Residential Solar Panels, Solar Installer
Written by Lisa Walsh

Solar on Slate Roofs in Washington DC

Residential Solar Panels, Solar InstallerWith Washington DC offering homeowners the best solar incentives in the country – its small wonder that solar panels are going up like hotcakes. In order to meet the demand, most solar installers are adept at designing and efficiently installing solar panel systems on most roof types in DC: namely flat roofs and asphalt shingle. However, homeowners with a traditional slate roof will need to shop around for a qualified, slate-savvy installer.

Slate Roof Challenge

Washington DC Solar,Solar ServiceIn this order, the most common types of residential rooftops in Washington DC are flat, asphalt shingle and slate. Asphalt shingle are generally the simplest type of roof to attach to. They are flexible, soft and flashing/sealing all of the attachments has been fine-tuned to near perfection by the solar industry. Flat roofs are generally installed using no/few penetrations either with parapet-to-parapet rails or ballast-weighted systems. Slate, however, is among the most challenging roof type to work on for the following reasons:

  1. Expertise Tools and Labor Required

    Solar Service, Home Solar PanelsTraining a work crew adept at installing solar on a slate roof takes a significant investment of time, tools and techniques. As slate is a type of stone material – specialized diamond-tipped drills and copper replacement nails are required to penetrate and reattach the slate; drill too fast – and you’re likely to break the slate. Even with the most cautious of installers, a number of slates are still likely to end up broken and spares need to be kept on hand. Ideally – artificial slate can be used for replacing broken slates. Specialized flashings designed for use with the larger slate tiles must be used to seal around the attachment.

  2. Additional Labor

    Due to the fact that slate is essentially a smooth, slippery thin stone – this can be particularly challenging for installers to navigate. Couple this with a steep pitch, and extended hours on the roof due to time-consuming drilling techniques, labor estimates can easily double or triple when compared to an asphalt shingle roof; not to mention a particularly challenging and long day(s) for the installation crew.

The above two points ultimately result in increased costs for the customer. Fortunately, for DC residents with slate roofs, the financial incentives are such that paybacks are still generally under (or around) the 5 year mark – with many years of clear income to follow. Furthermore, as slate roofs can last 100 years or more, the roof and solar combination is set for a minimum 25 year relationship – and likely a good decade beyond that.

Solar panel, solar energy,Solar in Critical Areas Annapolis
Written by John Marrah III

Solar in Critical Areas – Maryland, Virginia and Delaware

Solar Panels, Solar Energy, Solar in Critical Areas AnnapolisWhat is the Critical Area?

The Critical Area includes all land within 1,000 feet of Maryland’s tidal waters and tidal wetlands. Along our precious shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, we have had many homeowners looking to take advantage of enhancing their waterfront landscape with solar panels.

Aside from the clear economic advantages, we are in solar for all the right reasons; to protect the environment, preserve our natural resources, and to leave the world a better place. With that said, installing solar in the critical areas encourages us to comply with two important regulations that ensure shoreline preservation.

Lot Coverage

In the critical area, you are allotted a certain amount of lot coverage depending on the size of your lot. Our first step in the process is to prepare a “Lot Coverage Calculation” worksheet that indicates how much lot coverage you have available and ensures that there is legally enough space to account for the square footage of your new solar panels.

Buffer Management Plan

Though lot coverage is not impacted by solar installations outside of the critical area, the total area of additional lot coverage leads us to our next calculation. The Buffer Management Plan requires that every square foot of additional lot coverage is mitigated by planting either grasses, shrubs, or trees within 100 feet of the shoreline. The goal for this mitigation is to slow down the erosion of the shoreline, and we are big supporters of this mission. There is some flexibility with the types of flora that can be planted in this area, so we consult the homeowner in selecting preferred plants for their new shoreline oasis.

Though this process involves a few more steps in terms of permits, we have become subject matter experts thanks to our waterfront solar supporters in Kent County, Queen Anne’s County, Talbot County, Dorchester County and Anne Arundel County. Every county has a slightly different twist on their permitting requirements, and this helps local companies like SES thrive.

Home Solar Panel ,Solar Service
Written by Rick Peters

Peters’ Journey to Net Zero

Solar Service,Home Solar PanelsWhat Net Zero Meant for Us? Our Severna Park based, four-person family was looking to offset some of our home’s dirty energy, but we really did not have an expectation we could offset it all, but we had to start somewhere. We took our first step shortly after I joined the solar industry in 2008.

Low Hanging Fruit. In February 2009, we installed a 120-square foot solar water heating system to offset most of our water heating, and a small portion of our space heating for the first floor of our home. We saw big savings from this 3-panel system right away. Ever since, I enjoy the act of turning off the back-up water heating in April and leaving it off until almost October. For us, offsetting a dirty and expensive oil-fired boiler was the obvious low hanging fruit. We would later convert that remaining load to natural gas when the utility extended the pipeline to our home.

