Osage Valley continues to field more and more questions about solar. Is solar right for me? Can I save money by installing a solar energy system? Are there tax credits for solar? These are all great questions and we encourage our members to call and talk to us when researching their renewable energy options.
We encourage our members to start with energy efficiency. Before installing a solar energy system, consider reducing your energy use by making your home more energy efficient. Many energy efficiency measures have a fast return on investment. Adding insulation and sealing your home can be one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to reduce energy costs. Check out our energy audit program to help with these expenses.
Purchasing a solar array can be a big investment and we want our members to be informed so they can make the best decisions. As solar becomes more popular, fraudulent contractors prey on those who are unfamiliar with their product. Be sure to conduct thorough research on all aspects of any system before making the investment. As with any major investment get a bid from more than one installer. Below are a few questions you should ask when talking with a solar installer:
- Ask for references. An experienced installer will easily be able to provide you with references of previous customers that are willing to share their experience.
- Ask about the number of installations they have completed.
- Are they NABCEP Certified? This is the National American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners. Professionals who choose to become certified demonstrate their competence in the field and their commitment to upholding high standards of ethical and professional practice. (Check for www.NABCEP.org for a list of installers)
- Service. Are they local? If there are any issues, are they nearby to resolve them quickly?
- Do they carry workman’s compensation and liability insurance?
- Are they licensed electricians and do all the work in-house or do they subcontract the entire job?
- Do they size the system properly? They should be able to present expected monthly output and compare that with historic monthly use. Don’t hesitate to call us for your historic monthly usage.
- Do they explain tilt, azimuth, or shade issues? These are all important factors in how your solar energy system will perform.
- Beware of some “buy now, pay later” and solar leasing offers. Research them thoroughly as they could significantly increase your overall long term investment. Many of these payment plans extend 20-25 years for solar panels with a life expectancy of 25 years.
- Watch out for any of the following false statements:
- You will no longer have an electric bill. – Each residential account pays an availability charge, a peak demand charge and if you have an area light on your pole, you are paying an area light fee. Even if you have credits for excess generation they will not be applied to these charges. Excess generation credits will only be applied to kilowatt hour charges. Also, without battery storage, very few systems will offset 100% or your electric usage.
- Your utility has a 5% rate increase each year. – OVEC’s last rate increase of 3.5% was in 2018. There are not any rates increases planned at this time for 2021 or 2022. Using this calculation will greatly misrepresent your return on investment.
- You can make money by selling your excess solar generation back to the electric utility. – Credits earned from excess generation are applied to your electric account and will be applied the following billing period or accumulated until you have billable kilowatt hour charges. Credits will expire without any compensation in twelve months after their issuance or if the member disconnects service per Missouri Net Metering Statute 386.890. Excess kilowatt hours will be credited at the avoided cost of generation and not at the retail rate.
- To calculate how much a solar panel system can generate at your location go to PVWatts Calculator (nrel.gov). Enter your address, the size of the system (kW) recommended by your installer, OVEC’s kWh rate (0.08053). The calculator will show the dollar value of your expected monthly savings. Take the total cost of your solar array and subtract the 26% tax credit. Divide this total by the annual dollars saved. This will show you the number of years it will take the savings from your solar array to offset the cost of your solar array (return on investment). If you do not know the cost of your solar array take the size of the system (kW) and multiply it by the national average price of solar, $2,590 per watt. (i.e. 10 kW system x $2,590.00 = $25,900)