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Choosing a Solar Installer. Approved solar panel installers

Choosing a Solar Installer. Approved solar panel installers

    Going Solar in Fairfax County

    Fairfax County encourages residents to invest in solar energy. By using renewable energy like solar instead of fossil fuels, you help reduce pollution and planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions. And solar power can pay for itself in 10 to 20 years, so you’ll enjoy reduced energy bills, tax credits and other incentives, including extra protection from power loss during extreme weather when you invest in storage solutions.

    This webpage provides resources for residents interested in installing solar panels in Fairfax County. For more information about the basics of solar energy, your solar options, and questions to ask solar professionals, refer to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Homeowner’s Guide to Going Solar.

    Solar Benefits

    Fairfax County residents are opting to install solar panels on their homes. Press play to hear from them how they made the switch and how it changed their lives for the better!

    Solar energy uses a renewable energy source – the sun! In addition to reducing your electricity bill, using solar energy reduces your environmental impact and Fairfax County’s carbon footprint. You will also help reduce demand on the electricity grid during peak, sunny hours. Plus, installing solar panels can increase the value of your home. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, every dollar that a solar panel saves you on your electrical bills increases the value of your home by 20.

    Solar Potential

    The first step in getting solar is assessing whether your home or building is a good candidate. A few questions to ask when considering going solar:

    • Is your roof shaded by trees or other obstacles? Direct sunlight for six or more hours a day is ideal.
    • Is your roof relatively new? Solar installations can last 20-25 years, so your roof should be less than five years old.
    • What direction does your roof primarily face? Solar arrays can be configured in many different ways to allow for maximum exposure to sunlight throughout the day but ideally your roof should face south or west for the most exposure.

    You can investigate your property’s solar potential by visiting the Northern Virginia Regional Commission’s NOVA Solar Map. You can also estimate the performance of potential solar projects using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s PVWatts Calculator.

    Finding a Contractor

    Certified solar installers can be found through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners®. Visit the county’s Consumer Services webpage for general tips about hiring a contractor.

    By going through a solar co-op purchasing program, homeowners are granted access to a pre-qualified solar installer for a no-cost evaluation of their property and can take advantage of cost savings should they decide to pursue a solar installation. information on solar co-op purchasing programs can be found below.


    Fairfax County residents should be aware of their rights and the regulations surrounding door-to-door solicitation in the county. If a salesperson comes to your door with information about solar panels or installation, please ask to see their county-issued license before engaging with them. Never provide your personal information (birthdate, social security number, etc.) to a solicitor.

    If you encounter an unlicensed solicitor, please contact the Fairfax County Police non-emergency line at 703-691-2131. information on door-to-door solicitation can be found here.

    Cost and Financing

    Your electricity bill is based on how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity you use. Most homes use between 800 kWh and 1,500 kWh each month depending on weather, home size, energy efficiency and how many electric appliances are used.

    The price of solar electricity is typically expressed in terms of dollars per watt of installed power. Typical pricing for residential systems is in the range of 2.50 to 4.00 per watt, depending on the size and market economics. A 5 kilowatt (5 kW) solar system will produce about 8,000 kWh of electricity per year. At 3 per watt, that system would cost about 15,000 to install.

    By reducing electricity costs and taking advantage of tax incentives, the 15,000 investment can pay for itself in about 10-15 years.

    Residential solar panels can be purchased outright or financed with a loan from a solar installer, bank, or other financial institution.

    Solar Co-Op Purchasing Programs

    Solar group purchasing programs make getting solar easier and less expensive by providing information and benefits to participants. These programs typically offer:

    • A free assessment to find out whether your home is a good candidate for solar installation
    • Bulk discounts on solar systems, ranging from 10 to 15 percent off
    • Access to a qualified solar installer
    • Discounted opportunities to bundle your solar system with electric vehicle charging stations and solar battery storage

    Additionally, some programs offer participants a complimentary, virtual home energy assessment to help improve their home energy performance holistically. Those who decide to pursue solar through a co-op purchasing program typically receive a 10 to 15 percent discount off current consumer rates for solar arrays and systems.


    County Incentives

    Fairfax County offers a number of incentives to encourage residents and businesses to install solar panels. The county’s Land Development Services waives the permit fee for solar permit applications, and the county’s Department of Tax Administration provides a 5-year solar energy equipment tax exemption. To learn about the permitting and inspection process, refer to Land Development Services’ page about Residential Solar Permits.

