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March of 2020 represents an inflection point for several industries large and small. The introduction of the coronavirus pandemic on a global state caught many businesses unprepared. Major fashion retailers struggled to adapt to a world sharply driven by online consumption, while technology and logistics companies thrived. Despite initial setbacks, 2020 was a record year for many solar providers. And as was established in a recent roundtable discussion hosted by Solar Power World, the solar industry experienced its own metaphorical “solar coaster” in its efforts to disseminate clean, renewable energy. The discussion, held on February 23, 2020, was moderated by Editor in Chief Kelly Pickerel, and paneled by four experts representing the residential, commercial, utility, and manufacturing branches of the solar industry. Their conversation spanned everything from initial difficulties at the onset of the pandemic in the United States, to the role of renewable energy during the Texas snowstorm in mid-February, to the use of drones in an increasingly virtual solar landscape. A True Solar Coaster: Coronavirus Headwinds Like most home services companies, solar energy is characterized by its hands-on, boots on the ground approach. Prior to the pandemic, most, if not all solar consultations were conducted in-person, and few contractors would have ever dreamed of surveying a job site from their computer screen some miles away. Addressing the sudden shift in how business got done, and the accompanying employee burnout became a top priority for Joanie Brooke, Vice President of Operations at commercial solar provider Borrego Solar Systems. “2020 was an exhausting year for everybody,” Brooke said. “We really had to focus this year on things like burnout, managing change for our employees and our customers, making accommodations like remote working skill sets for 300 employees, and a lot of work went into modifying our field practices working around natural human nature.” Scanifly CEO Jason Steinberg mentioned similar roadblocks from a manufacturing perspective. “I’d say March through May  was fascinating from an unfortunate standpoint to watch which parts of the world and the country went into lockdown, and which states considered solar contractors essential workers or not.” Many of Scanifly’s customers (solar installation customers) found some initial success with remote selling either over the phone or via video call; but remote surveying, a key step in the solar installation process, got off to a much rockier start. Growing Pains: Updating Procedures (and Expectations) In addition to the consultation, design, and survey phases, COVID-19 also seriously affected the installation phase. “Our [installation teams] work pretty closely together in tight groups,” said Mike Garofalo, VP of Operations at utility solar provider CS Energy. “We tried to keep them spaced out as much as possible and provide them with masks and PPE.” Garofalo explained that installation teams had to take greater pains to plan out exactly where they were going to work, how they would keep crews spaced out to mitigate potential spread of the disease. This idea spread to other areas of the work site, according to Brooke, who reported some of “the cleanest construction sites” she had ever seen thanks to the pandemic. The fact that customers have been so resilient and able to make a decision about purchasing a system over a Zoom call blew me away!” — Bret Biggart, Freedom Solar Power CEO Administrative workers were also given the option to work from home, which provided the unexpected benefit of easing non-work burdens and responsibilities. “That flexibility really helped our employees get through the personal side of the pandemic,” he said. And with the introduction video conferencing between installation crews and project managers, communication has never been better. The leap to virtual conferencing was just as important for the residential solar industry, according to Bret Biggart, CEO of Texas-based Freedom Solar Power. “The part of our business that was changed for the better had to do with how we interact with customers. A year ago, we were very much of the school of thought that you had to sit down with someone and have a face-to-face meeting and develop a rapport to sell a [solar panel] system. Today, 50 percent of our appointments are now set virtually. The fact that customers have been so resilient and able to make a decision about purchasing a system over a Zoom call blew me away!” The ability to make an informed decision via virtual means was not the only surprising quality customers demonstrated over the past year. Biggart went on to say how the pandemic has affected key drivers in the solar adoption process. “What’s been really cool is to see the evolution of what drives peoples’ decision making [regarding solar energy]. Ten years ago, people were very driven by this return profile that had to be met: ‘Show me the ROI, and then I’ll make a decision based on that.’ But in the past year we’ve seen this strange shift in the way people think about their role on this planet. People feel obligated to do what they can to make this planet a little better place as a result of this pandemic and how they consume electricity.” Tech to the Rescue: Solar Is More Efficient than Ever "During the pandemic, our existing customers and new customers realized they could grow their businesses with social distancing in mind." — Jason Steinberg, Scanifly CEO The positive momentum drawn from consumer confidence in the solar industry has only been aided by the deft application of technology. “One thing we’re investing in as a consequence of coronavirus is construction software and how we can build out that software that we’re using in the field to have better communication between the field and the office, because if we have better communication we can better deliver what our customers are asking for.” And not only has technology allowed solar companies to be better able to deliver on customer expectations, it’s actually helped them serve a greater volume of customers without sacrificing quality, said Biggart. “From an appointment-setting standpoint, our business is about efficiency. Whether we’re selling a system or installing it, how quick can we make that happen while still providing a good customer experience?” Logistically, video conferencing has allowed Freedom Solar Power’s energy consultants to double or even triple the average number of appointments they were fulfilling prior to the pandemic because they no longer need to travel to the physical site. The pandemic has presented solar technologists with an opportunity to innovate as well. “During the pandemic,” said Steinberg, “our existing customers and new customers realized they could grow their businesses with social distancing in mind. We’ve seen an increased focus on automation and efficiency, and part of that is using drones to do that for them. You can do a drone survey [of a roof] in the same amount of time it takes to set up your ladder let alone going on the roof and taking all the measurements by hand.” Customers who were at first lukewarm about the idea of conducting drone surveys gave it a chance in the name of social distancing, and now realize they can complete “three to five times more surveys in a given day — and with the accuracy that the homeowner has come to expect.” Drone technology has also informed some backend processes. “We’ve been using drones for commissioning and O&M [operations and maintenance] services,” said Brooke, adding that drones have helped employees with travel limitations to better benchmark and monitor the progress of any given solar project as drones give them the ability to inspect arrays in real-time. Technology has aided the post-installation process as well. “From the field inspection side, things have been pretty good,” said Garofalo. “We’ve had great success with submitting photos [of completed arrays] or scheduling inspections during off-peak work hours or after business hours, working with the inspectors for when they felt safe to come out. We’ve seen very few issues from a field inspection standpoint.” Looking Forward: Permitting Hurdles and Market Optimism In spite of the record increase in solar adoption in 2020, propelled by a late Q4 push during the last six to eight weeks of the year, the industry still has plenty of red tape to deal with, most notably the permitting process for new solar builds. The permitting stage is vital to the solar installation process, and has been equally frustrating for providers and citizens alike, sometimes taking weeks, even months to clear. Due to outdated systems, the pandemic severely hampered the solar permitting and inspection processes, causing delays in interconnection and accompanying utility savings. “There’s always complaints about the permitting process,” said Garofalo. “Getting an actual permit has always been a struggle and continues to be a struggle [during the pandemic]. Some agencies allow electronic submission, but others still require a hard copy — but they’re not working in the office, so you try to navigate when you can drop that copy off and when the person can pick it up. A lot of towns and counties have switched to virtual board meetings [to approve permits], so from that standpoint things have been good. It’s just securing the construction permits that continues to be a struggle.” “It’s a mixed bag,” said Biggart. “We’re working toward an evolution to make things easier, a more automated process where we can have a quick turnaround on permitting stuff. But the general consensus with regards to permitting is that it’s frustrating. The bigger the bureaucracy [in a jurisdiction] the more painful the process has been. But I think that we’re going to see more and more pressure — in Texas for sure, given what has happened in the last week — in the form of some legislative action to make [the permitting process] quicker. Although 2020 threw its fair share of proverbial wrenches into the solar industry, companies have converted those wrenches into effective tools that make the outlook for 2021 and beyond a positive one. The experts agree that the increasing number of solar providers and financing companies will improve competition in the solar market, and ultimately drive prices down for consumers. Solar power has never been more affordable than it is now, nor have potential solar customers been more informed on how solar helps the environment. Solar energy in many markets still represents a fringe energy source; but as companies and government entities continue to embrace new technologies and adapt to the ever-changing social climate, we may find solar power quickly working its way into the mainstream.
