General FAQ

The following are General FAQ for solar installations, please feel free to contact us if you do not see an answer to your question.

Q. Can I use power from my panels when the power is out?
No, (UNLESS YOU HAVE BATTERIES) in all cases – if you have a battery-less grid tied system and the power goes out, then your system automatically shuts down. For some more complicated systems with batteries, and critical load centers (additional cost items- see next question) then you could switch over to back up power.

For community solar, since there is not a direct connection to your home from panels on your property. If your power goes out, your panels may still be producing power and be connected to the grid, it depends on how wide spread the outage is. So you may still be generating power and selling it to the grid, but if the power is out at your home or business then your out of luck.

Q. How much more expensive is it have battery backup?
It almost doubles the cost, depending on how large a system you have and how long a duration you plan to have backup power for. Some people also opt for a generator, since the cost of the fuel for the generator is much lower than a large battery bank. The panels can charge the batteries in all but the worst weather, so a couple of days is usually all you need, For most people a short outage now and then is not worth the extra expense of having batteries which must be maintained, and replaced after 5-10 years.

Q. Can hail damage the panels!
Yes, but not usually. Panels have tempered glass surfaces and usually angled to the low winter sun, so hail is not hitting the panels the same way it would a car roof. This is usually covered by homeowners insurance.

Q. How long do solar panels last?
Most panels are warranted for 25 years, and will still produce at a minimum 80% of their face-plate power at the end of 25 years. PV generally degrades at less than 1% per year.

Q. I have an existing net metered installation on my roof, It was installed 2 years ago and getting a 6 cent adder. I want to add more panels, will they also get the 6 cent adder or the new 5.3 cent adder.

If is connected through the same meter as your other panels you will get the 6 cent adder, however it will expire 10 years from the original installation in 8 years.

If it is installed through a new meter you will get the 5.3 cents for those panels for 10 years from installation. However This would incur the one-time cost of the new meter ($110) and an ongoing customer account cost (about $12/month).

Q. What is an REC (renewable energy certificate?
Renewable Electricity Certificates, or Tradable Renewable Certificates (TRCs), are tradable, non-tangible energy commodities in the United States that represent proof that 1megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity was generated from an eligible renewable energy resource (renewable electricity). Solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs) are RECs that are specifically generated by solar energy.

These certificates can be sold and traded or bartered, and the owner of the REC can claim to have purchased renewable energy.

See this Wiki page for more information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renewable_Energy_Certificate_%28United_States%29

Homeowners do not sell RECs, since RECS are traded in larger quantities than what is installed on your home.

Q. What is a realtors perspective on solar?
Depends on the realtor, but most see solar as an appliance. In this case it supplies power and reduces the cost of ownership. This enhances the value of your home or business.

Q. How much value does it add to the home?
Homes with solar are often homes that are well insulated and have been well cared for. It depends on the size of the home and the size of the system. The value of free electricity for 20 years can be well over $30,000.

Q. Is there any negatives when selling a home with solar?
Roof top solar might be problematic if the roof was not in great shape and needed replacement. usually this is done prior to solar installation, the panels actually extend the life of roofing.

There is some small amount of maintenance with having your own power producing system. Inverters last about 10 – 15 years. Homeowners can hire a company to check up on the system. For the most part, Solar PV is trouble free.

Q. Is there a limit on the property tax exemption?
Article 12 of the 2014 town meeting exempted from property tax assessment: solar-electric systems (including panels, inverters, battery systems, and balance-of-system components) and solar-thermal systems located on residential, agricultural, and business properties

The Vermont Statutes requires an annual tax of $4.00 per kW plant capacity for systems greater than 50KW, this shall only apply to the fixtures and personal property of a plant, and not to the underlying land.

Q. What about hazardous waste?
There is no hazardous waste for installing solar, (some cardboard and pallets) but nothing hazardous. There is reusable and recyclable materials. Once the project is ended or you decide to remove the installation, there is resale value or scrap value to all the materials used.

Q. Is it hazardous to build solar panels?
As with all semiconductor productions, there is some waste produced, and some pollution, mostly from the cleaning process. Most PV material is recycled; this includes the glass, the aluminum frames, the plastic backing and electronics (copper, lead, etc).

The PV cell manufacturing process includes a number of hazardous materials, most of which are used to clean and purify the semiconductor surface. These chemicals, similar to those used in the general semiconductor industry, include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone. The amount and type of chemicals used depends on the type of cell, the amount of cleaning that is needed, and the size of silicon wafer [4].  Workers also face risks associated with inhaling silicon dust. Thus, PV manufactures must follow U.S. laws to ensure that workers are not harmed by exposure to these chemicals and that manufacturing waste products are disposed of properly. [source -union of concerned scientist]

Thin-film PV cells contain a number of more toxic materials than those used in traditional silicon photovoltaic cells, including gallium arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride[5]. If not handled and disposed of properly, these materials could pose serious environmental or public health threats. However, manufacturers have a strong financial incentive to ensure that these highly valuable and often rare materials are recycled rather than thrown away. [source -union of concerned scientist]

Q. Is it hazardous to dispose of solar panels?
While there are no global warming emissions associated with generating electricity from solar energy, there are emissions associated with other stages of the solar life-cycle, including manufacturing, materials transportation, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning and dismantlement. Most estimates of life-cycle emissions for photovoltaic systems are between 0.07 and 0.18 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. [source -union of concerned scientist]

Most estimates for concentrating solar power range from 0.08 to 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. In both cases, this is far less than the lifecycle emission rates for natural gas (0.6-2 lbs of CO2E/kWh) and coal (1.4-3.6 lbs of CO2E/kWh) [source -union of concerned scientist]

 

You can read more about the Solarize program here.