    Federal Tax Credits

    The federal government currently offers a tax credit for solar PV system installation, to include the costs of the solar panels, contractor labor costs, balance-of-system equipment, and energy storage devices. Systems installed between 2022 and 2032 are eligible for a 30 percent tax credit. The credit will decrease to 26 percent for systems installed in 2033, to 22 percent for systems installed in 2034, and the credit will expire in 2035 unless renewed by Congress. The installation of the system must be complete during the tax year, and there is no maximum amount that can be claimed.

    Solar Rights

    Under Virginia state law (§56-594), residential customers may install systems up to 20 kilowatts and non-residential customers may install systems up to 500 kilowatts. Electric utilities must credit solar panel owners for excess electricity generated through something called net metering. Your solar contractor should coordinate with your electric utility to replace your standard meter with a net meter after your panels are installed. The net meter is bi-directional, tracking electrons flowing both out of and into the grid.

    Under Virginia state law (§67-701), homeowner associations (HOAs) typically cannot prohibit solar installations. However, the law allows reasonable restrictions concerning the size, place, and manner of placement. For more information refer to this Solarize webpage or talk to your solar installer.

    Under Virginia state law (§55-353), property owners can form solar easements with their neighbors. A solar easement enables you and a neighbor to voluntarily form an agreement under which the neighbor will not shade your property. The easement then applies to later owners of the neighboring property.

    County Solar Policies and Processes

    Solar panels are permitted accessory structures on all developed properties in Fairfax County provided that they serve the property and are subordinate in purpose, area and extent to the building or use served. For more information, refer to the last entry on the Department of Planning and Zoning’s FAQ page.

    Choosing a Solar Installer

    As costs are declining and the popularity of solar is growing, more and more people are installing solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at their homes and businesses. So how do solar shoppers learn about the products they are buying? How do you know your installer is offering you a quality solar system at a reasonable price? With a few tips and tricks, you can become an expert solar power shopper.

    The ABC’s of Going Solar

    Solar modules convert sunlight into electricity measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). You either consume the solar electricity or, if it exceeds your immediate needs, feed it into the electric grid.

    Your system size is commonly expressed in kilowatts (kW), which represents the maximum direct current (DC) capacity of the system or array. This is simply the product of the number of modules times the module’s nameplate power rating. For example, 20 modules, each rated at 300 watts, would comprise a 6 kW array.

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    Your system’s yield, the amount of electricity it will generate throughout the day, will depend on the specifications of your system such as the array’s tilt, orientation (north, south, east, west), shading, DC-AC conversion ratio, and other unique factors. The TXSES and Department of Energy websites offer additional basic solar details.

    Your utility governs how your solar system affects your electric bill, and policies vary widely across the state. Some utilities have a net metering policy, where your monthly solar production offsets your total energy consumption, and you pay only for the remainder, or “net” energy use. Other utilities may compensate for unused electricity sent back to the grid at a rate lower than the retail rate, or may offer no compensation at all. Austin Energy has adopted a “Value of Solar” rate, where all of your solar energy is credited to your bill at a pre-set rate, offsetting your electric consumption charges. Check with your electric utility to learn how their solar rate works. You can also learn more about solar policies at DSIRE.

    The Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) allows eligible homeowners who purchase solar energy systems to claim an income tax credit up to 30 percent of the installed cost. The ITC is available until the end of 2021, though it will ramp down starting in 2019. Some utilities and municipalities offer additional solar incentives and The Department of Energy and DSIRE websites offer more information on incentives, as may your electric utility and city government websites.

    What Exactly Are You Buying?

    The main components of a solar system consist of the solar modules (also called panels), the racking that attaches the modules to your roof or the ground, the cabling to your electric service panel, and one or more solar inverters that convert DC electricity from the modules to AC electricity used in buildings. Various manufacturers make these components and they may carry different warranties, which generally run from 10 to 25 years. Be sure to understand your warranties for both installer workmanship and major components. What do they cover, and who pays the labor cost to replace a failed component covered under warranty?

    Solar is a big investment no matter what equipment you buy or how you pay for it. As with any business, solar installers are not created equal, and you will need to do some research to find the one that is right for you. You may choose to search the internet, consult Yelp and the Better Business Bureau (BBB), or websites such as Solar Reviews for consumer intelligence on installers. However, the most reliable way to choose your contractor is to consult with friends and family, your utility company, and other trusted sources to find a few good installers who work in your area. Always check references before choosing an installer.

    Installers should understand your energy consumption and your utility rates, inspect your roof to determine its suitability for solar, and answer your questions. This culminates in a customized proposal that explains what you are buying, how much it costs, and your electricity cost savings over time. It is recommended to receive at least three solar proposals before moving forward with your solar installation.

    Apples to Apples

    By comparing certain aspects of the proposals you receive, you can simplify your analysis to make differences more evident. Comparing your proposals using these metrics will help you ask your solar suitors the right questions.

