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.

Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels
Written by Lisa Walsh

Poly Vs Mono Panels for Residential Solar Installations

IfSolar Service, Home Solar Panels,Commercial Solar Service ,Annapolis MD – like most educated consumers – you’re getting multiple quotes for your solar power installation, you’re probably having to compare between various equipment offerings by your solar vendors. Themostprominent of these offerings – both in terms of financial investment and warranty security –are the solar panels themselves.

Solar panels come in a variety of power ratings. For residential applications, the most popular panels today usually fall somewhere between 270 watts and 315 watts, with price points that usually increase with the wattage (in the standard size footprint). Less obvious, however, is the type of solar panel you may be asked to choose between.

In general, your solar quote will include a panel whose cells are made from crystalline silicon. Silicon is us

ed in solar panels not necessarily because it’s the most optimum semi-conductor available – but because of the extensive research on the processing and physics of silicon grown out of the integrated circuit industry. The processes used to access and arrange the silicon determine whether a panel is deemed to be

As the name suggests, monocrystalline panels utilize a single, continuous crystal structure in the processing of the silicon ingots from which the solar cells are made. It used to be that this high-grade silicon resulted in substantially higher efficiency rates than other solar panels. However, improvements to manufacturing in polysilicon processes have closed this gap significantly. Still, homes and businesses looking for the highest possible efficiency rating on a solar panel would likely choose a Mono panel.

The silicon ingots used for manufacturing the solar cells for Poly panels are manufactured by melting many fragments of silicon together to form the ingot. Because this results in many crystals in each cell, there is usually less freedom for the electrons to move. As a result, polycrystalline solar panels typically have lower efficiency ratings than monocrystalline panels.

Should I choose a Mono or Poly solar panel?

As with any choice it comes down to buyer preference:

Aesthetics: In general, Mono panels have more options if you are concerned with how your solar panels will look. If you want something low-profile; maybe a uniform, all-black aesthetic devoid of white lines, silver racking and diamonds – most manufacturers offer this aesthetic in a Mono panel. However, there are now a few poly panels available in all-black. For example, REC has a 280-watt poly panel on the market that is now available in all-black.

Cost:  Mono panels tend to cost more than poly panels. A small roof looking to get the highest possible solar fraction by going with a high wattage solar panel will most likely end up with a Mono panel as these include the highest wattage options (300w plus). However, if a homeowner has the roof space and is looking for the highest possible value, it may be most cost-effective expand the array by one or two more panels and go with a Poly. Many commercial applications utilize poly panels due to the focus on cost over aesthetics, particularly if the panels are not visible from the ground, due to a flat roof installation.

Performance:  Due to the amount of information out there disparaging efficacy of poly panels compared to monos, this is a subject worth broaching. It is true that under factory test conditions, poly solar panels tend to have slightly lower heat tolerance than monocrystalline solar panels. As a result, under high temperatures, poly panels would perform slightly worse than their mono counterparts. Heat can affect the production performance of solar panels and shorten their lifespans. However, this effect is minor, and most homeowners do not need to take it into account. This is evidenced by the standard 25 year manufacturer’s warranty is the same for both mono and poly panels.

solar energy, Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels,
Written by Rick Peters

Press Release: Solar at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Press Statement
6-15-15

Solar Service, Home Solar Panels, Chesapeake MDCBF Merrill Center to Install 106 kW Solar System

(ANNAPOLIS, MD) The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Solar Energy Services, Inc. (SES) announced an agreement today for SES to design and build a 106 kW, grid-tied solar photovoltaic system at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, CBF’s headquarters.

The Merrill Center rooftop solar system will include more than 370 solar panels from US manufacturer SolarWorld, as well as inverter systems from Solar Edge. The panels will be installed primarily on the available roof tops, but the design also calls for some unique solar shade structures to provide additional benefits to the facility and its occupants.

SES president Rick Peters shared that SES is pleased to participate in this marquee project. “I know personally that CBF has led the way on sustainable initiatives in our region for a very long time. It is an honor to be selected to construct this project, which will help advance CBF’s message and their environmental stewardship.”

The solar system is projected to produce more than 133 MWh of electricity annually, enough to power more than 10 average Maryland homes. This will significantly offset the facility’s consumption of traditional electricity.

“While we have had solar panels at the Merrill Center in the past, we are adding this new capacity because it is now more affordable as well as more efficient,” said CBF Vice President Mary Tod Winchester. “The new array will generate enough electricity to provide one third of the power for heating, cooling, and other needs of the more than 100 staff who work here. As a non-profit, we will not benefit from the many tax incentives available, but we encourage other individuals and businesses to closely examine the costs and benefits of adding solar generation.”

The project is expected to be completed before the end of this summer.

About Solar Energy Services, Inc.

Solar Energy Services, Inc. (solarsaves.net) designs, builds and services solar power systems for institutional, commercial, and residential customers. The firm was founded by 37 year solar industry veteran Roger Perry who has longstanding ties to the communities served by SES. Based in Millersville Maryland, the 21 person firm operates in Maryland, DC, and Virginia.

About Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Founded in 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (www.cbf.org) is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay. Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 17 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.With offices in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia and 15 field centers, CBF leads the way in restoring the Bay and its rivers and streams. Over the last four decades, we have created broad understanding of the Bay’s poor health, engaged public leaders in making commitments to restore the Chesapeake, and fought successfully to create a new approach to cleanup that features real accountability-the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

Solar Service Home Solar Panels
Written by Lisa Walsh

Solar Energy During a Power Outage?

Not quite so cut and dry…

Solar Service ,Home Solar PanelsMost of us who live here in Anne Arundel County appreciate our proximity to the Chesapeake Bay, changing seasons with spectacular Spring and Fall temperatures, and mature wooded areas. However, these pros quickly become cons during snowstorms, thunderstorms and Maryland’s annual hurricane season from late August through October when Hurricanes such as the infamous Isabelle and Sandy blast through our wooded, watery region, bringing floods, downed trees and – the clincher – power outages. If not for the threat of the power outage, we may sit back and enjoy a hurricane as a powerful force of nature, so long as our lights are on, heat or ac is blasting, and refrigerator’s chilling.

Hurricane Sandy caused around 300 thousand power outages here in Maryland, with an estimated 60 thousand in Anne Arundel County alone. It’s a no wonder that many prospective solar system owners – as well as existing solar system owners – want to know if a solar power system can power any of their appliances during a power outage, even if only while the sun shines. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

For both functional and safety reasons, there are several additional complexities to a “hybrid” PV system that connects to the grid but also provides backup power during a power outage. To start, during an outage you need to be able to safely isolate your “solar generator” from the grid to protect the line workers. You will also need energy storage (batteries) to balance solar energy supply and household demand. In most cases, you need an additional inverter to convert the batteries’ DC electricity back to AC electricity for your household. Lastly, most battery systems require some level of maintenance as well as replacement one or more times in the lifetime of the solar system. The bottom line is that unless you are willing to pay a nominal 30% premium for a solar system that includes the necessary batteries, transfer switches and additional inverter(s), you might be better served with a more traditional approach to backup power, like a gasoline or natural gas generator, and possibly just for critical loads.

Don’t get me wrong. Hybrid systems are growing in numbers and technology advancements, consumer demand, and smart grid capabilities all will help to drive down costs to make these systems more affordable in the future, ideally making our grid more stable with many distributed sources of energy. In the mean time, most solar installers can offer a hybrid (battery backup) or traditional generator back up options, so you can decide what suits you best.