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Going Solar Panels Gainesville, FL

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Information about Solar Panels Gainesville, Fl

In 2011, the sheer quantity of solar panels residents and businesses of Gainesville, FL had installed made national news. The number of solar installations was three times as high as the US national average and higher even than solar-friendly countries like Japan and France. No doubt this spike in popularity was due in part to GRU’s (Gainesville Regional Utilities) very popular solar feed-in tariff program which provided incredible financial incentives for solar electricity pushed back into the grid by their solar customers.

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The History of Solar Energy

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In this post, we talk about the history of solar energy and how it developed throughout the ages.

For thousands of years, humans have harvested sunlight. It started simply – warming rooms with large windows or starting fires with mirrors – and led to today’s complex photovoltaic power plants with millions of solar panels each creating electricity.

Knowing the history of solar energy gives us a deeper appreciation for just how much work it took to get us to today’s modern solar technology. Below is just a brief overview of this story.Continue reading

How to Install Solar Panels on a Rooftop

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When anchoring solar panels onto your rooftop, installers have two main objectives.

First is to ensure that all the panels are safely and securely attached to the roof. You don’t want them flying off at the first breeze!

Second, ensure that all connections to the roof are (and remain) leak-free. To this end, rubber gaskets, flashing, and sealant are all used in abundance, along with good engineering practices so the installation affects the roof as little as possible.Continue reading

How Big and Expensive is a 15kW Solar System?

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Find out how much you can save by installing a 15kW solar system

You’ve done some math or maybe you’ve talked to an installer and found that a 15kW solar system installation will cover your electricity needs quite nicely. Great!

But there is one problem. You’re scratching your head, wondering what exactly does 15 kW mean? And even more importantly, how big and expensive is a 15 kW solar system?Continue reading

What Do I Need to Know When Buying a House with Solar Panels?

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Buying a house with solar panels already installed is a relatively new phenomenon. Read on to find out if it’s really worth it.

When you’re shopping for a new home, you probably have a checklist of things to do. First, you walk through the home to see if it fits your lifestyle. Next, you have your real estate agent run comps to make sure it’s a good deal. Lastly, you hire an inspector to check out the house and make sure everything is working well.

Buying a house with solar panels is no different. You need to know if the installation fits your lifestyle (more on that later) and if it makes financial sense for you to purchase, both in the short and long-term.Continue reading

North Carolina Solar – All you need to know

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Information about North Carolina Solar Power

North Carolina has the 3rd most residential solar of all 50 states in the US, beating other very solar-friendly states like Colorado, New Jersey, and Massachusetts! No doubt the explosive growth in the state was due in part to North Carolina’s incredible 35% tax credit for solar - which unfortunately has been defunct since 2015 - but even today homeowners in the state can save upwards of $16,000 with North Carolina Solar!

Read on for more information on purchasing solar in North Carolina as well as relevant solar policy and incentives.

#1 Overall Solar Grade for North Carolina

C
Overall Grade
13 years Avg. Payback Time (For Cash Purchase)
0.7 % Cash Estimated IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$16,787 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* Note that these are estimated values for informational purposes only, and do not take into account the full complexity of all financial projections. They also only apply to cash purchases, which means your numbers will be different if you lease your system or pay for it with a loan (factoring in interest). Also note that we are not financial advisors, so this information should not be construed as financial advice.

North Carolina is almost a trailblazer for solar in the southern states, paving the way for others to follow. They’ve been first-adopters of many policies typical of solar-friendly states like RPS goals, net metering, and solar tax credits.

While this is all great news, unfortunately many of these policies feel like legislators settled for ‘adequate’ instead of fantastic. For example, the state mandates that utilities must offer net metering to customers with solar - great! - but stops short of mandating that they must pay customers at the end of the year for any electricity put into the grid - not so good.

Even still, North Carolina earns a solid average for establishing a robust framework of solar policy and incentive that other southern states can look to as an example.

#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in North Carolina

North Carolina homeowners currently have two options for buying solar: upfront cash purchase and loans, and a third financing method gaining momentum. Read on to see which makes sense for you!

Cash upfront

If you’re purely interested in financial savings, a cash purchase is certainly the way to go! Homeowners who install an average-sized 5-kilowatt solar system can expect to spend about $12,985 on the installation after receiving the federal tax credit, but save around $16,787 after 25 years!

Our estimates take into account both the slow drop in efficiency of the solar panels each year (0.08% decrease annually), as well as the increase in utility rates (3.5% annually), and a 25 year expected lifespan.

As the owner of the installation, you are eligible to receive all the federal, state, and local financial incentives, which can drop your cost even more. You’re also responsible for your system – if equipment breaks or your installation starts producing less power, it’s up to you to hire a technician to troubleshoot and repair. Keep in mind though that inverters and solar panels both have long term warranties, usually between 12 and 25 years, so your out-of-pocket expenses will remain low.