    System Price per Watt (/W). A quick method of comparing the costs of different solar proposals is to determine what you are paying per watt. According to EnergySage, the average price per watt in Texas in 2016 for a 6 kW system was between 2.81 and 3.64 before taking the Investment Tax Credit. Therefore, the average 6 kW system in Texas should cost between 16,860 and 21,840 before any credits and rebates. Many factors affect the price per watt, including the quality of the modules, the aesthetics of the array, the type of inverter(s), the complexity of your roof, and the size of the system.

    Production Estimates (kWh per kW). Production estimates are often difficult to compare. The proposals you receive may have fundamental differences and may estimate non-comparable annual electricity yields. Nonetheless, you can divide the number of annual kWh’s that the system is expected to generate by the system kW size. By normalizing the production estimates in this way, you can gain insight into which proposals are making aggressive estimates, and which are being conservative. There may be valid reasons for a high yield estimate, so ask your installer to explain. If you are interested in getting into the nitty gritty details, NREL’s PVWatts calculator allows you to create your own solar scenarios.

    Utility Inflation Rate. One way solar proposals often differ is the assumed amount that utility rates will increase over time. While many proposals use the national average, this may not reflect your local rates. If one proposal uses an aggressive utility rate escalator and another uses a conservative figure, everything else being equal, the financial predictions will look better in the aggressive proposal, even if there is no basis in fact for that assumption.

    In general, proposals with a high system price per watt, high production estimate, or high utility inflation rate warrant further scrutiny. Do not be shy to ask questions; the installer should be happy to explain why their product warrants these higher estimates. Your knowledge and persistence will ultimately lead to hiring a quality installer and receiving a system that will perform to your expectations.

    Before Signing on the Dotted Line

    Contracts are dense, involved documents that are tempting to skim. However, disputes have arisen between customers and contractors, so it behooves you to know the rules of the game before you play it. Take the time to read and understand your contract before signing it. Some key facets you should ask about are how long you have to cancel a contract, and the installer’s commitment to an installation timeline.

    Texas law requires anyone installing, or offering to install, a solar system on a home or business to have a Texas Electrical Contractor’s License (TECL) from the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR). The company’s TECL must be clearly written on all proposals, contracts, invoices, and business cards. Even if the company who prepared your proposal will be subcontracting the labor, they must still be a licensed electrical contractor.

    Be very careful with third-party marketing companies offering a solar system. For a solar contract to be valid in Texas, the company you sign a contract with must be the same company that prepared your solar proposal and pulls the permits for your installation. Although it is not a statewide requirement, strongly consider a contractor who is NABCEP PV Installation Professional certified.

    Use the TDLR website to search for your contractor and read the law about your electrical contractor’s responsibilities.

    After reading this, I hope that you have the basic knowledge to engage solar contractors in a conversation, request a proposal, compare it to other proposals, and make the best decision for you and your family.

    Micah Jasuta has worked in the solar industry in sales, design, project management, and installation capacities. He is currently with Austin Energy, a municipal utility, where he works daily with customers and installers to help make going solar the best experience for everyone.

    How to Become a Certified Solar Installer

    Solar energy systems are becoming more and more popular among homeowners and business spaces. As a result, many people might consider pursuing their careers as certified solar installers.

    If you are an aspirant aiming to start your journey as a solar installer, you have arrived at the right place. The world is slowly coming to realize the benefits of renewable energy.

    Hence, there could not have been a better time to transition into the industry as a certified solar installer. Becoming a certified solar installer requires an in-depth understanding and basic qualifications.

    Are you worried about where to start?

    Well, this article attempts to kickstart your journey as a solar installer. We’ve covered all the bases to help you become a certified solar installer!

    • 1 What Are the Duties of a Solar Installer?
    • 1.1 Responsibilities of a Solar Installer
    • 1.2 Skills Required to Become a Solar Installer
    • 2.1 What is NABCEP?
    • 2.2 What Are the Licensing Requirements in the Different States?
    • 3.1 Training
    • 3.2 Apprenticeship
    • 3.3 Online Training
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    • 6.1 General Solar Technician Courses
    • 6.2 Advanced Courses for Solar Installers
    • 6.3 In-House Training Courses

    What Are the Duties of a Solar Installer?

    First off, let’s begin with a general role description of a certified solar installer. This section will introduce you to the role and what it has in store for you.

    A solar installer must possess up-to-date knowledge on installation practices, appropriate techniques, and safety concerns. over, having a fair idea about the upcoming technology and products in the industry is also vital.

    Also, solar installers must meet the licensing and certification requirements.

