residential rooftop solar panels

Groups Going Solar Together via Solarize Programs

What are these talks of solarize programs and solar co-ops all about?

There has been a lot of press in the Midwest surrounding communities creating group solarize and solar co-op opportunities. But what does this mean for you?

What are solarize and solar co-op programs?

Both programs are locally-organized group-buying opportunities provided by a city, neighborhood, or organization where multiple homes and businesses go solar together as a group. In addition to getting a bulk discount, the group members benefit by learning about solar together and sharing the task of evaluating and selecting a solar installer. These programs have established periods of time for joining, so they are limited time offers.

Why are these programs forming?

Solarize and solar co-op programs can quickly deploy a large amount of solar, and make the process easier and more efficient for all parties. Organizations often offer this type of opportunity as an employee benefit. An important benefit of a group going solar all at one time is that everyone can learn together and share knowledge in addition to the discount.

What are the benefits of these programs?

If you live in an area that has a solarize or solar co-op program already being offered, then:

  • You are in a position to not only take advantage of the 30% Federal Tax Credit, but you will also have the opportunity to purchase a solar array for your home or business at the group-negotiated discount rate. These rates vary by program, and some solarize opportunities present additional grants for eligible homeowners.
  • Joining a solarize or solar co-op allows you to rely on the expertise of your group in choosing a reliable solar installer. Working together with accountants, lawyers, engineers and construction experts in your community helps members feel more confident about choosing solar and a reliable installater.
  • Lastly, taking advantage of these opportunities while they are occurring dramatically increases the environmental benefits for the entire community in which you live or work.

There isn’t a solarize or solar co-op happening where I live or work. Should I wait to go solar?

The time to buy solar is now, even if you live in a community without one of these group-buying opportunities because:

  • Costs for solar have dropped significantly over the last decade, making solar an affordable energy solution.
  • There is currently a 30% Federal Tax Credit being offered.
  • Our clients dramatically lower their annual electric bills by 50-90%, keeping money in their pockets.
  • You might consider organizing your own “group purchase”. Even having a few homes go solar together can lead to savings and efficiency (see below).
  • Easily start your free evaluation by completing this form.

How can I start a solarize or solar co-op program for my community?

Third Sun Solar has experience working with neighbor groups, businesses and churches to offer group-buying opportunities to their neighbors, employees and congregations. We can help walk you thru the process, and offer an incentive package where discounts are spelled out depending on how much solar gets installed. Working with a group saves us money and time, so it’s an easy decision for us to turn this saved money into a discount.

Third Sun Solar has also been selected as a preferred installer for multiple community co-op and solarize programs (for example: GCEA & OH SUN programs). We would be happy to answer your questions about gathering a group together to go solar. For more information, call us: 877-696-7652.

It’s Easy to Claim Your Federal Solar Tax Credit

Understanding your federal tax forms seems like a lost cause to many people. And turning to a tax professional may be your cup of tea. But in a post by EnergySage, they’ve broken down every form needed to claim the federal solar tax credit, most commonly referred to as the ITC (Investment Tax Credit).

Some things mentioned to keep in mind:

  • Solar array owners (not leasers) are eligible to claim the ITC on any property they live in at least part of the year. (Primary or not)
  • The ITC is a refundable tax credit, which means that if your federal tax liability is less than the total solar savings, you can carry over the remainder to the following year because you can’t get more back than you owe in any one year.

You’ll just need one additional form to complete in order to claim your tax credit: IRS Form 5695. Once you’ve completed Form 5695 in the manner they outlined, you’ll take the final result (line 15) and include it in your IRS Form 1040, line 53.

Read original article at EnergySage.com…

residential solar panels on home

How Much Does Solar Cost to Install on My House?

One of the first questions we are often asked is how much does solar cost if installed (or photovoltaic “PV” panels) on a house, which is quickly followed by a question about the number of panels it would take to power a typical house. Since these questions are inter-related, we’ll tackle them together. There are plenty of websites around that try to help answer these questions, but they’re complicated and use a lot of industry jargon. We strive to make solar easy for you and that starts with cutting through the noise and laying it all out on the table. So let’s break it down.

Loudonville, Ohio 10.64kW rooftop solar installation

Loudonville, Ohio 10.64kW rooftop solar installation

So, how much does solar cost?

The first step in calculating an answer is to look at how much electricity is being consumed. We see electric bills that range from $50/month into the hundreds of dollars, but for this example we’ll use an average bill of $100/month, which equates to 770 kWh per month at $0.13/kWh. Because everyone consumes electricity differently and electric rates vary across the Midwest, we look at every home as a custom project. (Our Solar Consultants review actual usage from utility bills as part of a solar evaluation to determine energy consumption.)