Solar Electric (PV) With the rest of the heat, A/C, and appliances all running off electric, it was time to look at the next opportunity. A few years later, when budget allowed, we decided to add a 5 kW solar PV system to our second story roof which faces SSE. My best determination was that we offset just over 40% of our electric load with that PV system. We were happy, but knew we’d want to find a way to get to NetZero eventually. , . I began to evaluate the remaining rooftops and consider what it would take to get us there. Solar panel efficiencies had improved a lot over the past several years so this reduced the remaining roof space we’d need to hit our goal

Phase 2 (PV). In the spring of 2016 we finished filling the balance of the south roof with some slightly higher wattage panels. As part of the same expansion, we added 24 relatively high efficiency panels to the E/W, low slope, rooftop of our one-story garage. We now had a total of 6.6 kW Equivalent of solar thermal and 13.8 kW of PV.

Not There Yet….We almost tripled our PV with the last upgrade and according to my calculations, this would get us to NetZero electricity. We’d know for sure by April, the annual true-up time frame for netmetering with BGE. When April 2017 came around, we were disappointed to come up a bit short (unfortunately, with a couple teenagers in the house, my usage predictions were a little off). Where do we go from here? I was not ready to put panels on the north roof, there had to be something available to us on the demand side.

Oops – More Low Hanging Fruit…One thing about Energy Efficiency, there’s always more opportunity. I had changed out many bulbs to LED over the prior several years, mostly through attrition, but I had not replaced any of the more than 2 dozen canister lights we had throughout the ceiling upstairs and down. Not only were these lights very inefficient, but the heat they generated in the summer was just adding to our air-conditioning load. We found the LED replacements on sale and replaced them all, as well as the remaining few incandescent lights in the house.

Commercial Solar Energy,Solar ServiceEureka. we have arrived!… In April of 2018 we received a $46 check from BGE for the annual overage from solar. With the kids heading off to college soon and a new refrigerator around the corner, I’m confident our checks from BGE will be getting bigger for the near future. At least until we purchase an electric car…

Eastern Shore MD,Solar Service, Home Solar Panels
Written by Lisa Walsh

Non-South facing solar panel installs in Maryland, DC and Virginia

The Design

Eastern Shore ,MD,Solar Service, Home Solar PanelsWhen planning a solar panel system for your home, the first consideration for any solar designer is the tilt and orientation of your roof areas.  We need to know which roof(s) will ensure the most optimum solar output – which translates to the best Return on Investment.   For us here in Maryland, the most optimum solar roof orientation is Due South at 180 degrees.  Of course, not everyone has this perfectly oriented roof and our customer base consists of homes that have South, West, East and everything-in-between orientations.  Occasionally we even install on North-facing roofs if the pitch of the roof is low enough that panels are close to flat, or can be tilted southerly.

For homes that face East-West, you may be wondering which roof would best suited for solar.  This is a good question given the fact that the output of your solar panels is directly related to your Return on Investment and how quickly the panels can pay for themselves.

If either East or West favors a more Southerly angle, then that would likely be a more favorable roof.  Assuming that there aren’t issues related to shadingor obstructions caused by chimneys, vents, skylights and other roof-placed items.

If the house has a perfectly split East-West orientation, with all things equal – the next consideration would be roof angle; the lower the tilt (i.e. closer to horizontal) – the more solar energy will be generated over the course of the day.  If the tilt on either side is the same then we would usually favor the West facing side.   Here in Maryland, DC and Virginia we tend to have cloudier mornings, and sunnier afternoons going into dusk.  Therefore we want to capture the late afternoon sun (west facing) more than early morning sun (East facing).  Of course, should you happen to have a tree, chimney or other obstructing factor(s) on the West roof – we’d favor the East.

The Economics

Homeowners looking at an East-West installation often have concerns as to whether or not their system will be profitable enough, compared to its south-facing counterparts.    Disqualifiers for cost-effective solar systems include shading and limited available roof space.  Rarely, however, is a home found unsuitable due to a Non-Southerly facing roof alone.

To illustrate, following is a comparison of a 10kW system’s output respective to East, West and South facing orientations.  Data compiled using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) weather data patterns for Baltimore, MD –

10kW system installed on a 20 degree pitched roof with zero shade

 SOUTH (180 degrees)WEST (270 degrees)EAST (90 degrees)
ANNUAL OUTPUT13,224kWh11,389kWh11,328 kWh
*Annual $avings$1853 per year$1594 per year$1586

*Savings based on a conservative $3.00/watt installation, and $0.14/watt BGE rate

Data from PV WATTS

As illustrated, although perfectly South would be ideal, the East and West orientations provide a competitive amount of solar and would add only a few months to the payback period.  If you were choosing between East and West (as opposed to installing on both), the difference is nominal.  The choice of which roof may come down to aesthetic preference, distance to utility meter and regional weather patterns.

