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…

Residential Solar Panels, Solar Service
Written by Lisa Walsh

Diagnosing and Preventing Critter Damage to Solar Panel Arrays

Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels It’s no secret that hundreds of thousands of homes have installed roof mounted solar panels, with that number increasing with each passing day. The upward trend brings increasing problems that arise when tech meets nature. In an acorn shell we’re talking critters who nest, feed, chew and live their critter lives in and around solar panel installations.

Which Critters?

Any animal that can fit under your array poses a risk to a solar installation. Pigeons and other birds looking for a warm/safe place to build nests may do so under a solar array. This doesn’t usually cause any malfunction to the system. However, water build-up and bird waste may cause minor roof damage and may be more of a nuisance than anything.

Squirrels, mice and rats, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on a solar system. These members of the rodent-family have teeth that require filing down throughout the course of their lifetime. The wires, plastic connectors and small parts that run underneath the panels can be excellent teeth-filing equipment. We have seen squirrels chew the outer plastic covering of wires, as well as penetrate junction boxes on the back of panels and chew into the solar panel interiors. This type of damage will cause panels and even whole systems to cease power production.

Solar Service, Home Solar Panels ,Washington DC SolarWho’s at Risk?

Any solar system can be susceptible to critter damage. However, those most at risk are usually systems that are in wooded areas; particularly where tree branches extend close to the rooftops, allowing easy access for squirrels to make the jump from branch to solar system array. Although many homes and businesses fit this description, it’s also worth mentioning that for every critter complaint we’ve had – there are 20 or 30 more systems that have had NO issues with critters. However, it’s also worth mentioning that most of our customers are no more than 10 years into a 25 – 40-year solar system lifespan. Time will tell what the probability of critter-damage risk over a system’s lifetime will end up being.

Detecting and Diagnosing the Damage

Most solar system owners first become aware of a problem when their solar system does not seem to be producing as well as it used to. For homeowners with online monitoring, they may see that a string of panels – or individual panels (in the case of those systems outfitted with a microinverters or optimizers) are no longer registering power output. Others may hear scampering around on their roofs and may notice their utility bills creeping up. That’s when they call our service department. Our technicians need to remove and inspect each panel, as well as their connecting cables, suspected of damage. In most cases, we can remediate the wire damage onsite without engaging the solar panel manufacturer for a replacement panel. Whether this takes removal of every solar panel, or just a few – depends on the extent of the damage or ability to detect the extent of the damage.

Home Solar Panels,Solar Service, InstallationInstalling Critter Guard

There are a variety of anti-small-animal solutions out there for solar systems designed to create a barrier around the perimeter of the solar system. We usually choose the one most compatible with your solar system; depending on the type of racking initially installed. Most critter guards are made of some type of strong steel-mesh screen and they do not require drilling into the roof.

One of our more popular systems, the aptly named “Critter Guard” employs clips that attach to the bottom flange of the module frame and have hooks to snap the screen into place. The clips are painted steel and can be snapped to the appropriate length to accommodate height variations so there are no small spaces that accommodate a small animal. The mesh screen is vinyl-coated steel, rigid enough to keep out even the most industrious squirrel.

Residential Solar Panels ,Solar ServiceCritter Guard is now a standard option that we offer to our customers and we strongly encourage it when the structure has trees that are encroaching on the rooftop. While the tree branches may not be close enough today to make contact with the roof, over time, if not maintained, they can grow out to become that ideal path to an appealing new nesting site.

What are the costs involved?

The costs are always less if you can prevent the problem in the first place. Adding Critter Guard at the time of installation typically costs from $500 – $2000 depending on the size of your system; but of course this cost is integral to the solar system so most tax advisors would agree that the 30% tax credit would apply.

The costs for any rodent damage remediation will depend on the extent of the damage. Critter damage is not related to defects in installation covered under our standard Workmanship Warranty; neither will most solar panel/inverter manufacturers consider this damage a Material defect. Our service department charges Hourly-Time + Materials. These costs may range anywhere from $500 to $4000 for a mid-sized solar system including all remediation and installation of Critter guard to prevent further damage. We recommend inquiring with your home’s insurance agent to see if the costs can be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Residential Solar Panels S,olar Service
Written by Lisa Walsh

Solar Financing via Maryland’s Be Smart Loan Program

Residential Solar ,Panels Solar ServiceSolar Energy Services, Inc. recently became an approved contractor with the Be SMART Home Loan Program. This State of Maryland financing vehicle offers unsecured loans of up to $30,000 at a 4.99% interest rate. Aimed towards Maryland residents looking to lower utility costs, improve energy efficiency and add value to their Maryland home. The following solar projects qualify:

Solar Electric (Photovoltaic) Systems

These grid-tied solar systems give homeowners the option of purchasing more than 25yr worth of electricity at a fraction of the cost of their “rented” utility rates. Systems are purchase outright, and are eligible for the multiple financial incentives currently available.

