Electric Charging, Solar, Annapolis MD
Written by Lisa Walsh

Solar Systems with Integrated Electric Vehicle Chargers

….like Peas and Carrots

Solar Panel, Solar energy, Annapolis MDAs referenced in our accompanying EV Growth Blogs, the adoption of Electric Vehicles has skyrocketed in recent years. This is small wonder considering EV purchasers can look forward to a 30% federal tax credit on the upfront cost, reduction of fuel costs of at least 60% (according to this Nissan Leaf owner’s calculations), and State Grants/tax credits where applicable (Maryland, for example) and the negation of various oil changes and maintenance costs that accompany an internal combustion engine. For homeowners who have discovered the substantial energy savings by purchasing (not leasing!) a solar residential system, it’s a natural step to want to extend these savings to their current, or future, electrified vehicle.

Ahead of the curve on this natural progression is an innovative new product from inverter manufacturer SolarEdge. All solar systems have two major components 1. Solar panel arrays 2. Inverter(s) that convert incoming DC energy to appliance-ready AC energy. As the national leader in residential inverter supply, SolarEdge made a great move in developing an Inverter that has a built-in EV Charger with a 25’ charge connector. Net energy meter customers (NEM) or energy generating customers interconnected to Pepco are not eligible to apply for the R-PIV rate.

Electric Charging,Solar, Annapolis MD

Why not choose a separate EV Charger?

Four reasons:

  1. Cost. Upgrading to an inverter that has a built-in EV Car Charger comes at around a $1000 cost increase (assuming one inverter/car charger). However, this upgrade – as part of the solar installation – qualifies for the 30% federal tax credit, putting the material cost at around the same as a separate stand-alone EV Charger such as Clipper City. In addition, the integrated inverter has no additional labor or electrician charges – its all covered in the solar install.
  2. Warranty. Popular stand-alone Car Chargers such as Clipper City come with a 3- year warranty. Solar Edge’s integrated inverter has a 12-year warranty, with upgrades up to 25 years available.
  3. Design Elegance. Between service panels, routers, generators and other wall-mounted electronics – its nice to have a 2-in-1 solution and save some wall space. No additional wiring or conduits needed. Of course, the inverter does need to be placed within 25’ of where the EV will be parked nightly.
  4. All Pros no Cons. As with Stand-alone chargers, Solar Edge’s integrated solution allows for indoor/outdoor placement, comes with a 25’ connector and offers software that tracks your EV’s energy consumption that is accessible from desktop or phone, and can be controlled remotely.

Thinking Ahead

Due to the clear advantages, and seeming inevitability of rapid EV adoption by the majority of Americans by the Year 2030, we now ask all of our prospective solar shoppers two questions:

  1. “Do you plan to buy an Electric Vehicle in the not-so-distant future?”
  2. If so, “ What is your expected weekly/annual mileage?”

Mileage calculations inform how many solar panels we should add to the array in order to cover as much EV car use as possible (as roof space allows). Worth noting for our Washington DC/Montgomery County solar customers, PEPCO does require us to fill out an Electrical Usage Calculation Sheet if the solar system is sized over 120% larger than the past 12 months usage history. In those cases we simply submit the estimated kWh increase (as per expected mileage calculations) that the EV will add.

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 ,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.

ommercial Solar Energy, Residential Solar Panels ,Solar Service
Written by Anonymous

Hagerstown Correctional Facility Installs Solar Water Heating Systems

Commercial Solar Energy ,Residential Solar ,Panels Solar ServiceHAGERSTOWN, MD:  Earlier this week Solar Energy Services, Inc., a Maryland based solar installer, completed installation of five separate solar water heating systems at the Hagerstown Correctional Facility.

SES was engaged by Johnson Controls, Inc. to design, install and commission the solar systems in order to offset a larger portion of the facility’s traditional heating system.  Four of the systems, each consisting of 6 solar thermal panels closed-loop plumbed to 220 gallon solar storage tanks, were installed on four housing buildings.  The larger 12 panel system and accompanying tanks were installed on the facility’s dining hall.

solar services, installation, Commercial Solar Energy, Residential Solar Panels
Written by Anonymous

Capital Manor Housing Cooperative Goes Solar Thermal

solar energy, Solar Service,installationWASHINGTON, DC:  Earlier this week Solar Energy Services, Inc. completed the installation of a solar water heating system on Capital Manor Cooperative’s residence building on the 1400 block of W Street in Northwest Washington, DC.

SES was engaged by third party solar developer, Skyline Innovations, earlier this year to design and install the solar water heating system consisting of 48 evacuted tube solar arrays and three, 1,500 gallon solar storage tanks.

