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Solar and LED Lighting go Hand-in-Hand

Solar panels and LEDs: Peanut Butter and Jelly

Solar power and energy efficiency are generally touted as two alternative solutions to our energy and environmental crises. But in fact, rather than being in competition with one another, it is actually only the two of them working in tandem that has the ability to get us out of this mess. In other words, it is a case of both … and, rather than either … or.  Solar lighting and energy efficiency go together hand in hand like peanut butter and jelly. Read on below to find out why.

As the threat of resource depletion and human-induced climate change looms over us, many people and businesses are now piling solar panels atop their roofs in order to light up their houses. Unlike electricity sourced from fossil fuels, solar-powered lighting generates no carbon emissions or other harmful pollutants. It relies SOLELY on the free, clean energy supplied by the sun, which it effortlessly converts into a form that can be utilized as light by homes and businesses when it gets dark. Solar is certainly making major inroads into the energy market, and this is due in no small part to government initiatives designed to create a financial climate favorable to solar, for example, tax credits, installation discounts, feed-in tariff schemes, and the like. And as the supply of solar power continues to increase, this pushes the cost down even further, making it more and more affordable to households and businesses.

Better Together: Solar and Energy Efficiency

This may seem like great news for those of us who have the future and well-being of the planet at heart, but actually, many environmentalists are worried that the preoccupation with alternative lighting and energy is actually distracting attention away from energy efficiency and conservation, which to their minds is the REAL solution to our energy and environmental crises. Instead of increasing supply, as this school of thought holds, we should be reducing our overall demand for energy. We can do this by retooling our appliances to require less power or replacing energy-hungry devices with ones that are less energy-intensive and have higher efficiency ratings (for example, phasing out incandescent lights in favor of LEDs – the latter emit the same amount of light as the former, but consume far less energy). We can also turn devices off when not in us. Insulate and weatherstrip our windows, walls, attics, and doors to better retain warmth, reducing the need to have heaters running constantly. Redesign our buildings so that they can better capture the natural warmth of the sun (again reducing the need for heating), and the like. In addition, we can go the ‘conservation’ route, simply training ourselves to ‘go without’, thus putting on an extra layer of clothing when it is cold instead of running the heater, drinking a glass of iced water instead of turning on the air conditioner on hot summer days, or reading a book for entertainment instead of watching energy-guzzling television. These are all straightforward measures that can drastically reduce our energy usage.

Energy Efficiency Multiplies your Solar Savings!

The energy efficiency advocates claim that this is ultimately the far cheaper and more effective option than for example ramping up the supply of solar PV panels, even when you factor in the government incentives encouraging the uptake of solar. After all, the key issue here is that solar suffers from the very serious problem that it only works when the sun is shining! And our electricity requirements just happen to peak in the morning and evenings, whereas solar energy output peaks in the middle of the day! Whilst it is true that battery and storage options exist that enable us to utilize solar energy after dark, and when it is cloudy, they are still quite limited in their capacity. And so solar energy on its own is still quite limited in its potential. Energy efficiency measures are needed to smooth out the dips and peaks in the electricity demand and solar energy output cycles. Moreover, focusing on energy efficiency measures will actually make solar power more accessible and affordable to the majority of people: by reducing the overall amount of energy we require to meet our needs, this in turn will serve to minimize the required size and thus cost of solar lighting systems. At current, many people are dissuaded from going solar because they use their own excessive electricity usage as a benchmark for what they will need in the way of solar panels. Solar power is prohibitively expensive for many people because of their wasteful consumption patterns, not because of solar itself! So that is why the energy efficiency advocates favor conservation over expanding supply. The problem is, though, if the majority of government support goes to solar-powered lighting initiatives, as seems to be the case at the moment, energy efficiency will get neglected and fall by the wayside, and none of this will occur.

But then what does this have to do with our thesis outlined at the beginning of this post? Well, the point is that the arguments of the energy efficiency advocates prove – unknowingly, and despite their intention – that solar-powered lighting, like solar walkway lights for example, and energy efficiency are actually partners in crime! It is not a matter of choosing energy efficiency instead of solar-powered lighting: as we have just seen, energy efficiency measures make solar power more viable, and solar power in turn gives energy efficiency its meaning. After all, fossil fuels are a finite energy resource and will have to be replaced. All the energy efficiency measures in the world won’t make a lot of difference if we aren’t able to develop alternative energy sources – like solar-powered lighting. The two don’t actually stand in conflict with one another; in fact, they go together hand in hand.

Give us a call today and let our energy experts slash your electric bill (520) 858-0220!