Solar Water Heating (Thermal)

These systems are entirely separate from solar electric (PV) systems. They are most cost-effective for a Maryland family of 4 or more who currently heats their home’s water with electric, propane or oil. They require a relatively small amount of roof space and the upfront investment is lower than solar electric.

What are the Loan Qualifications and requirements?

  • Maryland resident
  • Home Owner
  • Verification of income
  • Credit score over 640
  • Debt-to-income ratio below 50%
  • Completion of a home energy audit

There is up to $30,000 in financing available for eligible homeowners.

What other upgrades qualify for the Be Smart Loan program?

Other qualifying energy efficiency upgrades throughout the home could include: energy efficient roof replacement, geothermal system, air infiltration reduction measures, increased insulation, hot water system improvements, heating systems maintenance or replacement, programmable thermostats, ceiling fans, windows, doors, duct work and energy star appliance replacement.

Can any Contractor perform the work?

Contractors must be listed on the State of Maryland’s Approved Contractor List as found here: http://dhcd.maryland.gov/Residents/Documents/besmart/BeSMARTApprovedContractors.pdf

How do I Apply?

  1. 1. Schedule a solar site visit with Solar Energy Services, Inc.
  2. Submit the Be Smart Home Loan Application along with SES’s proposal of work to be performed
  3. Be SMART will processes your Home loan application. Approval is based on your proposal specifications, satisfactory credit and affordability
  4. Submit your Home Energy Audit from an Approved Contractor
  5. You receive Loan Approval along with the first of two project pay-outs
  6. Upon receipt of payment, your Be SMART Contractor, SES, moves forward with interconnection, permitting and subsequent solar panel installation.
  7. The final payment is provided by DHCD when the work is complete and a DHCD inspector confirms that the work meets specifications

MORE INFORMATION

CONTACT: BeSMART Home Loan Program

Community Development Administration

Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development

E: BeSmartHome.dhcd@maryland.gov​

P: 301-429-7402 ​​​​

Or

info@solarsaves.net

410-923-6090

Residential Solar Panels ,Solar Service
Written by Lisa Walsh

Question of the Day: Will the new Administration affect my Solar Incentives?

Should we be concerned about the new Republican Administration and the future of Solar Power?

Solar Energy, Residential Solar Panels ,Solar ServiceDue to its tremendous growth, popular appeal, and ever improving economics, solar power enjoys increasingly bi-partisan support on the Hill and in Governors offices around the country.  Due to this, we predict very little, if any, impact on solar growth from the current Administration and/or a Republican Congress.  To help explain this, let’s look at the three main drivers of successful solar economics for the typical solar consumer – Federal Tax Credit, SRECs, and cost of solar equipment:

Federal Tax Credit:  30% of system cost.  This has been an enormously successful tax incentive enabling wide scale deployment of solar on both a utility and distributed scale.  Economies of scale have helped to drive the cost of solar; while further increasing demand – allowing the solar industry to grow exponentially.  This has been applauded by both major political parties for the private capital investment opportunities and huge job growth in the solar sector.   In fact, the US solar industry currently employs more people than the US oil, gas, and coal industries combined.

The 30% solar investment tax credit (ITC) was extended by Congress (many of whom were Republican) in late 2015 and is designed to decline in future years to eventually fall back to a permanent 10%.  The ITC schedule from the December 2015 legislation is as follows:

2016 – 2019: The tax credit remains at 30 percent of the cost of the system. This means that in 2017, you can still get a major discounted price for your solar panel system.

2020: Owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 26 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes.

2021: Owners of new residential and commercial solar can deduct 22 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes.

2022 onwards: Owners of new commercial solar energy systems can deduct 10 percent of the cost of the system from their taxes. There is no federal credit for residential solar energy systems.