    Responsibilities of a Solar Installer

    As a solar installer, these are some of your responsibilities:

    • Inspecting, installing, maintaining, and configuring all types of solar PV systems
    • Detecting hazards and analyzing the environments for solar PV system installations
    • Mapping out ideal locations and positioning for each component of the solar PV system
    • Sealing the solar PV system against weather conditions
    • Adhering to manufacturing specifications and all safety codes
    • Terminating, installing, and labeling electrical wiring
    • Making adjustments as necessary to all system controls
    • Checking the PV system and measuring all grounding systems

    Skills Required to Become a Solar Installer

    Here are some of the qualities that every solar installer should display:

    • One of the essential qualities of a solar installer is customer care skills. You have to learn the art of keeping your customers happy and making them feel well-treated. A solar installer should offer satisfactory services from start to finish.
    • Another essential quality is attention to detail. A good solar panel installer must be very particular and detail-oriented when it comes to solar panel installation. Staying alert will help the solar installer avoid any errors during installation.
    • The solar installer should also be physically fit. This role demands physical strength and activeness. Plus, it would help if you were not afraid of heights or physical challenges.
    • Solar installers also need recertification. Recertification is a refresher course that will help you hone your skills and knowledge in the field.
    • If you want to become a solar installer, you should display mechanical skills. Mechanical skills such as electrical experience, construction experience, etc., are crucial for this role.

    How Can I Become a Solar Contractor?

    You don’t need to hold a legal license to become a solar installer in every state. However, many states require specific training as a prerequisite for this role. Plus, the requirements might be different for commercial or residential installations.

    If you reside in a Tri-state area, you can become licensed and certified in surrounding states. We recommend you give yourself time to get licensed and establish yourself in your region. Note that licensing can be expensive up-front but pays off in the long run.

    State websites declare different laws and regulations for solar installer licensing.

    What is NABCEP?

    One of the most common requirements in various states across America is NABCEP. NABCEP stands for North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

    NABCEP is the global certification leader in the renewable energy sector. With the NABCEP certification, you’ll become qualified to work anywhere in the world as a solar installer.

    What Are the Licensing Requirements in the Different States?

    This section breaks down the licensing requirements across different states to make it a tad easier for you. Here’s the detailed table:

    StateLicensing Requirement
    Alabama SRCC and NABCEP licensing
    Alaska No specific requirements
    Arizona Agency certification
    Arkansas No specific requirements
    California Solar contractors’ license
    Colorado No specific state requirements, but some counties require licensing
    Connecticut Business with NABCEP license and PV-1 or EI-1 licensed contractor
    Delaware A NABCEP license is recommended to qualify for rebates
    Florida Solar contractor license
    Georgia No specific requirements
    Hawaii Solar energy contractor license
    Idaho Idaho solar PV license plus NABCEP
    Illinois No specific requirements
    Indiana No specific requirements
    Iowa No specific requirements
    Kansas No specific requirements
    Kentucky No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Louisiana Contractor’s license
    Maine No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Maryland No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Massachusetts No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Michigan No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Minnesota No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Mississippi No specific requirements
    Missouri No specific state requirements, but some counties require licensing
    Montana No specific requirements
    Nebraska No specific requirements
    Nevada Nevada State Contractors License
    New Hampshire No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    New Jersey No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    New Mexico No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    New York Licensure is regulated at county level
    North Carolina No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    North Dakota No specific requirements
    Ohio No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Oklahoma No specific requirements
    Oregon No specific requirements
    Pennsylvania NABCEP, NECA, IRED, ISPQ, or IBEW certification
    Rhode Island State licensing
    Sourth Carolina Only licensed electricians permitted
    South Dakota Only licensed electricians permitted
    Tennessee No requirements, but requires licensed electrician as a part of the workforce
    Texas Only licensed electricians permitted
    Utah Contractor’s license
    Vermont Certified solar partnership
    Virgina State Alternative Energy Systems Specialization
    Washington Requires licensed technicians
    West Virgina Requires licensed technicians
    Wisconsin No specific requirements
    Wyoming Requires licensed technicians

    Where Can I Get Training for a Solar Installer Certification?

    Many solar installers prefer to get solar installation training at a local community college. However, there are also vocational schools to acquaint you with the same.

    These schools and colleges impart the right training and knowledge that installers require. Plus, having a college certificate will give you an edge over other installers without the certificate.


    For the best training as a solar installer, you should reach out to schools in your local areas.

    These days, many companies provide short-term training to people looking to explore this field. However, if you want to become a certified solar installer, you have to dedicate a substantial amount of time.

    Every state imposes a unique set of regulations guiding the kind of training required. Besides, training will give you a first-hand idea of what installers should do on the field.

    Performing installations and maintenance tasks with a qualified installer will help you hone your skills. The training typically includes the precautionary measures required and the step-by-step process for installation.