Written by Anonymous

DC Apartment Building Installs Solar

WASHINGTON, DC:  Skyline Innovations, a third party solar developer, engaged Solar Energy Services, Inc. to design and install a solar water heating system on an apartment building on MacArthur Blvd. in downtown Washington, DC.

The solar thermal system will include 20 thermal panels on the south facing roof of the building, as well as a 1,000 gallon solar storage tank.  The system will act as a pre-heat to the building’s existing gas water heater, reducing their utility costs by around 30% annually.

Written by Anonymous

DC Apartments Go Solar Thermal

WASHINGTON, DC:  The installation of a solar water heating system was completed today at an apartment building on Tunlaw Road in downtown Washington, DC.

The solar thermal system was designed and installed by Solar Energy Services, Inc., a Maryland- based solar installer, in partnership with Skyline Innovations, a DC-based third party solar developer.

The system includes 58 flat plate solar thermal collectors, a 3,200 gallon solar storage tank, and a 200 gallon buffer tank.  It is expected to greatly offset the building’s natural gas water heating system.

Commercial Solar Energy ,Residential Solar Panels ,Solar Service
Written by Lisa Walsh

Solar Energy Costs Likely to Rise

The solar clock is ticking – don’t wait for solar energy costs to come down

Commercial Solar Energy, Residential Solar Panels ,Solar ServiceThe installed cost of a solar electric system has come down dramatically in the past several years – by 50% in most cases. However, homeowners considering investing in solar would do well to act sooner rather than later. Declining financial incentives and the threat of increasing panels costs (due to US tariffs on chinese solar panels), mean that the cost of solar energy could start to go up very soon.

SOLAR ELECTRIC (PV)

Whole house solar electric systems are being installed every day in Maryland. The system can be sized to offset some or most of a home’s electricity bill and are grid-tied; the homeowner’s utility-provided energy is still readily available for them in times of no-sun. Also, when there is more sun than needed – the extra energy serves to turn the homeowner’s meter “backwards” – crediting their utility account. Current grants and tax credits, coupled with unprecedented low solar panels costs, means that most of the solar electric systems currently installed pay for themselves in around six years and are warrantied for 20 to 30 years. That’s 20 to 30 years of ZERO rate increase.

TYPICAL 5kW SOLAR ELECTRIC SYSTEM

  • Estimated System Cost $21,000
  • Federal Tax Credit $6,300
  • MD State Grant $1,000
  • AA County Property Tax Credit @ 75% $1,875
  • SREC Payments* $6,700
  • Total Incentives $15,875
  • Net Cost to Homeowner $5,125
  • Payback in Years 5 – 7yrs
  • 25yr Annual Energy Savings +$800 per year

SOLAR WATER HEATERS (thermal)

The solar panels used to heat a home’s water for laundry, showers etc. are entirely different from those used to provide electricity. They require much less space and are substantially less expensive. A solar water heater sized for a family of four provides 75% of the home’s annual hot water load and CAN PAY for itself in around 3 years.

Again, this is a system slated to last 20 to 30 years. Gas or electric is used as a back-up system.

TYPICAL 4-PERSON SOLAR WATER HEATING SYSTEM

  • Estimated System Cost $9,000
  • Federal Tax Credit $2,700
  • MD State Grant $ 500
  • AA County Property Tax Credit @ 75% $1,875
  • SREC Payments* $3,200
  • Total Incentives $8,275
  • Net Cost to Homeowner $725
  • Payback in Years 1 – 4 yrs
  • 25yr Annual Energy Savings +$400 per year
Written by Anonymous

Annapolis Housing Authority Installs Solar on Housing Complex

ANNAPOLIS, MD:  Solar Energy Services, Inc. completed the installation of a series of solar thermal systems across 11 housing complexes owned by the Annapolis Housing Authority.

SES was engaged by third party solar developer, Skyline Innovations, to design, install and commission the solar thermal systems that will greatly offset the conventional gas heating systems.

Collectively, the solar water heating systems consist of 180 panels split between Harbor House and Glenwood Highrise, two of HACA’s six public housing communities, which together house approximately 2,000 people.  The solar system is expected to offset utility costs by around 30% annually.

Written by Anonymous

DC Condominium Community Installs Solar Water Heater

WASHINGTON, DC:  Solar Energy Services, Inc. installed and commissioned a solar thermal system at Tiber Island, a waterfront condomimium community in Washington, DC.

SES was contracted by Skyline Innovations, a third party solar developer, to design and install the solar water heating system that acts as a pre-heat to the facility’s natural gas water heating system.

The solar system consists of 76 solar arrays mounted to the building’s roof.  Each array has 30 evacuated tube collectors that are closed-loop plumbed to a 5,000 gallon solar storage tank.

The system is expected to offset a large portion of the facility’s conventional utility bill.

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