Renewable Energy

All things energy, from solar and wind power to efficiency and off-grid living.

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2/5/2016
solar and electric cars

Solar panels and electric cars are a match made in heaven ­– when you install a solar energy system on your home, you can use it to both power your home and charge your electric car for emissions-free transportation. The cost of solar is falling rapidly, and companies from Tesla to Nissan are manufacturing electric cars for your daily use. Now, the ability to install a solar PV system large enough to power both your home and your car is an option within reach. But even with incentives and rebates available for both technologies, most homeowners still can’t afford to install solar and buy an electric car at the same time. Luckily, it’s easy to install a solar energy system today that takes your future electricity consumption into account, if you take a few additional factors into consideration.

How Much Electricity Does an Electric Car Use?

Before you can make a decision on the size of your solar energy system, you need to determine how much electricity your car will use in the future. In addition to helping you size your solar energy system, knowing your electric car’s mileage rating can help you quantify the amount that you’re saving by switching to an electric vehicle.

Since electric cars don’t run on gasoline, the EPA rates them based on how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) it takes for the car to drive 100 miles, which they convert to a “miles-per-gallon equivalent” (MPGe). You can use U.S. Dept. of Energy's Fuel Economy website to find and compare the kWh/100 miles and MPGe ratings for all of the electric vehicles on the market in the United States.

Once you know EPA’s fuel economy rating for your chosen vehicle, you can easily calculate how much extra solar electricity you’ll need to charge your car. Here’s an example: the 2014 Nissan Leaf, an all-electric vehicle, has a combined fuel economy rating of 30 kWh/100 miles – this means the Leaf requires 30 kWh of electricity to drive 100 miles. If you drive 25 miles on an average day, that means you’re using approximately 7.5 kWh of electricity per day – or just over 2,700 kWh of electricity in a given year. This is the “extra” amount of electricity you’ll need your solar energy system to produce.

Armed with this information, you can work with your solar installer to design a solar panel system that will generate sufficient power to cover both your home and your electric car. But if you’re not ready to make the investment in both at the same time, you’ll need to install a solar PV system that can grow as your electricity use increases. 

How to Size Your Solar Energy System for Future Use

First things first: don’t put off going solar just because you might want to get a bigger system in the future. If you wait to install solar, you could miss out on state and local financial incentives – plus, you’ll have to continue paying for electricity from your utility every month. By sizing your solar energy system for future usage and ensuring your system is “add-on friendly”, it’s easy to find an option that generates enough electricity to power your home today and can charge your electric car in the future. Here’s how to do it:

Install an inverter that can handle more power. The default option for inverters is known as a string inverter. With string inverters, multiple solar panels are arranged into “strings,” which feed the power they produce into a single inverter. Typically, solar installers will include an inverter that can handle the expected output of your solar panels, but no more. If you know how many more panels you’ll need to add to your system later on, you can install an inverter that can handle the capacity of your existing panels plus the new ones you plan on adding after purchasing your electric vehicle.

Install microinverters with your solar panels. If you opt for microinverters instead of the default string inverter, each of your solar panels will have its own inverter. With microinverters, you can easily add extra panels to your system down the line without having to worry about whether your existing inverter can handle the additional electricity your new panels will generate.

Install a second, smaller solar energy system. So long as you have enough space on your roof, you can add a second system to your home whenever you need it. Homeowners can claim the federal tax credit for solar more than once, so you’ll still save significantly on your purchase.

Determine your future use, and build a bigger system to match. If you know that your electricity use will increase in the next year or two and have access to enough financing, you can build your solar energy system based on your future electricity use. This isn’t always an option – some utilities won’t approve systems that go significantly beyond your historical electricity use, so be sure to talk to your solar installer about your options first.

Another option is to “make room” later down the line by implementing energy efficiency upgrades to your home, which has the added benefit of reducing your overall energy costs. Consider switching out lightbulbs, installing a programmable thermostat, or upgrading your appliances to free up some of the electricity your solar panels generate for future use in an electric vehicle.

