Solar Cheat Sheet: Your Complete Guide to Getting Solar Panels at Home
Here’s where you can find the answer to all your solar panel questions, even those you didn’t know you had.
Andrew Blok has been an editor at CNET covering HVAC and home energy, with a FOCUS on solar, since October 2021. As an environmental journalist, he navigates the changing energy landscape to help people make Smart energy decisions. He’s a graduate of the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism at Michigan State and has written for several publications in the Great Lakes region, including Great Lakes Now and Environmental Health News, since 2019. You can find him in western Michigan watching birds.
Stephen J. Bronner is a New York-based freelance writer, editor and reporter. Over his more than a decade in journalism, he has written about energy, local politics and schools, startup success tips, the packaged food industry, the science of work, personal finance and blockchain. His bylined work has appeared in Inverse, Kotaku, Entrepreneur, NextAdvisor and CNET, and op-eds written on behalf of his clients were published in Forbes, HR Dive, Fast Company, NASDAQ and MarketWatch. Stephen previously served as contributors editor and news editor for Entrepreneur.com, and was the VP, Content and Strategy, at Ditto PR. He enjoys video games and punk rock. See some of his work at stephenjbronner.com.
Over the past few years, the stars (particularly that big one at the center of our solar system) have aligned to make residential solar panels increasingly appealing for meeting your home’s energy needs.
The rising costs of energy across the US, along with falling for solar panels aided by federal tax incentives, have simply made the economics of solar power not only attainable but beneficial for homeowners in the long run.
If you looked at solar just a few years ago, costs have continued to come down since then, said Ben Delman, communications director at Solar United Neighbors. It depends on your situation, but more and more homeowners and families are deciding that solar makes sense for them as a way to save money by taking control over where their electricity comes from.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
Below, we’ve collected CNET’s expert advice to get you through the solar panel purchasing process.
In this article
- How do solar panels work?
- Is there a solar panel option that works for me?
- How much do solar panels cost?
- How much money will solar panels save me?
- Can I install solar panels myself?
- Where should I shop for solar panels?
- How do I maintain solar panels?
- Does solar work where I live?
- Do I need a backup battery?
- Does solar increase the value of my home?
- Are solar panels a scam?
- What is net metering?
- Should I go solar?
How do solar panels work?
Buying a solar panel system means buying a lot of equipment the average person doesn’t have reason to know about. In the most basic terms, photons from the sun are absorbed by the solar panels and converted into direct current, or DC, electricity. For this energy to be used in American homes, it has to go through an inverter attached to the solar array to become alternating current, or AC, electricity.
Can solar panels save you money?
Interested in understanding the impact solar can have on your home? Enter some basic information below, and we’ll instantly provide a free estimate of your energy savings.
Read up on what you’ll actually be buying with the stories linked below:
- The Most Efficient Solar Panels
- Solar Energy Basics: The Magic of Photovoltaic Panels
- How Sand Becomes Solar Panels
- Here’s How Solar Panels Turn Light Into Power
- The Solar Panel Angle That’ll Generate the Most Energy Possible
- Solar Panel Efficiency: What Is It and Why Is It Important?
- What You Need to Know About Solar Inverters: Essential Solar Equipment
- Solar Cell, Module, Panel and Array: What’s the Difference?
- Bifacial Solar Panels Generate Electricity, but Not When You Put Them Here
- What’s a Virtual Power Plant? Should You Join One?
- How Much Energy Does a Solar Panel Produce?
Is there a solar panel option that works for me?
Fortunately for the solar-curious, many options exist for homeowners and even renters to get some or most of their electricity needs met with energy from the sun.
The most common way to go solar for homeowners is the installation of panels on their roofs. These systems can be purchased directly through an installer (or assembled for the DIYers) as a large cash purchase or through relatively affordable financing (such as a 1.99% APR 15-year loan). There are also options for rooftop solar for those who may not have the capital to get a project started. These are solar leases, where a homeowner pays a fixed monthly cost to a company who retains ownership of a solar system; or a power purchase agreement, in which a homeowner pays for the electricity generated by solar panels rather than the system itself.
Finally, both homeowners and renters in many places have access to community solar. This option allows people to opt in to a nearby solar farm to enjoy some energy savings.
How much do solar panels cost?
The costs of solar panels will depend on a few factors, including where you live, how much of your energy needs you want the system to cover, whether you install it yourself and whether you want a battery (which could cost as much as the system itself). The average cost was about 3 per watt in 2022 for an 8 kW system through an installer, according to the consulting firm Wood Mackenzie.
The way you pay for your system is vital. You’ll notice the biggest hit to your bank balance by paying for solar outright, while financing will spread the expense out over years but with added interest. A lease or PPA is most friendly to the budget-minded, but you won’t enjoy the long-term benefits that come with owning a system outright.
How much money will solar panels save me?
If you’re buying a system outright or financing it, you’ll receive a 30% tax credit through the Inflation Reduction Act.
To get a better idea of when to expect a return on investment, look at how much energy you’ve consumed in the past year or two and how much it cost you. Then, working with an installer, figure out how much of your energy you’d like to offset with solar and how much the system will cost. Eventually, the savings from not having to buy electricity from your utility will be greater than the cost of the solar system itself.
In terms of payback, broadly seven to 12 years is a decent average when you see returns from investment in solar after purchasing a system, Delman said.
Can I install solar panels myself?
It is possible to install most of a solar panel system yourself.- mounting the panels on your roof and connecting them to each other. But if your home is connected to a grid, you’ll need to hire a licensed electrician for the final connection needed to feed electricity to your utility.
Another thing to keep in mind if you’re doing it yourself is whether the warranties for the panels that you purchase require them to be installed by a professional, Delman said. Often when people do it themselves, they’ll hire an electrician to do the finishing work so it can get certified. It’s also good if you’re not an expert to have somebody with expertise to just go over the wiring and make sure that everything is where it should be.
Where should I shop for solar panels?
If you want to buy panels directly, most hardware stores and larger retailers have them available. If you’d like to get them through a professional, a good place to start, according to Delman, is the website of your local solar industry association (for example, the New York Solar Energy Industries Association). These organizations should have a list of its members, which will often include installers and suppliers. Typically, installers work with one or two solar panel brands.
Look for an installer who’s experienced, particularly with the kind of situation you have at your home, Delman said. Have they worked with the same roofing materials? Do you want a ground mount system installed? Check reviews on Yelp, Angie’s List, Google and others, and get references too. (Solar United Neighbors also offers resources for going solar, free of charge.)