    Before you set out to practice professionally, you will require at least two years of training. In our opinion, it is always better to get some experience before you begin working professionally.

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    If you want to become a professionally certified installer, you should possess some experience in the industry. It means that you should have some installation experience under the supervision of a certified installer.

    Once you provide proof of apprenticeship, you will receive your certification or license. To acquire the necessary skills, you have to devote at least two to three years to an apprenticeship.

    An apprenticeship is a crucial step as it helps you to gain the necessary skills for the role. Once you complete your apprenticeship program, you will receive your certificate.

    Online Training

    The latest innovations in technology are also revolutionizing how solar installers receive their training. Many people prefer opting for online courses. You may also go through the video tutorials on the internet.

    Watching videos is a great training source if you are looking for a crash course on solar installation. These videos consist of many primary and advanced classes.

    over, many online courses provide a certificate to these learners.

    What Is the Importance of a Certification for Solar Installers?

    When you hold a license or certificate from a known institution, people will find you credible and trustworthy.

    Even though having a certification is not mandatory, it is always good to have one. After all, with a certificate, you will have proof of your expertise. Plus, you’ll stay updated with the latest innovations.

    Another benefit of having a certification is that you will receive better job opportunities. Most solar companies today emphasize the importance of certified and licensed solar installers. With proper certification, you’ll stand out from the crowd.

    Passing a certification class conveys that you have the right training and knowledge for solar-driven system installations.

    What Are the Requirements for Getting Certified?

    You need to meet the eligibility requirements to receive a certification. The criteria are mentioned below:

    • To become a solar panel installer, you must be above the age of 18 years.
    • It is mandatory to pass a certification exam to establish yourself as a qualified solar installer.
    • You must possess an A-level certificate or a high school diploma.
    • Interested candidates must know how to install, maintain, and assemble solar panel systems.
    • Finally, it is also mandatory to pass your North American Board of Certification Energy Practitioners exam.

    What Is the Duration of Solar Technician Training?

    Solar panel installer training has a varying time frame. It mostly depends on the type of course you choose. The following sections will discuss the duration of each solar training program in detail.

    General Solar Technician Courses

    The general courses will introduce you to the basics of the certification program. These courses won’t be as intricate as degree programs or trade school programs.

    In general, such courses should not take anymore than 18 to 25 hours. This time frame accounts for course work, study and preparation, reading time, and examination time.

    Many courses will combine the study and the work in a single week. You should expect intense learning and long work hours during this period. If you are in a hurry to obtain your certification, this course is your best bet.

    Advanced Courses for Solar Installers

    You’ll also find many advanced courses on this subject. There are hands-on programs and many online advanced programs to help you become an established solar installer. Such advanced courses typically run 40 hours of classroom or online time.

    Also, the time for hand-on training might extend up to 100 hours. There’ll be another 40 hours for advanced contact hours, apart from examination time and preparation time.

    In-House Training Courses

    There are solar panel companies that offer in-house training. But, there is no generalized time frame for such in-house training courses. It depends on the requirements of the company.

    The duration is likely to be similar to advanced training courses. over, the in-house training programs are more compact than advanced courses.

    You might have to complete two to six weeks of in-house hands-on training with courses, besides reading, preparation, and exam time.

    What Is the Validity Period of the License?

    The validity period of solar installer certification varies from state to state. Generally, it would be best if you continued receiving education throughout your time as a solar installer.

    It is recommended that you recertify every three to four years. The validity period will also depend on the programs in place.

    How Much Can I Earn as a Solar Installer?

    Most of the interested candidates in this field have a common query about the financial fruit of this job. Once you receive your certification or license, you’ve unlocked doors to unimaginable income.

    You can earn as much as 74,000 a year as a solar installer.

    However, the actual salary of a solar installer greatly varies from location to location. States with more demand for PV systems will pay better for this job. Plus, your certification and experience also play a role in determining the pay.

    The national average earning for a solar installer is near about 54,000 for a year. On the other hand, the low-end earnings of a solar installer are around 33,00 a year.


    Once you understand the responsibilities, receive a certification, and have sufficient experience, you’re ready for the role!

    Becoming a professional solar installer is not going to be an easy journey. However, the role of solar technicians is one of the most rewarding ones. Plus, after training, you’ll have the confidence to proceed with any solar installation process.

    With the certification, getting a job in a solar panel company will be much easier.

    Besides, this is the right time to enter the professional solar market. The demand for solar panel systems is growing tremendously, and professionals serving this industry are in demand.

    Solar Power in Minnesota

    All Energy Solar is your local Minnesota solar panel installer. Our team of experts is prepared to provide detailed information about how solar panels could fit your property’s specific features and unique energy needs.

