For readers that live in the United States, you have probably heard about generous federal and state solar rebates. But sometimes its difficult to find information on the amount of these solar incentives, or how to apply.
Various government entities hope to encourage consumers to switch to solar power by allowing generous tax discounts for renewable energy.
Now, its easier than ever to find out about offered federal and state solar rebates, and learn how to apply.
The U.S. Department of Energy has launched a webpage that features the top tax rebates and credits for using sustainable products, including solar panels and other solar offerings, including solar pool heating, photovoltaic solar panels, solar thermal electric (solar hot water).
This related blog post at solarpros.com sets forth eight top recommended solar rebates offered within the U.S.A:
1. Power Project Loan Fund: Alaska residents who utilize Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, and Photovoltaics can qualify for this rebate.
2. Arizona – Net Metering: Arizona residents, businesses, government agencies, and schools can qualify for a rebate when utilizing Solar Thermal Electric and Photovoltaics. This program is issued by the Arizona Corporation Commission.
3. Non-Residential Solar & Wind Tax Credit (Personal): Individuals can receive a tax credit in the state of Arizona when using renewable energy like Passive Solar Space Heat, Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, and Solar Thermal Process.
4. Property Tax Exclusion for Solar Energy Systems: The California State Board of Equalization provides a property tax exclusion for residential and commercial properties that use solar energy systems.
5. Renewable Energy and Energy-Efficient Technologies Grants Program: Commercial, Nonprofit, Schools, Local Government, and Utility departments in Florida whose energy source is Heat recovery, Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Thermal Process Heat, and Photovoltaics all can qualify for a grant from the Office of the Governor – Office of Energy and Climate Change.
6. Indiana – Net Metering: Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission offers a solar and renewable incentive for agriculture, commercial, industrial, residential, tribal, and government facilities.
7. Renewable Energy/Solar Sales Tax Exemption: Nevada offers a tax exemption program for commercial and residential properties who utilize solar or other renewable energy.
8. Solar Energy Sales Tax Exemption: The New Jersey Board of Transportation has three programs that offer exemptions, easements, or credits to businesses, schools, government institutions, and even residential properties who utilize solar energy.
No matter what type of property you own or rent, you can probably find federal and state solar rebates to help off-set the cost of solar panels. Visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website for additional solar incentives and information.
Quick – what is your solar output?
If you are not familiar with this term, you probably understand solar panel efficiency. In general, an increase in efficiency means that the same amount of UV exposure will generate more solar electricity.
It goes without saying that if you can produce more solar power with fewer solar panels, you can save money.
Solar output depends on the following:
1. How much UV light can reach your solar panels. Ensuring that your solar array is not obstructed by vegetation, surrounding buildings, or dust and debris will increase your solar output.
2. The size of the solar panel – or the overall array - itself. A larger area of photovoltaic cells can absorb and convert more UV light into electricity than a smaller panel.
3. The solar cells inside the solar panel(s) themselves.
Here are some terms you should know when it comes to solar output and solar efficiency:
1. Max Power Rating
On the back of a commercial solar panel is a number that represents the max power rating. This figure indicates the amount of power you can expect the panel to generate during “peak sun,” which is the power of sunlight at noon on a clear day at the equator. This is 1000 watts of sunlight per square meter.
2. Solar Output per Location
Because most of us do not live at the equator, you will need to convert the max solar output to a figure that will represent what you can expect from your location. This will depend on the amount and quality of sunlight, which also varies depending on the season and weather. One handy tool is this solar calculator. Simply enter your address and after you enter your address and the tool will estimate the average amount of sunlight that hits your rooftop.
3. How Much Power from an Average Solar Panel?
Depending on size, manufacturer and solar cell technology, most standard solar panels can produce about 200 watts of energy. With this in mind, you can work with a professional solar installer to estimate your monthly power usage and how many solar panels you should install to off-set the desired amount of electricity. Just for reference, the average American home solar panel installation is about 25 panels, which can generate 5 kWh (kilowatt-hours) of solar electricity.
