Resources & Information

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HOW ENERGY PRODUCTION FROM SOLAR IS MEASURED BY YOUR UTILITY

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Cloud

How will cloudy weather affect a solar array?

The simple answer: It will but not as much as you would think!

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NET METERING

Net Metering

Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use.

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PERPETUAL VS ANNUAL VS MONTHLY

Perpetual VS Annual VS Monthly Net Metering

There are three types of net metering: perpetual net metering, annual net metering, and monthly net metering. Perpetual net metering is the best option, followed closely by annual net metering depending on the month in which the metering resets. The third option, monthly net metering, although less favorable than annual or perpetual net metering is still preferable to bi-directional metering. 

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BI-DIRECTIONAL METERING

Bi-Directional Metering

Bi-directional metering means that the utility will pay avoided cost (sometimes called wholesale rate or buyback rate) for any overproduction from distributed generation, such as solar and wind energy.   

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BILLING TYPES

Billing types

The way you are billed for power impacts how your savings for installing solar or wind are calculated. The 3 most common utility billing types are: General Service (Residential), General Service (Non-Residential), Large General Service, and Demand.

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BILLING

How demand billing works

If you’re billed based on your demand that means that your monthly electricity bill has two billing components.

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Estimating Solar Capacity for New Construction

This article covers what to do if you’re constructing a new building or home and am interested in installing solar at the same time. Because the property is new, you won’t have any prior usage. The steps below will help you estimate usage for the new property.

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Why Our Solar Arrays Don’t Have a Rust Problem

Many solar installers make the mistake of using dissimilar metals which will cause rust. We use only anodized aluminum or stainless steel for our racking and brackets. Additionally, anytime there is a potential for dissimilar metal to come in contact with the the equipment we use a sealant which isolates the two metals and prevents corrosion.  

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Selling or renting your property after installing solar

I’m moving and have decided to sell my property. I’d like to take my solar with me. Can my solar be moved to my new property?

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Using a battery backup to prevent Power Outages

This articles provides information and options for customer's that want to remain connected to the utility (grid-tied) BUT have the added benefit of being able to continue to have power in the event the electric grid is down. I.e. a power outage during a storm.  This is accomplished by utilizing batteries, and the details below will help you to estimate the load requirements for the batteries.

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How to calculate simple LCOE for solar

LCOE, or levelized cost of energy is a term which describes the cost of the power produced by solar over a period of time, typically the warrantied life of the system. By purchasing solar you are essentially creating a hedge against rising utility costs by fixing the per kWh rate at a known cost.

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Snow Load & Roof capacity required for solar

Adding solar to the roof of a property adds additional weight. Depending on the type of roof, a different amount of weight is added.

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What type of Surge / Lightening protection is used for solar?

We install surge arrestors on both the DC side of the system as well as the AC side which protects the inverters and the building in the event there is a lightning strike. The arrestor we use is made by MidNite Solar.

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What Voltage are Solar Inverters capable of handing?

Our inverters can handle any of the common voltages (240v single phase, 208v 3 phase, 480v 3 phase). Utilizing a transformer allows us to deal with any of the odd variations.

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What happens if my solar panels break outside of the warranty. Do I have to replace the entire system?

No, you can repair/replace only the broken broken. You will not be required to reinvest the same amount you did to originally install the solar panels to perform a repair. Keep in-mind that the warranty on our panels is 25-30 years. :)

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Can a modern home with standard mechanical systems and appliances be powered by an off grid solar system?

Yes. Off grid solar systems can be designed to power any home with modern systems and appliances. Though special appliances are not required, it is typically prudent to avoid any form of electrical heat such as electrical space heating or water heating and to rely on gas for providing energy for heat. Such gas heated systems (as well as electrical heating) can also be assisted by solar thermal collectors.

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Will my solar system need to be inspected by the building department?

Solar systems typically require approval from the local jurisdiction and from the utility provider.

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What does a typical solar module warranty cover?

Solar Modules are typically warranted to produce 80% of their original capacity when they are 25 years old. (Side note: Our top tier panels are warrantied up to 86% at year 30!) Different manufactures warrant the production degradation on different schedules.

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Do solar modules need to be mounted on my roof?

No. Though the roof is a great location for mounting solar modules, they can also be mounted on the ground or in other architecturally integrated ways such as on walls or shade structures, such as carports. Ground mounted systems tend to cost slightly more than roof mounted systems because of the need for trenching, concrete footings and (typically) and a steel substructure. Ground mounted systems are, however, are very viable and common because they are always designed at the optimum angle, maximizing the efficiency.

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How does solar help the environment?

The sun is an inexhaustible source of energy. It shines every day whether you harness it's power or not. Other sources of energy need to be extracted from the earth at great expense and damage to our environment from toxins. Energy generated from solar is clean, renewable, and sustainable. In fact, the amount of solar energy that falls on the Earth’s surface in 40 minutes is equal to the world’s energy consumption for an entire year.

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What kind of permits do I need to meet local building codes?

Solar systems must be permitted and inspected by local authorities having jurisdiction. Iowa Wind and Solar is committed to ensuring each system meets or exceeds building codes. Our team obtains all the necessary building and electrical permits for the systems we build.

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What size of solar system do I need?

