through the winter cloudy days and snow.  Installations during mid-summer take longer than late winter and early spring. When your composite shingles are hot from the summer sun additional care must be taken by the installation crew for safety and to not affect the shingles.  Some people prefer to have their system commissioned in December. This will enable them to utilize the 30% Federal Tax Credit quicker. While this makes sense they will still be paying a partial electric bill until spring when the system starts generating at peak capacity.  If receiving your tax credit several months early is worth paying and additional four to five electric bills than this option is for you. But the quickest return on investment is systems commissioned early spring.

Q: How long does the process take?

A: Approximately a month between the time a customer contacts us and we sign contracts. This time is spent asking & answering questions to establish what makes sense for the customer, preparing and presenting quotes, answering additional questions from the customer, customer time to check several references, then we meet and signing contracts.  Four to six weeks for installing and commissioning. The actual installing will take just a few days. The applications with the utility companies and waiting for their commissioning will take the majority of the time.