The best way to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your solar panels is to get multiple quotes and ask as many questions of your potential installers as you need. CNET has reviewed many of the national solar companies, but it’s a good idea to check into local installers, too, who sometimes can offer lower prices.
How do I maintain solar panels?
Solar panel maintenance is generally minimal and fairly easy. Even so, we’ve got the info you need to keep your panels in the best possible shape.
Does solar work where I live?
Solar panels, in general, will work in a variety of climates, even those with frigid winters. The more important questions to ask are: Does my roof get adequate sunlight? Are any trees shading my roof? And most importantly, does my utility offer net metering?
Net metering is perhaps the most important aspect of going solar, in that it stipulates that your energy utility will pay you for the energy created by your solar panels that you don’t consume. Net metering ensures that the return on investment in going solar is financially sound.
Does solar increase the value of my home?
Going solar has another benefit for homeowners: it can boost the price of their properties if and when they decide to sell. According to studies by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Zillow, homes with solar panels often sell for about 10,000 more compared to those that don’t.
Are solar panels a scam?
No. Solar panels are a proven technology that can help you shift some of your energy use to cheaper, greener electricity. But that doesn’t mean that scammy companies (while apparently rare) don’t exist. The company discussed in the story linked below recently went out of business, but a bit of caution is a good thing.
What is net metering?
Net metering.- the process by which you’re paid for electricity generated by your solar panels but sent back to the grid.- is a critical factor in whether homeowners should go solar.
Let’s say during a beautiful sunny day, you’re at work, the lights, TV and dishwasher are off, so you’re probably generating more electricity from your system than you’re consuming, Delman said. When that happens, that electricity goes to the electric grid through your electric meter to be used by your neighbors. Net metering is what ensures you receive credit for that electricity so that your investment is still being paid back even if you’re not using the electricity yourself.
You can see what your state’s policy toward net metering is here.
Should I go solar?
Solar won’t be an option for everyone. If your home does not receive adequate sunlight due to shading on your roof, you live in a state without net metering or there’s no community solar, going solar may not be viable for you.
But with rising energy costs and the falling price of solar panels, for many people there’s never been a better time to go solar. There’s options to go solar that should fit most people’s needs, whether that’s through financing, a solar lease, PPA or community solar, that will allow them to start seeing savings on their energy bills almost immediately. By most estimates, a solar system starts paying for itself after between seven and 12 years.
Powering your home with solar not only allows you to get your electricity from a clean source, but provides an unmatched return on investment that will save you money on your energy bills and boost the value of your home.
Can You Install Solar Panels on a Curved Roof?
Installing solar panels can provide high-quality renewable energy for many years to come. Whether you’re doing it to reduce your environmental impact or you’re trying to save money, there’s no denying the usefulness of solar panels. However, many potential consumers are worried because they don’t have a flat space for the installation.
- Different types of panels that you can use on your roof
- Step-by-step instructions for each kind of solar panel
- Avoidable mistakes and misconceptions about the installation process
Which Solar Panels Can Fit on a Curved Roof?
If you’re trying to mount solar panels on your curved roof, then it’s essential that you know which ones will work and which won’t. Trying to mount a flat panel on a curved surface is very difficult. IPSUN Solar has an excellent example of how you can get it done, but it’s challenging to do that sort of installation without professional assistance.
Here are the two methods that you could try:
- Use flexible solar panels. If you don’t need too much power, you could try the Renogy 175W 12V Flexible Monocrystalline Solar Panel. These panels form to your roof’s shape, so you don’t have to worry about building brackets or massive roof systems. Note that they don’t provide as much energy as traditional panels, but they’re worth it if you need to charge power tools, tech devices, and other low-energy gadgets.
- Create a structure to mount flat solar panels. You’ll have to build it high enough to be a couple of inches taller than the highest point on your roof. Using metal brackets and bars is an excellent choice. This formation allows you to use any solar panels that you’d like to.
I know that the cost is something many people worry about when it comes to solar energy. According to Energy Sage, the average household saves over 1,400 per year on their electricity bills from switching to solar. It’ll take a few years, but you’ll profit quite a bit. The sooner you change to renewable energy, the better off you’ll be.
Now that you know the two best ways to DIY install solar panels on a curved roof, it’s time to learn the details of the process. Proceed to the next section to figure out how you can put solar panels on almost any roof, regardless of the curvature.
How to Install the Panels
Let’s break down the installation details into two sets; One for flexible panels and one for building a structure. You can use both guides as reference points.
Installing Flexible Solar Panels on a Curved Roof
- Measure the dimensions of the panels, then do the same for your roof. You should leave about eight inches on all sides for wiring, mounting tape, and drainage.
- Place the flexible solar panels on the roof, ensuring they’re pressed flat against the surface. Most flexible panels come with adhesive that holds that to the roof, but you might have to get mounting brackets if they don’t.
- Once the panels are mounted to the roof, use mounting tape to secure the sides and prevent moisture from getting underneath the panels. I recommend EternaBond Sealant Tape, but there are plenty of options. Make sure that the tape is at least four inches wide to secure the panels. Leave a small gap to allow water to drain.
If you prefer a video format, review this helpful guide from Boss Watt on YouTube:
How to Build a Raised Structure for Solar Energy
- Use 5-foot to 10-foot lengths ofGenuine Unistrut to line the areas where your panels will be. Unistrut is designed to withstand the elements, so it’s a perfect solution for mounting solar panels on a curved roof. If your roof is too steep, consider creating a raised wooden structure with pre-treated Maplewood 2 x 4’s to even it out with the peak of the roof.
- Install mounting brackets, such as theGenuine Unistrut Mounting Posts. They’ll fit on both ends of the Unistrut bars, but you might have to add a few brackets between each bar for extra support.
- Add caulking along the edges of every screw, bar, and bracket that comes in contact with the roof. It’ll prevent leaks, rust, corrosion, squeaks, and many other issues.
- Place the flat panels on the bars using Z-brackets (or your preferred solar panel mounting bracket. Z-brackets are designed to hold a solar panel to another flat surface, such as a roof, wooden posts, or Unistrut bars. Secure the brackets to the panels and the bars, then add screw glue to prevent rust.
Here’s a quick video tutorial to give you a visual representation of the process:
Installing solar panels is relatively easy if you have all of the supplies. Even if you have a curved roof, you should be able to get the job done in about five to ten hours.
Note: If you have a massive roof and you want to tie it into your house’s electricity grid, I highly recommend that you ditch the DIY route and hire an expert. You don’t want to risk electrical injuries or damage to your roof during the installation.