What to Expect From Your Home Solar Energy Analysis

Thank you for taking the next step in learning about home solar power and what it means for you, our Tucson economy, and our beautiful planet!

Why is a Home Solar Energy Analysis important?

There is an incredible variety of solar programs available; some are tailored for young homeowners looking to increase the value of their homes, others are geared towards helping families save as much money as possible over the long term, and even programs for retirees who don’t have the option to claim tax credits.

No matter where you are in your life, one of our Solar Energy Experts will be able to provide the answers to all your solar energy questions and help you determine which solar option is best suited to your individual needs.

We also love the opportunity this gives us to connect with the community face-to-face and be active in bettering our surroundings!

Who is a Solar Energy Expert?

Our Solar Energy Experts are hand-selected from the best, most knowledgeable home solar professionals available. The average expert has over 1,000 hours of real photovoltaic solar experience. Every single expert then goes through at least 40 full hours of extensive training to ensure the highest level of customer satisfaction and confidence. We understand that this is a big decision for you and your home, so we want to make sure you have the most accurate information possible!

Why is the Solar Power Analysis done in my home?

These consultations are in-home so that we can take a look at a few factors around your home to make sure that we provide the most accurate estimate possible, and find the program that best fits your needs.

Your Solar Energy Expert will thoroughly inspect your house’s:

Main Electrical Service

Meter placement

Roof Condition

Roof Shading

Roof Orientation

Appliances/Lighting/HVAC for Inefficiency

Electricity Bill

Can the Solar Expert help me understand the tax credit?

Every Solar Energy Expert is expertly trained to help evaluate your eligibility for the 30% Federal Investment Tax Credit, and other local rebates as well.

Will I have any information to look over afterward?

After inspecting your house, evaluating your tax status, and learning about your solar goals, your Solar Energy Expert will make a customized recommendation that will maximize your solar savings. He can print this out or provide it to you via email.

What happens next?

Once we have received your information, you will be contacted by a local Tucsonan with Solar Solution AZ to set up your Free in Home Energy Analysis.

Going solar is a smart choice when you have the right information! So call now, and join over 2,000 customers in the valley who are basking in the savings our own sun provides! Call (520) 858-0220 now!

Will Solar Panels Work For My Manufactured/Mobile Home?

Solar Panel Systems have become increasingly popular in Tucson over the last few years, and it is pretty easy to see why. No money down financing, home equity boosts, and upfront savings from my electric bill? Where do I sign up?

Electric customers that are living in Manufactured or Mobile homes have been all but left out of this scramble for savings. Most solar installers neglect these homeowners simply because they haven’t done the proper engineering, or because their financing doesn’t allow for Manufactured homes. Even the installers that would work with these homeowners only typically offer more expensive ground mount set-ups, avoiding the roof of the Manufactured home.

At Solar Solution AZ, our mission is to better the community in any way possible, and to further that goal, we now offer solar programs that work with Manufactured homes!

There are a few factors we need to look at, however, to make sure that these programs will work for you:

  • Must be the Home Owner
  • Must be connected to APS, TEP, TRICO, UniSource, ED3, or SSVEC electric grids
  • When roof-mounted, must be Double-Wides built after 1980
  • If on a standalone structure, instead of the roof, you must be the land-owner

If those sound like you, then we have a solar program that can start saving you money in month one!

The average savings a customer of ours would see on a manufactured home is roughly $70,000 over 25 years and over 20% less the very first month!

This is dependent upon your local utility programs, for more information, check out our other solar articles.

Start letting the electric company and the sun work for you! Give us a call at (520) 858-0220 today to see if solar will work for you and your home!

Is Solar Net Metering Ending in Arizona?

Probably, but the future of Solar in Arizona doesn’t look quite as dark as it seems!

For those of you just tuning in, Net Metering refers to the agreement homeowners make with the Utility company when they install rooftop solar. It works pretty simply, any excess electricity produced that you don’t use right away at the house gets back-fed onto the electric grid. They get credited exactly how many kWh they put onto the grid to be used later on that year. It is a 1-to-1 transfer ratio, so they get to use the credits later on without losing any in the transfer. If any credits are leftover at the end of the year, the utility company pays a set rate for those, typically around 2-4 cents per kWh. However, most of the electricity that is being made throughout the year, will be used sometime that year and will still carry the retail value for electricity, roughly 13-14 cents per kWh.