Now that we know the household electricity consumption, we can calculate the size of the system needed to meet its needs. During this step, we would take a look at the roof (or available space for a ground-mount) for the direction it faces, condition, complexity and shadiness. For this example we will assume there are no large trees that shade the roof during peak sunlight hours, and that the roof is almost facing south. In most parts of the Midwest such a roof would need about 24 panels to offset about 90% of the home’s electrical load.

So – we’ve narrowed in on a system size of 24 panels, or approximately 6.72kW*. So the next step is to determine how much this system would cost. Just as there are many types of roofs, each home has unique factors that impact the system budget; in this case we will use some assumptions and walk through the math for a typical home:

6,720 watts   X   $3.25/watt = $21,840

We’re not done yet… most of our residential clients take advantage of the 30% federal tax credit (ITC), reducing the price to $15,288. Remember that there is quite a range in options – your specific cost could be lower or higher than the example shown here.

How do I get started?

Our Solar Consultants are ready to walk you through the options and help you calculate the economics and payback. With Smart Solar Financing, many of our clients are able to go solar for zero money down and have payments that are less than their old electric bills. Some clients treat solar as an investment with a stable and predictable return – every client is different and we look forward to helping you evaluate your options and harness the clean, free energy of the sun.

To start the free evaluation process with one of our Solar Consultants and get a more precise quote for your specific household, you can call us during regular business hours at: 877-696-7652 or you can complete our online form HERE.

Van Wert, Ohio 4.9kW rooftop solar installation

Van Wert, Ohio 4.9kW rooftop solar installation

 

* You will often hear us talking about system sizes in terms of “watts” or “kilowatts (kW)”- this is a more accurate measurement as various solar panels come in different wattages. In the example discussed here we are using 280-watt panels, so 24 of them would equal a 6,720-watt solar array, or a 6.72 kilowatt (kW) array.

Solar Myth Busting: Too Much Snow for Solar

Solar panels still generate power under snow
Myths get started all the time as we try to understand something complicated. We make up a story as an explanation, and the more times we say it and share it, the more that myth sounds like truth. So, we are going to bust some myths by sharing the simple facts about solar. This doesn’t have to be complicated and these myths are no longer necessary to get solar.

Myth: There’s too much snow for solar in the Midwest

Fact: Solar panels still work in snowy parts of the country and in some situations can work more efficiently that during summer months.

It’s true that when your solar panels are completely snow-covered, they will only be able to generate a portion of their typical energy output because less sunlight is able to pass thru the snow cover.

That being said, this is nothing to be concerned about because:

  • Solar creates more efficient energy at cooler temperatures.
  • The sun will warm up the dark solar panels and the snow will quickly melt and/or slide off the smooth surface, so no need to clear the snow off yourself.
  • Even in the dead of winter, solar panels give off some small amount of heat, which can prevent snow from sticking in the first place.
  • In working with Third Sun Solar experts in the design of the array, the shorter days, weather, and less direct sunlight is taken into account to optimize your system. Net-metering will allow you to continue receiving electricity when your array produces less.
  • As a percentage of overall yearly production the loss from some snow is very small.
  • When snow is on the ground and the panels are clear, the snowy surface basically acts as a mirror and in many cases, you end up with a small boost because of the reflection off the snow.
  • Snow sliding off panels as it melts simultaneously cleans them.

We recommend not trying to clear the solar panels. Getting onto a roof in inclement weather is dangerous and using any type of tool on the panels themselves can damage the panels.

3 Solar Power Predictions for 2016

Welcome 2016

Quite a lot happened in 2015 that will bring improvements to our homes and environment. Now that 2016 is here, we wanted to make some solar power predictions around what we think is in store for the Midwest.

1 – More homeowners will go solar. The renewal of the ITC will allow solar installations in the Midwest to catch up to what has been going on in the coastal states. More and more homeowners will turn to solar this year as they watch their electricity bills increase due to rising costs of fossil fuels and rate hikes approved by PUCO.

2 – Storage is going to be talked about more than installed this year. We don’t think 2016 is the year for energy storage, although it will start creeping more and more into the media. We’ve already seen the excitement building around energy storage prototypes, but in the Midwest, we think it will be a few years away until energy storage provides financial benefits.

3 – Solar installation prices will continue to drop, although only slightly. PV modules have already seen significant price cuts over the last few years, so any future drops in price are more likely to come from installation innovations. These types of efficiency changes are only likely to result in small cost cuts and not on the scale as has been witnessed one the last few years.

Top 5 Solar News Stories from 2015

cheers

2015, A Landmark Year for Solar

As we reflect on 2015, it seems likely that it will be a year remembered for landmark actions taken in defense of the planet. The Clean Power Plan passed, the ITC was extended, and a historic international agreement was made in Paris at the COP 21 summit to reduce emissions globally. It was a lot to take in and fully digest, so we decided to pull together a short list of must read articles that wrap up 2015 and get us energized for 2016.

 

 

The future for renewable energy is looking bright!

Cheers to a Happy Solar New Year!