It’s worth noting that the strategies above work not just for electric cars, but also for any other additions or changes you make to your house that will increase your electricity usage. If you’re considering adding an electric heat pump system, electric water heater, or an addition on your home, you can expand your solar energy system to take your future electricity use into account.

Comparing Your Solar Options Can Help You Save

If you’re thinking about going solar, it’s important to know all of your options – you can save up to 20 percent just by reviewing multiple offers. To get started, find out just how much you can save with EnergySage’s Solar Calculator, or register your property to start receiving custom quotes from pre-screened solar installers near you.

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/20/2016

should you DIY solar?

Going solar has major financial benefits: it reduces your monthly electricity costs and can even increase the value of your home. Incentives like the federal tax credit for solar can reduce your net cost by 30 percent or more, but solar is still a big investment, and the price tag can result in sticker shock. To save money, it’s no surprise that many homeowners are considering DIY solar panel kits when they decide to go solar. Below, we break down the top things you need to know about DIY solar before making a decision.

DIY Solar Can Be Less Expensive, but Your Options are Limited

According to data from the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, the average gross cost of going solar for homeowners (meaning your costs before incentives and rebates are applied) was $29,225. Of that amount, design and installation labor costs contribute about 10 percent of the total bill – this ten percent is all that DIY solar saves you, since you’ll still have the buy the equipment yourself. Regardless, it’s still tempting to look into a DIY solar installation to save money and be in full control of your project.

Your solar energy system should continue to generate electricity for 20 to 30 years, so it’s crucial that you consider both the upfront costs and the relative financial benefits for all of your solar options. If you buy a home solar kit like the ones for sale at Costco or Home Depot, it may be less expensive per watt, but you aren’t getting the same quality equipment that solar installers are able to offer you. For the most part, solar installers buy from equipment distributors that don’t sell to the general public – and they’re often getting lower prices because they’re able to buy in bulk.

DIY Solar Works for Small Off-Grid Projects

Most home solar kits are designed for off-grid use, which means you can’t use them and remain connected to your utility. If you’re an average homeowner, going off-grid is probably not in your best interest – being able to access utility-generated electricity is important if your solar energy system doesn’t produce enough electricity to meet your needs at all times of the day throughout the year.

However, home solar kits can be a good solution if you’re not trying to power your entire home. RVs, boats, and the increasingly popular tiny houses are all opportunities to explore DIY solar, because they are already off-grid and mobile.

On a related subject, DIY solar can be useful if you have a large property and want to power an outlying area, like a barn or toolshed, or want to easily install outdoor lights. In those cases, your electricity demands will be relatively low, so purchasing a small home solar kit and installing it yourself is feasible.

Installing Solar is Complicated, and Requires Training and Experience

When you decide to DIY solar, remember that you get what you pay for. A home solar kit may be less expensive, but solar installers offer tremendous value for relatively little additional cost (remember that ten percent figure?). When it comes to installing an expensive electrical system on your property, finding someone who knows what they’re doing can actually save you both time and money in the long run. 

Some of the best solar installers have been installing solar energy systems for decades – experience that no amount of online research or DIY guides can replicate. Every state requires that installers are licensed and qualified to install solar, and independent certifications like the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners’ (NABCEP’s) Solar PV Installation Professional Certification ensure that the company you choose to work with has an intimate understanding of the process.

Your solar installer will also help you complete and file the permits and applications that you need to submit to get your solar energy system up and running. This is particularly important because your utility won’t let you connect your system to the grid without sign-off from a certified electrician. 

Because of your solar installer’s experience, they’ll also have a strong understanding of the financial incentives for solar available in your area, and might even be able to help you save more money by finding an incentive that you may have missed. Lastly, it is important to note that many equipment manufacturers will only honor their warranties if a qualified installer installed their equipment. Many installers will also offer an additional warranty on their own work too.

There are Other (Better) Ways to Save Money on Your Solar Installation 

Of course, when making such a big decision for your home, you’ll want to find the solar option that has the greatest financial benefit for you. However, DIY solar isn’t the only way, or even close to the best way, to save money when going solar.