Last week, a massive snowstorm left millions of Texas residents without electricity. And while FEMA and other relief organizations are sending help through generators, blankets, and other supplies, several people are still seeking warmth and reliable shelter as another storm prepares to hit the region. As with any widespread emergency, especially one caused by a natural disaster, questions of what could have been done to better prepare — as well as a fair share of bureaucratic finger-pointing and assigning of blame — inevitably come to light. Most recently, Texas Governor Greg Abbott attributed the sweeping blackouts across the state to the failure of renewable resources like wind and solar power, which combined represent less than 25 percent of Texas’ total energy output. His statement forwards a false narrative by many fossil fuel proponents that alternative energy sources cannot be relied upon in emergency situations. Politics aside, the implication that solar energy cannot be counted on to power homes during the cold, snow-laden months is patently false. Yes, power production can decrease when a solar panel system is covered in snow; but with proper installation and maintenance, quality equipment, and the addition of solar energy storage, solar can prove to be even more reliable and energy-efficient than some traditional power sources. Why can solar panels handle the pressure? Many solar customers will naturally worry that a snowstorm will damage their panels and render them inoperable. Save in some extreme cases, solar users have little cause for concern. Modern solar modules are designed to withstand a static snow load of 5,000 pascals or more, which equates to two to four feet, and wind speeds up to 141 miles per hour. Professionally installed solar energy systems are built with adverse weather conditions in mind; maximum sun exposure is not the only reason why solar panels are installed at an angle. Even though solar panels do not rely on heat to produce electricity, they still retain heat. So even if snow starts to accumulate on the solar panels themselves, the sloped design of the system, combined with the heat retention and sleekness of the panels’ surface are enough to cause the snow to melt and slide off. How much power do solar panels produce in winter? A common misconception about solar panels is that they rely on heat from the sun to provide electricity to the home and are therefore less effective in colder months; however, solar panels use light, not heat, to power homes. In fact, frigid temperatures tend to achieve more optimal output from solar panels than hot temperatures, and any loss in solar power in winter is more due to the fewer daylight hours and heavy snowfall than low temperatures. Snow surrounding the solar panels can also reflect more light into the cells even during low sunlight. What is a temperature coefficient? All electronics tend to perform less effectively in extremely high temperatures, and solar panels are no different. The reason solar panels perform better in cold temperatures can be explained by a calculation known as the solar panel’s temperature coefficient. The temperature coefficient describes a solar panel’s ability to maintain peak efficiency across a range of extremely high temperatures. More specifically, it represents a percentage decrease in efficiency for every 1-degree Celsius temperature increase above 25ºC (77ºF). For example, Panasonic solar panels have a temperature coefficient of -0.26, per EnergySage, meaning the panels’ efficiency decreases by 0.26 percent for every degree above 25ºC. And given that the average efficiency of a Panasonic solar panel is around 21.6 percent, its true efficiency at say 30ºC (86ºF) would be closer to 20.3 percent. In other words, solar panels are more adept at producing energy in cooler weather so long as they get enough sunlight. What do actual solar customers say? Actual solar customers report similar findings with their own solar PV systems. For example, one Momentum Solar customer said, “our electric bill [was lower] even during winter.” A Sol-Up customer meanwhile said, “we are hardly paying anything in the summer because of [the energy savings] we banked in the winter.” And a Solar Optimum client reported that she paid nothing in utility fees during some winter months save a “connection fee of $10 plus $1 tax.” Other customers provided concrete figures describing their winter energy savings: One Tesla Energy customer saw his system rise up to 60% total capacity during the winter. A PosiGen Solar Solutions saw his winter utility bill fall by 30% thanks to solar power. A Blue Raven Solar customer saw energy usage fall from 423.6 to 183.3 kilowatt-hours during the winter — nearly a 57% drop in energy usage. One SUNation paid just $29 on his utility bill for one winter month. And a Sunrun client only paid $16. How are solar batteries charging the game? Although solar panel systems were built for extreme weather and thrive in cold temperatures, heavy snowfall can still interrupt the flow of power from the sun to the home. But a recent innovation in solar technology has allowed solar customers to not only harness energy from the sun, but store it for a rainy (or snowy) day. “We are extremely excited about the adoption of lithium storage systems and the flexibility that comes with them,” says Oren Tamir from Ameco Solar. And he’s not alone. Nearly every solar company in America provides customers with this important system add-on that is quickly becoming a standard offering in the solar industry. Solar companies are quickly obtaining certifications to install battery solutions like the Tesla Powerwall, LG Chem, and Generac PWRCell. (Battery) power to the people Solar batteries are not only easy for companies to install, but they also provide customers with additional peace of mind, especially in the event of an emergency. Multiple Gimenergy customers had backup batteries installed as a way to prevent city-wide or neighborhood-wide power outages from affecting their systems: “We signed a contract to get the battery with 26% ITC. I am excited to have more savings and never be afraid of power outages.” – Ivy Bell “We did not do a battery installation with our solar system and had too many power outages last year. In 2020 we went back to gimenergy and asked them to add a battery to our existing system. Our solar system has been producing solar energy for almost a year now and the battery just got operational.” – M. Coudrey “Just got our first bill. No electricity payment. Have not used the battery yet. However, excited to know we will have electricity during power outages.” – Madison Brown “We have a solar and a battery system installed by Green Integrations and Management (Gimenergy). It took about two months to turn on the system. We have had a couple of blackouts already. It's amazing to have a battery during those blackouts.” – Sophia Considering that our over-dependence on fossil fuels has been a leading cause of climate change (and accompanying erratic weather conditions), the need for sustainable, dependable forms of alternative energy is at an all-time high. Although it’s still a relatively new technology, solar power and storage can be both a reliable and efficient energy source — even in the wintertime. Solar panels have never been sturdier or more affordable than now, nor have solar installation companies been more qualified to build quality solar panel systems and battery systems. And, most importantly, their customers agree.
