Mendocino County: 707.485.5158     |     Sonoma County: 707.579.5158     |     Lake County: 877.485.5158

Solar PV

Solar systems have been becoming more and more popular. There are basically two different types of system referred to as a “Solar System”. Both involve panels, usually placed on your roof but the similarity ends there. Here we are talking about Solar P.V. which is short for solar “photovoltaic”. You can tell by the name it means you are getting electrical power (voltage) from light (photo). This happens because the large panels on your roof are coated with a type of silicone that has some special impurities in it. When sunlight hits these impurities they react by giving off a small electrical charge. If you have enough of these small charges and you add them up they can produce enough electrical power to run some households or to augment the power you pull off the grid.

Solar PV installation Solar Growth in the US

The solar world has been undergoing tremendous changes in the past decade. 10 or so years ago utility companies and the Federal government were offering substantial rebates and tax credits to jump start the solar industry. The panels themselves seem to be the hinge point as far as cost. Much research has been done in the U.S. and China. Cheap Chinese panels flooded the market a few years back and the price per kw dropped dramatically. The problem is the quality was questionable which gave the solar industry a bad name. And of course we had (and still have) some solar companies who take advantage of folks and charge much more than needed or talk folks into leasing or renting the panels or renting your roof space to them to place their panels on and they’ll give you a percentage of what is generated. The thing is, unless you own the equipment, the generous tax credits and rebates still offered in some areas will not belong to the homeowner but to the solar company.

Sizing Your Solar System

The goal when sizing a solar system for a home is to analyze a couple years electrical usage and set a target that gets the homeowner out of the top pricing tiers. If you are a PG&E electric customer you know the 3rd and 4th pricing tiers cost you triple or more than the 1st and 2nd tiers. So the goal is to at least take care of this top tier usage. You don’t want to generate more power than you use because at “true-up time” PG&E will only pay you a fraction of the price they charge you for the lowest tier usage. So the trick is to generate enough power to offset the real expensive power you buy which is usually the midafternoon on the hottest summer days. It’s unknown at this time whether City of Ukiah will extend their incentive for solar P.V. in 2015, but the 30% tax credit from the federal government is still active for solar equipment installed thru 2016. So if you have any thoughts about going solar, now is the time while you can still get almost one third of the cost handed back to you in the form of a tax credit. Just be aware that you must owe Federal taxes before you can claim this credit.