However, there is a catch to these high savings. While the federal tax credit and other incentives certainly take a huge dent out of the total cost going solar (more on that below), you’ll typically receive these incentives after the installation is complete, so you have to pay the entire bill upfront for your solar installation!

Bottom Line: Unless you’ve got thousands of dollars sitting in the bank waiting for investment, paying cash for your installation might be out of reach. If this is the case for you, take a look at solar loans.

Solar Loans

Loans offer a great way to purchase a solar installation while avoiding the high initial investment. Your financial savings over the life of the installation won’t be nearly as high as with a cash purchase due to the interest you’ll have to pay.

Many institutions now offer loans for solar installations including banks, credit unions, and even dedicated solar loan companies. With loans, the agreement term, interest rate, and fees all affect how much money you can save, so be sure to call around to a few different establishments to see what terms they offer. Solar installers often have a preferred lender as well, so it doesn’t hurt to reach out to a few installers!

Bottom Line: For the same 5-kilowatt installation above which costs $12,935 (after the federal tax credit), when you add a standard 15-year loan with 5% interest, you can expect to save about $11,289. Savings are about half as much as a cash purchase, but loans have the huge added benefit of not requiring any large upfront payment like cash purchases. For many homeowners, this might be the only option.

More: Solar Loans

Solar Leases and Power Purchase Agreements

Third party ownership is not allowed in North Carolina at this time.

More: Solar Leases

PACE Financing

PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) is an exciting new financing mechanism that is slowly growing in the US after it began in the late 2000s in Oakland, CA. With PACE financing, local governments foot the bill for homeowners’ solar installations (or other green home projects), and the homeowner pays back the ‘loan’ through an assessment on their property taxes.

PACE programs often see low interest rates and longer terms than conventional loans, which makes them a great deal for homeowners wanting to go solar. Besides, the loan is connected to the property – not the individual – so if you decide to move, the new owner simply continues to pay the loan off on their property tax assessment.

Seem like a good idea? It is! North Carolina homeowners might have to wait a little bit though. While North Carolina has passed legislation allowing PACE financing in the state (a huge first step in the process!), there aren’t yet any active programs.

Bottom Line: PACE will be a great option when a program is finally available! So be sure to call up your local city or county and tell them to look into it!

#3 North Carolina Solar Policy Information

Despite its status as one of the best states for solar, North Carolina lacks really strong, robust solar policies. They’re certainly better than many other southern states – which lack any pro-solar policy – many of the policies, like their net metering or solar access laws, feel unfinished. That leaves progressive cities like Asheville to fill in the gaps when proper statewide legislation is lacking (read on for more about this situation).

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Renewable Portfolio Standard

Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) is a fancy phrase for when a state sets a goal that a certain percentage of all their electricity used in the state must come from renewable sources. California, for example, mandated that 50% of all electricity used in the state must be from renewable sources by 2030. Montana set a goal of 15% by 2015. As of early 2017, 29 states have adopted RPS goals (you can see a map of them all here).

In 2007 the state of North Carolina set a goal that 12.5% of electricity from investor-owned utilities must come from renewable sources by 2021, with a 10% goal for municipal utilities and electric cooperatives. The state even set a solar carve out but at a fairly low goal of 0.2% (interestingly, the same percentage that should come from swine waste).

The state’s RPS has been under fire for a while now, first in 2013 when lawmakers tried to repeal the bill, and more recently in 2015 when the state House of Representatives voted on a bill to freeze the mandate. Thankfully, that bit was removed before the bill passed.

As the only southern state to adopt an RPS, we can look to North Carolina’s RPS as a beacon for neighboring states to look towards for years to come – as long as it’s still in place.

More: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Utility Rates

Utility rates affect how much savings you can see by installing solar. The higher your rates, the more money you can save! And as utility rates continue to climb across the country and solar installations decrease in price, installing solar panels becomes a better and better financial investment!

In North Carolina, the average utility rate in is $0.1178 per kWh according to the US Energy Information Administration. This is obviously much lower than Hawaii’s $0.28 per kWh (the highest in the country!) and even a little lower than the national average of $0.1245, though a bit higher than the regional average of $0.1170.

It’s safe to say North Carolina has relatively low utility rates. However, even with these rates, we’ve seen you can still save money going solar in North Carolina, much like homeowners in other solar-heavy states that also have relatively cheap electricity like Texas, Colorado, and Arizona (all of which are under the national average).

Net Metering

North Carolina also established net metering incentives in 2005 for homeowners connecting their solar installations to the grid. Any excess electricity you produce is credited to your next utility bill at the full retail rate (so if you pay $0.11 per kWh, you’ll receive bill credits worth $0.11 for each excess kWh you produce!).