Guest Post by Kayla Matthews It's hard to imagine life without electricity. Our countless electrical appliances have made life more comfortable and allow us to do far more than our ancestors could have dreamed. It's safe to say that the benefits of our plugged-in lives are worth the electricity bill, but you may be paying for more than what you're getting. Unrealized waste America wastes a lot of electricity. Surveys estimate that 67 percent of all energy in the United States was rejected in 2018. While a large portion of this is not due to home usage, you may still be using more electricity than you realize. Forgetting to turn off the lights or leaving the heat on are prominent examples of wasted energy, but some unintended usage is harder to detect. Vampire energy or phantom loads are likely haunting your home, feeding off of your power, and inflating your electric bill. Vampire energy and phantom loads These ghoulish energy-consumers may not be supernatural, but can still have frightening effects. An energy vampire is a device that uses power, even while not in use. Phantom loads are the energy these vampires consume. Typical vampires include phone chargers, cable boxes and televisions. While the electricity these devices use in stand-by is significantly less than when they're running in full power, the costs add up. Depending on how many you have in your home and local energy costs, phantom loads can cost you as much as $30 a month on top of your regular usage. How solar can help Vampire energy is an unwelcome guest in any household. Thankfully, there are several ways you can reduce or even eliminate them. One efficient and modern solution comes in the form of solar power. Solar energy can reduce phantom energy consumption in a few different ways. Taking advantage of one or more of them can help you cut down your electric bill so that you only pay for what you need. Greater independence One of the most significant advantages solar has to offer is giving you more control over your power. When you use solar panels, you collect and generate your own electricity, thereby reducing the amount of energy you need to get from a traditional power grid. By using solar to power just a few appliances, you can become less dependent on outside sources, leading to a smaller bill. Switching your entire home over to solar power may be too big a task to take on, but small changes can go a long way. By powering just your HVAC system with solar, you can take a large chunk off your bill and only have to purchase enough solar panels to power that one system. By not relying on the grid for all of your electrical needs, you can significantly reduce your payments. Solar chargers Leaving phones and laptops plugged in after full charging is an easy way to drain energy. Appliances left plugged in can increase your bill by as much as 10% percent, even when you're not using them. Using a solar power bank to charge these means that you don't have to pay anything for charging outside the initial cost of the power bank. Solar chargers are especially convenient when traveling, as you don't have to search for an outlet. Conventional power banks require you to charge them from a wall before use, so although they offer portability, they don't save on energy costs. A solar power bank only needs sunlight to charge, so you don't need to use any outlets at any point in the process of using them. If you don't want to use portable chargers, switching parts of your home over to solar power can still reduce the effects of plugged-in appliances. Since the grid would only account for what solar can't cover, you would use less vampire power. This is especially helpful if you have trouble breaking the habit of leaving things plugged in. Solar lights You probably use light bulbs often throughout the day. Conventional incandescent bulbs can cost $4.80 a year for just two hours of usage a day. While this number may not seem high, the cost can add up over time, especially with more bulbs and more prolonged usage. Solar bulbs can heavily reduce or even eliminate this cost. Since solar lights rely on the sun instead of the grid, you'll only pay for electrical usage when the bulbs don't draw enough energy from the sun. Small changes, like switching out conventional bulbs with solar lights, can end up saving you a considerable amount of money. Kayla Matthews is a tech journalist who has written for sites such as TechnoBuffalo, MakeUseOf, and Mother Earth News. To see more tech stories by Kayla, visit Productivity Bytes or follow her on Twitter.
Guest Post by Maggie Potter Sustainability is all the rage these days as the world works to address climate change and combat its negative effects. However, it’s important that sustainable business and marketing practices aren’t pigeonholed as simply a passing fad. Indeed, for the health of the planet, businesses of all sizes have a responsibility to offer ethically and socially responsible products, as well as create a sustainable work environment for your employees. And the benefits of sustainability at the business level span well beyond simply protecting the Earth. From a business standpoint, advocating for sustainability is a smart move for your bottom line. In increasing numbers, consumers are on the lookout for eco-friendly products and business models and are even willing to pay more for sustainability. Nielsen reports that a full 49 percent of global consumers are willing to shell out more cash for products with high quality and safety standards, typically seen as synonymous with sustainable business models. Unfortunately, the sustainable in the business sense isn’t always cut and dry. In the same Nielsen report, for instance, 41 percent of consumers reported interest in purchasing products labeled as organic. Yet that label (as well as similar buzzwords such as natural and eco-friendly) can be misleading, and consumers may not always receive what they believe they paid for. To that end, businesses have a duty to ensure that product labels aren’t ambiguous or outright deceitful. Honesty, in tandem with upholding a brand’s reputation, is thus one of the booming trends in sustainable business and marketing practices in 2020. Let’s take a look at the widespread growth of sustainable practices and corporate social responsibility and what the future holds. Breaking the global waste cycle with sustainable fashion You may be surprised to learn this fact, but the fashion industry is one of the world's most wasteful. In the United States alone, approximately 26 billion pounds of textiles and clothing items end up in landfills annually. That exorbitant number doesn’t even account for the waste from the clothing production process, including trillions of gallons of water. Further, the fashion industry is responsible for the large-scale exploitation of overseas workers, many of which receive abysmal wages in an unsafe work environment. As more consumers are becoming aware of the detrimental effect of so-called fast fashion, sustainable fashion is rising in popularity. The good news for consumers is that sustainable fashion doesn’t consist solely