Are you considering solar panels? Or, do you have a solar array and are wondering how to get the most out of your installation?
Recently, we blogged about solar powered food trucks. This new trend combines the convenience of corner restaurants (with far tastier fare than fast food) with free solar power to operate lighting, ovens, refrigerators and more.
So, it only goes without saying that a solar powered ice cream truck would soon be making headlines.
Enjoying a frozen treat is far from a “necessity,” but running on pure solar power without the need for expensive, environmentally damaging grid-based electricity, can definitely brighten your summer mood!
Solar powered refrigeration is nothing new. But this Amsterdam-based studio has combined that concept with solar powered golf carts to create an ice cream truck that runs and operates on energy from the sun.
During the day, while the sun is shining, the system stores solar power in batteries. Enough solar energy is generated that the freezer can be kept consistently cool day and night.
Like a solar powered golf cart, this ice cream truck is outfitted with PV solar panels on the rooftop. Even when the sun is not shining, UV light is absorbed and converted into solar electricity to charge the battery and keep the ice cream at a consistent, cold temperature. The battery in the system also can be charged with electricity – like an electric car – simply by plugging into an external socket.
What’s not to love about a solar powered ice cream truck? Keeping cool with the heat from the sun!
A delicious irony!
We have previously published posts on removing snow from solar panels. What about other solar panel maintenance?
Solar arrays are subjected to heat, wind, rain, hail and dust. Like windows, solar panels tend to accumulate dirt, pollen and even bird droppings.
In order to prevent build-up, which can block the rays of the sun and reduce efficiency of residential solar panels, you will need to examine and perform regular solar panel maintenance, including cleaning!
In general, people that install solar panels can “forget” about them while they generate clean, free electricity. However, just like your gutters, you’ll want to inspect and clean off panels 1-2 times each year. Most people clean solar panels in March/April and August/September before and after the winter and rainy season.
Performing regular solar panel maintenance can help you do the following:
- Maintain your investment
- Ensure peak performance
- Extend the life of your product
- Maintain product warranty.
Here are more tips on cleaning solar panels:
If you want to clean your own solar panels, without hiring a professional, you can easily do so. Simply use a regular garden hose to spray off the surface of the panels during early morning or later afternoon. This will prevent spots from forming and also ensure that you will not crack the panels during the heat of the day.
Some solar panels have automatic cleaners that you can program in advance. This works for areas of high dust and/or pollen.
When you install solar panels, check with your solar panel manufacturer regarding any specific instructions for cleaning and maintenance. For example, hard water should not be used for the cleaning. Also check to make sure there is not shading from trees, plants or adjacent buildings.
For several years, we have touted the benefits of leasing solar panels, as opposed to buying them. In fact, many companies and consumers believe that it makes more sense to enter a solar panel lease, than to purchase a solar array. This is because solar leases may allow you to convert to solar power without any money down.
But now, news has broken that leasing solar panels may be more expensive than buying them. Hagens Berman, a consumer-rights law firm in Seattle, Washington, announced recently that it is investigating SunRun – one of the leading companies offering solar leases – for a possible class action lawsuit.
Jeff Mayer, CEO of Soluxe Solar in New England, believes that similar lawsuits may be filed against other companies that offer solar leases. The problem isn’t necessarily with SunRun, it’s with the leasing model.
Hagens Berman recently stated that it is investigating “reports that [SunRun] engaged in deceptive practices in the lease of its solar roof panels to consumers” and is researching to see if there was any violation of California law.
So, does it make more sense for people to own solar panels, or enter into solar power purchase agreements? Some people who have worked at utility companies believe that leasing solar panels is detrimental to consumers.
One of the primary reasons is that solar panel leases are based on the presumption that the consumer will save money because utility costs are expected to increase over the years.” Some experts believe that utility prices have been flat recently and, thus, the savings with a solar lease are simply overstated. However, given the fact that many solar panel leases are over a term of 20+ years, it is difficult to say that the price paid pursuant to solar panel leasing will be the same as, or not significantly less than grid-based electricity.