EnergySage data shows that solar shoppers who compare their options on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace save 20 percent or more off the costs of installation, as compared to shoppers who don’t compare quotes from multiple installers beforehand.  The reason is simple: when solar installers compete for your business, you win! Considering that design and installation labor costs usually only make up ten percent of the cost of a quote, this means you can save just as much or more by simply comparing your options from prescreened solar installers competing for your business.

Ready to see how much you can save? Get started by reviewing an instant solar estimate from our Solar Calculator, or register your property to start receiving multiple quotes today.

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/14/2016

Grid Parity Map for Residential Solar in the United States

Getting the most out of your solar investment is not just about finding the sunniest places in the United States. Other equally important factors when deciding to go solar are the cost of electricity where you live, as well as the available financial incentives. As you can see from our map of residential electricity rates in the U.S., the cost of electricity varies across the country, making solar energy more attractive in locations with higher rates. And some states and municipalities are much more generous than others when it comes to helping homeowners put solar panels on their roof. All of these factors are important when trying to determine the return on your investment.

We take into consideration the level of solar radiation, the cost of electricity and the federal investment tax credit of 30% (which was recently extended) in our interactive grid parity map for the United States. You can use it to see where solar energy makes financial sense.

First, a Quick Look Across the Pond

Did you know that the country with the most solar panels on Earth is also one of the countries with the lowest levels of solar radiation? Despite receiving only about two-thirds the solar radiation of the United States, Germany has double the installed solar capacity (38 GW, compared to 19 GW according to the Global Market Outlook for Solar Power 2015-2019). So what makes Germany such a hot spot for solar? For one, the price of electricity in Germany is over 40 cents per KWh, compared to an average of 12 cents per kWh in the United States. Secondly, the cost per watt of installed solar panels in Germany is about half the price that it is in the U.S. (the average cost for a residential solar system in the U.S. is about $4/W, although it varies considerably from state to state, with California reporting a cost of about $5/W).

You can see how various countries stack up in terms of the solar value index with our global map for the best places to go solar in the world.

The Top U.S. States for Solar Energy

Let’s take a look at the United States now. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports that as of the second quarter of 2015, the top state with respect to the cumulative installed solar PV capacity is California, with over 11 GW. This does not come as a great surprise given the relatively high solar radiation this state receives, but its relatively high cost of electricity also plays a role (the average retail rate for residential electricity in California is nearly 17 cents per kWh). After California, we have Arizona with over 2 GW and New Jersey with around 1.5 GW. While there are many other states that receive more solar radiation than New Jersey, it is the combination of generous solar incentives and the relatively high electricity rate (nearly 16 cents per kWh) that makes New Jersey the third state for installed solar capacity.

North Carolina, Nevada, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Colorado, and Texas complete the list of top ten states for cumulative installed capacity. Florida, which counts many sunny locations, is not even in the top ten.

Curious if Solar Energy Makes Sense for You?

Figuring out if solar energy makes financial sense for you is not as difficult as it might seem. Sunmetrix Discover is a simple to use, free online calculator that tells you how much solar energy you can produce (with a customizable solar home that you can play around with), shows you how much you can save based on your electricity rate, helps you figure out the best way to finance your solar system and gets you quotes from highly-rated installers in your area. All you have to do is enter a zip code or address to get started!

Simone Garneau is the co-founder of Sunmetrix, an online consumer education website for residential solar energy. The goal of Sunmetrix is to help homeowners go solar. In addition to the 200+ articles about solar energy, Sunmetrix offers homeowners two main tools: Discover, to preview solar energy for your home, and GO, the only solar energy test drive experience. Read all of Simone's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



1/12/2016

residential solar panels

Over the past decade, two tax incentives, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) and the Production Tax Credit (PTC), have, in part, led to more than 400 billion dollars of investment in the U.S. renewable energy marketplace. However, within this decade of growth, consumers, renewable installation companies and utility providers have had to weather consistent uncertainties, putting them at financial risk, as the ITC and PTC have temporarily lapsed and were expected to expire before 2016. Then, in a surprise move, the U.S. Congress extended those tax credits within an omnibus budget package quickly signed by President Barack Obama. This legislative action finally gives the renewable energy marketplace, especially the solar energy and wind energy sectors, the stability it needs to eventually dominate the U.S. energy market in 2020, when it will likely represent the cheapest, most reliable and most environmentally responsible energy-production option.