of high-end, custom-designed couture items, although that’s certainly part of it. Upcycling clothes and repurposing out-of-season items into more fashionable pieces are also integral to sustainable fashion, as is shopping for gently used, secondhand clothing items. Watching what we eat: certified organic marketing As we have seen, customers want to know where the items they purchase come from, and that knowledge is especially relevant when it comes to food products. The organic label first came about in the early 1990s, following the passage of the USDA’s Organic Food Production Act. To be granted a “certified organic label,” products must be produced without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, and other synthetic materials, as well as verified by a third party. Some of the most prominent organic certification entities in the United States include Oregon Tilth and the USDA itself. Textiles can also receive an organic certification if production standards are met. In 2020, organics are no longer a niche market, and organic food products have become ubiquitous in grocery stores, specialty markets, and even restaurants across the country. Thus, when marketing organic food products, you need to stand out from the competition without compromising your company’s sustainability goals. It can be a fine line to walk, but building your brand around sustainability can help keep your company’s name at the forefront of consumer minds. Giving back and corporate social responsibility Another aspect of sustainable brand building and marketing is social responsibility. Socially conscious customers enjoy knowing that their investment in a product helps others in return. No matter the products or services your company provides, you’re likely to attract a wider client base simply by giving back to your community or a charitable organization. While social responsibility is relevant and worthwhile on a small scale, some of the world’s biggest companies are doing their part as well, while watching their client base grow. For instance, Microsoft’s giving program has generated a total of $1.7 billion for more than 21,785 schools and nonprofits since 1983. Of course, not every company can match Microsoft’s philanthropy numbers, but giving back is still a viable tool for growing your consumer base and boosting the bottom line. Embracing alternative energy at the business level As a growing number of consumers and workers understand the benefits of recycling, in-office bins are commonplace. But in such a saturated business landscape, perhaps it's time to take your business to the next level of sustainability: Harnessing alternative energy. Solar energy is the most popular source of alternative power in the United States, and its environmental and financial benefits are myriad. While you may balk at the initial investment costs, solar panels tend to start paying for themselves in short order, and you’re effectively taking charge of your utility cost, which can be empowering and enlightening. What’s more, your investment in alternative energy is likely to bring in environmentally conscious customers and retain them over the long haul. In lieu of solar panel installation, businesses also have the option to purchase renewable energy certificates (RECs) to help offset carbon emissions. Investing in clean energy is expected to remain a popular trend in the foreseeable future, according to Reuters. In fact, U.S. green energy investments brought in a record $55.5 billion in 2019, a strong indication that sustainability remains an important consideration among consumers and executives alike. Final thoughts The consumer-led push towards widespread sustainability and corporate responsibility isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The need to implement sustainable business practices, therefore, is imperative to the profit margins of every modern company, no matter the size or business model. In light of climate change and its detrimental effects worldwide, sustainability is no longer simply a trend, but a way of life. Magnolia Potter is a muggle from the Pacific Northwest who writes from time to time and covers a variety of topics. When Magnolia’s not writing, you can find her curled up with a good book.
In addition to electronics, furniture, appliances, and groceries, Costco members also have access to solar products. Here are four important things to know before deciding whether or not to purchase solar though Costco: 1. Costco members have access to DIY solar kits as well as residential solar systems from Sunrun There are two very different ways to go solar through Costco. The first is by purchasing solar equipment from Costco and installing it on your own. Costco sells Grape Solar 5830 Watt Grid-Tied solar kits, which include 22 solar panels, an inverter, and a roof mounting system. The retailer also sells Goal Zero Nomad 100 solar panels and Goal Zero Yeti 1000 + Nomad 100 solar generator kits that customers may use in their solar outfits. However, do-it-yourself solar installation isn’t the best option for everyone. The second solar option for Costco customers is a residential solar system from one of the nation’s largest solar providers, Sunrun. With this option, Sunrun will provide customers with high quality solar equipment, professional installation, warranties, and system monitoring. 2. Customers can earn a 10% Costco Shop Card on qualifying residential solar system purchases Costco members who purchase a qualifying residential solar system from Sunrun, either with cash or with a loan (not through a lease or a power purchase agreement), will receive a Costco Shop Card for 10% of the pre-tax cost of the equipment, including solar panels, racking, inverters, and batteries. This promotion does not apply to the cost of the installation. These Costco Shop Cards may be used toward merchandise at Costco, including purchases at the Costco Gas Station and Costco Food Court. 3. Individuals who purchase a residential solar system from Sunrun through Costco will receive an extended roof penetration warranty Sunrun provides all customers with a number of warranties, including a 20-year warranty on workmanship and a 10-year warranty on roof penetration. However, customers who purchase a Sunrun solar system through Costco will receive an extra 5 years added on to the roof penetration warranty, bringing roof coverage up to a total of 15 years. 4. Residential solar system purchases through Costco are only available in select states Only individuals who live in select areas have access to a Sunrun solar system through Costco. Available areas include the following: Arizona California Colorado Connecticut Florida Hawaii Illinois Massachusetts New Jersey New Mexico New York Nevada South Carolina Texas Vermont If you live in one of these areas, a Sunrun solar system through Costco may worth looking into, but we always recommend obtaining multiple solar quotes and price shopping before making a decision. Whether or not you live in one of the states listed above, you can view top rated solar companies in your area and read solar company reviews here.