Residential Solar Panels, Solar Service
Written by Lisa Walsh

Coming Up! Solar Open House in Ellicott City, MD

SOLAR OPEN HOUSE with Kirk Cummings

Residential Solar Panels, Solar Service , InstallerWHEN:  Sat, Sept 17th 2016   |   2pm – 5pm

WHERE:  4919 Windpower Way, Ellicott City  MD  21403

Nothing says Sunshine’s a Wastin! like a freshly installed solar power system.  Join Kirk at this Howard County residence to get up-close-and-personal with an active solar system.  The homeowner will be on hand to answer questions about their decision-making process as well as working with SES.

Kirk will be on hand to tour the system with you and answer all of your questions onsite at the home of the Syed Family where Kirk designed and SES recently installed an 8.55k Solar power system including(30) Suniva 285 watt Solar panels and a Solar Edge Inverter System.

Solar Open House – $250 Discount!

All open house attendees who sign up for a proposal and sign their contract within 30 days will receive a $250 discount on their PV system installation.

Residential Solar Panels, Solar Service
Written by Anonymous

Environment Showcase at the Annapolis Film Festival 2013

Residential Solar, Panels Solar ServiceSave the Date: March 23rd, 9.30am at St. Johns College (Francis Scott Key Auditorium)

In February 2012, a few of us local, environmentally-minded companies got together and welcomed ex-CIA director James Woolsey, among others, to lead a panel discussion after the showing of Energy On Trial. The event was a great success

– just what you’d want from at this type of event – a few hundred local folks showed up, we watched a thought-provoking movie and either participated or bore witness to the controversial banter back and forth between panel members (nuclear vs other renewables).  As folks tumbled out into the lobby of the Auditorium they were met with some yummy treats and a few of us local, sustainable organizations and businesses ready to mobilize their renewed commitment to the environment.

This year, we’ve joined the larger platform of the Annapolis Film Festival and incorporated an Environmental Showcase at St. John Francis Scott Key Auditorium that features Robert Redford’s film “Watershed”, an environmental panel discussion as well as sustainable company/organization presence and refreshments.  Non-for-profits such as Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Annapolis Green will be alongside locally owned businesses such as Solar Energy Services, Inc. and Rain Barrels of Annapolis.

Download the Environment Focus flyer

Purchase tickets and passes here.

The Environment Showcase is part of the larger Annapolis Film Festival, March 21-24, 2013. In partnership with the City of Annapolis and the local Arts and Business Communities, the Annapolis Films festival aspires to bring a major new cultural event to our area.  90 films in four days will be showed at various sites around Annapolis involving guest speakers, filmmakers, parties, and much community involvement.  For more information contact The Annapolis Film Festival

Written by Rick Peters

Governor’s Bill Would Reward Those Who Buy New Energy Systems

O’Malley backs Md.’s solar-power water heating market

The legislation would boost a type of renewable energy generation that hasn’t received the same cachet as photovoltaic solar panels but can be significantly cheaper. Solar panels have long been supported by the solar credits, which help add extra pay-back to the technology aside from reduced utility bills. Now the same benefit will be afforded to owners of solar water heating systems, and it could spark new jobs for solar companies.

“It’s fantastic, ” Dimitris Spiliadis, co-owner of the Black Olive Restaurant and the soon-to-open Inn at the Black Olive hotel, said of the legislation.

Spiliadis recently completed construction of a solar water heating system on the roof the Fells Point hotel, and he said the technology’s efficiency and energy savings rivals that of solar panels. “Recognizing that in Maryland would be something that would put Maryland on the forefront of renewable energy promotion, ” Spiliadis said.

While the details of the legislation haven’t been revealed, the idea behind solar credits is that the owner of a solar system accuries one credit for each megawatt hour of solar power generated. The credits can be sold in a marketplace to utilities or other energy companies that are looking to buy credits if they haven’t generated enough solar power on their own. Prices vary but can reach $300 a piece.

Solar hot water heaters do not use solar panel technology; instead, a system of tubes through a copper plate heat water. There is also an electric-powered backup system for use as needed at night and during winter.

O’Malley said Jan. 12 a bill making solar water heating systems eligible for generating solar renewable energy credits would be part of his legislative agenda. His spokesman Shaun Adamec would not provide any further details but said the bill would likely be unveiled Jan. 24.