Specifically, the omnibus legislation extends the 30-percent Investment Tax Credit for solar photoelectric until the end of 2018, when it will step down, incrementally, to 10 percent in 2022. The other clear winner in this legislation, wind energy, will receive a 2.3-cent-per-kilowatt-hour PTC extension through 2016, when it will decline at a rate of 20 percent per year until 2020. Other renewable sectors, such as geothermal, landfill gas, marine energy and incremental hydroelectric production, will also qualify for the 30-percent ITC and a one-year PTC extension, but failed to receive the long-term support that makes this legislation so significant to the solar and wind markets.

For the two clear winners, wind and solar, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reports that the extension of the ITC and PTC will allow 8 million additional households to run on renewable energy by 2020, funded by approximately $73 billion dollars of new investment. From the production side, Bloomberg anticipates the adoption of 37 gigawatts of new wind and solar capacity, or a 56-percent, five-year growth for the industry. Because of this direct investment and growth, the renewable energy sector’s infrastructure, workforce and supply chain can continue to mature until 2020, at which point renewable energy should out-compete fossil-fuel-based energy production.

Like many compromises, the inclusion of the ITC and PTC extension in the omnibus bill was not without controversy, as Congress tied the expiration of the 40-year-old Oil Export Ban, a longstanding target of crude oil producers and Republicans in Congress, to the deal. On this point, environmentalists particularly worry that the allowance of exports will increase global carbon emissions and domestic oil drilling. This is likely unfounded, according to multiple sources, including Abdalla El-Badri, the secretary-general Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), primarily because the U.S. is a net oil importer, and because the global oil market is so large. One unintended effect of the Oil Export Ban has been the preference of cheaper, imported crude oils from nondomestic sources, such as Canada’s infamous tar sands, by U.S.-based refineries, which stand to benefit from trade imbalances.

The complexity of the debate around the Oil Export Ban should remind environmentalists, energy producers and energy consumers of the end goal: renewable, reliable and affordable energy production. Even with recent price declines in the carbon-fuel market, renewable energy will out-compete fossil fuels, likely as early as 2020. The surprise extension of the ITC and PTC prevent what many in the renewable industry called the “valley of death,” when unsubsidized renewables had not yet reached market parity with subsidized fossil fuels. Finally, we should all, once again, call for the absolute abolishment of the massive taxpayer subsidies for the fossil-fuel industry, one of the world’s most profitable and unsustainable practices, in order to hasten the transition to more sustainable energy options.

Photo by Dan Chiras.


Josh Brewer is an Assistant Editor at MOTHER EARTH NEWS who covers Renewable Energy, Green Homes, and Nature and Environment.





1/7/2016

While the world has been distracted by hula hoops, pet rocks, dot coms, fiber optics and the latest new App to hypnotize the masses, engineers, and inventors have quietly been at work trying to understand what Tesla meant when he said,  “Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point in the universe."

We have not taken these words lightly. This was a man with a visionary mind who had an experience walking through a park in Budapest that allowed him to see how matter forms from the substance of space. This vision during a heightened sense of awareness enabled his invention of the alternating current motors and generators that enabled the industrial age. Without these two inventions all fossil fuels would by now have been exhausted feeding Edison’s direct current machines.

U.S. Patent 433,701 - Alternating-Current Motor

Since Tesla’s vision, and before, there have been those with an inkling, an intuition, a knowing, that have been driven to experiment with a way to make energy without consuming resources. They will tell you space is not empty as has been taught and that the second law of thermodynamics must be modified to take this fact into account. Recently physicists who go into catatonic shock when the idea of an Aether is suggested, now believe that space is filled with what they call the Higgs Field and they claim to have found the Higgs Boson, all the while yammering on about super strings, dark energy and dark matter.

