pg&e solar

SAS: Solar Acronym Soup

All industries are plagued with too many acronyms; the solar industry could top the charts, cluttering myriad technical, utility and financial acronyms into confusing babble-babble. Here are but a few solar sugar plums, from the basic to the sublime:

- BoS: Balance of System (the soft costs — aside from equipment and installation labor — that complete the cost of your solar system).

- CCA/CCE: Community Choice Aggregation/Community Choice Energy (an alternative form of cleaner energy supply … coming to Yolo County in 2017!).

- CPUC: California Public Utilities Commission (the governing/regulatory body that oversees PG&E and other investor-owned utilities in California; aka, friends of solar and consumer choice).

- eV: Electric Vehicle (aka, peanut butter to solar’s jelly).

- GHG: Greenhouse Gas (a [horrible] gas in the atmosphere that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range).

- IRR: Internal Rate of Return (the interest rate at which the net present value of all the cash flows [both positive and negative] from your solar investment equal zero).

- ITC: Investment Tax Credit (the 30%, one-time federal tax credit you receive when you own your solar system).

- kW: Kilowatt (1,000 watts of energy).

- kWh: Kilowatt Hour (a measure of electrical energy equivalent to a power consumption of 1,000 watts for 1 hour).

- NEM: Net-Energy Metering (the program/mechanism by which solar system owners are credited for the electricity they generate).

- PTO: Permission to Operate (notification from your utility that your solar system is connected to the grid, thus commencing monetary credits).

- PPA: Power Purchase Agreement (an agreement to purchase electricity generated by a solar system [on your roof] that is owned by a third-party, tax equity fund … aka, a bad deal for homeowners vis-a-vis solar ownership).

- PV: Photovoltaic (PV cells in your solar panels are specialized semiconductor diodes that convert visible light into direct current electricity).

- TOU: Time of Use (a utility rate schedule whereby you are credited [for solar] and debited [for electricity use] based on the time of generation/use).


And, finally:

- PG&E: Our favorite utility (though they fight solar at every juncture :)

There is no urgency to go solar, except …

It happens too many times each week: Homeowners relay stories about aggravating and misleading solar sales tactics. Three common examples:

1. I was told I have to go solar now because the tax credit’s gonna expire.

Erroneous. Next time you flip on the radio, there’s a good chance you’ll hear an ad exerting that Uncle Sam’s gonna stop giving away free money. First, not true. Second, nothing’s free. Importantly, the 30% solar tax credit was extended through 2021. The tax credit’s not going away.

2. Sam the solar sales guy said PG&E’s net-metering program is about to go away.

Rubbish. As we’ve shared, on January 28, 2016, the California Public Utilities Commission — against the wish of PG&E — expanded the solar net-metering program. The cap was doubled from 5% (of PG&E’s peak demand energy coming from net-metered solar) to 10%. Net metering is not going away.

3. If I go solar by (fill in the blank with a date), I will get a (fill in the blank with a dollar amount) discount.

Insulting. The money has to come from somewhere — the customer, ya think? — and it’s a common psychological sales tactic to employ discounts (buried in the price you pay) to create urgency. Don’t buy in to it.

RepowerYolo has had the fortune of helping more homeowners in our community invest in solar than any other solar company over the past few years. In so doing, we have not spent a dime on sales, marketing, advertising, etcetera … instead, the savings are passed on to homeowners via our group buy program.

So, there’s no urgency — i.e., soon-to-perish financial incentives -- to go solar? Not necessarily. The urgency we see is very straightforward: Once a homeowner is comfortable with the efficacy and reliability of the solar system, the quality of the installation contractor and their workmanship warranty, and the economics (investment and future energy savings), they proceed. After all — to quote many Repower homeowners — why continue writing checks to PG&E when solar is the right and prudent thing to do?

A clean solar panel is a happy solar panel. (But, what’s the cost of happiness?)

One of the beauties of solar panels is their simplicity: They’re static, energy generation systems ... No moving parts, content as a sloth on your roof. Like sloths, they get dirty.

It rained -- barely -- last week. Not enough to even flinch the drought, but a decent amount of wet stuff to clean solar panels. Rain is like exercise for solar panels: Painful during (our production drops because of the clouds!), but fruitful thereafter (we're clean and powerful!).

The sole redeeming residue of climate change/weird weather/drastic drought is that solar systems are generating more energy than anticipated. For example, Repower homeowners' systems over the past two years are pumping out 6-15% more electricity than we had modeled. Little moisture in the ground (read: no fog), fewer clouds, more sunshine. A great potion for solar.

As rains diminish, should I clean (my solar panels) of should I chill? Stock answer for Yolo County homeowners: Clean them -- simply spray with a low-pressure nozzle; no soap or brushes are necessary -- three or four times a year, commencing a month after the last rains. There’s a lot of dirt in the air of our agricultural community. But, upon further review ...

... A 2013 UC San Diego study revealed it's not cost-effective -- and this was pre-drought, pre-water rate hikes -- to clean your solar panels. Synopsis:

Researchers found panels that hadn’t been cleaned, or rained on, for 145 days during a summer drought in California, lost only 7.4 percent of their efficiency. Overall, for a typical residential solar system of 5 kilowatts, washing panels halfway through the summer would translate into a mere $20 gain in electricity production until the summer drought ends—in about 2 ½ months.

Let them rest like a sloth? Perhaps. Sloths are quite happy in the sun.

P.S. - If/when you clean your solar panels, here are a few tips:

- DO NOT use high pressure sprayers as they can damage the seals around the frame. 

- Wash the panels in the morning to reduce drastic temperature changes. 

- Do not scrub the panels with any harsh materials. 

- If a brush is needed, make sure it has soft bristles. 

- If you notice rapid dirt build up—or bird droppings—then more frequent cleanings are warranted.