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Solar Mythbusting: Can Solar Work in a Blackout?

 

One of the major benefits of going solar is being able to be more energy independent.  The idea behind it all is that if the sun is out, then your system should be able to produce energy.  Now, what happens when there is a power outage when the sun is out?  Can your solar system still continue to work through this?  Well, the answer is a bit more complicated than you think.  See it all depends on what you have.

 

If your system happens to have a battery backup, then you should be able to use the battery in the case of a blackout. If homeowners can also choose to have a battery backup installed, the battery lets you store excess generated power from your system but they do have a limited capacity.  However, batteries are a bit pricey for most solar owners, and for those who are tied to the grid, your system cannot give you immunity from a blackout.  But that doesn’t mean they aren’t working, it’s most likely because of the grid itself.

 

During the event of a blackout, whether it be because of weather damages or mandated, all systems are required to be turned off (by law) for safety purposes. This is because there are damages somewhere along the lines that require repair, and in order for utility teams to safely look at it, the lines need to be shut off.  If the electric currents were still flowing, these workers risk losing their lives, therefore all lines are to be shut off.

 

Now there are ways around this. If the homeowner chooses to, there is a special hybrid inverter that can disconnect automatically from the utility grid and deliver power locally.  This means that the energy you produce won’t flow along the damaged lines so it won’t pose a risk to the utility workers. The only downside to this is that it will only work during the day when your panels are able to generate energy.

 

Ideally, as long as the sun is out, you should be able to enjoy full uninterrupted power. But in the event of a grid blackout, even your panels cannot protect you, unless you choose to buy extra equipment for your system. It’s rare that Ohio gets blackouts, and if it were to happen, everyone on the grid would be affected, not just you. Being energy independent has its pros and cons, however, this issue is minor compared to all the benefits.  We believe that making the switch is still worth it in the end.

 

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Our Solar Professionals – Solar Consultant, Michael Schaal

Michael Schaal is a renewable energy advocate and recent independent commercial solar consultant.

While relatively new to commercial solar, Michael has been passionate about renewable energy for many years.  His initial interest led him to pursue solar energy for his own home after successfully overturning local homeowner association restrictions on solar.

 

 

 

In addition to promoting solar in his neighborhood (3 homes and counting!), Michael is also active regionally with Solar United Neighbors and has presented at their annual conference on overcoming Home Owners Association obstacles.

Prior to becoming active in the renewable energy industry, Michael worked for the U.S. Department of Treasury and later as a physician in pediatric cardiology.  Michael graduated from Wake Forest University with a B.S. in Business and from the Ohio State University School of Medicine.  Outside of work, Michael volunteers for a national climate change organization and enjoys hiking, bicycling, and spending time with his wife and two children.

2019 Solar FAQs Answered

This year we’ve noticed a trend in the questions coming from you! So, here’s a FAQ sheet to help you start to understand some of the answers to the many solar questions you likely have.

 

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2019 Solar FAQs Answered

This year we’ve noticed a trend in the questions coming from you! So, here’s a FAQ sheet to help you start to understand some of the answers to the many solar questions you likely have.

 

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The Solar Tax Credit: Does Re-roofing Count?

Many homeowners consider reroofing prior to making the decision to go solar. Solar panels last for many years. They are warrantied at 25 years and often last 40+ years. Solar is often still functioning at 80% for the years following the warrantied life. Having a good roof to support the panels for their long life is vital.

 

The investment tax credit, otherwise known as the solar tax credit will allow you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar system from your federal taxes.

 

This credit often raises a question: Can a taxpayer include the entire cost of a new roof in conjunction with the solar panels?

 

 

Upfront Tax Disclaimer

We are not tax professionals & this post does not constitute professional tax advice or guidance. We have been in the solar market for 20 years, so we are sharing our expertise. But ultimately the decision to take the cost of your re-roof on the Investment Tax Credit form is a choice between you, your family and your tax professional.

Back to the question:

Can a taxpayer include the entire cost of a new roof in conjunction with the solar panels?

The answer: No

Don’t listen to any contractor or solar installer who tells you differently. We don’t want your family to be audited by the IRS. And we especially don’t want you or your family to have to repay the ineligible tax credit, plus interest, especially when you aren’t expecting it.

Tax regulations can be tricky to understand for those of us who haven’t studied the IRS code. That’s why we’ve taken the bits only relevant to roofing and re-roofing. We take a deep dive here.

The section pertaining to eligible expenses (Sec. 25D) explicitly states:

“Qualified solar electric property costs.

Qualified solar electric property costs are costs for property that uses solar energy to generate electricity for use in your home located in the United States. No costs relating to a solar panel or other property installed as a roof (or portion thereof) will fail to qualify solely because the property constitutes a structural component of the structure on which it is installed. Some solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles serve the function of both traditional roofing and solar electric collectors, and thus serve functions of both solar electric generation and structural support. These solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles can qualify for the credit. This is in contrast to structural components such as a roof’s decking or rafters that serve only a roofing or structural function and thus do not qualify for the credit. The home doesn’t have to be your main home.”

 

When you go online, you’ll find different opinions interpreting the question posed. Below we’ve done some research to debunk some of the biggest arguments for including the re-roof cost when you take the solar investment tax credit.