Here’s a list of several common mistakes that people run into along the way:
- Never forget to seal the panels. Many people think they’re done when the screws go into the roof, but you need to use caulking and screw glue. Failure to do so will result in rust, leaks, cracks, discoloration, stripped screws, and more.
- Leave extra room on the roof. You don’t want the panels to go end to end, especially when you’re using flexible solar panels. There needs to be enough space for water to drain and wires to run through.
- Position the panels to match the sun. The sun rises in the east, so make sure the panels have enough exposure from sunrise to sunset. You’ll get much more energy, and you won’t have to worry about wasting time and money.
- You have to clean the roof before you install the solar panels. A dirty surface causes most adhesives to loosen, preventing them from getting secured. Use a blower and spray down the roof with a hose, then dry it off and choose your installation method.
The #1 tip I could give you is to take it slow. It’s easy to make a mistake if you rush the process. Be safe, wear a hardhat and gloves, and ask a friend for a helping hand.
Just because your roof is curved doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy the numerous solar energy benefits. Whether you’re driving an RV or looking for low-cost electricity for your workshop, there are countless reasons that you should try solar power.
Here’s a quick recap of what this post should’ve taught you:
- You can choose to install flexible panels or create a flat rack to mount them on your roof.
- Make sure you attach brackets to the panels and the roof with screw glue.
- Clean the panels regularly to prevent corrosion and displacement.
- Never drill into a fragile, brittle roof.
- Position the panels to match the sun’s patterns.
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As concern over our environment grows, sources of clean energy become more and more valuable. Solar power has been touted as a solution to our energy needs. Using the sun for.
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How California’s new rooftop solar rules will affect you
The seismic shift coming to California’s rooftop solar market in 2023 has been brewing for nearly a decade.
A bill overwhelmingly approved by state lawmakers in 2013 ordered the California Public Utilities Commission — which regulates investor-owned utility companies — to rework a solar incentive program called net metering. Lawmakers directed the agency to ensure that the “total benefits” of the program were “approximately equal to the total costs” — meaning utility customers without rooftop solar panels weren’t paying more to subsidize their solar-powered neighbors than they should be.
But the bill also ordered the Public Utilities Commission to ensure that the solar market “continues to grow sustainably,” and to adopt incentives targeted at low-income families who might not be able to afford solar otherwise.
“We required the [commission] to design a program that does two things: create certainty for rooftop, and at the same time address the cost shift for non-solar customers,” then-Assemblymember Henry Perea, who wrote the legislation, told me in 2015. “It’s not an easy task.”
Most certainly not. The commission’s long-awaited decision, which I wrote about for The Times last week, spurred all sorts of fiery reactions. Solar installers and environmental activists said it would crater the market and put clean energy out of reach for far too many Californians, lower-income households in particular. The big utility companies — Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas Electric and San Diego Gas Electric — said it didn’t go far enough to reduce incentive payments, and would result in continued bill increases for their non-solar customers.
If you live in California, you may be wondering: What does this mean for you? If you already have solar, will you find yourself paying more? If you’ve been thinking about investing in solar — or adding a battery to your existing solar system — how have the economics changed? If you just want your monthly electric bill to stop going up, how much relief can you really expect?
I’ve got answers below. Take a read if you’re interested, or scroll down for this week’s top stories from around the West.
Watch L.A. Times Today at 7 p.m. on Spectrum News 1 on Channel 1 or live stream on the Spectrum News App. Palos Verdes Peninsula and Orange County viewers can watch on Cox Systems on channel 99.
I want to go solar. Is it still a good idea?
You can definitely still save money with a rooftop system. It just might take longer than it did before.
Under the old rules, the expected “payback period” for homes served by Edison and PGE was five to six years, according to an industry trade group. That means Edison and PGE customers who bought solar panels — a purchase typically in the 20,000 range, once federal tax credits are taken into account — could expect to make back their upfront investment in five to six years through lower electric bills. After that, they’d continue to accrue bill savings for as long as their systems lasted.
SDGE customers could expect an even shorter payback of four years, due to the utility’s especially high electric rates.
Starting in mid-April, when the new rules take effect, the calculation will change. The Public Utilities Commission has estimated a payback period of nine years for Edison and PGE residential customers who go solar after April 13, and six years for homes served by SDGE.
Solar installers say that’s too long for households that don’t have money to burn. They also think the commission used a lowball figure for the cost of solar, and thus underestimated how long it will take consumers to make back their investment.
Commission members have made the opposite argument, saying payback periods will probably be shorter than they’ve calculated. That’s because the agency’s calculations don’t account for the near-inevitability that electric rates will continue to rise, leading to higher monthly bill savings than they’ve estimated.
Are there extra incentives for low-income households?
Yes. Under the new rules, low-income homes enrolled in subsidized electricity programs known as CARE or FERA will receive higher payments for solar energy they export to the power grid — about 9 cents per kilowatt-hour above base payment rates for qualified Edison and PGE customers who go solar during the first year after the new rules kick in. Higher-income Edison customers will get an additional 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, and higher-income PGE customers will get just 2 cents.
But payback periods for low-income homes served by Edison and PGE will still be an estimated nine years — no shorter than for higher-income homes. That’s because lower-income homes pay lower electric rates to begin with, and thus have less room to save.
Low-income SDGE customers will see an estimated solar payback of 8.5 years, much longer than the six years projected for everyone else in the San Diego region.
Those numbers are a sore point for activists and companies focused on bringing clean energy to non-wealthy communities. In a written statement, the nonprofit solar installer Grid Alternatives said state officials are “gambling on a complicated incentive structure that uses a conservative estimate of project installation costs in order to achieve a targeted nine-year payback.”
“It remains to be seen whether this approach will truly achieve more environmental and economic justice,” the installer said.
In a last-minute change approved by the Public Utilities Commission, the higher payments to low-income homes won’t be available only to CARE and FERA customers. All homes on tribal lands and in communities considered “disadvantaged” will be eligible.
Activists applauded the change but said it wasn’t enough. Some had urged the commission to expand the higher payments to all households that earn 80% or less of area median income. But the agency declined to adopt that proposal, which Grid Alternatives criticized as “inconsistent with the [commission’s] own definition of environmental justice communities.”
What if I want a battery?
Then you’re in luck — at least if you can afford it.
The new rules are designed to encourage solar systems paired with batteries, which can relieve strain on the power grid by banking energy for hot summer evenings when the state has had trouble keeping the lights on. Southern California homes and businesses that export power to the grid on a September weeknight at 7 p.m. could be paid 2.58 per kilowatt-hour, according to a a solar industry trade group, compared with just 2 cents on an April afternoon at 3 p.m., when the state is often awash in cheap electricity.