Guest Post by Scott Turner You may have heard of LEED certification mentioned with regards to office buildings, commercial real estate projects, or new construction. However, more and more individual homes and renovated properties are working towards LEED certification (and for good reason — the benefits are numerous). In fact, certifications have gone up nearly 20 percent in just the past year — more than 1.1 million homes in the United States are now LEED-certified. The most obvious reason to consider a LEED certification for your home is a commitment to helping the environment. We have only one planet, after all. However, there are a number of other compelling reasons that make a LEED certification an excellent idea for your home. Here’s what you need to know: What is LEED? The US Green Building Council (USGBC) began the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the year 2000 as a program designed to encourage environmentally friendly construction and design. Through LEED, the USGBC has created a measurable standard by which green architecture can be held to demonstrate a level of efficiency and sustainability. And not just nationally, but globally. Starting with just 60 projects a month in 2000, it grew dramatically in the next decade, representing around 500 monthly projects by 2009. During this time, it became the rating system which today is internationally recognized as the standard for green buildings. According to the USGBC, over 2.2 million square feet of building projects are now LEED-certified every single day. And with a total of 90,000 projects currently using LEED in over 150 countries and territories, it’s a dramatic rise in popularity and one that continues to grow. Why LEED certifications are appealing to homeowners There are a number of benefits beyond the knowledge that you are helping the environment that make LEED appealing to homeowners: Savings on utility costs — Although LEED certification costs can be between $2,500–$4,000, this cost is paid back quickly. LEED homes save up to 60% on all utilities using fuel-efficient furnaces and air conditioning units and efficient water/electricity strategies. Tax breaks — LEED certifications also come with potential tax benefits. Energy.gov states that if you are able to demonstrate a utility savings of 50%, your LEED home can see a tax benefit of up to $1.80 per square foot. That can add up pretty fast! Better health — LEED-certified homes are constructed with materials that are environmentally friendly and have proper ventilation. This means that those who live in a LEED home face fewer respiratory health problems as well as less illness in general. Also, including a dehumidification system is part of LEED certification, something that cuts down on airborne irritants and allergens. Better Resale Value – According to a study by The University of Texas at Austin, LEED-certified homes are worth an average of $25,000 more than those that have not been certified. Even if your certification costs $4,000, that’s an immediate upgrade of 600% in value. What makes a home LEED-certified? To be LEED-certified, a home needs to meet a certain efficiency standard as laid out by the USGBC. There are five different rating systems that are connected to certain building types. But there are four certification levels that apply to individual homes: Certification happens when your house earns a certain number of LEED points. Here’s how those are assessed. How to earn LEED points There are six main categories for structures and ways to accrue LEED points: Sustainable sites — Points are given for proximity to public transportation, protection of natural habitat, and a chosen site that will not have a significant detrimental environmental impact. Water efficiency — Low flow toilets, reuse of greywater, and the thought put into water use with landscaping all earn LEED points. Energy and atmosphere — With the largest available point totals, the focus of gaining points in this category is on energy efficiency and using sustainable energy sources where possible. Materials and resources — Using non-toxic, recycled, and renewable materials in construction are ways to gain more points. Also, LEED assesses how you cut down on waste in construction. Indoor environmental quality — Points are awarded for thought being put into a design that incorporates sunlight efficiently. Other points are given for the way a structure considers how best to keep temperatures regulated and thinks about air quality and ventilation. Design innovation — There are further possible points for innovations that do not fall under the five previous headings but innovate toward environmentally friendly design. Want to know how many points your house would earn right now? This LEED scorecard can give you an idea. Additional LEED certification criteria A LEED home must also meet a certain number of other criteria to be certified as such. Referring to the USGBC will help you understand the full range of these, but important examples for homeowners include the following: A permanent location on existing land — The home must not be designed to be transported to any other location at any time in its existence. LEED certification must apply to the entire structure — The LEED boundary includes a structure as well as any environmental impact, including landscaping or outdoor pavement. How to get your home LEED certified The LEED certification process is rigorous but worth the work to help the environment and reap the benefits. The step-by-step guide to LEED certification below walks you through the process: Scott Turner is passionate about writing content that solves real problems and makes the world a better place for everyone. When he's not laboring over the perfect headline, you'll usually find him surfing, scuba diving, or hunting down the best tacos in San Diego.
Guest Post by Matthew Casey Your panels could be producing up to 30 percent more energy. Solar energy can be a great investment for a variety of reasons. It makes the world a better place — and it saves you money every year on your utility bills. The financial benefits of solar are attracting more and more home and business owners to this sustainable form of energy production. However, despite solar power being one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States with an increasing number of people converting their energy source to solar, there is one crucial piece of information that the majority of solar owners are not being told: The dirt on your panels causes significant loss of energy production — and these losses can easily be avoided. All you have to do is keep the panels clean. “The productivity of solar panels will decline a little bit naturally over time — that’s the case for all solar panels. But a lot of the production solar owners lose is due to their panels being dirty — and that’s one thing you can actually prevent with a simple solution,” said Matthew Casey, CEO of RST CleanTech Solutions, North America. Dirty solar panels mean less electricity production The vast majority of current and future solar owners are unaware of the considerable impact soiling has on their solar panels’ ability to produce energy. In fact, soiling steals up to 30 percent of the energy the panels are capable of producing. And it comes in many forms: from bird droppings and pollution to falling leaves and salt from the ocean. All of which makes it harder for the particles of light to reach the panels, which keeps your panels from producing energy — and that means less solar-powered electricity for you. Dirt on panels is not a new problem in the world of solar, but the perfect solution has been missing in the past. In most cases, the estimated output of a particular solar system is being calculated with ‘unavoidable losses due to soiling’ in mind. Solar owners are told that it is simply inevitable that the panels will lose a certain amount of production – including losses due to panels being dirty. In an attempt to compensate for the production loss, many solar owners resort to adding more panels to their system, when in fact the problem in many cases can be solved by keeping the panels consistently clean, which means rinsing them up to three times a week. Dirt builds up after only a few days and panels can return to their pre-cleaned dirty state in only a few weeks. If you have your panels cleaned once or twice a year, which most solar manufacturers require in order to satisfy the warranty’s terms, it barely makes a difference when it comes to the production losses. So, which cleaning method is the best? There is no shortage of cleaning methods and services available to solar owners. But there is not necessarily a correspondence between price and quality. In addition, there are certain things to be mindful of to make sure the cleaning method you choose will not harm your panels or void your warranty. The following cleaning methods — with their pros and cons — are the most common: Cleaning the panels yourself Some solar owners choose to take on the task of cleaning the panels themselves, usually in an attempt to save money. However, climbing up on your roof is hazardous and can be quite a hassle. In addition, cleaning solar panels the right way requires using clean, soft water to avoid lime-scale buildup that can damage the panels. Hard brushes and soap can also harm the panels. And if you rinse them with cold water on a hot day, the glass of the panels may crack. The DIY method is risky, and if something goes wrong, your warranty may not cover you. Professional cleaning services Many solar owners hire a cleaning service a few times a year to get their panels washed. It takes the hassle of having to get up on your roof out of the equation, and you can trust that the water has been treated appropriately. But getting your panels cleaned by professionals can cost up to $300–$500 per cleaning, and if you clean your panels a few times a week (which is what it takes to increase panel production), you will easily spend more money on keeping the panels clean than what the extra energy production is worth. Automated cleaning systems An easy and convenient way to make sure your panels are performing optimally is with an automated cleaning system. It doesn’t require anyone getting up on the roof to clean the panels, and it makes it possible for you to clean them often enough that the dirt doesn’t have a chance to build up. Most automated cleaning systems are for large-scale commercial solar systems only. But RST CleanTech Solution offers a system for residential solar owners as well that won't break the bank. In fact, it pays itself faster than your solar project does, improving your overall financials. The system uses technology that keeps the panels consistently clean with only minimal use of water and no soap, increasing energy production up to 30 percent. It doesn’t require maintenance with exception of a yearly filter change on residential systems, and it can be controlled by an app, making it a convenient option. Relying on the rain to do the job This option really shouldn’t be on this list. But unfortunately, a common misconception is that occasional rain is enough to take care of the problem with dirty panels. Counting on rain to keep your panels clean is problematic because even after heavy rain, the dirt quickly builds back up and production goes back down. And light rain is even worse because instead of cleaning the panels, it cements the dirt to them, making them harder to clean. It’s important to choose a solution that will increase panel productivity without costing more than the value of the extra energy production. Clean your panels two to three times a week and make sure you don’t harm the panels in the process. If you're interested in solar, make sure to check out our top-rated solar companies. Matthew Casey is a Mechanical Engineer with over 15 years of experience in renewable energy — from wind to solar. Matt enjoys the fresh air, experiencing the world with his two daughters, and scoring soccer goals.