Utility companies have been going back and forth with ACC utility regulators about changing the net metering policies, since the beginning days of rooftop solar, with every new rate case spreading more uncertainty for homeowners looking into solar for themselves. I remember meeting with my very first customer at the start of my solar career; they were worried that TEP was going to make drastic changes to rooftop solar’s net metering guidelines before they could get their own panel array put up. If you read the disclaimer on their electric bill, you probably would too.  That was years ago though and no changes have been made yet, although it feels like this game of chicken is well into overtime.

For those of us that have been watching this grudge match from the beginning, the finale on the horizon is a sight for sore eyes.

Recently, the Phoenix-based Utility, APS reached an agreement with local solar and consumer advocacy groups to set the export rate for excess electricity produced by rooftop solar panels. This is not an official ACC decision, so it carries no real weight, but it is a sign of things to come.

These are the basics:

  • The plan would get rid of net metering policies for all new homeowners signing up after the decision is final
  • Current solar customers would be grandfathered in for 20 years to the old net metering policies
  • New customers signing up would be paid 12.9 cents per kWh for all their excess electricity

If the light bulb hasn’t clicked yet, this isn’t a very big difference from today’s policies. In fact, for most solar customers under our plans, today’s bills would only change by a few dollars.

Not quite the dark future you were expecting, was it?

That Dark Side of Solar is Pretty Sunny

10 September was the biggest month ever for Tucson Electric Power’s Renewable Energy Department. Over 500 applications for new solar connections came in and October seems to be keeping pace.
What’s driving this surge? Better financing options for consumers and better information results in an even broader range of customers.

Now Tucsonans are financing solar through leases, new 20-year solar loans, home refinancing, and other means. Recent neighborhood solar home tours showed off all these choices. The trend is also creating jobs (over 8,500 solar jobs in Arizona) while cleaning our air and saving water. What’s not to like?

Some complainers seem set on putting out false information to try and make solar look bad, so let’s set the record straight.

Do you have to be wealthy to get solar? No. TEP’s solar map shows solar installations in every Tucson ZIP code from the foothills to the far southside. And solar is happening in Sierra Vista, Nogales, and all over Southern Arizona.

Can businesses save by going solar? Yes. Businesses from hospitals to veterinarians to churches to bookstores have saved money and helped improve our air and water situation by going solar.

Can solar be installed on apartments? Yes. Many Tucson apartment owners have done just that. Take a look at La Mirada apartments on East Grant for example and there are many others.

Can solar be installed on subsidized housing? Yes. Check out the New Armory Park apartments on West Congress with their 125 kW solar array on the roof.

Are the tax credits helping people who own their solar panels? Yes. Many studies now show that homes with solar sell faster and for more than similar homes without solar. Owning the panels has some benefits over loans, too.

And what about net metering? This allows folks with solar to sell their excess power to the utility company and get a credit on their bill to offset the power they use when solar doesn’t meet all their needs. Some people call this “running the meter backward.”

Is this a scam that somehow forces non-solar ratepayers to subsidize those with solar? No. Studies in Nevada, Mississippi, and elsewhere now have shown that net metering actually helps all of us by delaying or preventing new power plants, reducing transmission costs, and helping meet peak power needs. Net metering encourages more solar and more solar helps everyone. Under current rules, net metering is limited so it’s not a way to get rich, just break even.

Could Arizona’s solar policy help more low-income people? Sure. Arizona could make it easier for low-income homeowners and businesses to go solar by adopting a PACE program where loans (for energy efficiency, water conservation, or solar) could be paid back with taxes. Community solar programs for neighborhoods could be made legal. And lots of other ideas could make solar even more available.

But let’s not complain about success now. Rather let’s help people get good solid information about Arizona’s best source of energy — our daily dose of sunshine!

TEP is Getting On Board With Solar!!!

We received a call yesterday from TEP to attend a meeting in regards to the TEP solar program that may or may not be kicking off in 2015. TEP is going to be setting up solar systems for their customers so as to help the forward progress of solar and to get on board with the transition into a greener world. I personally believe that there is some profit motive here because TEP is an investor-owned utility company. But it’s ok for investors to make money and at the same time save the average everyday family money right? I would agree so Solar Solution AZ is on board with helping TEP integrate more solar into Tucson. We hope the program is fair and that it actually saves TEP customers money and that is not a gimmick like their solar plan before. The solar plan before was where a customer would pay a premium to buy a couple of solar panels at one of the TEP solar farms. The deal was pretty much a rip-off where a customer would never see a return on investment.

There is no clear indication on whether or not this plan is going to be approved or not but if TEP’s plan is fair and it saves customers money we at Solar Solution AZ are on board with that but if it does not save the customer money you can rest assured that we will not be a part of it.

More to come I will provide an update next week after the meeting.

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