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How California’s new rooftop solar rules will affect you. Solar panel at rooftop

How California’s new rooftop solar rules will affect you. Solar panel at rooftop

    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:

    TOP STORIES

    “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.

    Toward a more sustainable California

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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.

    How to Install Solar Panels on a Home Roof and Connect Them

    Solar energy is quickly establishing itself as the quintessential modern way to generate power. It’s green, renewable, and can reduce (or even eliminate) your monthly electric bills.

    There are numerous advantages and benefits to installing your own set of solar panels on your roof rather than paying for professional installation.

    But how do you go about doing it?

    Well, you’re in the right place.

    In this guide, we’re going to take you through all the benefits of installing solar panels on your roof and how you can DIY it all by yourself!

    Why You Should Install Solar Panels on the Roof

    There are numerous pros to installing your own solar panels. To make them easier to digest, we’ve broken down the key points below for you to review.

    Solar Panels Are a Renewable Source of Green Energy

    Over the past two decades, the damage caused by climate change has become clearer and clearer. Life on our planet is in danger, and we all feel the pressure to change our habits and live greener.

    Generating your own clean, renewable energy from the sun is an excellent way to do this, and that’s exactly what solar panels provide you with!

    If you’re looking for a greener way to live, solar is a fantastic place to start.

    Solar Panels Can Help You Save Money

    Living greener isn’t just about saving the planet. You can also keep more green in your wallet.

    Generating your own energy means less (or zero) reliance on the grid. You can reduce your electricity bills or eliminate them altogether. The initial investment can be significant, but over time you will certainly start to see the financial benefits.

    With the world’s fossil fuel supply diminishing and an unpredictable geopolitical situation — not to mention the natural disasters exacerbated by climate change — the price of on-grid electricity is likely to keep climbing.

    At the same time, an aging energy infrastructure has made the grid less reliable than ever.

    With the rapidly declining and improving technology of solar power, there’s never been a better time to take the plunge.

    Solar Panels Are Easy to Install

    Installing your own solar panels on your roof might seem like a massive undertaking, but it really isn’t.

    You may be entirely capable of doing it yourself!

    We’ll walk you through a DIY solar installation step-by-step a little further down. Home renovations don’t have to be stressful or excessive, and solar panel installation is neither.

    Solar Panels Are Low Maintenance

    Not only are solar panels easy to install, but they also require next to no maintenance. Once the panels are set up on your roof, you can essentially just forget about them. Solar power systems require no refueling and — if purchased from a reliable manufacturer — are highly durable. The Rigid Solar Panel from EcoFlow features an IP68 weather resistance certification, making it totally waterproof! These panels are designed to last with minimal intervention. You may need to clean them once or twice a year, but the rain will generally take care of that.

    What to Consider Before Installing Solar Panels on Your Roof

    Now that you know why solar panels are such a good idea, we’re sure you’re eager to purchase your own.

    Don’t rush to the stores (or your laptop) just yet — there are some key considerations to make first.

    You don’t want to invest in technology that doesn’t meet your electricity generation needs or install the incorrect equipment.

    Consider the following factors carefully before jumping into solar.

    Your Location

    Location isn’t just about the amount of sunshine you receive on a daily basis. Peak sun hours have an impact, but solar panels can pick up energy even in low-light situations. You don’t need to live in a desert for your solar panel to generate adequate power.

    However, if your roof is positioned under heavy shade, you won’t reap the same benefits as a solar panel that receives direct sunlight.

    Do some research on how much sunlight your location receives on average and consider factors like shade. It pays to know how worthwhile your investment will end up being before committing.

    How Much Energy Does Your Home Use?

    Numerous factors affect how much energy your home consumes. The number of people in your house, how many devices you have running concurrently, and your home’s size all contribute. Make sure you review how much electricity your home consumes, with specific reference to the wattage of essential devices and appliances, before purchasing solar panels and a solar power system.

    Doing the math will give you a clearer insight into how beneficial the switch to solar will be for you!

    The Condition of Your Roof

    Solar panels do not typically damage your roof, but they do exert additional weight on the existing structure. This is because they are usually mounted via panel hooks or similar devices.