    Your Full-Service Minnesota Solar Energy Company

    Our team of dedicated Minnesota solar power installers is waiting to assist you with every aspect of your solar energy project. Starting with the initial site visit, through the permitting process, incentive paperwork, design, complete installation, and roofing, we’ll guide you every step of the way and beyond.

    With more than 1,500 5-star reviews from verified customers across Google, EnergySage, and other trusted review sites, All Energy Solar scores at the very top of the industry for customer satisfaction.

    A Proven Process Since 2009

    We believe solar energy should be accessible to everyone in Minnesota. That’s why we want to make it as easy as possible by helping you through the process.

    From a design made specifically for your property, to finding the right financing option, our team works with you so you can enjoy the sun and forget the hassle.

    Our installation couldn’t have gone smoother — the project manager handled everything from city permits to coordinating with Xcel. The installation crew was efficient, friendly, and respectful, and we love being able to monitor our energy usage/production through an online link. Couldn’t recommend All Energy Solar enough!

    See Our Recent Minnesota Solar Installations

    Solar at Riverton Community Housing co-ops meet savings and sustainability goals

    Solar installations help to bring energy efficiency, affordability to student university housing in Minneapolis. Four recently completed solar arrays at Riverton Community Housing co-op locations

    Czarnik Residence: Solar powered home delivers for Saint Paul resident

    After Mike Czarnik built a new house on the east side of St. Paul in 2005, he drove around the neighborhood and saw solar powered

    Zoar Lutheran Church: Solar energy as a spirited effort

    Zoar Lutheran Church sits in a beautiful and unspoiled perch on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Tofte, MN. The congregation started with the

    Explore Minnesota Solar Incentives

    In addition to the Federal Income Tax Solar Credit, many cities, municipalities, and utilities offer rebates or other incentives for solar energy technologies in Minnesota. All Energy Solar can help find what incentives are available to you and assist in your applications.

    Minnesota solar power producers in Xcel Energy territory receive an annual rebate for solar production for 10 years — in addition to net metering. This program offers incentives to customers for installing PV panels and inverters listed on the California Energy Commissions (CEC) list. The PV system must be designed to produce less than 120 percent of the customer’s annual energy use, based on the past 12 months of energy use, and may have a capacity of 0.5 to 40 KW. Only licensed Minnesota solar power installers can participate in this program. Incentives for solar PV are performance-based, established by a system’s energy production, and paid for over 10 years. Schedule a free consultation to learn how this rebate can work for you!

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    Available for customers of Rochester, Owatonna, and Austin Public Utilities. The Conserve Save Rebate program offers incentives to customers of Rochester, Owatonna, and Austin Public Utilities for installing a PV system that meets the MN Dept. of Energy’s rebates requirements in addition to the utility requirements. The PV system must have a capacity of at least 2 KW. Incentives for solar PV are currently set at a flat rate of 500 per system, regardless of size. Schedule a free consultation to learn how this rebate can work for you!

    Available for customers of Dakota Electric Association. To assist residential members in recovering the costs associated with installing a solar system, Dakota Electric created a one-time 500 rebate, per premise, upon the installation and commission of your solar photovoltaic (PV) array. Schedule a free consultation to learn how this rebate can work for you!

    Available for solar customers of all utility companies throughout Minnesota. What is net metering? Net metering is the policy that allows people with a solar power system on their property to receive a credit on their electric bill for the excess energy they produce. Customers of any Minnesota public utility, municipal utility, and rural electric coops may participate in net metering, however, the rules of how it works and how much compensation is received differ depending on the electricity provider in your area and the size of your solar energy system. Solar power customers with utility net metered systems will be credited for each kilowatt produced by their system that is sent back into the grid. If your solar power generation exceeds your electricity usage for a given month, you will receive a credit for each excess kilowatt hour, to be applied in later months when you generate less electricity than you consume. Schedule a free consultation to learn how net metering helps your system pay for itself!

    Available for rural customers, as defined by the USDA. The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses in rural America to install solar PV systems. The maximum funding available is 25% of system cost, and each business’s total incentive will be determined based on a business-level feasibility study. Schedule a free consultation to learn whether your business qualifies for USDA REAP funding!

    Available to any business in the United States. Under the federal Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS), businesses may recover investments in PV through depreciation deductions. A solar PV system is classified as five-year property (26 USC § 168(e)(3)(B)(vi)) under the MACRS, which refers to 26 USC § 48(a)(3)(A) to define eligible property. Schedule a free consultation to learn how accelerated depreciation on solar can help your business!