The Public Utilities Commission’s estimated payback period for solar-plus-storage is 6.5 years for Edison and PGE customers and less than five years for SDGE customers. For low-income homes, the estimated paybacks are closer to nine years in Edison and PGE territory and seven years in SDGE territory.
Batteries add 10,000 or more in upfront costs once federal tax credits are taken into account. And installers warn that although costs have fallen dramatically over the last decade, the energy storage market is challenged by supply-chain constraints, labor shortages, inflation and other factors that could keep costs relatively high — and installations slow — in the near future.
“Permitting and interconnection times for solar-only projects are around 58 days on average,” said Mary Powell, chief executive of leading solar installer Sunrun. “Adding a battery means that same timeline goes to about 113 days on average.”
Just 14% of Californians who installed solar over the last year also added batteries. Whether that number rises significantly in the next few years will be a key indicator of the success — or failure — of the new rules.
What if I want solar but don’t have tens of thousands of dollars?
About two-thirds of the 1.5 million rooftop solar systems in California are customer-owned, either purchased with cash or financed via a loan. The rest are leased, or paid for through “power purchase agreements” in which customers buy energy from the company that installs and maintains their panels. You can save more money long-term owning rooftop solar panels outright. But leases and PPAs are an option for families that don’t have the cash or credit score for a purchase.
It’s not yet clear how companies that FOCUS on leases and PPAs — such as Sunrun — might change their offerings to respond to the new rules. But lower payment rates for solar are expected to result in lower monthly bill savings for customers.
New rebates from the state could help offset the lower savings for customers who lease or buy their systems. The Public Utilities Commission’s decision refers to an expected 900 million in new rebates or other incentives for rooftop solar and batteries, with 630 million set aside for low-income homes. But lawmakers still need to allocate those funds next year.
If net metering and upfront rebates don’t pencil out for you, there are other ways to improve the economics of solar, if you happen to live in the right spot. Some solar and storage companies have partnered with utilities or government-run “community choice” energy providers to build “virtual power plants,” where homes are paid for allowing their rooftop panels and batteries to be operated as part of a larger network that supports the grid as a whole.
Larger-scale “community solar” facilities that are serve entire neighborhoods are another option for renters, although California has lagged behind other states in this area. The Public Utilities Commission declined to address community solar in last week’s decision but is developing a new incentive program in a separate proceeding, as required by state law.
Also worth noting: Under an existing regulation, all new homes built in California are required to come with solar. Last week’s decision doesn’t change that.
I already have solar. Am I in trouble?
Nope. Under an earlier proposal from the Public Utilities Commission, many solar customers enrolled in net metering would have been switched to the lower incentive rates 15 years after their systems were installed. Now everyone who already has solar — or goes solar by April 13 — will get to keep operating under the old rules for the 20 years they were originally promised.
Also not in trouble: anyone whose electric utility isn’t Edison, PGE or SDGE. Existing solar incentives will remain in place at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Sacramento Municipal Utility District and other utilities.
And what if you buy power from a government-run “community choice” energy agency such as Clean Power Alliance?
In that case, the new net metering rules still apply to you, because those agencies transmit power over the poles and wires owned by investor-owned utilities such as Edison. But some community choice agencies offer additional solar incentives.
What if I want solar panels for my business?
Then the economics look a little tougher for you. Businesses that go solar during the first five years after the new rules take effect will receive lower payments than homeowners for electricity they export to the power grid. Schools and other non-residential utility customers will also receive lower payments than homeowners.
It’s another sore point for the solar industry. Installers are also unhappy that businesses that submit net metering applications between now and April 13 will need to have their systems completely installed within three years to maintain eligibility for the old rules. That may seem like a long time, but solar installers say there can be lengthy delays.
I don’t have solar. Will my electric bills go down?
As I wrote last week, almost certainly not.
Yes, the new rules are meant to reduce the “cost shift” being paid by non-solar homes to support their solar-powered neighbors. The Public Utilities Commission’s internal ratepayer watchdog estimates those payments at 4.6 billion this year.
But electric rates are being driven higher by all sorts of factors, including utility investments to reduce wildfire ignitions, upgrade aging transmission infrastructure and replace fossil fuels with cleaner energy. And rooftop solar advocates question whether the cost shift is nearly as big as some experts have estimated, or if it really exists at all.
Either way, rates are expected to keep rising significantly. But utility companies and ratepayer advocates hope that by cutting back on net metering, monthly bill increases won’t be as bad as they otherwise would have been.
“Realistically, rates will continue to increase. The big question is whether we can hold those increases to less than inflation,” said Matt Baker, director of the Public Advocates Office, the independent watchdog arm of the utilities commission.
In a separate regulatory proceeding, the Public Utilities Commission is considering a broader restructuring of electricity rates that could result in new monthly charges for solar-powered homes — and most other utility customers. Those charges would help pay for the costs of upgrading the power grid, and could be higher for higher-income homes.
OK, hopefully that answers your questions! And now, here’s what’s happening around the West:
“Why don’t we recognize a water right for the Grand Canyon ecosystem? Why don’t we operate Glen Canyon Dam like a flood-control structure? Why don’t we clean out the sediment behind Lake Powell, and designate Glen Canyon National Park?” Those were the questions that one legal expert posed to my colleague Ian James in Las Vegas last week, at the annual conference of the Colorado River Water Users Assn. Ian wrote about growing fears of “dead pool” at Lake Mead, and about federal officials urging California and other Colorado River Basin states to agree to voluntary water cuts by Jan. 31. You may also be interested in the view from Arizona, where water plans being considered include desalination, raising the height of dams and investing in wastewater recycling in Southern California. Details here from the Arizona Republic’s Brandon Loomis.
Native American tribes filed a civil rights complaint against the California water board, arguing that the historic water-rights system barred them from inclusion and has allowed the fragile ecosystems of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to deteriorate. “As they divert our water, part of our culture is dying without us having a say,” one tribal leader told my colleague Hayley Smith. Elsewhere in the Central Valley, environmentalists are suing Bakersfield in hopes of restoring the flow of the Kern River through the city, Ian James reports. And in a beautiful final story for The Times, Diana Marcum writes about an enchanted botanical garden at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, not far from farm fields stricken by drought.
A new satellite that launched from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base last week is expected to give scientists an unprecedented understanding of Earth’s rivers and seas, and how they’re being affected by climate change. “It turns the world’s water from 2D to 3D” is how one hydrologist explained the satellite’s purpose to The Times’ Corinne Purtill and Rosanna Xia. From 553 miles above Earth’s surface, they write, the satellite “will be the first to survey almost all the world’s surface water, allowing researchers to consistently track the volume and movement of every ocean, river, lake and stream on the planet.”