    If your roof hasn’t been inspected in a few years or has shown signs of degradation (rot, woodworm, rust, etc), it might not be the best time to invest in roof-mounted solar panels.

    The last thing you want is to splash out on a set of solar panels only to find your roof can’t support them.

    Besides, portable solar panels are also a more than viable option. You can set them up in your backyard — and take them anywhere.

    The Brand You Purchase From

    Last but perhaps most importantly, you need to consider which manufacturer to purchase your solar panels and the solar power system that converts and stores electricity from.

    Not all brands (or solar panels) are created equal — and reputation matters!

    You should always read up on the brand you’re investing in before proceeding through checkout. You might think you’ve found a bargain, but if you’re purchasing subpar technology, it will likely need to be replaced much sooner than you’d like.

    How to Install and Connect Solar Panels on a Roof – Step by Step

    Now let’s get into the nitty gritty: installation!

    When it comes to installation, rigid solar panels are somewhat similar between brands. But there are some unique differences.

    This step-by-step guide is a generalized approach, but it should still apply to your installation.

    It isn’t as complicated as you may think, so let’s get into it already.

    Attach the Solar Panel Mounts

    Once you are safely up on your roof, the first thing you will need to do is secure your solar panel mounts. Mounts are what your panels will attach to and ‘hang’ from, so you must ensure they are completely stable.

    Also, consider how you’re going to maximize sunlight exposure throughout the day. Attach your mounts to the side that receives the most daylight at an 18-36 degree angle.

    Secure the Solar Panels in Place

    Once your mounts are securely in place, it’s time to place the panels themselves.

    EcoFlow offers both rigid and flexible solar panels to suit your rooftop installation needs. No matter how sloped or unusual your roof may be, you should have minimal difficulty fitting them in place.

    Just make sure all of the nuts and bolts are tightly fastened, securing the panel to the mount. This will help ensure that they stay precisely where you put them, no matter the weather.

    Wire the Solar Panels to the Inverter or Portable Power Station

    Next is the wiring. This may be the part you find most daunting, but it’s actually a relatively simple process. In most cases, MC4 cable connectors are used because they are compatible with all kinds of solar panels. You should only attempt this when the household electrical supply is entirely shut down, or you run the risk of electrifying yourself rather than your panels.

    Install the Solar Inverter or Use a Portable Power Station

    The inverter converts the sunlight your panels absorb into electrical energy you can use and store. EcoFlow’s portable power stations and solar generators have the inverter built in, as well as everything else you need for a true plug-and-play solar power system.

    Your inverter should usually be installed near your main electrical panel, ideally in a cool location.

    If you choose to install the solar inverter outdoors, make sure it’s out of the direct sun.

    Connect the Inverter to the Consumer Unit

    Finally, you need to connect the inverter to the consumer unit (fuse board). You will also need to connect solar batteries to your consumer unit to store the electricity you generate.

    This step is unnecessary with EcoFlow Portable Power Stations and Solar Generators, which are both all-in-one solar power system solutions.

    A generation meter alongside can tell you how much energy your solar panels are generating.

    With many of EcoFlow’s products, you can access this information and much more using the EcoFlow app on your smartphone.

    Congrats, you’ve completed your very first installation!

    NOTE: Your solar panels should always arrive with a specific installation manual for your system. Our guide is a catch-all for numerous solar panels, so make sure to refer to it as a high-level guide alongside your product manual.

    Do I Need Permission to Install Solar Panels on My Roof?

    In most cases, no, you do not need to apply for planning permission to install solar panels on your roof. Typically, it’s considered permitted development and shouldn’t affect neighbors in any meaningful way.

    After all, you aren’t expanding your property. You’re just adding to what’s already there.

    However, some exemptions to this may apply depending on your location and local regulations. Particularly if the following criteria are breached:

    • The panels rise higher than 8 inches (200mm) from the roof
    • Your home is a listed or landmark building
    • You live close to a listed or landmark building

    Check your local and national guidelines for specific information relating to your home, but for the most part, you should be good to go!

