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Energy Matters – June 2015

Article written by Mark Becker for Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today, June 2015.

Since 2005, there has been a 97% increase in American solar PV installations. Over 600,000 homes and tens of thousands of businesses have “gone solar”. The data shows that millions of tons of CO2 that would have been discharged into the environment from coal and natural gas power plants was negated by clean energy generation. The environmental benefits solar brings to the planet and its inhabitants are typically the “icing on the cake” to the financial advantages that solar brings to home and business owners.

The rapid and widespread deployment of solar has mostly been driven by the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for clean energy technologies, which axis on December 31, 2016. A $30,000 solar project will have an after tax net cost to the customer of $21,000 and will typically payback in 5-6 years. Unlike other improvements, solar is also the only business or home improvement project that actually returns monies to the customer. A typical return on investment is >11%. Solar, done right, is a very safe investment. Long term, like the stock market, utility rates historically climb. Short term, unlike the stock market, utility rates never “correct” and decline.

A safe and simple solar finance strategy: Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) finance programs allow home and business owners to wrap the costs of their energy efficiency projects into their annual taxes. Five, ten, or twenty-year loan periods can be selected. No credit checks are required; three years of timely property tax payments qualify the home or business owner for this program.

FYI: An existing roof warranty becomes void during a solar project unless the installer is a licensed roofer or has a special certification from the roofing product manufacturer. The best installers warrant their roof work against leaks for the life of the solar system.

Before you enter into a solar contract, get the following in writing: 1) A warrant against roof leaks surrounding the solar PV for the life of the system; 2) If a non-licensed roofer is performing the work, get a certification from the roofing manufacturer that the roof warranty will remain intact; 3) Confirm that general liability and workman’s compensation insurance is held by the contractor so claims can be paid by the contractor.

The seemingly unstoppable increase in renewable energy electric generation has forced many utilities to embrace clean energy in policy and practice. Clean energy technology needs the utility grid for distribution of power. An inevitable partnership is reluctantly building due to a mutual reliance on each other’s services.

Come see true energy independence in action: Our showroom in Danville has solar PV coupled with battery storage, which allows for off grid operation. The project qualified for the 30% Federal tax credit, and the battery bank qualified for an additional $7,000 incentive.

Memorial Day, redux: Last month I dedicated some space in this forum to fellow Marines with whom I served who died during training accidents or combat missions. After the tragic series of earthquakes in Nepal, we were recently reminded that our service members also die while serving others during humanitarian missions. The ambassadors of good will are the finest our nation has to offer.

A wonderful yet under-utilized resource for home or business owners is the California Contractors State License Board website, www.cslb.ca.gov. The “Winter 2014-2015 Newsletter” documents deceptive practices of the solar industry. Lacking a mandate on how to model solar financials, contractor overstatement of solar production results in misinterpretation of savings and payback. It was also found that contactors do not communicate the onerous legalities associated with “power purchase” or “lease” solar agreements.

Before you enter into a solar contract: 1) Ensure you know the exact layout and design of the panel array; 2) Ensure all conduits are hidden; 3) Ensure all broken roof tiles will be replaced, not “repaired” with caulk; 4) Ensure you know your responsibilities in a home sale it’s a PPA or a lease; 5) The factors which drive solar investment returns must be accurately inputted into the financial pro-forma: Current utility rate and cost, the discount rate of money used, utility escalation rate, accurate production data via a nationally recognized calculator including site shading percentages orientation and tilt, panel and inverter product. Solar, done right, can be an aesthetically pleasing and safe investment.

If you would like GoSimpleSolar to demonstrate how a solar PV system can save you money for your home or business, please visit our showroom at 115 West Linda Mesa Avenue, Danville or submit a quote request via www.GoSimpleSolar.com/Get-Quote. Ask about our veteran’s and public service discounts.

Mark Becker is the President and business owner of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, CSLB 948715. GoSimpleSolar is one of the very few (and proud) solar PV installers utilizing both licensed roofers and licensed electricians for installation work, project managed by a solar PV NABCEP professional. For questions or comments email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com or call 925-331-8011.