AROUND THE WEST
Beloved Los Angeles mountain lion P-22 was euthanized due to severe injuries, a decade after the puma managed to cross the 405 and 101 freeways and take up residence in Griffith Park. “Many Angelenos saw themselves in P-22, an aging bachelor who adjusted to a too-small space in the big city, waiting for a mate who might never arrive,” my colleagues Laura J. Nelson and James Queally write in their obituary for the cougar. James Rainey wrote about how P-22 changed many Angelenos’ relationship with nature, and how the city reacted to his death. Our photo staff compiled some amazing images.
New legislation in Congress would create Range of Light National Monument, protecting 1.4 million acres of roadless Sierra Nevada wilderness between Yosemite and Kings Canyon national parks. The name “range of light” comes from John Muir’s writings, per Kurtis Alexander at the San Francisco Chronicle. Farther north, environmentalists in the Pacific Northwest hope they’ll finally succeed in protecting vast swaths of wilderness outside Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest during the lame-duck U.S. Senate session. They’ve been campaigning for decades, the Seattle Times’ Gregory Scruggs writes.
“A single therapy walk cannot erase the anguish of escaping the Camp fire. But those who have returned to the forest over and over say the program has been critical to their healing process.” Four years after the Northern California town of Paradise was mostly destroyed by flames, the Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan has a gorgeous story about survivors working through their trauma by spending time in nature. The Post’s Joshua Partlow, meanwhile, wrote about the British Columbia town of Lytton, which burned to the ground last year one day after setting an all-time temperature record for Canada. After the fire, local leaders pledged to rebuild as a sustainable, fire-resistant community powered by climate-friendly energy. But the process has been so slow that some residents are working to scrap those plans in favor of faster rebuilding.
THE ENERGY TRANSITION
California officials approved the state’s latest long-term climate plan, which envisions a massive build-out of solar and wind power but which critics say includes too much reliance on carbon capture. Details here from Sophie Austin at the Associated Press. State officials also approved 2.9 billion to build 90,000 electric vehicle chargers. These moves are a big deal — in part because whatever California does on climate change, it’s likely others will follow suit. Just this week, Oregon adopted the Golden State’s ban on the sale of most new gasoline cars by 2035, as the Oregonian’s Gosia Wozniacka reports.
Nevada’s major electric company wants to spend 827 million building batteries, geothermal plants and gas turbines to meet energy demand on the hottest summer days. Warren Buffett-owned NV Energy says California’s electric-grid troubles are among the factors driving its plans, because the Golden State’s huge demand for power has led to fewer supplies available on the western market at peak times, Sean Hemmersmeier writes for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. wind turbines in gusty New Mexico could help solve the problem. But some conservationists are fighting a planned electric line that would bring wind energy from the Land of Enchantment to California, saying the project would irreparably damage the Lower San Pedro River Valley, a wild refuge for birds and other animals. Here’s the story from Henry Brean at the Arizona Daily Star.
Billion-year-old rock in the Idaho Cobalt Belt could help fuel electric cars and solve the climate crisis. But environmental concerns abound in and around the Salmon River, a wild waterway known as the River of No Return, as Ian Max Stevenson and Kevin Fixler report in a fabulous deep dive for the Idaho Statesman. They dig into the global companies looking to mine huge amounts of cobalt, the political support they’ve secured and the delicate balance being sought by conservation activists.
AND EVERYTHING ELSE
A celebrity-studded enclave in western Los Angeles County is investing in wastewater recycling. The area served by Las Virgenes Municipal Water District — home to Kim Kardashian — is almost entirely dependent on water imported from Northern California, but it should eventually be able to source 20% of its supplies locally, The Times’ Hayley Smith reports. Out in the Mojave Desert, thirsty bighorn sheep are getting their own water lifeline. California officials have given a nonprofit permission to install dozens of watering stations for the at-risk species, Brooke Staggs reports for the Orange County Register.
“If you thought the industry would slink away and accept its loss in Sacramento, you don’t know our oil drillers.” L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote about the fossil fuel industry’s campaign to overturn a newly enacted ban on drilling near homes and schools — and how it’s only the latest of example of deep-ed businesses bankrolling ballot measures to get rid of regulations they don’t like. Some drilling is still on the way out, though. A conservation nonprofit finalized the purchase of a coastal oil field in Orange County, with plans to preserve the property as open space, Hannah Fry reports.
“Delayed breaths and pauses for long, healthy growing years. Tighter sequences in years strained by drought or cut short by a passing wildfire scarring the bark, pausing progress.” I loved this story by the Arizona Republic’s Joan Meiners about scientists bringing tree rings to life with music, and trying to find harmony in the otherwise discordant work of studying climate chaos. I also enjoyed this profile by my colleague Jeanette Marantos of a photographer-turned-researcher documenting California’s endangered native bees. I had no idea there are bees as small as the size of a letter on a quarter!
ONE MORE THING
I wrote earlier this year about Southern California Gas Co.’s plan to spend billions of dollars building a huge hydrogen pipeline known as Angeles Link. The company told me the project could help L.A. transition away from fossil gas, and possibly allow for closure of the controversial Aliso Canyon gas storage field, which sprung a record-breaking methane leak in 2015.
In an early victory for SoCalGas, the California Public Utilities Commission voted last week to let the utility begin tracking the costs of planning the green hydrogen pipeline — not a guarantee that SoCalGas will be allowed to charge customers for those costs and eventually build the pipeline, but a necessary first step.
In a press release lauding the commission’s vote, the utility company said Angeles Link would “support significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions from electric generation, industrial processes, heavy-duty trucks, and other hard-to-electrify sectors of the Southern California economy.”
Some climate activists are cautiously optimistic. But others are highly skeptical about green hydrogen. For a rundown of why, see this story by the Orange County Register’s Brooke Staggs, about students at UC Irvine protesting a SoCalGas plan to test hydrogen blending in pipelines on campus, citing safety concerns. SoCalGas canceled an interview for the story.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that the utility is a subsidiary of San Diego-based Sempra Energy, a Fortune 500 company heavily invested in natural gas. Just this week, the Biden administration agreed to let Sempra send gas to Mexico for export to Asia in exchange for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) lifting holds on four Energy Department nominees, Reuters’ Timothy Gardner reports.