    If you are denied planning permission for a rooftop solar installation for whatever reason, don’t worry, it isn’t the end of your solar journey. EcoFlow offers a range of portable solar panels that can be used with portable power stations (such as the DELTA Pro) to generate power no matter where you are — and you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission!

    Conclusion

    Installing solar panels on your roof can seem like a huge undertaking, but it can prove highly worthwhile.

    Not only do you get energy independence, but you also do your part for the environment and save money on utility bills in the long run.

    Consider purchasing your own solar panels today and see for yourself why so many people and businesses are turning to solar power.

    EcoFlow is a portable power and renewable energy solutions company. Since its founding in 2017, EcoFlow has provided peace-of-mind power to customers in over 85 markets through its DELTA and RIVER product lines of portable power stations and eco-friendly accessories.

    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.

    Give this article Share full article

    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.

    california, rooftop, solar, rules

    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.”

    california, rooftop, solar, rules

    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.

    `An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the timing of a tax credit for the cost of batteries on a home solar energy system. Taxpayers can claim the credit for the batteries in a tax year after the year in which they installed the solar panels; it is not the case that solar panels and batteries must be purchased in the same year to qualify for the credit.

    How we handle corrections

    Vikas Bajaj, an assistant editor in the Business section, was previously a member of the editorial board and a correspondent based in Mumbai, India. Before that, he covered housing and financial markets from New York. @ vikasbajaj

    A version of this article appears in print on. Section B. Page 1 of the New York edition with the headline: Going Solar? Here’s What You Need Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe

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    The Cost of Solar Panels: Is It Worth It?

    Do the benefits of solar panels outweigh their costs?

    california, rooftop, solar, rules

    Nathaniel Riley brings 28 years of experience in financial services, including merger-arbitrage trading, hedge funds, and alternative investments.

    ​Somer G. Anderson is CPA, doctor of accounting, and an accounting and finance professor who has been working in the accounting and finance industries for more than 20 years. Her expertise covers a wide range of accounting, corporate finance, taxes, lending, and personal finance areas.

    Skylar Clarine is a fact-checker and expert in personal finance with a range of experience including veterinary technology and film studies.

    What Is Solar Power for the Home?

    Homeowners who install solar power systems can receive numerous benefits: lower electric bills, lower carbon footprints, and potentially higher home values. But these benefits typically come with significant installation and maintenance costs and the magnitude of the gains can vary widely from one house to another.

    This article will help homeowners make the financial calculations required to determine the viability of solar power in their homes.

    Key Takeaways

    • Those seeking to go green may want to consider equipping their home with solar panels.
    • Not only is solar power good for the environment, but you can earn money selling back excess power to the grid.
    • While costs have come down over the past years, installation and maintenance of solar panels can be quite expensive.
    • Solar panels are best suited for homes that receive ample sun exposure throughout the year.
    • Before committing to solar power, be sure to understand both the social and economic factors.

    Understanding Solar Power

    In principle, working out whether it makes financial sense to install solar power for your home is simple. You will need to calculate:

    • The cost of a solar power system
    • How much energy it will produce
    • What you would otherwise pay for the same amount of energy
    • How many years it will take for your upfront investment to pay for itself in saved energy costs
    • Whether the system will pay for itself in five years

    If it does and you have the upfront capital, it’s probably a great idea. If you’ll have to wait longer for savings or take out a loan to afford the system, you’ll need to think the decision through carefully.

    In practice, however, things are not this simple. There is a large variation in each of these factors, and that can make the costs and benefits of installing solar power for two homes—even if they are neighbors—radically different.

    There are some tools that can help, though. Solar Reviews offer a calculator that will quickly provide you with representative costs and savings for a solar power system in every part of the U.S. Calculators like this are a good place to start if you are new to solar energy and want to understand the basic cost model.

    In the rest of this article, we’ll take you through each of the key factors you should consider when calculating the costs and potential savings of solar power for your home.

    Before getting solar panels, get quotes from several reputable installers to compare.

    The Cost of Solar Power for Homeowners

    First, let’s look at the cost of installing a solar power system for your home. The average, upfront cost of a residential solar power system is between 3,500 and 16,000.