Guest Post by Kayla Matthews If you're interested in keeping your home cool while being more reliant on renewable energy, a solar air-conditioning (AC) system could be a smart choice for helping you save money, enjoying more energy efficiency and adopting a more eco-friendly mindset. There are three main types of solar energy systems: Photovoltaic-based — Energy collected from solar panels powers an air-conditioning unit or a central heating and cooling system. Solar thermal — The sun's energy cools the home through a heat pump. Unlike photovoltaic systems, solar thermal ones don't generate electricity. Passive cooling — These systems only partially use the sun for cooling. They incorporate strategies such as landscaping and insulation to keep a home cooler. Although you may come across information about passive cooling, this article won't focus on it. Options known as hybrid systems rely on small amounts of non-solar energy to operate. They combine photovoltaic panels with electricity. Hybrid systems also switch back and forth between solar power and battery power. During a sunny day, the light charges the batteries for later use. When there's not enough sunlight, electricity charges the battery backup system. There are also solar-powered absorption chillers, also known as evaporative coolers. These systems function when the chillers use fans to blow air over water-saturated materials. The fans and their required motors get their energy from the sun. All air conditioners work when a compressor — located inside a condenser — pressurizes the refrigerant. A solar-based system creates that pressure by using heat from the sun. As the refrigerant gets warmer, the compressor doesn't need to work as hard to make the cooling process occur. As such, solar AC systems can aid in meeting energy-efficiency goals. Evaporating refrigerant in a solar thermal system gets pumped through coils, absorbing heat and moisture. Room-based vs. whole-house solar AC systems People who are feeling more confident about cooling their homes with solar power after reading the information above should also decide whether they want to use a solar-based AC system for a single room or an entire house. Keep in mind that, if you're using solar panels, a centralized system for your abode will require more of them than if you use a window unit. Companies are also developing portable solar-power air conditioners, such as the Coolala. That brand had a successful Kickstarter campaign, and the product looks like a small guitar amplifier. It has wheels for easy portability and weighs only seven pounds. A man who lives in a tiny house decided to invest in a mini-split solar AC system and get a professional installer to set it up. After the installation, he decided to stress-test the AC and see how long it'd take for the batteries in the system to dip below 50 percent power. At the end of nearly three days, they still hadn't reached that point, so he ended the test after deciding he'd investigated enough. When you're attempting to work out the number of solar panels required to cool your whole house, several factors come into play. Your intended usage matters, along with the average amount of sunlight your area receives. People who are still feeling unsure about some aspects of solar AC may want to start with a portable or single-room unit first. Then, if those results are at least as good as expected, you might want to think about scaling up. No matter the scale of a solar-based system, it'll function through one of the options described in the previous section. Professionals may need tech training Heating, ventilation and AC (HVAC) professionals come to homes and commercial settings and install or repair systems to keep the environment comfortably warm or cool, depending on the season. According to statistics, there should be a 14 percent increase in HVAC mechanics and installers from 2014 to 2024. Solar air conditioning is one of many emerging options that enable people to keep buildings comfortable, while being mindful of sustainability. Although there are no substantial differences between how solar ACs and conventional ones work, it's useful for HVAC professionals to consider upgrading their skills by doing learning modules that specifically relate to solar cooling. HVAC professionals should also prepare to engage with their clients about how solar air conditioners can help meet relatively specific needs beyond the general cooling of a building. In one example, an Irish gas station used a solar thermal system on the HVAC equipment used to cool refrigerated cases. This retrofitting project achieved 41.5 percent average daily energy savings compared to the energy required before the solar installation. There were at least 1,200 solar thermal installations used for cooling in 2017. That amount is more than 10 times the 2007 numbers. As more individuals and businesses get interested in what's possible, HVAC professionals must be ready to answer their questions. Ongoing developments related to cooling technologies may soon affect how photovoltaic cooling systems work, too. In one recent example, scientists developed a new silica-based material comprised of tiny spheres. It can cool down a surface such as a solar panel without requiring additional energy expenditures. Moreover, the team noted that the material could remove half the heat a solar panel absorbs on a typical clear day, increasing the panel's efficiency by 8 percent. Options worth exploring If you're ready to move beyond conventional ways of cooling your home and see what solar panels can do, the possibilities are enticing. It's best to do thorough research regarding your specific system to determine which choices are most appropriate. If an active cooling system isn't the right option for now, passive cooling, as briefly described earlier, could help. Kayla Matthews is a tech journalist who has written for sites such as TechnoBuffalo, MakeUseOf, and Mother Earth News. To see more tech stories by Kayla, visit Productivity Bytes or follow her on Twitter.