I wrote last year about Sempra’s request to ship gas to Mexico, saying the Biden administration’s decision “could offer an early preview of how aggressively it will confront the climate crisis.” A lot has happened on climate since then — most notably passage of the Inflation Reduction Act — but when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, all the pieces matter.
ACTUALLY, JUST ONE MORE
Tony Barboza, a member of The Times’ editorial board, wrote a heartbreaking, heartfelt commentary on the difficulty of talking with his kids about the climate crisis. It’s not easy reading. But it’s worthwhile, heading into the Christmas holiday.
“As an environmental reporter, I have written over and over about how the pollution we keep dumping into the air is hurting people, threatening ecosystems and endangering our future. But at home, I’ve struggled to explain this to my own daughters,” Tony writes. “Because being a father helped me grasp that humanity’s failure to address climate change is transgenerational violence against our own children and their future children and grandchildren.”
If you’ve got kids, or other young people in your life, Tony’s lessons and suggestions are worthwhile. Take a gander.
We’ll be back in your inbox next week. If you enjoyed this newsletter, or previous ones, please consider forwarding it to your friends and colleagues. For more climate and environment news, follow me on @Sammy_Roth.
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Sammy Roth covers energy for the Los Angeles Times and writes the weekly Boiling Point newsletter. He previously reported for the Desert Sun in Palm Springs. He grew up in Westwood and would very much like to see the Dodgers win the World Series again.
Interested in Solar Panels? Here Is Some Advice.
Buying a solar energy system can be expensive and confusing. Here are some things to think about if you are in the market for solar panels.
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Thanks to technological and manufacturing advances, costs for solar panels have tumbled in the last decade, making solar energy more popular for homeowners. But figuring out how to add a solar energy system to your roof can be daunting.
Workers installed a solar and battery system this winter at my home in a New York City suburb. It was a major investment but has already begun paying off in lower utility bills and providing peace of mind that we will have at least some electricity during power outages, which are common here because storms often knock down power lines.
Interest in rooftop solar systems is high and growing as energy rise and concerns about climate change mount. Many people are also worried about blackouts caused by extreme weather linked to climate change. A Pew Charitable Trust survey in 2019 found that 6 percent of Americans had already installed solar panels and that another 46 percent were considering it.
“The biggest thing is that solar is a lot cheaper than it used to be even in places like New York City and Boston, where it tends to be more expensive than in the suburbs,” said Anika Wistar-Jones, director of affordable solar at Solar One, an environmental education nonprofit in New York City that helps affordable housing and low-income communities adopt solar energy.
If you are interested in solar, here are some things to consider.
Can you add solar panels to your roof?
This question might seem simple, but finding the answer can be surprisingly complicated. One installer told me that my roof was so shaded by trees that solar panels would not generate enough electricity to make the investment worthwhile. Hearing another opinion was worth it: The installer I hired allayed those concerns and recommended some tree trimming. On sunny days my system often generates more power than my family uses.
It can also be difficult to find out what your local government and utility will permit because the information is usually not readily available in plain language. I learned that lesson at my previous home.
When I lived in New York City, it took months of research to learn that I couldn’t install panels on my roof. The city requires a large clear area on flat roofs like mine for firefighters to walk on, it turns out. And I couldn’t install solar panels on a canopy — a rooftop framework that elevates the panels — because it would violate a city height restriction for homes on my block.
The best approach is to cast a wide net and talk to as many solar installers as you can. You might also consult neighbors who have put solar panels on their roofs: People in many parts of the country have banded together in what are known as solarize campaigns to jointly purchase solar panels to secure lower from installers.
“That has been really successful in neighborhoods and communities all across the country,” said Gretchen Bradley, community solar manager at Solar One.
Can I afford a solar installer?
You should seek proposals from several installers. Comparison shopping services like EnergySage and SolarReviews make it easy to contact multiple installers.
When reviewing proposals, pay attention to how much the system will cost per watt. This tells you how much you are paying for the system’s electricity-generating capacity and allows you to compare offers.
The median quote for new rooftop solar systems is 2.75 per watt, according to EnergySage. That works out to about 26,125 for an average system of 9,500 watts before taking into account a federal tax credit. For the 2022 tax year, the credit stands at 26 percent of the cost of solar system; it is slated to drop to 22 percent in 2023 and end in 2024. Many states, including Arizona, California, New York and Massachusetts, also offer residents incentives to install solar systems, such as rebates and tax breaks.
can vary greatly because of location, local labor costs and other factors, like what kind of home you live in and whether other work is needed before installation. If your roof is old or damaged, for example, it might need to be replaced before a solar system can be installed.
Rooftop solar systems can reduce monthly utility bills, depending on electricity rates, how much energy a home uses and state policies. Systems that save more money will help buyers recoup their investment faster. Vikram Aggarwal, the chief executive and founder of EnergySage, said solar systems should ideally pay for themselves within 10 years.
The excess electricity that rooftop systems produce is sent to the electric grid, and utilities typically compensate homeowners for that energy through credits on their monthly bills. The value of those credits varies by state.
How should I pay for it?
If you can afford to buy a solar system outright, you will get the best deal by paying cash. Systems purchased with loans or through leases tend to cost more, especially over the life of the contract. Shopping around is your best hedge against falling prey to dubious or predatory agreements.
The main advantage of leasing a solar energy system is that your costs are typically fixed for the duration of the contract. But experts caution that leases can be hard to get out of and could become a burden when you sell your home, because buyers might not want to take on your contract.
Mr. Aggarwal noted that leases “make sense” for some people who may not earn enough to claim the federal tax credit. He suggested that people interested in solar leases get three or four quotes from different installers.
Should I buy a battery?
Adding a battery to your solar system will allow you to store some of the excess electricity it generates to use during a blackout or in the evening and night. A solar system without a battery will not keep you supplied with power during an outage because most residential systems are automatically turned off when the grid goes down.
Batteries can be expensive, especially if you want to run large appliances and provide power for many hours or days. A 10- to 12-kilowatt-hour battery, which can store roughly a third of a home’s typical daily electricity use, costs about 13,000, according to EnergySage.
The federal tax credit for rooftop solar systems applies to the costs of batteries that are purchased with solar panels or if they are added in a following tax year. About 28 percent of residential solar systems installed in 2021 included batteries, up from 20 percent in 2020, according to a survey by EnergySage.
The Wirecutter, a product recommendation service from The New York Times, has a detailed guide for buying solar and battery systems.
Can I use my electric car as a backup battery?
Most electric cars cannot provide power to homes. Only a few models, like the Ford F-150 Lightning and the Hyundai Ioniq 5, have that ability, and they are in incredibly short supply.