If you’re on a time-of-use rate (TOU) like Duke Progress’ R-TOU Program, how credits are calculated is a little different. The excess electricity you produce during off-peak hours is used to offset your electricity usage during off-peak hours. That’s simple enough. If you produce excess electricity during on-peak hours, it offsets your on-peak usage. Also simple.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. The excess electricity you generate during on-peak hours can go towards offsetting your off-peak hours (because on-peak electricity is more valuable than off-peak electricity due to the higher demand). In this same vein, excess electricity you produce during off-peak hours cannot go to offsetting any electricity you use during on-peak hours. Make sense?

Net metering in North Carolina unfortunately comes with one big downside. Unlike in other states like Florida, where homeowners are paid in cash for any excess electricity they have left over after 12 months, in North Carolina any additional bill credits you have left over at the beginning of the summer are forfeited – given to the utility with no compensation to you, the homeowner.

While in other states the payout isn’t much (maybe $0.02 or $0.03 per kWh), it’s really the principle of the matter – you created that electricity and pumped it back into the grid where others can use it. Wouldn’t you like to be compensated? To move the solar industry forward, North Carolina needs to step up their game and finish writing out this incomplete net metering program.

More: Net Metering

Interconnection Process

The process of receiving approval from the utility to connect your solar installation to their utility grid is known as the interconnection process. Utilities aren’t known for being a particularly hasty bunch, so as you can imagine, in the past this could be an arduous, frustratingly tedious process.

As more homeowners install solar, many states across the US have adopted standardized interconnection to ensure the process is as fast and painless as possible.

The North Carolina Utilities Commission initially adopted statewide interconnection standards in 2005 and subsequently revised them in 2008 and 2015 for customers of the state’s three investor-owned utilities: Duke-Progress, Duke Energy, and Dominion. The requirements for approval differ based on the size of the installation, breaking down into three tiers. For North Carolina homeowners, the only tier you’ll probably need to know is the very first tier, referred to as the Inverter Process.

The Inverter Process is reserved for installations up to 20 kW in size. As 20 kW is equal to almost 80 solar panels, the vast majority of residential installations fall into this category! Homeowners are required to pay a $100 fee for the interconnection application (as opposed to $250 or more for higher tiers), and utilities can require additional safety disconnect switches (typically installed on the side of the house next to your solar inverter) for a higher level of safety, but must reimburse homeowners if the installation is smaller than 10 kW.

Solar Access Rights with North Carolina Solar

The state of North Carolina protects homeowners’ right to install solar. First off, cities, counties, Homeowners Associations (HOAs) or other similar organizations can’t prohibit you from installing solar. That’s good news as in the past particularly crabby HOAs have attempted and sometimes succeeded in blocking homeowners installing solar.

HOAs and other organizations can force you to move your solar panels to another section of the roof if they are visible from common areas or areas open to the public. However, this is only allowed if the move doesn’t prevent the solar panels from working efficiently.

Unfortunately, the state’s protection doesn’t act retroactively to covenants already in place, so if the HOA regulations or covenants existed before 2007, they could pretty much do whatever they want.

If you live in Chapel Hill, the city adopted strict solar access rights laws in 2005, two years before the state-wide law! These laws are much stricter than the state laws and provide even more protection for solar homeowners:

Subdivisions shall not include covenants or other conditions of sale that restrict or prohibit the use, installation or maintenance of solar collection devices. (Article 4.6.7 from the above link)

Not only does the law mention installation, but also use and maintenance, all without any caveats in regards to visibility. Good job Chapel Hill!

More: Solar Access Rights in the US.

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits 

North Carolina homeowners can take advantage of the federal tax credit and state tax exemptions to drop their installation cost even further.

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Federal Tax Credit

Any homeowner who purchases (either through cash or loan) and installs a solar installation is eligible to receive the federal renewable energy tax credit. This tax credit is worth 30% of your total installation cost, and if your tax liability isn’t high enough in a single year, you can break it out and claim portions over several years. The credit was originally meant to phase out at the end of 2016, but federal lawmakers extended the credit to 2019, at which point it drops to 26% until 2021, and then 22% until 2022 at which point it is phased out completely.

As you probably know, tax credits – unlike tax deductions – are worth a dollar-for-dollar amount, so it’s almost like receiving a 30% discount on your entire installation!

More: Solar Federal Tax Credit

State Personal Tax Credit (Defunct)

Until 2015, the state of North Carolina offered a Personal Tax Credit equal to a whopping 35% of the cost of the solar installation, with a cap of $10,500 for residential applications. Unfortunately, the incentive expired in 2015 and is no longer available. 

Property Tax Exemption

North Carolina homeowners can also take advantage of property tax exemptions for their solar installation. According to a memorandum from the North Carolina Department of Revenue in 2011, any residential solar installation that is not used to produce actual income is 100% exempt from property taxes. The memorandum explicitly states that homeowners who receive credits as part of a net metering program are exempt from property taxes for their installation, which is great news for solar homeowners!

If your utility does compensate you for your excess electricity, you are still exempt from paying 80% of your solar installation’s value, though as we saw in the net metering section above, utilities rarely pay residential customers for excess electricity in net metering programs.