    Why the huge range of costs? Well, a lot of the variation depends on the size of the system you’d like to install and the type of panels you want to use. Whatever system you use, keep in mind that solar power is capital intensive and the main cost of owning a system comes upfront when buying the equipment. The solar module will almost certainly represent the largest single component of the overall expense.

    There are some additional costs, as well. Other equipment necessary for installation includes an inverter (to turn the direct current produced by the panel into the alternating current used by household appliances), metering equipment (if it is necessary to see how much power is produced), and various housing components along with cables and wiring gear. Some homeowners also consider battery storage. Historically, batteries have been prohibitively expensive and unnecessary if the utility pays for excess electricity that is fed into the grid (see below). The installation labor cost must also be factored in.

    In addition to installation costs, there are some further costs associated with operating and maintaining a PV solar array. Aside from cleaning the panels regularly, inverters and batteries (if installed) generally need replacement after several years of use.

    Subsidies

    While the above costs are relatively straightforward—often a solar installation company can quote a price for these for a homeowner—determining subsidies available from the government and/or your local utility can prove more of a challenge. Government incentives change often, but historically, the U.S. government has allowed a tax credit of up to 30% of the system’s cost.

    details on incentive programs in the U.S., including programs within each state, can be found on the Database of State Incentives for Renewables Efficiency (DSIRE) website. In other countries, such information is often available on government or solar advocacy websites. Homeowners should also check with their local utility company to see whether it offers financial incentives for solar installation and to determine what its policy is for grid interconnection and for selling excess power into the grid.

    97.7 gigawatts

    The U.S. installed 19.2 gigawatts of solar PV capacity in 2020 to reach 97.7 GWdc of total installed capacity, enough to power 17.7 million American homes.

    Calculating Your Energy Production

    The second factor you’ll need to consider in your calculations is the amount of energy your system will produce and when it will do that. This can be a very complicated calculation to make, even for experienced solar engineers. However, let’s run through the basics.

    One of the most important considerations is the solar irradiation levels available in the home’s geographical location; in other words, how sunny it is where you live. When it comes to using solar panels, being closer to the equator is generally better, but other factors must be considered. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) produces maps for the U.S. showing solar irradiation levels and the tools on its website provide detailed solar information for specific locations within the U.S.

    Equally important is your home’s orientation: For rooftop arrays, a south-facing roof without trees or other objects obstructing sunlight maximizes the available solar energy. If this is not available, panels can be mounted on external supports and installed away from the house, incurring additional costs for the extra hardware and cables.

    And then you must factor in the size of your system. Solar panel size is quoted in terms of the theoretical electrical output potential in watts. However, the typical output realized for installed PV systems—known as the capacity factor—is between 15% and 30% of the theoretical output. A 3 kilowatt-hour (kWh) household system running at a 15% capacity factor would produce 3 kWh x 15% x 24 hr/day x 365 days/year = 3,942 kWh/year or roughly one-third of the typical electricity consumption of a U.S. household.

    How Much Will You Save?

    Once you know how much a solar power system will cost upfront, and how much energy it will produce, you can (theoretically) predict how much you can save in energy costs per year.

    This is another tricky calculation, however, because a lot depends on how you pay for electricity at the moment. Utilities often charge residential consumers a flat rate for electricity, regardless of the time of consumption. This means that instead of offsetting the expensive cost of peak electricity production, homeowners’ solar power systems merely offset the price they are charged for electricity, which is much closer to the average cost of power production.

    However, many utility companies in the U.S. have introduced pricing schemes that allow homeowners to be charged at different rates throughout the day in an attempt to mirror the actual cost of electricity production at different times: This means higher rates in the afternoon and lower rates at night. A PV solar array may be very beneficial in areas where this sort of time-varying rate is used since the solar power produced would offset the most costly electricity.

    Exactly how beneficial this is for a given homeowner depends on the exact timing and magnitude of the rate changes under such a plan. Similarly, utilities in some locations have pricing schemes that vary over different times of the year due to regular seasonal demand fluctuations. Those with higher rates during the summer make solar power more valuable.