Guest post by Kyle Kroeger of Green Coast Shifting to clean energy is one of the best ways of acting on climate change. There is a vast potential for universal clean energy access, which can result in human health and economic benefits. One of the biggest limiting factors in clean energy among consumers is the large upfront capital cost. There are several ways you can participate without having readily available cash. With the recent solar breakthroughs and high efficiency appliances and lighting, clean energy is now a more affordable option. Clean energy is helping lower the costs of household electricity and power bills. Do you want to adopt a clean source of energy but think it’s too costly? Here are five ways in which you can participate in renewable energy without a significant capital cost. 1. Shared/community solar Community solar is one of the best ways people can go solar without a substantial capital cost. This is a suitable option for people who cannot install an entire solar system due to economic reasons, people living in rented houses, and those living in places with less sunlight. Community solar is a program for the community that creates revenues by selling the energy to the utility. Usually, it involves having a bunch of solar panels in a large plot of land which has a consignment to offer electricity to the nearest regions. Residents and businesses purchase energy through subscription. With this program, people subscribe to the energy, which helps offset the brown power they use at their homes. The utility identifies every subscriber as offering clean power to the grid and therefore rewards them by providing solar credit on their bills. These credits help zero out the already existing utility bill. Community solar can significantly reduce electricity bills because people share the electricity generated. The program utilizes net metering, which is a billing mechanism that allows solar panel homeowners to feed electricity that they are not using and send it back into the grid. With this virtual net metering, you virtually own a portion of the solar power plant and share the generated electricity. Use of community solar is not only eco-friendly, but also helps create employment, and supports low-income household financially. Also, this is a good investment and can help the electricity company achieve a renewable portfolio standard. 2. Rooftop solar leasing If you are interested in a simple, low-maintenance option for installing a solar energy system on your home, leasing solar panels is a good option for you. In the past, if you wanted to get solar panels on your rooftop, then you had to invest a considerable amount of money. But with the introduction of the solar leasing model, you can use this renewable energy at a lower cost. The solar leasing firms help their customers benefit from the rooftop solar systems without getting involved in installation, financing, permitting and operating the panels. This solar leasing model usually comprises of four parties which include a creditworthy homeowner, the electric utility, a solar leasing company, and investors to finance the system. Under this program, the leasing company installs and maintains the solar system on the rooftop of their customers. The leasing company then sells power to the homeowners who have an agreement to purchase it at a fixed or variable predetermined rate in about 20–25 years. The homeowners must have the right kind of roof and must be in a favorable locality. When the lease period ends, the homeowner may get the panels removed, purchase the entire system, or renew the lease agreement. With the leasing models, the homeowners can save up to 10 to 15 percent on their electricity bills per year. However, the homeowners’ savings depend on the price of grid electricity. 3. Third-Party Solar Financing Third-party financing is another way of participating in affordable renewable energy. With third-party financing, you can lower the costs of solar panel system installation and maintenance. With this program, companies develop new products and services to cater to the growing demands for solar systems. Third-party financing occurs in two models, which include power purchase agreements (PPA) and solar leases. A solar company installs a solar system on the customer’s property in both models. Under the PPA model, the customer pays for the electricity at an agreed-upon rate. While power purchase agreement is very similar to a solar lease, there is a crucial difference in that you pay a predetermined monthly amount for every kWh the solar produces as opposed to paying a fee on a monthly basis regardless of power production. Here is how you can determine how much power solar panels produce. 4. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program You can finance solar through PACE programs in some states in the United States. With this program, the homeowner loans money from specific states, town, counties, city, or municipality and repays in over 15 to 20 years through higher property taxes. PACE programs help property owners finance energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy on commercial and residential properties. This way, the property owners can install clean energy without incurring the high upfront costs associated with the installation of energy-saving retrofits and solar panels. With the PACE financing program, property owners can have access to low interest and long-term loans and, in turn, it helps reduce their energy bills. Again, the homeowners can pay for improvements over time through assessments on their property tax bills. Once the property is put under the PACE arrangement, it remains there even if it is sold, foreclosed upon, or transferred. 5. Group purchasing People can also participate in renewable energy by taking part in a group purchase. This is usually possible through a Groupon concept, an internet-based platform that helps people get group discounts. People sign up for offers together, and later they unlock group discounts. One Block Off the Grid (1BOG) uses this concept to offer residential solar panels. Homeowners can save up to 10 to 20 percent with this financing program. Group purchase gives a solution to solar industry pain points, including substantial upfront costs. Currently, 1BOG is only working with a variety of solar providers around some states in the United States. Also, it has plans of branching out into solar thermal installations as well as home energy conservation. Today, you do not have to have a lot of money to use renewable energy. You can opt for some of these ways which are quite affordable. If we go green and utilize clean energy, we can start reducing our reliance on fossil fuels. This will go a long way in reducing our impact on climate change and thus save our planet. Start living more sustainably by choosing one of these affordable renewable energy options. Kyle Kroeger is a contributor for Green Coast and has a strong passion for sustainability. Green Coast is a renewable energy and green living community focused on helping others live a better, greener life. We believe that energy and green living has become far too complex, so we created a number of different guides to build a sustainable foundation. You can follow updates on Facebook and Twitter.
New York Solar Overview New York has experienced rapid solar growth over the past several years, and that growth doesn't appear to be slowing down any time in the near future. Thanks to high electricity prices, favorable solar policies, and a variety of money-saving incentives, New York is one of the best places in the country to reap the benefits that come along with installing a solar energy system. Here's an at-a-glance description of the current benefits and drawbacks of switching to solar in New York: Benefits of going solar in New York: High electricity prices = more savings with solar Multiple financing options available 30% federal tax credit 25% state tax credit up to $5,000 Rebates of up to $400 per kilowatt through some utilities 100% property tax exemption for 15 years 100% sales tax exemption RPS of 50% by 2030 Net metering with credit rollover and annual payout Straightforward rules for plugging into the grid Good for the environment Drawbacks of going solar in New York: Fewer yearly days of sunshine than some other states No performance payments We break down and explain each of these items in the article below. Cost of Solar in New York Prices of solar in New York have fallen 47 percent over the last five years, and as of 2019, the average price per watt for a solar energy system purchased outright in the Empire State is approximately $3.06. For an average-sized 7 kilowatt system, this comes out to be $21,420 before tax credits and other local incentives are applied. After incentives are applied, the cost drops to about $7,000. In terms of price per kilowatt-hour of energy used, those with solar panels in New York will pay only about $0.04 per kilowatt-hour. This is extremely low compared to the average price of electricity from the utility, which is currently about $0.18 per kilowatt-hour. Utility prices are expected to go up over the next several years, which means that New Yorkers who switch to solar now will see their savings increase over time. Considering this, as well as inflation and financial benefits from available incentives, the average home or business owner in New York who purchases a solar energy system could expect to recoup their solar investment in about five years. After that, they will essentially be able to use the energy production from their solar panels to power their house or business building for free or for a very low rate. In fact, over the life of the solar energy