So if you installed a $12,000 installation on your $200,000 home and only received credits from your utility, you’d only pay property taxes on the $200,000 value of your home, not the total value of $212,000!

City Permit Rebates

To make the process of installing solar even more affordable, one city and one county even offer rebates for the permitting fees. These rebates aren’t worth thousands of dollars, but money’s money!

As part of their Green Building Permitting Incentives, Catawba County Utilities & Engineering refund 50% of the total fee cost for photovoltaic solar installations (as well as solar water heating, geothermal heat pumps, and greywater or rainwater collection). Homeowners pay all permitting fees before the project then apply for the rebate after the installation is complete.

The City of Asheville also offers rebates on permitting fees for homeowners who install PV solar as well as thermal solar, wind, and geothermal heat pumps. Solar projects are eligible for a $50 rebate and homeowners must apply for the rebate once the project is complete.

If you’d like to dig even more on local incentives and rebates, check out the DSIRE database.

What to do next?

So if you’re looking to install solar panels in North Carolina, you can expect to save up to $16,000 over the life of the installation – just be sure to choose the financing that fits your needs and take advantage of all the available incentives!

We hope you find this review of going solar in North Carolina helpful. Have any thoughts? Add them to the comments below!

Photo Credits via CC License - 1, 23 

Solar Panels in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

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Information about Buying and Installing Solar Panels in Fort Lauderdale

With sunny skies and numerous solar installers, using solar panels in Fort Lauderdale is a great idea. It’s even home to Advanced Green Technologies, the largest solar installer in the state (though SolarCity will take over this title as they begin in operations there).

If you’re a homeowner in the Fort Lauderdale area, there are a handful of financial incentives –-including the 30% federal tax credit and net metering -- that make going solar a great decision. While Fort Lauderdale homeowners won't save as much money as those in solar-friendly states like California or Oregon (where homeowners can enjoy upfront rebates from their utilities and electricity rates are high), you can still save of dollars by installing Fort Lauderdale solar panels!

For a broader state overview, see our Florida Solar page.

#1 Overall Solar Grade

C+
Overall Grade
12 years Avg. Payback Time (For Cash Purchase)
3.4 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$17,844 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* Note that these are estimated values for informational purposes only, and do not take into account the full complexity of all financial projections. They also only apply to cash purchases, which means your numbers will be different if you lease your system or pay for it with a loan (factoring in interest). Also note that we are not financial advisors, so this information should not be construed as financial advice.

​Going solar in Fort Lauderdale can allow homeowners to save nearly $18,000 over the life of the solar installation. The state of Florida in recent years has adopted many policies to encourage growth in the solar industry and ensure homeowners can install solar easily and quickly. However the lack of financial incentives such as upfront rebates - as well as moderately priced electricity - hinders solar growth in the sunshine state.

#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in Fort Lauderdale

For an average-sized installation of 5 kilowatts (about 20 panels), homeowners who purchase a solar installation in the Fort Lauderdale area can expect to save around $17,844 over the 25 year expected life of the installation. These savings are calculated by comparing the cost of going solar to the cost of continuing to purchase electricity from the utility over the next 25 years.

Homeowners who finance through loans realize a lower return on investment. With a 5% interest loan, you can save around $10,815 over 25 years. Significantly less than cash purchase, but almost $11,000 is nothing to scoff at! Savings from loans can vary dramatically though due to many factors including the interest rate, size of your installation, financial incentives, and utility rates.

So no matter what financing you choose, rest assured you’ll be saving thousands of dollars over the next 25 years!

Cash upfront

As we saw above, purchasing your solar installation outright provides a faster financial payback than financing your installation with a loan.

The process for purchasing a solar installation is fairly simple and similar to any other home improvement project. You pay the installer the full cost of the installation upfront, which for many is not an easy task, as solar installations are quite expensive. As the solar owner of the installation, you are eligible to receive all financial incentives including net metering credits and the tax incentives, which seriously decreases your total investment.

You are also responsible for monitoring and maintaining operation of your installation. This isn’t too much to worry about, as manufacturers provide long-term warranties for both inverters and solar panels If a piece of equipment does malfunction, it will likely still be covered under the product warranty.

Loan

You’ll save less with loans than with a cash purchase, but they provide one clear advantage over cash purchases. With loans, homeowners do not need to provide the huge initial capital to pay for the solar installation in its entirety. Homeowners simply work with a bank, credit union, or dedicated solar loan provider who pays for the installation up front and the homeowner pays back with interest in small monthly increments.

The financial savings you’ll see with a solar loan depends on the interest rate, loan term, and any applicable fees. For our savings calculations in the section above, we assumed a 5 percent interest rate over a 12 year loan term. A lower interest rate will provide even more long term savings and a higher interest rate will lead to much lower savings.

With this in mind, if you are looking to finance your solar installation with a loan be sure to talk with several loan companies to ensure you receive the best possible arrangement. Solar installers often have a preferred lender that can provide competitive interest rates, so be sure to ask potential installers what financing is available through them.

Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing in Fort Lauderdale

Through PACE financing, local governments foot the bill for homeowners to install solar and other renewable and efficiency measures. Homeowners then repay the debt through an assessment on their annual property tax bill. PACE financing typically guarantees low-interest rates and longer loan terms, allowing homeowners to enjoy smaller payments each month.

One major difference between PACE financing and loans is that, unlike loans, PACE financing is connected to the property, not the homeowner. This allows you to easily move to a new location without worrying about transferring a solar loan to the new owner or paying off the loan in full before selling the home.

The city of Fort Lauderdale is currently working with two organizations to offer PACE financing:

PACE financing is a great option for homeowners lack the cash for a full upfront purchase and are contemplating moving in the next 5 to 15 years.

Bottom Line: If you are looking to finance your solar installation with a loan, be sure to talk with several loan companies to ensure you receive the best possible arrangement.

More: Solar Loans

#3 Fort Lauderdale Solar Policy Information

Over the last 10 years, the state of Florida has enacted several policies to make going solar an easy and profitable experience.

Renewable Portfolio Standard

Many pro-solar states have adopted what’s known as renewable portfolio standards, which basically mandate that a certain percentage of all electricity used in the state must come from renewable sources. Colorado, New Jersey, and California, for example, have all adopted renewable portfolio standards – typically requiring that 10 to 30 percent of all electricity come from renewable energy by 2020 or 2030. These mandates push the electricity industry to adopt and encourage growth in the renewables industry, something utilities would otherwise likely avoid.

Unfortunately, Florida has yet to adopt any state-wide renewable portfolio standards- a huge gap in their otherwise solid solar policy portfolio. However, Fort Lauderdale has stepped up to the plate themselves and set fairly high efficiency and renewable standards (PDF download) themselves for their city!

By 2020, they plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent as well as source 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by the same year. The city is focusing on both government and community buildings. As of publication of the above report, the city was still assessing how to implement these goals.

More: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Electricity Prices

Electricity prices affect you financial savings going solar: the higher electricity prices are, the more money you can save going solar. In most of life, low electricity prices are a good thing, but with solar higher utility prices equals higher savings!

The average utility rate in Florida hovers around $0.1130 per kWh. Compared to the national average of $0.1275 per kWh, Florida sees fairly low rates; cheaper than Alabama’s electricity ($0.1229) though higher than Georgia ($0.1093). Don’t worry too much though. While you won’t save as much as homeowners in New York ($0.1775 per kWh!) or California ($0.1797 per kWh), going solar in Fort Lauderdale is still quite profitable!

Net Metering

The state of Florida requires investor-owned utilities like FPL and Duke-Progress to offer residential customers net metering credits for any excess electricity their solar installation produces and which goes into the electricity grid to be used elsewhere. Utilities credit customer accounts for the full retail cost of the excess electricity. So, for example, if your electricity rate is $0.11 per kilowatt-hour and your solar installation produces an extra 50 kilowatt-hours in a month, you will receive credit for $5.50 the following month.

If you have any credits left over at the end of the year, the utility will pay you for that excess electricity at avoided cost, which is the amount they would pay for the same amount of electricity (usually around $0.02 to $0.03 per kilowatt-hour).

More: Net Metering

Interconnection Rules

The state of Florida recently passed regulations to make the process of connecting solar installations to the utility grid faster and easier for homeowners and businesses. The law set standards for the interconnection process based on the size of the solar installation:

  • Tier 1: Installations under 10 kilowatts (equal to about 40 solar panels). Most homeowners fall under this category. The law guarantees that homeowners don’t have to pay any application or interconnection fees, hopefully leading to an easy, speedy approval!
  • Tier 2: Installations between 10 and 100 kilowatts. Homeowners with a large solar installation fall into this category. The only real difference between tear one and her 2 is that tear to installations require an additional eternal safety disconnect switch, and safety requirements among many utilities.
  • Tier 3: installations between 100 kilowatts and 2 megawatts. These regulations only apply to large scale commercial and industrial installations.

Solar Access Rights and Homeowners Associations

The state of Florida guarantees homeowners the right to go solar – Homeowners Associations (HOAs) or any other similar organizations can’t bar solar in their neighborhoods. Associations can request solar panels be installed on the back side of the house where they are hidden from street view, but only if placing the panels there doesn’t affect electricity production. If you’re worried about your cantankerous HOA, you can move forward knowing you have the right to go solar!

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits 

There are currently no rebates available for Fort Lauderdale area solar. In the past however, the City of Fort Lauderdale has offered rebates to residents installing solar panels, so it’s worth reaching out for up to date information on what incentives or services they offer.

While rebates are sparse for Fort Lauderdale homeowners, there are many tax incentives that make going solar a bit more lucrative.