    Some utilities have tiered pricing plans in which the marginal price of electricity changes as consumption rises. Under this type of plan, the benefit from a solar system can depend on the electricity use of the home; in certain areas subject to rates that increase dramatically as consumption increases, large homes (with large energy needs) may benefit most from solar arrays that offset high-cost marginal consumption.

    For some homes, it might even be possible to make money by selling solar power back to the grid. In the U.S., this is done through net metering plans, in which residential consumers use the power that they put into the grid (when the rate of electricity generation from the solar array is greater than the rate of household electricity consumption) to offset the power consumed at other times; the monthly electric bill reflects net energy consumption. The specific net metering regulations and policies vary across regions. Homeowners can refer to the DSIRE database and should also contact their local utilities to find more specific information.

    Calculating Solar Power Costs

    At this point, you will be in a position to make a final calculation, and an assessment of whether solar power makes sense for you.

    The overall cost and benefit of a solar system can theoretically be evaluated using the discounted cash flow (DCF) method. Outflows at the beginning of the project would consist of installation costs (net of subsidies) and inflows would arrive later in the form of offset electricity costs (both directly and through net metering).

    However, rather than using DCF, the viability of solar power is usually evaluated by calculating the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE), then comparing it to the cost of electricity charged by the local utility. The LCOE for household solar will typically be calculated as cost/kilowatt-hour (/kWh or ¢/kWh)—the same format commonly used on electricity bills. To approximate the LCOE, one can use the following equation:

    LCOE (/kWh) = Net Present Value (NPV) of the Lifetime Cost of Ownership / Lifetime Energy Output (kWh)

    The useful life of a PV solar module is generally assumed to be 25 to 40 years. The cost of ownership includes the maintenance costs, which must be discounted to find the NPV. The LCOE can then be compared to the cost of electricity from a utility; remember, the relevant price is that which occurs during times at or near peak PV solar production.

    Is Solar Power Worth It?

    Once you’ve worked through all of these calculations, you’ll likely end up with a single number—the number of years it will take for a solar system to pay for itself in savings from your energy bills. If you live in a sunny part of the country and have high utility bills at the moment, you could be looking at a system that will reach this point in five years. Other homeowners may have to wait 10 or 20 years to reach this point.

    In other words, most homeowners will eventually see a benefit from a solar power system; it might just take decades for this to be realized. Whether it is worth installing such a system therefore often comes down to a number of much less technical factors than those we’ve listed above: how long you are going to stay in your home, the subsidies available in your area, and simply whether you want to do your bit for the environment.

    Pros and Cons of Solar Panels for Your Home

    Like most things, solar power has its benefits and drawbacks. At the same time, some economic costs may be defrayed by the social benefits to the environment and lowering your carbon footprint, which may be more important to you than a purely monetary evaluation.

    • Green energy that lowers your carbon footprint
    • Net metering allows you to sell back excess energy produced
    • You may be eligible for certain tax breaks
    • Installation and maintenance costs are still high
    • Solar only works when the sun is out
    • Parts of the system need to be replaced every few years
    • Some tax breaks may have expired or will be expiring

    Can a House Run on Solar Power Alone?

    Practically, it is not often possible. This is because solar only works when the sun is shining—when it is cloudy or nighttime, they do not generate electricity. There are some battery solutions to provide power during these times, but they still tend to be quite expensive. Most homes with solar panels still rely on the grid from time to time.

    Do You Really Save Money With Solar Panels?

    Depending on where you live, it is possible that the system can pay itself back and more over time. This is because you won’t be spending as much money buying electricity from your utility. If net metering is in place, you could reduce your bills even further.

    How Much Does a Solar Panel Cost?

    have been coming down steadily over the years. The total cost will depend on how many kilowatts of power your array will generate. According to consumer reports, after solar tax credits are accounted for, the cost for a solar panel system on an average-sized house in the U.S. in 2021 ranges from 11,000 to 15,000.

    How Long Will It Take To Recoup the Initial Cost?