    What You Should Know About Residential Solar Systems

    Going solar has many benefits. It harnesses Arizona’s abundant sunshine to produce energy and is a renewable resource that creates no emissions. It also reduces your carbon footprint to help combat climate change. It may even increase your home value and reduce your monthly energy bills, if you continue to use energy wisely and conserve.

    Beware of Scammers

    Beware of companies that call you or come to your home claiming to be a preferred or approved contractor for TEP. TEP does not endorse or have formal partnerships with any solar company. Please call us at 520-623-7711 to report this and provide the name of the company and the salesperson, if possible. Homeowners should check a company’s credentials carefully before signing a contract.

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    Solar Analysis tool can help customers determine if installing a PV system makes sense for them. The tool helps you evaluate all of your solar options – whether to rent or own – so that you can determine if a PV system will meet your financial and sustainable goals. This tool estimates the upfront and long-term costs, the size of the system needed and the payback period for your residence.

    Payback Period

    The actual payback period for investing in a PV system depends on your energy usage, system size, PV technology, tax credits available, installed system cost, and electric rate changes, among other factors. Any payback projection should reflect TEP’s history of stable electric rates, which have increased less than 1 percent per year, on average, over the past two decades.

    Use TEP’s Solar Analysis tool to estimate your payback period or follow these steps:

    • Calculate your system cost after any federal and state tax credits. Check with a tax professional to verify if you are eligible for these credits.
    • Estimate the amount of electricity your system will produce, which is the amount of energy you won’t buy from TEP. This estimate is calculated by multiplying your system size in kilowatts by 1,900.
    • Multiply your annual system production by your electricity rate. This is your annual savings.
    • Divide your system cost – calculated in step 1 – by your annual savings – calculated in step 3 to get the number of years for your payback period.

    Choosing a Solar Company

    It is critical for customers to choose an experienced, reputable solar company that will meet their needs and expectations. Here are some helpful tips for selecting a solar company:

    • Only hire a licensed contractor qualified to do the project. Solar installers must be licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (AZROC) and possess an Arizona business license that is active and in good standing.
    • Verify the company’s license status by calling 877-692-9762 or visiting the AZROC website.
    • Check to see if the installer is bonded and insured and ask for proof.
    • Use a local installer, if possible. Tucson area installers are familiar with TEP’s requirements and the application process to help ensure project approval and a successful installation.
    • Obtain detailed proposals and estimates from several installers and meet with each of them. Prices, project specifications and warranties vary significantly. Compare each of the proposals to make sure the system will meet your goals and expectations.
    • Check references. Request at least three (3) references from customers whose projects are similar to yours. Consider the company’s experience and find out if they have any unresolved complaints, judgments or liens. Check their Better Business Bureau
    • Get everything in writing. Any material changes to the system design, performance, equipment or estimate should be documented in writing.

    Read all documents carefully before signing. You need to understand the terms and conditions before you sign. This helps prevents disagreements during and after installation. TEP advises against signing an agreement or making payments on leased systems until a DG meter is installed and a Permission to Operate is issued.

    Questions to ask solar companies:

    • Are you licensed, insured and bonded? Can you provide proof?
    • How many other PV systems have you installed that are similar to mine?
    • Can you provide several references?
    • How much energy will my system produce?
    • What will be my cost savings by having solar and what is the estimated payback period?
    • What are the benefits of purchasing rather than leasing?
    • Can the contract be renegotiated and under what circumstances?
    • Is the contract transferrable to new owners if we sell our home?
    • How long will the equipment last before it needs to be replaced?
    • What are the warranties on the equipment, and can I purchase extended warranties?
    • Should the age and condition of my roof affect my decision?

    Selecting a TOU Pricing Plan

    Solar customers may choose from any of our time-of-use (TOU) pricing plans. These plans can reduce your energy bills if you avoid using a lot of energy or operating several large appliances during times of peak demand. For the greatest cost savings, learn to shift your energy usage to off-peak hours, such as mid-day or later in the evening. Customers on TOU plans should reduce energy usage from 3-7 p.m. during the summer and from 6-9 a.m. and 6-9 p.m. in the winter.

    Customers with PV systems sometimes make the mistake of actually using more energy and could see their TEP bills increase. It is important to remain as energy efficient as possible and continue to make every-saving upgrades even after a PV system is installed to keep energy costs low.

    Billing Credits

    Even after you install your PV system, you will still be connected to TEP’s grid and will rely on us to provide safe, reliable power when the sun isn’t shining and your system isn’t generating electricity. Even if you have stored energy from a battery system, it may not meet your power needs. That means you will still get a bill from TEP every month, although it should be lower if you keep your energy usage in check.

    All TEP customers, including those with solar systems, have monthly service charges that cover our costs associated with operating and maintaining our electrical grid.

