02. How do solar panels work?
A semiconductor material, often silicon, is faced toward the sun. Energy waves in sunlight excite electrons in the silicon initiating an electrical current. Electrical wiring, from your solar panels to your building’s electrical service, serves as the link to deliver the sun’s power.
03. What is the difference between DC and AC power?
Your solar panel system generates DC power – like the power in flashlight batteries. The DC power from the solar panels is converted to AC power by an inverter. The conversion from DC to AC means a slight loss of energy, roughly 10-15%. This explains why it is important to know whether a system is being quoted in DC or AC.
04. What is a kilowatt hour, or kWh?
A kWh is the common unit for measuring electricity, similar to the way that a gallon is a unit of measurement for liquids like milk and a pound is a unit for measuring weight. When you use 1000 watts of electricity for one hour it is 1 kWh. 1kWh is the equivalent to using a hair dryer 4 times for 15 minutes or running a small refrigerator for 24 hours.
05. What is ‘Net Energy Metering’?
Net energy metering is a special billing arrangement between solar PV customers and their local utility that permits the customer to receive credit for the full retail value of the electricity their system generates. When the electricity generated by a solar power system exceeds the energy consumed, the solar PV customer not only eliminates their electricity bill, but can also “sell” the power back to the utility company in the form of credits. Over a 12 month period, the customer has to pay only the amount that was not offset by their solar system.
06. How does the utility company charge me for electricity? What are tiers?
The utility charges customers per kWh consumed ($/kWh). The cost per kWh increases as more power is consumed during a month. This ‘tiered’ rate structure rewards conservation and penalizes big power consumers. The upper tiers are the most expensive, often double that of the base line rate; solar power offsets the upper tiers first.
07. What happens to my utility bill?
The utility will continue to mail you a monthly gas and electric bill as usual. Along with this bill, you will also receive statements itemizing your home’s electrical consumption/PV generation. You have the option to pay your electric bill monthly or just once a year.
08. How does the California state rebate work?
The California state rebate is broken down into two rebate program options called the Expected Performance-Based Buydown (EPBB) and Performance Based Incentive (PBI). Both programs are administered by the California Solar Initiative (CSI). The EPBB rebate is a one-time, up-front incentive based on the expected electrical production of your system and is generally the option taken by homeowners. You will receive the rebate check 1-3 months after the system is complete. The rebate can also be ‘reassigned’ to Northern Pacific Power Systems so you are only responsible for the net cost of the project. The PBI rebate is typically taken on projects larger than 12 kW and is mandatory for projects over 50 kW. This rebate is paid back to the customer in monthly installments over 5 years and is based on actual production of the solar system. Monitoring systems within 2% tolerance must be used with installations utilizing the PBI rebate to monitor performance. As more homeowners and business owners purchase solar systems, the amount of rebate money available for a project goes down. Time is of the essence to purchase your solar power system today so that you get the highest rebate currently available.
09. When do I receive the Federal Tax Credit?
For residential customers the one-time 30% Federal Tax Credit is applied to your tax return statement during the year the system was placed into operation. The Northern Pacific Power Systems Owner’s Manual gives information on the necessary forms and timelines for obtaining the tax credit. However, Northern Pacific Power Systems does not provide tax advice and we encourage all of our customers to seek the advice of their tax professional on how you can best take advantage of the Federal Tax Credit.
10. When do I receive the Federal Tax Grant?
Commercial customers may apply to receive a 30% upfront grant towards the cost of the solar system. Applicants will receive grants from the Treasury Department 60 days after request submission. Grants are subject to availability.
11. Do solar energy systems come with a warranty?
Yes, Northern Pacific Power Systems provides an industry leading warranty for all of our systems. All of our solar panels come with a 25-year warranty to secure your long term investment. We also offer a full 10-year installation warranty on all parts and labor to add to that security. In addition, Northern Pacific Power Systems has a 5-year 72-hour onsite guarantee. Should your system ever malfunction, we promise to have a technical support engineer onsite within 72 hours to access your system so that we can bring it back online as soon as possible.
12. What type of maintenance do solar energy systems require?
The solar panels used in all of our systems require virtually no maintenance except for occasionally cleaning their surfaces with warm water. A periodic wash will prevent dust and debris from building up and will ensure your panels perform optimally year-round.
13. When does the system pay off?
The payback for residential systems generally takes between 7-9 years. After that, every dollar saved is a dollar earned. Historically, utility rates increase on average 6.7% per year; this means that in 9 years the amount of your electricity bill will double. By installing a solar system, you save money on your electric bill immediately and avoid future inflated utility payments.
14. How do I know if my house is right for solar?
Coastal and inland roofs alike make great candidates for solar systems with the ideal location being on South and West facing roofs with little to no pitch. New roofs or roofs that are less than 10 years old are suggested for solar installations. Northern Pacific Power Systems recommends that any shading from large trees or structures is avoided at the proposed location of a solar array.