A smiliar bill nearly became law in 2010 but fell short in the House of Delegates despite a fervent lobbying effort from members of the industry such as Mike Healy, owner of Skyline Innovations in Washington, D.C., and Rick Peters, president of Solar Energy Services in Millersville. The governor’s backing and the extra time lawmakers have had to study the issue boost the bill’s chances in 2011.

That could mean Maryland will soon a similar flurry of jobs that companies like Skyline have seen in Washington, D.C., where solar water heating projects are already eligible for the credits. The added cash flow from sale of the credits provides an extra incentive and also makes it easier to finance the projects.

Healy said his company has done about 10 jobs in Washington since November 2009 and has another 1- under contract, compared to one completed job in Maryland. A typical job has a crew of four to six and costs anywhere from $8000 to $10,000 for a residential system to 10 times as much for a large apartment building or hotel, Peters said.

Adding the ability to sell credits could expand that audience of customers. For the typical home a solar panel system can cost three to four times more than a solar water heating system.

“We expect it will allow many more folks to participate in renewable energy further down on the income spectrum, ” Peters said.

solar panels. Solar energy
Written by Lisa Walsh

SES Project Featured on ABC News Affiliate Channel 8

Crosstown Properties, LLC – Multifamily Solar Water Heating (Completed July 2010) – Washington DC

home painters, interior paintingSES was engaged by a third party solar project developer to install a 32 panel (1280 SF) solar water heating system for an occupied apartment building in Washington D.C. The system included the installation and integration of 1600 gallons of additional solar storage in non-pressurized tanks. The system is designed to offset approximately 70% of the water heating load for this 45 unit apartment building. The solar developer provided all of the capital to install the system at no cost to the building owner. The building owner receives clean energy at a discount to their traditional natural gas, achieving a monthly savings immediately upon commissioning of the system.

Commercial Solar Energy, Commercial Solar Service
Written by Rick Peters

Rep. Frank Kratovil Tours SES Job Site

Kratovil Jobs Tour Makes Stop in Severna Park; Witnesses Solar Energy Cutting Costs, Protecting the Environment, and Creating Jobs

Commercial Solar Service,Commercial Solar EnergyWashington, DC – Today, Rep. Frank Kratovil continued his First District Jobs Tour with a stop in Severna Park, where he visited a work site with the owner of a local solar energy firm that has taken advantage of recent green energy initiatives to grow and hire new workers.

With Congress in recess this week, Rep. Kratovil has been touring communities throughout the First District, meeting with small business owners, visiting manufacturing hubs, and listening to the men and women on the front line of job creation to see firsthand the continuing challenges faced by small business owners and employees in the current economic environment. Kratovil has made job creation a top priority of his first term in Congress, introducing a number of proposals to empower small businesses to create new jobs here in Maryland.

This morning, Kratovil’s Jobs Tour stopped in Severna Park, where Rep. Kratovil joined local entrepreneur Rick Peters at a work site where his company had recently installed solar water heating panels to help homeowners reduce their energy costs. Mr. Peters is President of Solar Energy Services (SES), a small business located in Millersville that has added jobs this year as a result of the Recovery Act, and stands to grow even further if Congress passes energy legislation creating new incentives for renewable energy.

“Renewable energy is one of the most efficient and cost cutting ways to, protect our environment, reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create good jobs in an emerging field,” said Rep. Kratovil. “Instead of constantly focusing on big business and big banks, Congress need to focus on empowering small businesses like SES so that they are able to create more good paying jobs in our communities, and the families that install these new technologies will start to save on their energy bills.”

SES has grown its workforce by 25% this year, after benefitting significantly from stimulus funding that allowed Maryland to continue its solar grant program. SES would be able to expand even further and create additional jobs if the Senate acted to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act, legislation that Rep. Kratovil backed in the House of Representatives to create new incentives for renewable energy and a more stable market for small businesses that focus on renewable energy solutions.

“Our small business has been able to grow because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and Maryland’s solar grant programs. If Congress passes the energy legislation that Rep. Kratovil backed, we could create even more jobs and help even more citizens and businesses enjoy the benefits of solar energy – whether it’s solar water heating or solar electric. I would like to thank Rep. Kratovil for taking the time to learn about our small business and for his support of common-sense energy proposals that create jobs, save money, and encourage clean, domestic, renewable energy,” said Peters.

Kratovil has made small business job creation a top legislative focus in Washington, introducing a number of proposals to create incentives for entrepreneurs to create or expand small businesses. He authored the Small Business Formation and Job Creation Act, a bill to increase the tax deduction for small business startup expenses from $5,000 to $20,000, which has twice passed the House of Representatives as part of larger small businesses tax packages. Additionally, Kratovil authored the Small Business Property Reimbursement Act, which extended a key tax deduction for small business owners that invest in new equipment for their businesses and was signed into law as a provision in the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act.