But many energy experts believe that it will eventually be common for car batteries to send power back to homes and the electric grid.
In many parts of the United States, extended power outages may happen just once or twice a year. As a result, Mr. Aggarwal said, it may not make sense to invest in an expensive home battery, which usually holds much less energy than electric-car batteries. “Everybody is starting to talk about using your car to run your home.”
If I can’t install solar panels, can I still buy solar energy?
You might be able to join a community solar project, which are usually installed on open land or on the roofs of warehouses and other large buildings.
While the rules vary by state, community solar programs generally work in similar ways. Members get two bills a month: one from the community solar project and one from their utility. The projects sell electricity at a discount to the rate charged by your utility, and each kilowatt-hour of power you buy shows up as a credit for a kilowatt-hour of energy on your utility bill.
New Yorkers who join a community solar project, for example, can save about 10 percent on their monthly electricity bill, Ms. Bradley said. “It doesn’t cost anything to sign up or leave a project,” she added.
While most states allow community solar, a majority of such projects are in just four states — Florida, Minnesota, New York and Massachusetts — according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
You can search for projects in your area on websites including EnergySage and PowerMarket or through state agencies, like the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
Roof Mount vs Ground Mount Solar Systems – Pros and Cons
The main component of a photovoltaic (PV) system are solar panels, not only due to their function of converting the sunlight into electricity but also because they are a popular visual reference of any photovoltaic system. But there is also other piece of equipment that acts behind the scenes and is crucial for any solar installation. We are talking about solar mounting systems.
Mounting systems hold solar panels in place, whether it is on the rooftop or on the ground. They also provide a structural strength needed to support the natural weight of the panels, the force of the wind and in some cases the weight of the snow.
There are two main types of solar mounting structures: rooftop solar mounting and ground mounting. The decision to use one or another depends on several factors and will affect not only the final installation cost of your photovolatic system, but also the installation process and time needed to set it up.
You should, therefore, choose a mounting system that better fits your economic and technical requirements.
Advantages of ground mounted solar panels
Ground mounted solar pv systems are commonly used in large commercial or utility photovoltaic projects. However, on the residential scale, ground mounted structures can be applied as well and might come with some great benefits that roof mounted solar systems cannot provide.
Ground mounted solar panels installations consist of a metal frame that is fastened or anchored to the ground to support the weight of solar panels.
How do you know if a ground mounted solar array would suit your needs? Let’s have a look at the pros of ground mounted solar system to give you a better idea.
#1 Orientation and inclination variability
One of the biggest advantages of ground mounted solar systems is their maneuverability. You have several design options and you are free to decide which one suits your needs better.
In ground mounted solar panels, the tilt angle can be directly adjusted to achieve maximum possible irradiance in your location.
Solar panels will perform the best when facing South, West or Southwest, because they will receive the maximum sunlight throughout the day.
Even if the system does not face the South directly, you can easily tilt your panels to get the maximum possible sunlight.
Regarding the inclination, ground mounted panels often come with a much better range to choose from when compared to roof mounted solar panels, because they are not limited by the roof angle . So, you can adjust their tilt to achieve the best energy output according to seasons, which for example allows you to prevent snow buildup on the panels in winter.
#2 Easy maintenance
Spotlessly clean solar panels will work at their maximum efficiency. Any dirt on the panels reduces efficiency and cuts into your energy savings.
One of the greatest advantages of ground mounted panels is that they can be easily cleaned by hand and regularly checked for signs of damage or other problems such as cracks or chips to the panels, loose mounting clips, damaged wiring.
Easy maintenance is one of the main factors that need to be considered when installing a solar system, especially if you are located in the Northern latitude. Because snow is a great enemy of solar efficiency, as it reduces the amount of sunlight that can reach solar panels.
Solar panel maintenance and cleaning should be executed periodically during the winter season, not only to avoid electrical losses but to prevent blocks of ice from sticking to the panels.
#3 Bigger system size
The space availability on the ground is usually larger than on the roof. That is why with ground mounted systems you can choose a larger solar installation in size and in the power output.
#4 Higher performance
Ground mounted panels offer a bigger variety of design and positioning options. These are important factors in maximizing their energy output in your location, because it allows you to adjust their positioning according to your site’s specific conditions.
#5 Safer electrical grounding system
Grounding resistance of a solar installation depends on factors such as the soil condition and the configuration selected by the solar installer.
In general, the more wire you use to conduct the current to the ground, the less effective the system is. But since ground mounted systems are already located on the ground the distance to reach the electrodes is way shorter.
So, this mounting system can protect your solar panels more effectively against any electrical fault or insulation failure.
#6 Good cooling system
Solar panel efficiency is affected by temperature changes. Efficiency drops with higher temperatures.
In warmer climates is necessary to have some cooling system that keeps panels within acceptable temperature range, especially during the summer.
The natural air flow in the ground mounted systems is the best and the most economically viable cooling system .
#7 No modifications to the house structure are needed
One of the best features of ground mounted systems is that you do not need to make any changes to your roof or the facade of your house.
This way you avoid any possible damages to your roof (mainly due to bad installations procedures and the lack of experience from the installer’s side) .
#8 Visual aesthetics is not a problem
Many people do not like the fact that solar panels are visible from the front door, actually some homeowner associations do not allow the presence of solar panels visible from the street.
You can prevent this problem with the ground mounted system, because solar panels will be placed in the backyard of your house .
#9 Well suited for tracking systems
Installation of tracking systems in ground mounted structures is way much easier than it is for rooftop systems.
Solar rooftop systems do not leave much space for expansion considerations, but if the space in your backyard is large enough, adding extra panels to your ground system is much easier and cost effective.
Disadvantages of ground mounted solar panels
Now, what about the disadvantages of having solar panels on the ground?
#1 Higher installation costs
Ground mounted solar systems require additional structure and materials.
To anchor the system in place, sturdy foundations are necessary. Preparation for their placement involves a structural analysis of soil and labor to prepare the area, therefore, these systems tend to be more expensive than rooftop solar mounting .
#2 Land use
One disadvantage is that the backyard of your house will be occupied by the panels for the next 25 years.
If your backyard is big enough that might not be such a problem, but in smaller yards, you may have only limited space for other recreational activities (barbecues, parties, gardening) left .
Given that solar panels require electrical installation and are producing electricity during the day, many homeowners are afraid that if they have kids nearby, they could either damage the solar installation or put themselves in danger.
Most solar systems are carefully grounded and protected. Equipment such as micro-inverters and wires should be well covered. However, it is possible that with time there could be some malfunction, insulation deterioration, or damage caused by weather conditions or due to the bad design and installation.