Federal Tax Credit

The 30% federal tax credit is available to homeowners across the country who install solar through a cash purchase or loan (the owner of the installation is eligible for the incentive). The credit originally phased out in 2016, but was extended until 2019, when it drops to 26% until 2021, and 22% until 2022, when it is completely phased out.

The federal tax credit is a fantastic deal – install solar panels and the federal government will allow you a dollar-for-dollar credit worth 30% of the total installation cost. Simply claim the credit the next time you file your taxes. One sweet deal!

More: Solar Federal Tax Credit

Property Tax Exemption

When you install solar panels, you are also eligible for the state-wide property tax exclusion, which allows homeowners in Florida to pay property taxes on the value of their property without accounting for the solar installation. So, for example, if you installed a $12,000 solar installation on your $120,000 home, you’d continue to pay property taxes for $120,000 – not $132,000!

Sales Tax Exemption

Fort Lauderdale homeowners can take advantage of the state-wide solar tax exemption for all solar equipment installed on their home. With a sales tax rate of 6%, this exemption can save homeowners around $400 for an average-sized solar installation!

General Increase in Home Value

A 2015 study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab found that solar installations in Florida increase a home’s value between $2.30/watt and $3.11/watt (p.15 of the report). Researchers only looked at homeowner-owned installations (so no leases, PPAs, or loans) and found similar increases among both new and existing construction. So for an average-sized 5.6 kilowatt installation, home value can increase at least $13,000 for Florida solar!

What to do next?

Going solar in Fort Lauderdale is a great way to save money while contributing to a healthier environment. To see the most financial savings possible – especially if you decide to finance your installation through a loan – be sure to discuss with several different installers what options are available, equipment and warranties, and savings estimates. And after the installation is complete, don’t forget to apply for those tax incentives!

Image Credit via Flickr under CC License 

Solar Panels in San Antonio, TX

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The low-down on solar panels in San Antonio.

In our previous article on going solar in Texas, we noted that Austin might be the most solar friendly city in the whole state. The reasons for this statement certainly haven’t changed – the municipal utility provides excellent net metering incentives and upfront rebates.

San Antonio, however, is giving Austin an all-out run for the money, with local homeowners eligible for incredible upfront rebates from CPS Energy worth thousands of dollars! In fact, San Antonio saw huge growth in solar throughout 2014 and 2015 and ranks 7th in the nation for solar capacity!

If you’re a San Antonio resident and are thinking about installing solar panels, take the plunge since these upfront rebates are some of the best in the country and you can get a solar installation on your roof for just a fraction of the total cost!

For a broader state overview, see our Texas Solar Energy page.

Continue reading

Central Florida Solar Panels

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Information about Central Florida Solar

Note on area covered: This article focuses on going solar in the Central Florida area, including Tampa, Ocala, and Titusville. Utilities in this area include FPL, Duke-Progress, and TECO. If you are interested in going solar in Orlando, check out our dedicated solar in Orlando page.

Central Florida sees great sunshine and clear weather for much of the year – a perfect place for solar! If you’re wondering whether it makes sense to go solar in the area, or how to go solar, you’re in luck! We’ve done the heavy lifting for you and created this guide to central Florida solar! This is your one-stop-shop for learning about what financing is available for your solar installation, what kind of financial savings you can expect going solar, relevant solar policy, and financial incentives.

For a broader state overview, see our Florida solar state page.

#1 Overall Solar Grade

B-
Overall Grade
12 years Avg. Payback Time (For Cash Purchase)
3.4 % Estimate IRR (Return on your investment on cash purchase over 25 years)
$17,844 Your Net Profit Over 25 Years (Cash Purchase)

* Note that these are estimated values for informational purposes only, and do not take into account the full complexity of all financial projections. They also only apply to cash purchases, which means your numbers will be different if you lease your system or pay for it with a loan (factoring in interest). Also note that we are not financial advisors, so this information should not be construed as financial advice.

Going solar in central Florida is a great investment – if you do it right. Beyond a couple tax exemptions and a fantastic net metering policy, the state offers very few incentives for homeowners going solar. Adding even more difficulty to the state’s solar industry, Florida is one of only a few states that specifically outlaws third-party ownership of solar installations, meaning the leases and PPAs that have spurred the growth of the solar industry are simply not an option to Florida homeowners.

However, by smartly choosing your financing and taking advantage of all the federal and state tax breaks and net metering incentives, you can save upwards of $18,000 for an average-sized installation! Not too shabby!

#2 Options for Buying Solar Panels in Central Florida

Several components –like installation size and utility rates – affect your rate of return, but your chosen financing type plays one of the largest roles. As in any situation in life, cash is king and you’ll always save the most with a cash purchase. That being said, even though the savings are substantially lower, solar loans offer good bang for the buck and you’ll still save thousands over the long run!

Cash upfront

For the best return on your investment, you can’t go wrong with cash upfront. For an average-sized installation of 5 kilowatts, homeowners can expect to save around $17,844 over 25 years, with a payback time of 12 years!