From LED’s to Solar-Powered Christmas Trees: the Holidays Become More Energy Conscious

The holidays have never been brighter, or greener. With the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been experiencing in the Eastern half of the country, we’ve noticed more people making time to get outside and set up holiday light displays. And as we take in these beautiful displays, we are enjoying the trend towards LED lights and solar-powered Christmas trees.

dreamstimesmall_48386551

LED Lights Keep Money in the Bank

Christmas lights are typically left on for hours at a time, so it’s easy to rack up higher than normal electric bills. Investing in LED string lights that use less than a third of the energy, last 10 times longer, and are safer than a standard incandescent string means that you will end up with more savings in your pocket year after year. The electricity bill will go down. Replacement strands won’t be needed for years. And since LED lights don’t emit heat, they won’t overheat and cause a fire.

Harnessing the Sun to Light up the Night

Christmas Tree: Rockefeller Center

Christmas Tree: Rockefeller Center

Cities around the world have been using LED lights to brighten trees for years and now they are taking things a step farther by powering those lights with energy supplied by the sun. Here’s a rundown of some solar-powered trees we love this Christmas:

Brisbane, Queenland, Australia  

New York City, NY: Rockefeller Plaza 

Lismore, New South Wales, Australia 

These trees are gorgeous. If you are traveling this season and have an opportunity to visit them in person, you won’t be disappointed.

(Due to space constraints, panels are not yet supplying 100% of the power needed, but we find it inspiring none-the-less that cities are using renewable energy to make their holiday displays greener each year. More information can be found here regarding the energy usage of the Rockefeller Center tree.)

Solar Myth Busting: High Maintenance

Rooftop solar

Myths get started all the time as we try to understand something complicated. We make up a story as an explanation, and the more times we say it and share it, the more that myth sounds like truth. So, we are going to bust some myths by sharing the simple facts about solar. This doesn’t have to be complicated and these myths are no longer necessary to get solar.

Myth: Solar is High Maintenance

Fact: Solar panels have no moving parts, on average are warrantied for 25 years, and nature takes care of the bulk of the maintenance work.

With no moving parts, solar panels require little to no regular maintenance. And because we are in the Midwest, we are lucky, because heavy rainfalls generally take care of cleaning the panels for us! If you think you are in an extra dusty part of town, a couple times a year you may want to check your solar panels for a build-up of dirt and debris, since heavily soiled panels will have slightly decreased output than sparkling panels. Panels that appear heavily soiled with dirt, pollen, or bird droppings can be rinsed off safely with a garden hose on cloudy days or early in the morning. No need to scrub your panels or hand clean them, which can result in damage. If your garden hose doesn’t have the power to get all of your panels with you standing on the ground, we recommend having a professional climb onto the roof to take care of them for you. Safety isn’t to be taken lightly.

5 Top Solar Changemakers We’re Thankful For

Heartfelt Thank You

Gratitude, like solar, is a renewable energy that gives us power and is contagious. Here’s a short list of Solar Changemakers we’re thankful for and we encourage you to share your gratitude for solar with others as well.

1) Customers! 
Happy customers are our Solar Champions, early adopters, and our greatest resource in spreading the word about clean solar energy.

2) Third Sunians
This team crusades for solar every day, climbing to new heights installing arrays, speaking at community events, and walking the talk to accelerate the shift to clean energy.

3) Renewable Energy Advocates
Associations like the Ohio Advanced Energy Economy, Solar Energy Industries Association, and Green Energy Ohio advocate for a clean energy economy in Ohio every day to the state and federal congresses. Right now they are battling to continue the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) that expires at the end of 2016, which has reduced the cost of solar arrays by 30%.

4) Amicus Solar Cooperative
Being a member-owner in this coop benefits our customers by lowering the costs of installing solar on their homes and businesses because we pass purchasing discounts thru to them.

5) Ownership Partner
We’re thankful for Dividend Solar partnering with us to make solar more affordable for homeowners. They offer financing with as little as $0 down, so you can own your energy instead of renting it. You experience energy savings from day one and receive the tax benefits all while investing in your home.

Veterans leading the charge to a brighter energy future

Over the last year, the solar industry has continued its double digit growth throughout the US, creating thousands of jobs along the way and outpacing the national average. Many of these jobs have been filled by our military veterans. We are proud of our veterans for their commitment and service to our country, and we are excited to have them securing our energy future by joining the solar workforce.

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Credit: The Solar Foundation

Veterans are now nearly 10% of the solar workforce and with their discipline, motivation and technical expertise that percentage should continue to grow and outperform the percentage of veteran employment nationwide.  Even the Department of Energy recognized the contribution that veterans could make to the solar industry and created the Solar Ready Vets program last year, which connects our nation’s skilled veterans to the solar industry, preparing them for careers as solar installers, sales representatives, and system inspectors.

Over 8% of our Third Sun Solar team is made up of people who have served in the military and we thank them for their service to our country as well as the work they do now to secure America’s energy future.