In cases like that wires could get exposed and pose a risk to other family members.
The key to avoid this problem is to make sure that your solar installer is certified and that the installation procedure follows the electrical code (this will be verified by the local utility company). You must also check your solar system for damage after any weather extremities.
Shading negatively affects efficiency of your solar panels. Ground mounted systems might be exposed to additional shading due to the presence of trees or structures that your neighbors might want to add to their property.
Considering the long lifespan of solar panels (25 to 30 years), it is advisable in any case to not locate the solar system close to your neighbors’ property.
#5 Installation speed
As the ground mounted systems require additional components and considerations, the installation usually takes longer than rooftop installation does .
Advantages of roof mounted solar panels
Rooftop solar systems are the most popular setups for residential installations.
Solar panels are installed on roof of your house either by the system of rails or by solar flashings (if your system is rail-less). The choice of a suitable roof mounting option depends on your budget and your roof type, as some systems are not suited for all roofs.
Either way, both of these rooftop mounting structures share similar advantages and disadvantages over the ground mounted systems. It is worth to analyze them when deciding to install a solar system.
#1 Low installation costs
Solar rooftop systems tend to be less expensive than ground mounted systems because their installation requires less labor and time to finish.
But there can be a limitation. If your roof needs to be replaced in order to be able to resist the weight of the panels over the lifetime of the solar system, then the installation costs could rise higher.
Another consideration comes regarding the lifetime of your roofing material. If the roofing material needs to be replaced sometime in the close future, the overall cost of installing solar panels on your roof could exceed the estimated budget for the project .
#2 Utilization of unused space
One of the best things about rooftop mounted systems is that solar panels are installed on the roof, that means in an unused space, and therefore, they will not get in the way of any of your other activities.
#3 Easier and faster installation
It is widely accepted by solar installers that rooftop solar panels are easier to install than panels on the ground.
It is mainly because there are less components and tools needed to complete mounting. The task can be done with less people involved, as there is no need to dig a foundation, which takes time and effort .
#4 Protection of your roof surface
Although solar panels are not originally intended for such purpose, their placement on your roof will protect the roofing against snow, strong winds and other objects, such as tree branches .
#5 Minimum shading
This advantage depends widely on the location and structures around your house.
In general, solar panels placed on the highest part of the house have lower probability to be shaded by nearby trees or buildings that would affect efficiency of the whole installation.
Unless you have chimneys, antennas, vents or other objects on the roof that might cause self-shading.
#6 Limited access to solar panels
One of the cons of solar ground mount systems is an easy access of children or unauthorized persons to them.
Placing your panels on the rooftop assures your kids will be absolutely safe and minimizes the probability of any intruder that might want to access your panels.
This advantage applies if the orientation of solar panels can be set to at least two to four different sides (front door side, back side and lateral sides). This allows the installer to select the best orientation towards South to achieve maximum solar irradiance.
If the roof only has one side suitable for the installation and it does not face the South, then it becomes a limitation instead.
This advantage is related to the availability of roof sides as well, because some homeowners do not like the appearance of solar panels on the front side of their house. It can be easily solved by placing the panels on the back side.
On the other hand, the presence of a photovoltaic system on the front side of your house might be viewed as a sign of being environmentally-friendly person.
Disadvantages of roof mounted solar panels
Now what about the cons of roof mounted systems?
#1 Roof perforation
No matter what type of roof you have, it will be necessary to install the racking system or the support flashings with bolts to fasten your solar panels, and that implies that your roof needs to be perforated.
The more hole perforations your roof has, the more chances for it to fail during the lifetime of the solar system .
In some cases, holes will be drilled during the measuring phase, therefore, you must make sure that the installer uses some sealant to protect your roof from incoming rain or other weather conditions .
#2 Structure upgrades or reparations
It can happen that the roof of your house is not suited for solar panel installation, either because of structural damage or bad design.
If that is the case, you will need to replace or repair your roof .
#3 System size
This probably represents the main downside of rooftop mounted systems.
The roof space (without chimneys or antennas) is usually much smaller than free space on the ground. And since the area is directly related to the maximum power that can be obtained from your solar system, roof mounted pv systems have lower maximum power limit than ground mounted systems.
That means that you may not be able to cover all your energy load. Instead, you will have to consider, based on the possible power output from your solar, which electrical devices will represent the critical loads.
Limited roof space also minimizes the possibility of expansion and upgrades in the future.
Maintenance is essential to assure good efficiency of solar panels. The roof mounted solar systems are less accessible and their maintenance is tougher, especially during the winter season when everything is slippery.
Using hoses or water pressure to clean panels during summer months is not a good idea either, as it could cause cracks in the glass and even cancel the warranty of the system.
If your solar panels are inaccessible, you will most likely have to rely on regular cleaning and maintenance services of a professional company.
#5 Local restrictions
Sometimes homeowner associations prohibit its residents to install solar panels where visible from the street.
But if the front side of your house faces South, then this will be a problem because you will not be able to utilize your solar panels at their maximum potential.
Which is better roof or ground mounted solar panels?
As you can see there are quite some criteria to consider when selecting the right solar mounting system for your house. And there is no magical formula to tell you which one to choose, as the decision involves individual expectations and demands that need to be discussed with your solar installer.
Here are a few tips that might give you a better idea.
When to choose roof mounted solar pv system?
You should select the solar rooftop option if…
- The available space in the backyard is used for gardening, barbecues or recreational purposes and there is no other space for these activities. Would you like to lose the chance of having fun in your backyard? I don’t think so.
- Your roof has several sides available for solar panels.
- Your rooftop is not made of Spanish shingles.
- You do not wish for any excavation or digging in your backyard.
- The only space available for solar panels in your backyard is very close to the neighbors’ property.
- Your house or roof are new or recently upgraded.
- The available space on the roof is enough to cover your household’s energy needs.
- The installation costs of roof mounted are lower than ground mounted.
When to choose ground mounted solar pv system?
You should select the ground mounted option if…
- Your space in the backyard is wide and extensive.
- The available space on the rooftop is not enough to supply the energy load that you need.
- There are long hard winters or a lot of dust and sand in your location.
- You think there might be space for some possible expansion of the system in the future.
- Your roof is unsafe and after replacement costs would exceed your budget.
- There are restrictions in your neighborhood regarding the installation of solar panels on the rooftop.
- The overall efficiency achieved by a ground mounted system will be higher than the roof mounted due to the tilt and inclination angles.
- You wish to install solar tracking mounts.
- There are chimneys, antennas or vents in the rooftop that might cause shading.