To find these figures, we looked at the estimated installation prices from several reputable sources, including the National Renewable Energy Lab, and found an average of $3.32 per watt (which mean a full system price of $16,600). After accounting for the 30% federal tax credit (subtract $4980), we then compared the total cost to what you would pay the utility over the next 25 years if you never installed solar. The difference between the two costs is your total savings.

Purchasing solar in cash is by and large the easiest, simplest transaction when going solar. You provide the entire payment upfront and the solar company installs the system. They’ll typically set up a monitoring system as well so you can see how much electricity your solar panels are producing and calculate your yearly savings as well.

As the sole owner of the installation, you are eligible for all tax incentives, including the 30% federal tax credit, and net metering credits as well.  You’re responsible for monitoring and maintaining your installation. You’ll need to periodically check your solar installation’s production to make sure there hasn’t been a significant or immediate drop over the last month or two, signifying a panel or equipment malfunction. Both panels and inverters have long term warranties, but any additional repair costs come out of your own pocket. With that in mind, solar installations are fairly simple and have no moving parts, so maintenance and repair work is minimal to nonexistent.

Maintaining and monitoring your system is certainly something to be aware of, but nothing to worry about! In fact, you’ll be so excited about producing your own electricity that you’ll be checking your production far more than you’ll even need to!

Loan

central-florida-solar-loan

If you don’t have the funds for a cash purchase, be sure to look into loans for your solar installation. Savings vary greatly by interest rate. As a benchmark for you to compare your own loan to, we assessed a 12 year solar loan with 5% interest and found a total savings of $10,815 after 25 years.

As you can see, your total savings with a loan is about 60% of a cash deal. Your loan’s term and fees also play a hand in your financial savings, so it pays to shop around and see what a few different lenders are offering. Solar loans can be a great deal – if you choose the right one. Financial savings from loan-financed solar is hugely dependent on interest rates, loan length, the loan structure, and any fees.

As we saw, homeowners who go solar with a 5% loan can save over $10k over the life of the installation. Pretty good! If we increase that interest rate to 7%– on the high side – total net profit after 25 years drops down to $7,587. The savings are still there, but it’s just 40% of the financial savings you’d seen if you’d gone cash! So remember, if you go loan, be sure to read through the agreement and talk to a few different lenders!

As with a cash purchase, you the homeowner are eligible for all financial incentives, but are also responsible for maintenance and monitoring as well.

More: Solar Loans

PACE Financing

Although the state of Florida doesn’t allow leases or power purchase agreements, there is actually a 3rd financing option beyond cash and loans for central Florida homeowners. PACE financing is only available to homeowners in a handful of states, including Florida. PACE stands for Property Assessed Clean Energy and the program is just that. Local governments foot the bill for renewable energy projects, including solar, and homeowners repay the ‘loan’ through an assessment on their annual property tax bill.

PACE financing is very similar to a loan, but typically offers very low interest rates and longer terms. The biggest difference between loans and PACE financing is that, unlike loans which are connected to the individual, PACE is connected to the property. This means that, if you move, you don’t need to pay off the loan or switch the loan over to the new homeowner, they simply move in and continue to pay off the financing on their property tax bills.

#3 Central Florida Solar Policy Information

The state of Florida has some excellent policies set up to encourage the growth of solar in the state.

Renewable Portfolio Standard

Many states have passed goals that a specific portion of their electricity must come from renewable energy by a certain time. California, for example, passed legislation in 2002 that one-third of all electricity from the three large investor-owned utilities in the state must come from renewable sources by 2020. RPS goals drive utilities to push renewable energy. When coupled with rebates and other financial incentives for homeowners and business who go solar, RPS goals spur serious growth in states’ solar industries. Without RPS goals, utilities have no real immediate reason to adopt renewable energy sources themselves or encourage its adoption amongst its customers.

Florida has yet to adopt any RPS goals and it’s actually quite surprising how large the solar industry is in the state without these goals. The state should really contemplate adopting RPS if they’re serious about renewable energy in the state. Without these goals, the solar industry will continue to muddle along, instead of booming like in other states.

More: Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS)

Electricity Prices

Florida’s typical utility rate of $0.1139 per kilowatt-hour hovers right in the middle of regional and nationwide averages. It’s about half a cent ($0.005) less than the regional average of $0.1186 and over a cent less than the national average of $0.1287 (as of September 2016). It’s safe to say electricity prices in Florida are…. average.

The price utilities charge for electricity plays a huge role in solar savings. The higher electricity prices are, the more money you can save by avoiding those utility costs through going solar. That’s why homeowners in Hawaii are lining up for solar, the average electricity price is $0.2784 – the highest in the country! That’s some serious potential savings.

However, you don’t have to have astronomical utility rates to save money going solar. Colorado and Utah, both of which have huge amounts of solar, see average rates of $0.1278 and $0.1128 respectively. If Colorado homeowners can save money going solar, you can too!