In the 21st Century, we are using energy conversion techniques discovered and put into use in the 19th century. Yes, the photovoltaic effect, steam turbines, fuel cells were all invented in the 1800’s.  Nuclear power is based on heating water to make steam to turn a turbine connected to a generator, what a concept! Energy conversion efficiency to generate large scale electric power has been stuck at a meager 30% due to the self imposed limitations of the 20th century mindset in physics. The 21st Century will soon see a manifestation of Tesla’s vision.

The Breakthrough

By eliminating back-torque through innovative magnetic circuit design, a reactionless AC generator has been built and tested. The Tewari Reactionless Generator (RLG) is now profiled in a new movie scheduled for release in Austria in March. The film debuted at the Viennale Film Festival.

Below is a review of the movie as seen through my eyes.

Movie Review: Out of the Void

On October 28th, 2015, the documentary film Out of the Void premiered at the Vienna International Film Festival. As far as I know, this is the first time a film of this nature has been presented to an international audience at a film festival. The film is in part a docudrama about the attempt to go beyond the known frontiers of science and to literally go into the void to extract energy.

It begins with film footage from the 1920’s of the Austrian Researcher Karl Schappeller during the time he attempted to design and build a device to harvest energy from the Aether. Schappeller did not succeed but his writings and work have been kept alive by a dedicated team of researchers from the UK and Austria who found and preserved drawings and documents found behind a stairway in the castle that served as his research lab.

The actors and production crew including, video, sound, editing, and set design succeed in recreating the work and vision of Schappeller. Interviews with local residents, now in their 80’s and 90’s are interlaced throughout the film adding a touch of authenticity to a man who was once the subject of wide press coverage and who became a local legend. The castle survives to this day and is available to the public for meetings and events.

The film jumps to the future and features a demonstration of a machine invented by Professor Claus Turtur from Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences in Wolfenbüttel, Germany. The demonstration takes place in a wooden shack adjacent to the devastation of a coal strip mine. It is a high-voltage static apparatus slowly turning in a static electric field. It has been shown that the mechanical output is substantially over unity. It is obvious at this point that the laws of physics must be modified. The film then covers the current research, experiments and theories of Paramahamsa Tewari and documents tests of his Reactionless Generator filmed at his lab in India.

In his Space Vortex Theory (SVT), Mr. Tewari postulates and then proves by deductive reasoning the fundamental nature of a space and matter. The void makes up the interior of the electron and is created from the Aether as Nikola Tesla described when he said, “All perceptible matter comes from a primary substance, or tenuity beyond conception, filling all space, the akasha or luminiferous ether, which is acted upon by the life giving Prana or creative force, calling into existence, in never ending cycles all things and phenomena.”

Tewari has proven the existence of the Aether (ether) using Space Vortex Theory to build machines with efficiencies greater than one. Efficiencies as high as 2.38 have been measured.  A more detailed description of the system tests is available at the links below. This discovery is a verification of his theories and those of other physicists such as Descartes, Maxwell, Helmholtz, and Kelvin. These physicists have pointed out that space is not empty as has been taught for over one hundred years.

Tewari’s discovery requires that the laws of physics as now taught must be modified to recognize that space is not empty and that the substance of space is the origin of matter as described in the Upanishads and known by the ancient seers of India for more than 10,000 years.

As Tesla also explained: Ere many generations pass, our machinery will be driven by a power obtainable at any point in the universe. Paramahamsa Tewari, an electrical engineer and retired Executive Director of The Nuclear Power Corporation of India has built, demonstrated, and has had third party verification of a generator that produces more power than it consumes thus affirming Tesla’s vision.

Out of the Void is scheduled to be released to theaters in Austria in March.  The film is being submitted to other film festivals and distribution in other countries is under consideration.

The next showing of the film will be at the Diagonale Festival in Graz, which takes place from March 8th to March 13th. Please see the trailer. Sit down, turn up the sound and buckle your mental, emotional, and physical seat belts. The English version is here. The German version is here. Scroll down past the description to see the trailer and click on the play button in the middle of the picture.