In a nutshell, most in the solar industry believe it would be political suicide for the majority of congressional representatives to vote for a repeal of this enormously successful Investment Tax Credit that is scheduled to decline anyway.  There are too many solar jobs and solar projects in Republican districts for the majority of Republicans to consider advocating for repeal.  The horse is out of the barn and solar is winning!

SRECs: Maryland and Washington DC offer Solar Renewable Energy Credits to solarized homes and businesses.  This is a State/District-mandated incentive that, if anything, shows signs of expanding among the 29 States that have currently adopted an RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard).  This is largely due to the fact that State Houses wish to support the exponential renewable energy sector job growth amidst the scheduled, declining Federal Support.

Solar Technology Costs:  Advancing technology, manufacturing scale, high adoption rates, and investor confidence in solar technology continue to drive down solar project costs.  We don’t see this momentum changing anytime soon.

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

Fannie-Mae Agrees: Solar is a MUST-DO for Homeowners

Fannie Mae Agrees:  Solar is a MUST-DO for homeowners

Solar Service, Home Solar PanelsJust last month, Mortgage Giant Fannie Mae announced their new mortgage option that allows solar energy projects to be rolled into the final mortgage amount.  Namely, the HomeStyle Energy Program is hot news for solar fans who use a Fannie Mae-approved lender for their mortgage; whether considering a first-time solar system purchase, or currently financing an existing solar system with an equity line of credit or unsecured loan.

Typical Solar Financing and Solar Energy

It’s no secret that solar energy system installations in Maryland and Washington DC have taken off like gangbusters.  In previous years, many Maryland homeowners were choosing to lease/rent solar panels in an effort to avoid upfront costs.  However, when compared with an outright solar purchase – a 20yr (or similar) solar lease proves to be quite expensive – as with most rental agreements.    Depending on whether the solar shopper lives in Washington DC or Maryland, the financial incentives (tax credits/SRECs) usually pay for between 40 – 80% of the system cost.  100% of this upfront solar cost needs to be sourced by the homeowner who usually use a financing vehicle such as an Equity Line of Credit or some sort of Unsecured Loan.

Fannie Mae’s Game-Changer…

As of June 2016, Fannie Mae borrowers have access to a new Energy Loan that allows them to simply add the cost of their solar system to their existing mortgage.  Here’s what makes this form of financing a game-changer:

  • Super-Low APR:  HomeStyle Energy can be used for new projects or to take higher-interest unsecured loans/lines of credit and refinance them or roll them into a potentially lower-cost mortgage.   In all likelihood this will result in unprecedented low financing costs for solar energy.
  • All Costs Covered:  Most financing vehicles have a non-negotiable cap on the loan amount, forcing some Homeowners to come up with a down payment.  With this program, lenders can finance up to 15% of the final property value.  For example, a typical single-family home located in Annapolis, MD may appraise for $350,000.  The available amount for the solar system on this Annapolis home would be $52,500.  In most cases, this amount would far exceed the amount of capital needed to complete the project, considering that most solar projects fall in the $24,000 – $34,000 range (before government incentives).
  • Peace of Mind:  The improvements also have to come with an energy report, whether a Home Energy Score Report or a Home Energy Rating Systems report, and must specify the monthly savings to the borrower.   Homeowners can rest assured that their mortgager fully supports the home improvement investment.

Does Every Home Qualify?

At this point in time, only Fannie-Mae  homebuyers or refinancers qualify.  The program does not extend to new construction or manufactured housing.  The following are eligible to apply:

  • New homebuyers
  • Existing mortgage holders looking to refinance their new solar system
  • Existing mortgage holders looking to refinance their existing financed solar system

All applicants have 180 days from close of mortgage note to complete the solar installation.  Bear in mind that refinancing homeowners may incur closing/additional fees in the transaction.

Contact your mortgage representative to see if the HomeEnergy Program is right for you.

Commercial Solar Energy ,Residential Solar Panels
Written by Lisa Walsh

The Ballasted Solar Attachment: Maryland and DC Solar Panels

Commercial Solar Energy, Residential Solar PanelsWays in which solar panel arrays can affix to a commercial building are as many and varied as the buildings they serve.  In this article, we’re focusing on one popular method of attachment – the Ballasted roof mounted system.