On the other hand, buying solar panels requires consumers to pay the upfront cost. This may be offset by utility rebates, along with state and federal tax incentives. And then the power the panels generate is theirs forever.
Depending on where you live and consulting a crystal ball as to what may happen with electricity rates in the future, its not 100% certain that leasing solar panels will be more (or less) expensive than buying them.
As a consumer, you will want to ask for specific information on the monthly cost of a solar panel lease and compare it to your average electricity bills before making a decision to buy or lease solar panels.
Even though an increasing number of people are installing residential solar panels, if you ask the average property owner the top three reasons why they dislike solar panels, you’ll probably get similar answers.
First, one of the disadvantages of solar power is the expense. A lot of people believe that the cost of solar panels is just too high to justify the expense. While it is true that the retail price of solar panels starts at about $10,000 (depending on the size of your system and energy needs), you can get rebates and other incentives to lower the cost by up to 80%. In addition, solar panels increase the value of your home, which effectively shortens the return on investment.
Second, some people are concerned about the aesthetic impact of solar panels. This is in part why homeowners associations may prohibit their installation. Even though they can be a noticeable installation on a home, however, they are no more jarring than a satellite dish and significantly more beneficial to the value of your home. In fact, some people believe that having solar on their roof is a sign of the future. They look “greener” or more “high tech” as a result.
Finally, there is a perception that solar panels are bulky, difficult to install and potentially damaging to rooftops. However, with professional installation and today’s solar arrays, the panels are neither too heavy nor damaging. In fact, new solar gadget models are a lot smaller and very easy to install compared to just 5-10 years ago. The latest models for home use weigh only a 40 to 50 pounds.
One of the original solar gadgets – a solar powered lawnmower – is now being manufactured by “Driven by Solar.”
The eco friendly lawnmower uses batteries that are charged by solar energy, rather than fuel, to operate the mower. The new Ultrapower 20” cordless machine causes no pollution and – unlike push mowers – is motor-operated, but runs clean and green.
According to a recent press release:
The ULTRAPOWER features a robust 10.5Ah Lithium battery pack that provides exceptional performance. This battery offers over 600 charge cycles and translates into over 45 minutes of continuous cutting time.
The Recharge Mower ULTRAPOWER Eco-Friendly Lithium Powered Lawnmower offers all-metal construction and a 20” cutting path. The cutting height is easily adjusted to 7 increments using only 1 handle. The ULTRAPOWER design, allows this lawnmower to be easily maneuvered. Since the Lithium Powered Recharge Mower is battery operated, there is NO gas, NO oil and NO fumes. Simply plug the battery pack into the included Smart Charger and in only a few hours you’re ready to go again.
The mower includes a rear position grass catcher, a mulching insert and also a deflector for side discharge. The ULTRAPOWER sets up in minutes with No Tools Required. The ULTRAPOWER can easily be transported or folded down for compact storage without worrying about fumes or spilling nasty fuels.
For those of us looking to save money and energy, a solar powered lawnmower is just the ticket. No worries about whether or not you have fuel for your mower. Don’t be concerned about spilling gas, either.
The solar powered lawnmower has a 20-inch cutting path with 7 different trimming heights. Its cordless and does not require gasoline for operation. In fact, there is even a mulching insert to help you “recycle” grass as you cut it, rather than dispose of it in the yard waste bin.
Here in my hometown of Bend, Oregon, we love to stroll downtown mid-day to see what food trucks are out on the street corners for a quick, convenient meal. Although they have become a hot new trend in “fast food,” street food trucks actually preceded drive-ins for many decades. Today’s offerings are decidedly more sustainable, organic and local, however.
Sustainable even more so now that there are solar powered food trucks.
When these mobile restaurants are outfitted with solar panel kits like the ones you might see on RVs or boats, the relatively small amounts of electricity required to prepare food and light the interior of a truck can be entirely generated by solar power. There are also solar powered ice cream trucks that use energy from the sun to keep refrigerators running and the frozen treats cold and delicious.