Announcement of the film debut. Official Release: March 11 – 2016. Vienna, Stadtkino/Künstlerhaus on the evening of March 11th. Saturday, March 12th it will be in Linz, Moviemento-Cinema. March 14th to 16th it will be in Salzburg and Innsbruck.

Reactionless Generator Update

A new version of the RLG is under construction and is expected to be tested by the end of the year. Details to follow, as Mr. Tewari makes them available. More information is at the Out of the Void website. From the gallery, scroll through using the arrow on the right for scenes from the film. See also the Austrian Films website.

More Information on the Reactionless Generator can be found by following these links.

1. Test Report
2. Economic Times of India Report
3. www.Tewari.org

Why we need this now.  Please review the articles I have posted on www.MotherEarthNews.com and pass on these thoughts as you see fit.

1. We Only Have One Chance To Get It Right: Transition to Renewable Energy
2. Why Life Exists on Earth: A New Perspective on Carbon Emissions
3. Criminal Racketeering by the Fossil Fuel Industry Suppresses an Industry And Accelerates Climate Change

References: Tesla Universe PDF.

Toby Grotz is a Food Not Lawns Kansas City course instructor and organizer. He is also working on increased efficiency generator and transformer design applications. Read all of Toby's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



12/31/2015

solar as a retirement strategy

Establishing a secure financial future for your retirement requires that you explore a variety of options, but most homeowners don’t realize that installing a solar panel system can be one of the smartest retirement investment options available. By viewing a home solar panel system as an investment opportunity, homeowners can reduce or even eliminate their electricity bills, freeing up more than $1,000 in cash each year. With the increased availability of $0-down solar loans, homeowners that lack the cash required for an upfront purchase can still take advantage of solar as a retirement investment strategy. 

Solar: A Retirement Investment Option with High Returns

To ensure financial stability, retirees and those planning for their retirement generally invest in lower-risk options. Solar panels are a natural fit: they provide steady, increasing returns, similar to the high returns associated with traditional investments like stocks and bonds, but without the unpredictable fluctuations of those markets.

Going solar generates many significant financial benefits:

Solar significantly reduces or eliminates your electricity bills. Your solar energy system can generate up to 100 percent of your electricity needs, eliminating your electricity bill and freeing up more cash every month to spend or invest elsewhere.

With solar, you can hedge against future price increases. Utility electricity rates go up every year – in 2015, they increased by anywhere from 1.3% to 9.6%.  By generating your own electricity, rather than buying from your utility, you can protect yourself from unpredictable rate increases for the lifetime of your solar energy system (generally 20 to 30 years).

Solar increases the value of your home. Installing a solar energy system is an investment in your property. Multiple studies have shown that homebuyers are willing to pay more for homes that are equipped with solar panels.

Your solar panel system may even generate income. If you live in a state with a market for solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs), you may be able to earn extra money by selling them. Some utilities also offer production-based incentives that pay you for the electricity your panels generate.

Benefits of solar investments aren’t taxable. Unlike returns from more traditional investment vehicles, your financial returns from solar come in the form of monthly savings, not income (with the exception of SRECs), meaning they are not subject to taxation. 

Choosing the Right Financing for your Solar Retirement Strategy

Your solar energy system will save you money, regardless of the financing option you choose. However, some financing options will generate more returns than others. You can finance your system in one of three ways:

1. Buy the system outright. If you have a CD or other investment that has recently matured, buying your solar energy system in cash is the best way to reinvest it. The average homeowner who goes solar achieves payback in just 7.5 years, and keeps 100 percent of the financial benefits of their solar panel system.

2. Buy the system with a solar loan. If you can’t or don’t want to pay for the system in cash, many banks and other financial institutions offer $0-down, low-interest solar loans to help with your purchase. Monthly payments are typically lower than your monthly electricity bill, enabling you to save money right away. Homeowners retain 40 to 70 percent of the financial benefits of their system with a solar loan, depending on the loan terms.