Our engineers will design a solar system based on your electrical usage and available space to install. A look at your previous year's electric bills will give us the information we need to size your system correctly. Your system can be sized to zero out your electric bill completely, or designed to eliminate only a portion of your electric bill. This will be dependent on your goals and available space.

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Is solar electricity cost-effective?

Yes. Imagine the cost benefit of paying a lower electric bill, or no electric bill at all. Solar is a low-risk, high return investment that will supply your home or business with free electricity for years after the system is paid for. We will analyze your specific electric usage and calculate exactly what your return on investment will be and how much you will save over the life of the system.

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Is now a good time to buy a solar system?

There has never been a better time to make the transition to solar power! Solar technology continues to improve and many federal, state, and regional incentives are currently in place that significantly reduces the cost of solar and encourage growth in the industry. However these won't last forever. By investing in solar now you will help to insulate your home, business, organization, or utility from rapidly increasing energy costs.

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I don’t plan on being in my home for 25 years. Should I still add solar?

People move more frequently now than ever before, but that shouldn't impact your solar decision. A solar system can save you money today and even pay for itself in as little as a few years. Even if you move before your solar investment is completely paid off, studies show the cost will likely be returned in added value to your home. Plus, your home will most likely sell faster. Who doesn't want a home with a guaranteed low electric bill? System warranties are even transferable one time to a new owner.

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Can I take my home off the electrical grid?

Yes, provided you install battery-backup systems to provide power when your demands exceed your production, such as at night. However, this is not typically recommended for typical homes for several reasons. First, off-grid systems add cost, extending your payback period. Second, you may not be eligible for some incentives if you do not connect your system to your utility. Lastly, staying connected to the grid ensures you will rarely ever be without power. These caveats aside, off-grid systems do make a lot of sense in select situations, such as for a remote cabin.

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In order to receive the federal tax credit, what is required to be completed?

After the purchase of solar, the customer will complete IRS form 3468. The year that the tax credit applies is the year in which the solar was placed in-service and the system was fully paid for.

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Will my system still generate power during a power outage/blackout?

For the safety of utility workers attempting to fix power outages, solar systems that are connected to the electrical grid are required by utility regulations to shut off during blackouts. If the customer does wish to maintain power in the event of an outage, we have various battery backup or traditional generators available.

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How does snow affect a solar system’s performance?

While snow will decrease production while it is on your panels, it should not damage your system when designed and installed properly. Given the angle of the panels and their tendency to produce some heat, the snow will fall off your panels faster than it would fall off your roof, quickly returning your system to its full potential. In fact, snow on the ground can actually increase the output of your panels due to reflected sunlight.

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Is solar a viable option in cold climates?

Yes. A general rule of thumb is that if you can clearly see your solar panels, they can produce electricity. In fact, given equal sunlight, a solar panel on a cold day will out-produce a solar panel on a hot day. This is because solar panels operate at higher efficiency in cold weather.

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How much maintenance does a solar system need?

With no moving parts and at least a 30-40 year expected lifespan, solar panels require very little maintenance. In fact, their design ensures that they remain relatively clean as long as they are exposed to rain. Along extremely dusty roads where the panels are in close proximity to the road, a quick rinse with a garden hose every few months solves the issue.

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How does a solar system affect my roof integrity?

With proper design and installation, your roof should maintain all its pre-solar integrity. Since the solar system will last 25+ years, you must take into consideration the useful life of the roof before installing any panels. If the roof does not have much life left, it is recommended you consider a ground mounted system or that you replace it before you install a solar system. On the other hand, if you do opt to install solar and replace your roof in the future years, it's a fairly simple process to remove the solar, replace the roof, and reinstall the array upon completion.

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Can I install solar panels myself?

It is not recommended. The process requires engineering, design, construction, electrical and roofing skills to ensure the solar power system operates safely and is optimally designed for 35+ years of production. For safety reasons, most utility companies also require that a certified electrician install the system.

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What incentives are available to me?

There are tax incentives available for residential and commercial customers. Commercial customers (i.e. businesses) receive better incentives than residential customers. Non-profits (such as churches, schools, etc.) Lastly, some utilities in Iowa offer incentives to go solar.

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Can my electric bill really be $0?

Yes, the amount you pay for electricity (kWh) can be zero. However, there is still a minimal connection fee, called a meter fee, to remain connected to the electrical grid. The meter fee typically costs between $10-$30/month.

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How much does a solar array cost?

The cost of a solar array will vary greatly depending on the size of the system, your location and whether you are residential, commercial, cooperative, or non-profit/public entity. If you're interested in getting a free assessment, to find out your cost and savings, just let us know.

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Does solar effect the reliability of my power?

No, you will remain grid-tied after installing solar. This means that you will remain connected to your current utility and you will still receive the full reliability of the grid. If you're interested in going off-grid, then it will be necessary to build in redundancy to ensure the reliability of your power. (Note: For most customers, going off-grid doesn't make sense).

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What is grid-tied vs. off-grid?

Grid-tied means you remain connected to the utility. This accounts for 99% of our solar installations. Off-grid systems are much less common, but utilizing a combination of solar, wind, batteries, and generators allows you to completely disconnect from the utility. This option is much more costly but is good if you're seeking complete independence.

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