Watch this amazing video about the Soup Truck, which runs on solar power:
If you are looking for solar powered food trucks in your city or region, consider the following businesses, all of which serve sustainable, low impact fast food and run on the energy of the sun!
1. Arlington, VA – Solar Crepes
Ingredients include local and organic food from sustainable sources. Food is packaged in eco-friendly wrappers, and the food truck uses a 90-watt solar panel that produces an average 590 watt hours of power per day.
2. Portland, OR – Off the Griddle
If the clever name of this food truck isn’t enough to make you curious, come for the delicious taste of the vegan and vegetarian burgers and other offerings, created with natural, organic ingredients. The portable burger joint runs on 100% renewable energy with the rooftop solar panels producing more than enough power to keep operations running. Excess electricity is sold back into the grid.
3. The Green Truck – locations in Los Angeles, San Diego and New York City
Like Off the Griddle, you can enjoy sustainable, vegan and vegetarian dishes from The Green Truck. The solar powered food truck generates ample power for food prep, cooking and refrigeration and also sells back excess solar electricity into the grid. Leftover, recycled cooking oil is also used for fuel.
4. Sungevity Ice Pop Truck (Nationwide)
Unlike the traveling restaurants, serving meals out their solar powered food truck, the Ice Pop Truck (shown above) is the brain child of Sungevity, a solar power company. You may see one of these cheerful trucks in your neighborhood soon, as they are traveling across the country this year to help educate consumers on the benefits and affordability of solar power. Enjoy a free organic ice pop while you learn about how clean, green and inexpensive solar power can be.
Find out where the Sungevity Ice Pop Truck will be by visiting their website.
After several years of strong solar industry growth, the tide has turned briefly as supply of solar panels currently exceeds demand and governments have begun to curtail generous tax incentives and rebate programs.
Is this the beginning of the end?
Not even close!
According to a published report analyzing McKinsey research, the solar industry is merely experiencing some growing pains and will soon be out of the awkward “teenage” years.
The report, entitled, “Solar power: Darkest before dawn” projects that the average cost of solar panels will continue to drop as it has in recent years - 40% by the year 2015, and an additional 30% by 2010. At the same time, solar manufacturing is expected to double to meet demand, allowing companies to reap impressive profits notwithstanding lower prices.
This growth, over the next 20 years, will stem largely from demand based on viable stand-alone economics in five customer segments: off-grid, residential and commercial in areas with good and moderate sun conditions, isolated grids, peak capacity in growth markets, and new large-scale power plants
Can you imagine a 70% drop in prices for solar panels in just the next 8 years?
The best part is that the falling cost of solar panels and predicted industry changes will benefit consumers, as well as companies that adapt with reducing their overhead costs to maintain healthy profit margins.
When it comes to residential solar power, homeowners are most concerned about the cost and hassle of purchasing and installing solar panels. But solar is about to become a lot more convenient and affordable, thanks to Smart Box Solar from Clarian.
Plug in solar panels will allow property owners to begin generating clean, renewable solar power immediately. No need for wiring or solar inverters because the Smart Box Solar device has a micro-inverter.
A single 200 watt panel can offset enough grid-based electricity to meet an average residential home’s lighting needs for an entire year. You can add additional panels to your system to generate even more solar power.
Installation takes only one hour. Connect the device to an existing circuit and then, once you plug in the solar panel into an existing outlet, you can start saving energy and money.
The cost savings resulting from Smart Box Solar will pay for the cost of the device within five to eight years, a shorter return on investment than associated with regular photovoltaic (PV) solar panels. With solar rebates and tax incentives, the ROI may be even shorter.
As of the date of this publication, the Smart Box Solar Module from Clarian is not yet available for consumers. However, recently, the United States Department of Energy pledged $5 million toward additional research and development of plug in solar panels like Clarian’s.
We should soon see homeowners tapping into convenient solar power as easily as plugging in an appliance.