Many commercial solar prospects in and around the Maryland/Washington DC area have buildings with flat or low-sloped roofs.  These are generally defined as a roof with a 3:12 pitch or less.  For these applications, ballasted systems can offer a way of attaching solar arrays without any (or few) roof penetrations.   Many building-owners prefer this method of attachment as it negates the risk of leaking, particularly on flat roofs that may collect water.  With a ballasted system, the arrays are held down using the weight of the existing solar panel arrays, racking and – most importantly – concrete blocks.  These blocks are placed methodically throughout the system design to secure the arrays in place, resisting wind loads or other types of disturbance.

The addition of the ballast blocks to the solar system arrays adds additional weight to the roof.   As with any commercial solar project, this weight load is analyzed and approved by a licensed structural engineer as required by the permitting jurisdiction – with some differences in each locale.   Ballast racking manufacturers also specify the amount of blocks required throughout a design.  The number of blocks per panel typically varies throughout design due to array proximity to building edges, parapets, or other inconsistencies that can affect wind and snow loads.

Although ballasted systems have many advantages, as with any design, they have their disadvantages and are not compatible with every type of commercial building.   Let’s look at a generalized comparison scenario between a roof penetrated system and a Ballasted System:

Roof Penetrated System

Ballasted System

Labor Costs and CriteriaHIGH:  Penetrations require flashing and sealing techniques – sometimes requiring coordination with a roofer.LOW.   Labor skills required for installation are fairly straight-forward and require no roofer coordination.
Panel CountINCREASED:  Systems attached to roof substructure require less roof space for mounting.DECREASED:  Ballast-blocks require roof space and can limit the available space for solar panels
Roof LoadingDECREASED.  No concrete/ballast blockINCREASED:  Ballast blocks add weight to the roof
Design CriteriaFLEXIBLE:  Attached racking systems can usually negotiate hatches, HVAC equipmentLESS FLEXIBLE:  Because of the increased space required per panel – designs may be more rigid.  However most ballast racking does have reasonable flexibility.
Roof Pitch5 – 45 degreesGenerally less than 10 degrees

 

Multi-roofed commercial applications may have a variety of racking types for both sloped and pitched roofs. There are other options for flat roofs also, including attached and hybrid solutions that use a combination of both penetrated and non-penetrated techniques.

Home Solar Panels,Eastern Shore MD
Written by Rick Peters

Solar Energy Trends

Some Positive Trends:

Eastern Shore MD,Residential Solar PanelsThe Challenges:

Industry consolidation can be disruptive

Residential solar leasing is fast outpacing cash sales in many of the more developed states, like Maryland. It’s what many Americans want so it will continue to drive the market. It seems to work for more of America.   After all, we do like instant gratification and if I can save $10/month immediately, and feel good about it, where do I sign? While SES is typically strongly advocates for cash sales to our customers who are able, no one can argue the enormous impact and value that the various residential and commercial financing options have delivered. Getting solar access to the mainstream will be the most critical piece to advancing the development of distributed solar. It really has been transformational so far.

There’s other good news. System Pricing, though leveling off somewhat, has dropped dramatically in the past 5 years. While incentives decline as planned, the industry continues to drive down installation costs to maintain the impressive paybacks and internal rates of return.

Beneficiaries of solar price reductions include states like Maryland, who had the foresight to seed this industry over the last 6 years. Government and industry partnership in Maryland has built an economic environment that supports solar development and as a result, it is sustaining 2200 jobs while Maryland continues to meet its solar RPS goals. That’s right, our industry delivers over 2200 paychecks in Maryland. In fact, there is now a solar thermal equipment manufacturer in Baltimore. Much to be pleased about.

There’s also a darker side. Bankruptcies and consolidation of solar companies have carried the headlines quite a bit in the last year especially. While a natural part of the tech/business evolution cycle, consolidation and shake out are always disruptive, not only to industry members, but also to consumers of these solar energy products and services. As a result, all of the solar “investors” are asking lots more good questions – particularly about the longevity of the manufacturer and the installer. Popular questions, particularly in the solar PV panel world, are “Who will be here to support my warranty?” and “What is the design track record of these systems?”

The beneficiaries of these trends will be those with a proven commitment to the industry either through time or capital. It’s that commitment that gives customers confidence of future support if and when it is needed. Whether it’s an installer with 35 years experience or a manufacturer like SunPower that has 25 years in business, longevity is a key indicator of future availability to support the install base.

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