    Depending on where you live and the size of your system it can take, on average, anywhere from 10 to 20 years to break even on a solar installation.

    The Bottom Line

    Determining whether to install a PV solar system may seem like a daunting task, but it is important to remember that such a system is a long-term investment. In many locations, solar power is a good choice from a financial perspective.

    Even if the cost of solar power is found to be marginally more expensive than electricity purchased from a utility, homeowners may wish to install solar power to avoid future potential fluctuations in energy costs, or may simply wish to look beyond their personal financial motivations and use solar for green living.

    Why putting rooftop solar on all US warehouses is a no-brainer – in numbers

    The US has more than 450,000 warehouses and distribution centers – that’s 16.4 billion square feet of rooftop space ripe for hosting solar panels.

    Rooftop solar on US warehouses

    Environment America and Frontier Group crunched some numbers and shared what they discovered in a study called “Solar on Warehouses.”

    They report that the rooftops of US warehouses built before 2019 alone have the potential to generate 185.6 terawatt-hours (TWh) of solar electricity annually – enough to power 19.4 million average households. That’s equivalent to roughly the entire New York-Newark-Jersey City metropolitan area.

    Additionally, there was more than 626 million square feet of warehouse space under construction in the first half of 2022, thanks to online shopping growth in response to the pandemic.

    On average across the country, warehouses could produce 176% of their annual electricity use by fully building out their rooftop solar potential, allowing them to produce more electricity than they use and provide electricity to their communities.

    And if all US warehouses and distribution centers adopted solar, then the equivalent of more than 112 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually would be reduced. That’s like taking 24 million gas cars off the road for a year, or taking 30 coal-fired power plants offline.

    So, how would this idea get implemented? Environment America and Frontier Group call for businesses to commit to installing solar on their facilities, and they also call for government at all levels to support rooftop solar on warehouses by reducing permitting time and cutting red tape around permitting and interconnection.

    They also state that businesses should be compensated for hosting solar – as it not only benefits the businesses but also the public – with programs such as net metering, feed-in-tariffs, and value-of-solar tariffs.

    Alex Keally, senior vice president for Massachusetts-based Solect Energy, which has completed numerous solar installations on warehouse rooftops, said:

    The key to realizing the solar potential of warehouse rooftops is for warehouse owners to connect with solar developers and for utility companies to quickly connect rooftop solar systems to the grid.

    Electrek’s Take

    Big, boxy rooftops are some of the best places to put solar panels, so I was happy to see a new study surface that promotes this idea.

    Warehouses and distribution centers have large, flat, open roofs that usually get direct sunlight. These solar panel arrays are not going to take up land or upset neighborhood residents – they’d be on commercial buildings, and let’s be honest – they’re almost always an eyesore anyway. It’s unused space that’s ripe for clean energy, and I’ve never heard anyone object to this idea (although if you do, please politely tell me why in the Комментарии и мнения владельцев below).

    While we’re at it, let’s whack rooftop solar on top of all the box stores and car dealerships, too. IKEA, Home Depot, and Lowe’s are at it. The federal tax incentives are there. Solar is a more cost-effective way for businesses to power themselves instead of using fossil-fueled power.

    Top comment by Scott King

    This is a good idea. The 2 big constraints people don’t discuss is the cost to remove and reinstall panels during a roof replacement. The solar has to be installed along with a new 25 year roof. Warehouse roofs are also designed for minamal dead load so the structure has to be able to support the weight. For new construction, this should be in the code along with L2 charger, min 7.6KW PER CONNECTOR!

    If you’re considering going solar, it’s always a good idea to get quotes from a few installers. To make sure you’re finding a trusted, reliable solar installer near you that offers competitive pricing, check out EnergySage. EnergySage is a free service that makes it easy for you to go solar. They have hundreds of pre-vetted solar installers competing for your business, ensuring you get high quality solutions and save 20 to 30% compared to going it alone. Plus, it’s free to use and you won’t get sales calls until you select an installer and you share your phone number with them.

    Your personalized solar quotes are easy to compare online and you’ll get access to unbiased Energy Advisors to help you every step of the way. Get started here. – ad

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