Solar Electric FAQ

Solar PV

There is a lot to learn when making the decision to invest in a renewable energy system for your home or business.

The easiest way to address your specific question is to contact us directly.  We welcome your call or email request!

Maine Solar Solutions goal is to guide our clients though the process of determining if a renewable energy system makes sense for them.  We offer a consultative approach to working with our clients with a focus on communicating clearly and providing the information that you need to make an informed decision.

 

Solar Electric (PV) FAQ

Do solar electric systems (PV) work in Maine?
Yes, Maine receives enough sun to make solar PV effective and affordable. Germany is the world leader in solar installations; Maine receives nearly 20% more sunlight annually than Germany.

What type of solar electric systems do you install?
Most of our customers install grid-tied PV systems.  Grid tied systems allow for seamless integration with your utilities electricity supply.  Grid-tied systems allow you to net meter your energy production ensuring that all of the electricity that your system produces offsets your usage.

For client with the desire to consider a battery backup system, Maine Solar Solutions offers grid-tied with battery back-up and off-grid systems.

How does a grid tied solar electric system work?

  1. Photovoltaic panels convert the solar radiation that strikes them into low-voltage DC electricity.
  2. That DC electricity travels to an inverter where it is converted into the AC electricity used by household outlets and appliances.
  3. From the inverter, the AC electricity heads to your electrical panel, where it is distributed through your house as needed.
  4. Any excess electricity is sent through your utility meter and into the electrical grid, and you receive credit for it via net metering.

What is Net Metering?
Net Metering is a purchasing agreement you and the electric utility (CMP for example) that allows you to receive credit for excess energy that your solar array may produce.

Net metering is a simple concept; power created from your solar system is connected to the electric grid and credited in real time. Any excess power created by the solar system that you are not using, at that moment, is fed back into the power grid. As this excess power is ‘back-fed’, your meter operates in reverse.  CMP subtracts the excess kw hours that you produce from the kw hours that you get from the grid and only charges for only the “net” electricity that you receive from the grid.

Typically energy credits that are built up during the day are “traded in” at night.

Not only are credits built up and “cashed in” on a daily basis, but credits are accrued and credited on a rolling 12 month period allowing greater summer time electricity production to offset greater winter time use.

Grid Tied basics:

  • During the daytime when your system is producing power any electrical demands in your home are satisfied by the electricity that you produce first.
  • If your homes demand is greater than the amount of electricity being produced on the roof the electric utility, or grid, will provide the rest.
  • If your systems electrical production is greater than your homes electrical demand the excess power is sent out on the grid, building up a credit.
  • During the evening or during inclement weather the grid supplies your electricity.
  • At the end of your billing period CMP will subtract the energy you put out on the grid from the energy that you imported from the grid and charge you for the difference.

Do the panels need to face south?
South facing is best, but panels installed facing south-east or south-west can generate a very high percentage (>90%) of energy as compared to a south facing solar array.

Do I have to put the solar panels on my roof?
No, there are other options such as ground mount or wall mounted awning systems. Mounting on a garage, barn or outbuilding is also an option.

My roof is partially shaded. Will solar work for me?
During our site evaluation we will determine how much of your roof is shaded throughout the year.  We can factor this into your estimated electricity production.  We offer system designs that work effectively to provide maximum performance from partially shaded arrays.

Will the condition of my roof affect the installation?
As part of our site survey we assess your roofs condition to determine its condition.  A typical three tab asphalt shingle roof will last on average 20.  Architectural shingles can be warrantied 30 to 50 years.  Most roofers can replace shingles around a solar thermal array.  Installing a PV array will shade the underlying roof, protecting it from damaging sunlight and weather, and may in fact extend the roof’s lifespan.  If we determine that your roof needs replacement, we can refer you to a trusted roofing contractor.

Do I need batteries?
Grid tied PV systems do not require batteries.  Maine Solar Solutions does offer grid tied battery back-up system in addition to true off-grid systems, but for most customers a grid tied system offers the best value and performance

Will my system work during power outages?  What if I have a generator?
Most grid tied systems are designed to shut off automatically during power outages when the grid goes down.  When power returns your system will restart automatically.

For customers with generators we design manual or automatic PV system shut off based on your generator type.  For customers with a keen interest in investing in a battery based PC system we can design and install a grid tied battery backup that will allow them to continue to harvest the suns energy during a power outage.

How long will the solar electric system last?
All of the solar panels that we install have power output warrantied for 25 years (at 80% of the original power output).  The life span of a PV array is expected to be greater than 30 years.  Inverter warranties range between 10 to 25 years.

Solar Array

What kind of maintenance will the system require?
Grid tied solar electric systems require very little maintenance.   Our grid tied installations includes system monitoring that provide output information and alerts in case there is a problem.

How long does it take to install a PV system?
Typical residential systems can take 3 to 5 days to install.  Ground mount systems and larger system can take longer.   We typically schedule our installations on a first come basis – however installations can be scheduled for specific blocks of time.  Most installs can be started 10 business days after execution of an installation contract.  Needless to say inclement weather may impact our installation schedule.

What size system will I need?
During our free site evaluation we work with you to determine what size system will meet your needs.  Every home is different, so the size of your system will depend on your energy needs, available space and your renewable energy budget.  Residential solar power systems are typically 3-10 kW.  Based on the information that we gather during our site evaluation, we will custom design a solar power system to meet your specific needs and offset as much of your utility bill as you desire.

How much will it cost?
Your systems cost is determined by three factors:  current electrical usage, the percentage of your usage that you wish to offset, and your renewable energy budget.   We will gather information during your free site evaluation and if appropriate present a couple of different options.

We typically show our customer as system that offsets 50% to 90% of their annual electrical usage.

Typical residential systems have a pre-incentive cost of $12,000 to $20,000 with a final cost of $8,400 to $14,000 after rebates and tax credits have been factored in.

Will my electricity bill go down? How much can I save?
Your annual electric bill will go down.  How much you save will depend on the size of your system and the percentage of your electrical usage that you wish to offset.

Solar ArrayWhat does a solar PV array do to my property value?
Energy conservation and renewable generation adds value to a home. National surveys have shown that for every $1,000.00 saved per year, $20,000.00 is added to a home’s value.

What rebates and incentives are available?
Solar photovoltaic systems qualify for a 30% federal tax credit.  This credit is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit and will reduce the amount of tax owed by the system owner before any deductions are applied. The credit can be used all at once, or if your tax liability does not use the entire credit, the balance can be carried over to subsequent tax years until at least 2016.

For more information on the Federal Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit see www.dsireusa.org or http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=tax_credits.tx_index

Do you provide financing?
Maine Solar Solutions is a qualified Efficiency Maine Partner and offers financing through the Maine PACE or PowerSaver loan programs.  Many of our clients finance their systems with home equity loans.

Will a solar electric system make financial sense for me?
Solar is cleaner and less expensive than power from the utility company. Solar is a smart financial investment because you will save money on electrical costs for years to come and increase your home value.  Our customers who purchase their system typically see a strong Return on Investment (ROI) and expect to recoup their solar system investment within 5-10 years.  After the system has paid for itself it continues to pay a dividend in supply free electricity.  And as electrical utility rates rise your solar investment becomes even more valuable and your property’s value increases as well!