system, the average New York resident could reasonably expect to save upwards of $30,000. New York Solar Financing Options If you live in New York and would like to go solar, there are many payment options available to you. You can pay for a solar system with an outright purchase, a loan, a lease, or a power purchase agreement. Outright Purchases In New York, purchasing a solar panel system outright will provide you with the biggest dollar-for-dollar savings in the long run, but it does require that you pay for your system in full upfront. However, since you’ll be the owner of the system, you’ll get to take advantage of the 30 percent federal tax credit, the 25 percent state tax credit, and (depending on where you live within the state) a solar rebate, which will help you to recoup a good portion of those costs in the first year. In addition, you’ll own the solar equipment and the energy it produces. In about five years after it pays itself off, all the electricity produced by the system will be pure profit. Although this option is not feasible for everyone, you may want to consider it if you can swing it. Some solar companies will even offer a discount if the system is paid for in full upfront. Loans Getting a loan to finance a solar system in New York is a great way to go solar if you are interested in solar ownership but are unable to purchase the system outright. With a solar loan, you’ll be paying for the system over time but taking advantage of the incentives, perks, and savings from the beginning. Many solar companies partner with banks or companies that specialize in providing loans for solar projects. These loan companies typically offer loans contracts ranging from 5 to 20 years and interest rates between 1.99 and 4.99 percent, depending on your credit score and the length of the loan. Common benefits that come along with getting a solar loan include the ability to take advantage of federal tax credits and available local incentives, as well as the option to pay off the loan early with no prepayment penalties. When you choose to go solar with a loan in New York, you’ll actually start making money in the first year thanks to high electricity prices and solar incentives. Essentially, the money you save on your utility bill as a result of having solar combined with the money you’ll receive from incentives will be greater than your loan payment. Your savings will then increase each year as electricity prices go up. Once the loan is paid off, you’ll be able to power your home or business for free or for a very low cost for the remainder of the system’s life. Leases Leasing a solar panel system for your home basically means that you will be renting the system from a solar company or a third-party financier for the duration of a contract, which is generally 20 years, at a locked-in monthly rate. Leases typically do not require the homeowner to put any money down upfront, but because the solar company owns the system, the customer does not get to take advantage of tax credits, rebates, net metering, or long-term financial benefits. Since electricity prices in New York are higher than the national average, home and business owners can take advantage of solid savings by leasing solar panels because the lease payment will be lower than their electricity bill without solar. As electricity prices go up over time, so will solar savings. Plus, let’s not forget the positive impact on the environment. Power Purchase Agreements PPAs are similar to leases in that the homeowner typically does not have to put any money down and a third party owns the system. However, instead of renting the system at a locked-in rate, the homeowner buys the electricity produced by the system at a set rate. Due to New York’s relatively high electricity prices, New Yorkers can absolutely save money with a PPA, and those savings should increase each year as the cost of electricity goes up. New York Solar Incentives New York has several awesome incentives available for residents who make the switch to solar, including tax credits, rebates, and tax exemptions. Tax Credits There are two tax credits you need to be aware of when switching to solar. The first is the 30 percent federal tax credit that anyone in the United States who owns their solar panel system can qualify for. Because these credits are given on a 1-to-1 basis according to your tax liability, you will want to have an idea about what your federal tax liability is to know how many years it will take for you to take full advantage of this tax credit. The second is the state tax credit. New York currently offers one of the best state solar tax credits in the country. On top of the 30 percent federal solar tax credit, New Yorkers get to take advantage of an additional credit of 25 percent of the total system cost (up to $5,000) that can be applied to state taxes. Tax Exemptions Residents of New York who install solar panels on their home have two dollar-saving tax exemptions available to them. The first is a 15-year, 100 percent property tax exemption, so while the value of your home will likely go up due to the addition of solar panels, your property taxes won’t for 15 years. The second is a 100 percent sales tax exemption, which will save you hundreds of dollars right off the bat because you won’t have to pay sales tax on your solar energy system. Solar Rebates Many utility companies offer rebates to homeowners that own a solar panel system. These rebates are similar to those that you’d receive on an electronic or appliance purchase and result in money back in your pocket after the solar installation. Solar rebates in New York have been somewhat exhausted, but through the state’s NY-Sun PV Incentive Program, upstate residents and Con Edison customers still have access to rebates between $300 and $400 per kilowatt for systems up to 25 kilowatts. For an average-sized 7 kilowatt residential solar system, that means a rebate of up to $2,800. If you’re unsure whether or not you’ll qualify for a rebate, we recommend consulting with preferred solar companies in your area. Performance Payments Performance payments reward solar owners for the electricity their panels produce on an ongoing basis. Utility companies will typically either offer a per-kWh bonus or pay you a fixed amount for credits earned. While there are a variety of other solar incentives available in the state, New York currently does not offer solar performance payments of any kind. New York Solar Policy Information New York has done well to enact favorable policies regarding net metering, Renewable Portfolio Standard, and interconnection that make residential solar accessible and attractive to state residents. Net Metering Net metering refers to utility companies crediting solar owners for the excess power that they feed back into the grid from their solar energy system. During the day while solar panels are generating power, the meter typically runs backwards and sends surplus energy to the grid, as many homes aren’t consuming as much energy as their system is producing. At night, when the system is no longer producing energy, most homes pull energy back from the grid to cover their electricity needs. Through net metering, solar owners are able to generate credits to help offset any bills they receive from their utility company for tapping into the grid. For systems sized under 25 kilowatts, solar owners who live in New York get to take advantage of one of the top net metering policies in the country. In order to make sure you get credit for the surplus energy that your solar system generates, the utility companies are required to monitor your system’s output and credit your bill for any energy that you do not use. These credits can be rolled over from month to month. If there are leftover credits remaining at the end of a 12-month billing cycle, the utility company will pay you for them at the avoided-cost rate. As an added bonus, in New York, you get to choose when this 12-month billing cycle ends so you can receive your payout at an advantageous time. Renewable Portfolio Standard Utility companies are required by their state legislature to make sure that a certain percentage of their energy production comes from renewable energy sources, such as solar, by a specific date. If the utility companies in the state do not comply with Renewable Portfolio Standard law, they will be heavily fined. Therefore, states that have a large RPS requirement usually have great incentives up for grabs from the utility companies in that state. As of 2015, New York has a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 50 percent by 2030, which is one of the most aggressive goals in the nation. Interconnection Standards Interconnection standards have to do with the requirements involved when it comes to connecting a solar system to the grid. It’s important to know if your state has any additional requirements that must be met in order to get your home solar system plugged into the grid. The state of New York has created a standard, statewide guideline for connecting to the grid that utility companies must comply with, making plugging into the grid a smooth process for solar customers. New York Solar Statistics To date, New York has installed over 1,600 megawatts of solar, enough to power more than 280,000 homes in the state with solar energy. New York ranks sixth in the nation in projected solar growth, and more than 3,000 additional megawatts of solar are expected to be installed in the Empire State over the next five years. Currently, there are over 850 solar companies and more than 9,700 solar jobs in New York. Interested in a solar quote? Check out the top rated solar companies in New York and read reviews from verified solar customers.