3. Sign a solar lease or power purchase agreement (PPA). If you choose a solar lease, you pay no money up front and are charged a reduced monthly rate by the third-party owner to “rent” a solar energy system. This will likely result in 10 to 20 percent savings on your electricity bill for the duration of your lease agreement. A solar lease or PPA is a great option if your income is low enough that you cannot take advantage of the federal tax credit for solar.

Explore the Value of Solar as a Retirement Opportunity

The first step when considering solar as a retirement investment strategy is to find out how much solar can actually contribute to your retirement. EnergySage’s Solar Calculator can give you a quick snapshot of the relative value of different solar financing options in your area, based on your electricity bill and incentives available to you. If you’re ready to start comparing solar quotes, register your property on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace to receive multiple offers from pre-screened solar companies at no cost.

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.



12/17/2015

Winter-Weather Solar, Explained

Winter weather solar explained

Memories of cold, snowy winters past can be discouraging even for the hardiest homeowner. If you’re considering going solar, you might wonder whether solar panels can produce electricity in wintry conditions. After all, if you look at solar as an investment, then it should be able to generate returns throughout the year as other investments do. Luckily, plenty of people have both solar panels and snow, and some of the most popular regions in the U.S. for solar have snowy winters. Don’t let winter weather discourage you from going solar!

'Winter-Weather Solar' Isn’t an Oxymoron

You don’t have to live in Phoenix or Los Angeles to achieve strong solar panel performance. As you consider solar panels for your home, remember that even if you live in the northern parts of the U.S., the worst of winter only lasts three months, so your days of low sunlight and heavy snow are limited. And the further from the equator you are, the longer your days are when the summer comes around—so while you may generate slightly less power in the winter months, you can make up for it with more sunshine in the summer.

What Happens to My Solar Panel Performance in Snow?

Solar panel snow problems are usually minimal. However, there are a few things that you should know about the implications of winter weather as you consider installing a solar energy system on your home:

1. All solar panels are designed to bear a certain amount of weight – and snow will usually not be heavy enough to cause issues. All solar panels undergo pressure tests to assess durability and quality. Ratings vary by panel, with higher pressure ratings indicating that your panels are better at withstanding the weight of heavy snow.

2. If snow covers your panels, they can’t produce power – but it’s easy to clean them off. Solar panels need sunlight to produce power, so if your solar panels are covered in snow, they will not generate electricity. Most panels are tilted at an angle, so snow will slide off on its own accord, but that can take time. You can take control of the situation by getting a solar panel snow rake or similar tool made for solar panel snow removal that won’t damage the panels.

3. Cold, sunny weather is actually good for panels. Winter months are actually good for solar energy production, as long as your panels aren’t covered by snow. Like most electronics, solar panels function more efficiently in cold conditions than in hot. This means that your panels will produce more power for each precious hour of sunshine during the short days of winter.

Popularity of solar in cold climates proves winter-weather solar works

Sunny states (like California, Arizona and Florida) are not the only places where solar makes sense. In fact, the top 10 cities for solar in the U.S. aren’t the sunniest ones. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) ranks Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York in the top 10 for states with the highest amount of installed solar in 2014. This is largely due to the fact that electricity prices are one of the biggest drivers of solar savings ­– the higher your electricity rates, the more money you will save by going solar.

Need further proof? Consider Germany, whose sunshine levels are similar to Alaska’s. For over a decade, this northern European country has led the world in solar panel installations, and solar makes a significant contribution to their national energy mix. Although other countries, including the U.S. and China, are starting to catch up, Germany’s success is a shining example of how winter weather solar can work in countries across the globe.

Now that you know that your solar panels can produce electricity in the winter, consider this: winter is also the best time to shop for solar if you’re a homeowner looking for the best value possible. With the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can compare equipment options and financing products from multiple installers to find the right solar panel system for your needs. Get an instant estimate or register your property today to get started.

Vikram Aggarwal is the founder and chief executive of EnergySage, the online solar marketplace. EnergySage simplifies the process of researching and shopping for solar. By offering shoppers more choices and unprecedented levels of transparency, EnergySage allows consumers to select the option that provides the best value for them, quickly and easily. Read all of Vikram's posts here.


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