 

Problem 1: The current iteration of the IRS code is not vague, but past iterations have been.

 

The eligible expenses section reads:

“Some solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles serve the function of both traditional roofing and solar electric collectors, and thus serve functions of both solar electric generation and structural support. These solar roofing tiles and solar roofing shingles can qualify for the credit. This is in contrast to structural components such as a roof’s decking or rafters that serve only a roofing or structural function and thus do not qualify for the credit.”

 

These sentences were not included in past versions of the code from prior years. However, they are now. The last sentence clearly states that structural components of a roof do not qualify for the solar investment tax credit.

 

Problem 2:  Just because someone successfully claimed the tax credit for a wrong amount and didn’t get audited, doesn’t mean they were correct in doing so.

 

The IRS form requires no proof of purchase, receipts, contracts or invoices to prove how much you spent or what expenses were for. The form itself makes it easy to get away with anything. So, many people do. We don’t advise doing this!

 

Problem 3: Using the logic that  “the roof supports the panels, therefore they must qualify,” doesn’t work…. your entire house could qualify then, too, right?

 

You can’t have a roof without a house. So could you build a house, put solar on it, and claim it all as the solar tax credit?

 

In Conclusion

Is the person telling you to use the solar tax credit for your roof a salesperson wanting your sale? If it’s someone who just wants a sale, this exhibits low integrity. It’s a selfish approach and it is not based on facts. While it would be nice to be able to take the tax credit against both costs, they aren’t eligible legally. Third Sun Solar can point you to the appropriate form, but how you fill it out is between you and your tax professional. In short, we are not tax professionals and do not offer tax advice. We encourage you to speak with yours to understand how you plan to use the solar investment tax credit.

 

 

 

Santa Goes Solar Case Study

All Santa & Mrs. Clause wanted for Christmas this year was to GO SOLAR. This holiday season Mr. & Mrs. Claus installed a 27.6 kW solar array at their personal home on the North Pole. They paired their solar purchase with the addition of four Tesla Powerwall’s to keep the Christmas lights lit and hot cocoa steaming hot when Northern Lights flash. These electric outbursts of solar particles often are the cause of grid failure at the North Pole.

Why Did Santa Go Solar?

This year Santa wanted to give a gift that could heal the world. And like a true Christmas Miracle, Ol’ Saint Nicholas discovered the wonders of Solar. He believed if he did his part in accelerating the shift to clean energy with a home Solar Installation, he really COULD begin to heal the world.

Like many folks, Kris Kringle has switched out all his holiday lights for LED’s. He knows that running lights year-round is an added household expense. “I’m not the Financial Manager at home,” Santa says with a Ho Ho Ho, “That’s my wife, Mrs. Claus.”

After undergoing a huge expansion of his personal holiday light display five years ago, which included the addition of an eleven story fully lit Christmas Tree, the electricity bills began climbing.  Mrs. Claus says: “I’ve been making a list of electric expenses and checking it twice. It was time that we started looking for an alternative to the way we’ve been doing things for the past hundred or so years. Of course, I will never get in the way of adding lights, candy cane machines, and additional tools in Santa’s home office. But when I saw the electricity rates begin to climb, I told Santa that we may need to look for alternatives.”

For Santa, his motivations for going solar were primarily environmental.

In the spirit of Christmas, Santa says that he’s most excited to comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. Santa recognizes his visibility and, as a public figure, is determined to comply with guidelines surrounding the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the advancement of sustainable energy.

“I used to abide by the old adage: “Naughty kids get coal, Nice kids get solar panels!” but over the years, I’ve come to realize the bigger picture – all kids get Solar Panels.

“This year we’re experiencing some changes. We are having to walk further and further to find a decent ice-skating rink. It is harder and harder to recruit reindeer to fly the sleigh. And on the big night when Santa Clause comes to town, in some places of the world the air quality is so poor Rudolph’s nose can’t shine so bright.”

It is important to start sending the message now to kids, Naughty or Nice – they’re going to need to be a part of the solution!

Solar Incentives

When asked about incentives, Santa said that the United States tax credits did not apply in the North Pole. But he is glad that the US Federal Tax Credit for solar will be available until the end of 2021. Speaking from experience Santa says: “Even without incentives, it is still worth going solar!”

The Solar Installation…

Santa can recognize a specialty when he sees one. The solar installers weren’t the first humans to visit Santa and the elves over the years, but they have been some of the few.

He said he thought about asking the elves to design, permit & install the system, but between their lack of expertise in anything outside of small toy electronics and the backlog of holiday toy-making – it was worth inviting humans up to the north pole to install the solar energy system professionally.

Santa chose REC solar panels for their high-efficiency, durability and 25-year product warranty. He was also quite pleased with the black-on-black design, which he knows his out-of-town guests will find quite attractive.

Always looking to the future…

“We’re excited to have an electric powered sleigh of the fleet this year. And to be delivering solar panels to homes across the world. It’s an honor to do my part in creating a brighter future.”

“And don’t think that up on the rooftop I don’t notice who is else is doing their part, Santa is always watching!” he said with a wink.