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How does a solar system generate electricity?
A solar energy system generates electricity through the use of photovoltaic (PV) technology. PV turns sunlight energy directly into electric energy.
How do I use the electricity from my solar energy system?
The electricity generated by a solar energy system works just like the electricity delivered by Austin Electric and Pacific Power. After passing through a component called an inverter, the direct current (DC) electricity generated by the solar panels is converted to alternating current (AC), the type of electricity that you access through the outlets in your home.
Will a solar energy system produce enough energy to handle all my electricity needs?
For the average Austin Electric and Pacific Power residential customer, a solar energy system will produce 40% – 70% of annual energy needs. System size impacts production. The size of system that is right for you depends on how big of an investment you want to make and how much unshaded roof space is available.
How much electricity will my solar energy system produce?
The amount of electricity generated by a solar energy system is dependent upon several factors,
primarily system size, orientation of the system and shading. Typically, a solar system using 100 square feet of solar panels will generate 1,000 – 1,440 per year per kilowatt.
Do I need to be connected to the grid?
Yes. To qualify for an Austin Energy solar energy rebate you will need to be connected to the grid. While you generate electricity during the peak hours of daylight and demand, your utility will seamlessly take over and continue to supply your electricity at night and on very cloudy days. If you decide to include battery storage, the additional cost for the battery system will not be covered by the rebate.
Purchasing and Installing a Solar Energy System
How will I know if my solar energy system is working?
Since solar technology is motionless and noiseless, you may want to know how to make sure it is working. Typically, the inverter display can show you how much power is produced at any given time. Also, a solar meter is required to keep track of how much electricity your system is producing and the display number will increase with each kilowatt hour generated.
What happens during an electric outage?
In any type of electric outage, only a solar energy system with battery backup will continue to have power. By code, any solar energy system without battery backup must shut down until utility power returns.
How durable is a solar energy system?
Solar energy system modules have passed a standard set of tests for durability and are built to withstand winds of up to 125 miles per hour and 1-inch hail.
Will I need approval from my Homeowners Association (HOA) or Property Owners Association (POA)?
If there are covenants and restrictions in your neighborhood with regard to solar energy systems, you cannot receive an Austin Energy solar rebate unless the HOA or POA approves your solar energy system installation. The Solar San Antonio website (http://www.solarsanantonio.org/hoa/) has compiled up-to-date information you will need to work with HOAs and POAs in Texas. This information complies with House Bill 362 – the law that amended Chapter 202 of the Texas Property Code – which defines the limited circumstances under which an HOA or POA can prohibit or require the relocation of a solar energy installation.
How long will it take to install?
It will typically take two to three days for a professional installation for a home. The process for acquiring the rebate, however, may take several weeks from the time of application submittal to rebate payment.
Operational Performance and Quality
What happens at night?
Since solar energy systems require sunlight to produce electricity, your system will not produce at night.
Austin Energy will continue to seamlessly supply your electricity at night.
What happens on cloudy days?
Since solar energy systems require sunlight to produce electricity, the bulk of your solar production will take place under sunny conditions. Output is directly proportional to the amount of sunlight available at any given moment. A system can generate 50 – 70% of its typical output under bright overcast conditions but production will continue to diminish as less light reaches the system. Because your solar energy system is net metered all credit will carry over in the event of months of over production. These same months of over production will carry forward with other months to offset the summer spikes and winter cloudy periods.
How does temperature affect solar production?
Solar energy systems typically operate in temperatures ranging from -13 to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Output efficiency will drop as the system gets hotter. Portland area temperatures are close to perfect on many days of the year thus making up for excess amounts of rainfall in the year. This is one of the reasons why Germany is the leader in solar energy installations. A temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for maximum solar module production in ideal sunlight.
What is the warranty on a solar energy system?
Solar energy system modules typically carry at least 10 year warranties, with 20-25 year production guarantees. The system inverter is required to carry a 10-year warranty on non- battery back-up systems.
What Kind of Maintenance do Solar Panels Require?
Solar panels generally require very little maintenance since there are no moving parts. A few times a year, the panels should be inspected for any dirt or debris that may collect on them. Often times, using a standard garden hose to wash the face of the panels during either the early morning or in the evening is enough for general panel upkeep. Additionally, 512 Solar offers solar panel cleaning services – please contact us to schedule an appointment with one of our professional cleaners.
Will a solar energy system work with my home?
To have a solar energy system installed on your roof, your property must have a reasonable amount of unshaded, unobstructed roof space during the key sun hours of the day. A southern orientation is ideal but east and west facing roofs can still capture over 80% of the power of a true south-facing roof. Your roof may be flat or sloped. Rack-mounted systems on the ground and pole mounted systems are also available.
Economics of a Solar Energy System
What is the Residential Solar Rate?
Under the residential solar rate structure, you will pay for your whole home consumption each month at the standard residential rates, whether the power comes to your home from your solar energy system or the electric grid. Austin Energy then pays you for all electricity produced each month by your rooftop solar system at the Value of Solar Rate, which is 11.3 cents as of January 1, 2015. That payment is credited to your monthly electric bill. If the solar credit is larger than your energy bill, the remaining credit rolls over to the next month. At the end of the year the credits continue to roll over to the next year.
How much does a solar energy system cost?
The total cost for purchasing and installing a solar energy system is based on the size of system yourequire and the specific details of the layout of your property. Solar energy systems often range in cost from $2.75-$5.75/watt.
Who will help me apply for the Austin Energy Solar Rebate?
512 Solar will assist in the rebate application process to secure these rebates for you.
What size system should I get?
The size you choose is a trade off between the amount of money you want to invest and the amount of electricity you want to produce.
A typical Austin home during peak electricity usage in the summer uses up to 5 kW of electricity at any given moment. Over the course of a year, that same home will use approximately 12,000 kWh of electricity.
You can look at your old electricity bills to calculate how much electricity your home typically uses. But remember, you do not need to cover all your electricity needs with a solar system to add value to your home.
The only other condition in deciding proper system size is the amount of suitable space available on your roof. To be suitable, you must have unobstructed, non-shaded roof area, either flat or a sloped, at an orientation other than North. You need roughly 100 square feet of roof space for each kWh kW that you wish to produce.
Are Solar Leases or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) allowed?
In Austin Energy’s service territory, solar providers may not offer PPAs, but they may offer equipment leases. Austin Energy is the exclusive provider of electricity within its service territory; State law prohibits other owners of electric equipment from furnishing electricity for compensation. Therefore, leases must be flat monthly payment leases and may not be based on volumetric charges or multipliers for kWh output of the PV equipment or consumption. Leased residential solar systems will receive Value of Solar credits, as per the Residential Electric Tariff, but are not eligible for Austin Energy’s residential solar incentive.
How do I purchase a solar energy system?
An Austin Energy participating company (such as 512 Solar) must be used to install you
r solar energy system.
Are there federal tax incentives for installing a solar energy system?
Visit the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (http:// www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/financial.html) for federal incentives information.
Can I increase the size of my solar energy system at a later date?
Yes, provided you have the available roof space.