Net Metering

The state of Florida took a huge leap forward when it passed legislation in 2008 requiring investor-owned utilities (like Duke-Progress and FPL) to offer net metering incentives to homeowners going solar. Great job Florida!

And in fact, it’s a fantastic net metering program. It ensures that utilities give homeowners full retail credit for all excess electricity they produce. The credits are applied to your next monthly bill and roll over month to month. If you have any credits left over at the end of the year, they pay you the avoided cost of your excess electricity. Basically, they pay you what it would’ve cost them to generate that electricity – usually around $0.03/kWh. Not too much, but money is money!

As a municipal utility, TECO is under different regulations, but homeowners under this utility are in luck, as TECO also offer net metering credits worth the full retail rate! You can read more about TECO’s net metering on its website.

More: Net Metering

Interconnection Rules

Along with net metering legislation, Florida also passed interconnection standards in 2008 that guarantee homeowners a smooth and easy process to receive approval from their utility to connect their installation to the electricity grid. The legislation created three tiers for the interconnection approval process, based on installation size. Most homes fall into Tier 1, which is for installations under 10 kilowatts. In this tier, homeowners aren’t required to pay any application fees and interconnection studies aren’t required. The process is fast and simple.

If your installation is larger than 10 kilowatts, you’ll fall into Tier 2. This tier is very similar to Tier 1, but your installation will require an external safety disconnect switch as an additional safety precaution. Not a huge deal, but it will be an additional piece of hardware on the outside of your home.

Tier 3 is for solar installations over 1 megawatt, which is typically only large commercial projects.

Homeowners Associations

Homeowners Associations (HOAs) in some states are known to have caused headaches for residents wanting to go solar. Some don’t like the look of solar panels and so try to block installations. Others have made the process long and drawn out to discourage solar.

Florida’s done a great job mitigating some of these issues by passing a law making it illegal for HOAs to disallow solar installations. HOAs can request homeowners to move solar panels to the back portion of the roof so they aren’t visible from the street, but only if the move doesn’t affect the installation’s production.

If you’re going solar and are worried about your somewhat cantankerous HOA, worry no longer! By all means work with your HOA and try to solve any issues amiably, but in the end, know that you’ve got the right to install solar on your roof!

#4 Financial Incentives, Rebates, and Tax Credits 

Central Florida homeowners are eligible to receive tax credits, tax exemptions, and possibly a cash rebate (depending on your area) for their solar installation!

Federal Tax Credit

The federal government offers a 30% tax credit for the total cost of your installation. As this is a full-on credit – not a deduction – it’s a 30% dollar-for-dollar discount on your total installation price. As the owner of the installation, you apply for the credit on your next tax return. This tax credit was extended to the end of 2019, when it drops to 26% until 2021, the 22% until 2022.

More: Solar Federal Tax Credit

Local Rebates

Many states require utilities or state-wide efficiency programs to offer financial rebates to customers going solar. Unfortunately, such is not the case in Florida and there is no state-wide rebate for solar installations. In fact, central Florida is home to the only solar rebate in the entire state!

The City of Longwood offers rebates for solar as well as other renewable and efficiency projects worth 10% of the total project cost, up to $500. This pales in comparison to rebates in other states like Oregon, where solar homeowners are eligible for thousands of dollars. But, if you live in the city of Longwood, that’s cash in your pocket! Great job Longwood!

Property Tax Exemption

If you go solar anywhere in the state of Florida, you are exempt from paying additional property taxes for the value of your solar installation! So, for example, if your home is worth $120,000 and you install a $15,000 solar installation, you can continue to only pay property taxes on the $120,000 value of your home, not the actual $135,000 value that the solar installation adds!

Sales Tax Exemption

All the equipment you purchase for your solar installation is exempt from state sales tax, which is typically 6%. Homeowners who take advantage of this tax exemption can save around $400 for an average-sized installation!

If you’re wondering if going solar in central Florida is right for you, go for it! You stand to save tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your installation. But as with any investment, be sure to review all the savings estimates your installer gives you to make sure it’s worthwhile. This is especially true if you are financing through a loan or PACE, as the interest rate, fees, and loan term seriously affect the savings you’ll see. Once installed, as you enjoy the Florida sunshine, you’ll know that you’re also producing clean, cheap electricity for yourself! What could be better? But before all this, be sure to speak with a qualified installer to get a customized estimate for your home!

General Increase in Home Value

More: Buyers Will Pay More for Solar Homes

If you’d like to dig even more on local incentives and rebates, check out the DSIRE database.

What are the Primary Types of Solar Power?

types-of-solar-power

What do we mean when we talk about the different types of solar power?

After all, all solar power comes from the sun, what else is there?

When we discuss types of solar power, what we’re really talking about is the different methods of harvesting and using the sun’s energy. With solar power, we can warm a room so we’re nice and cozy, heat water for our showers and baths, create electricity or even cook food! Today we’re going to focus on ways to create or harvest energy using solar power.Continue reading

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