    Excess Energy Credits

    Once your PV system is installed, TEP will replace your existing meter with billing and production meters to measure your energy usage and the amount of energy your system exports to our grid. The excess energy and credits will appear as “KBH” – kilowatt banked hours – on your monthly TEP bill.

    The buyback rate for excess, unused energy is specified in TEP’s Rider-14 Resource Comparison Proxy (RCP) Export Rate. Customers’ bill credit is based on the RCP rate in effect when their interconnection application was submitted. This rate is fixed for 10 years.

    After the initial 10-year period, the bill credit is based on the current export purchase rate, and may change from year to year. The RCP rate for new applications received before Oct. 1, 2022, is adjusted each year.

    Each month if the customer’s RCP credit balance exceeds their TEP bill for electricity, the credit is applied to their next month’s bill. In October of each year, TEP will pay the customer any remaining RCP credits if the balance is more than 10.

    Customers with grandfathered rates for PV systems installed before 2018 should refer to TEP’s Rider – 4 Net Metering for Certain Partial Requirements Service (NM-PRS).

    Power Outages

    If a power outage occurs, your PV system is required to shut down automatically for safety reasons. This prevents excess energy generated by your system from flowing back to our circuits while our crews are repairing equipment, which must be de-energized to prevent an electrical hazard.

    Your system will not generate energy during a power outage unless you have a PV system with a battery storage system. Once power is restored, you can resume operation of your PV system, which may require a manual reset.

    Maintenance Repairs

    If your system requires maintenance or repairs, contact your solar company. If the existing DG meter needs to be pulled for repairs, a DG clearance from your Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) will most likely be required. If the inverter(s) or modules are being replaced an application will need to be submitted to TEP.

    Working with TEP

    TEP’s role is to assist installers and customers through every step of the application and approval process and ensure that projects meet all safety and electrical requirements. At different stages of the application process, customers and your installers may work with up to four different departments at TEP: Energy Programs, Energy Services (engineering), Design Services and Metering.

    Customers and installers can expect regular communications from TEP to help keep projects on track. Customers can do their part to advance their project and prevent delays by providing TEP with their correct address and email address, signing the Interconnection Agreement in a timely manner and ensuring there are no access issues – such as pets in the yard or locked gates – at their home.

    TEP will review the Notice of Completion submitted by the installer once installation is complete and, if approved, the project will be released to TEP Metering for a meter exchange. Once TEP issues a Permission to Operate, the installer may energize the PV system.

    Steps to Installing a Residential Solar System

    • The solar company completes and submits the Interconnection Application and required documents to TEP on their customer’s behalf.
    • TEP conducts an administrative review of the application and documents within 7 days of receipt to ensure they comply with program requirements.
    • TEP completes an Interconnection Review of the project’s technical specifications within 14 days and notifies the customer and installer if the project is approved or needs corrections. For PV systems greater than 20 kWac, TEP has 21 days to complete its Interconnection Review.
    • The solar company pick-ups TEP-supplied equipment and materials for the project from our designated vendor.
    • The solar company installs the equipment and then notifies TEP when the installation is complete by submitting electronically a Notice of Installation Completion (NIC) along with “as-built” photos of the project. TEP may require a system inspection.
    • TEP reviews the NIC and coordinates with our Metering Department to install billing and solar production meters and complete a revenue meter exchange.
    • Upon receiving Permission to Operate from TEP, the solar company may energize the customer’s PV system.

    Your Installer’s Role Responsibilities

    Solar companies are responsible for designing a PV system tailored to the customer’s home and energy needs, and calculating its size, configuration and energy production. The installer should provide a detailed cost estimate, the manufacturer and model numbers for your equipment and a project timeline.

    The installer will complete and submit the Interconnection Application and project drawings to TEP on your behalf, obtain the necessary permits, schedule inspections and secure the required approvals. They’ll also need to contact TEP if there are any major modifications to a project. Installers must adhere to TEP’s Distributed Generation Interconnection Requirements and our Electrical Requirements.

    If a power kills is needed for installation, the installer needs to schedule this with TEP Design Services and notify the customer of that appointment.

    When a PV system is completed, the installer must submit a Notice of Completion with TEP along with “as-built” photos of the PV system. After TEP installs new billing and production meters and issues a Permission to Operate, the installer will complete a walk-through with the customer and energize the system.

    Changes to your PV System after Installation

    Customers who want to expand their system by adding an inverter or more modules need to have their installer submit an application to TEP. They will keep their initial net metering rate for the duration of the 20-year contact if the addition to a grandfathered system does not require utility distribution upgrades.

    Customers with an RCP rate can find more information about expanding their system and retaining their original rate.

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