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3 big developments in new solar technology

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Today we sat down with Kelly Curtis, Director of Operations at Solaroo Energy, a local Utah solar installation company to talk about the latest solar technology that was unveiled at the SPI International Solar Conference in Anaheim last week.

The solar convention is a great place to see the latest and greatest technology in renewable energy. There is much to be excited about with solar technology, and especially energy storage in the coming years. Here is a sneak peek into a few technologies.

Tesla Powerwall Battery

There is a lot of hype about Tesla Motors’ new home battery storage system, and rightly so. The prospect for those with solar generation capacity to emancipate themselves from the grid and from net metering policy (see Nevada’s quandary) is very enticing indeed. Tesla has been, as usual, right on target with announcing their product, design, and price points, but slow to make those promises available. The solar show gave the opportunity to see the Powerwall in person, however, hooked up to a SolarEdge inverter.

Tesla has announced two sizes for their Powerwall – a 7KW version for $3,000, and a 10KW version for $3,500. Both have the sleek look reminiscent of an iPhone, which is completely revolutionary to the current design of basically a rack of oversized car batteries.

For those who have planned ahead with their solar inverter selection, retrofitting a Powerwall won’t be a big deal. Curtis explains, “For those with a newer model SolarEdge inverter, a DC disconnect add on will be available to integrate with the Powerwall. It might not be as simple for those with other inverters.”

Tesla was not at the show, but SolarEdge was quoting that Tesla’s limited Powerwall inventory is sold out until mid 2016 until their gigafactory increases production. So retrofitting a system might be the way to go if you want to take advantage of the tax credits that expire in 2016.

Photo credit: Solaroo Energy

Bifacial Solar Panels

Bifacial solar panels are a great sub development in what normally is a category with not much recent development. Bifacial panels still look like regular monocrystalline panels, but the material around the cells is translucent, which allows some sunlight to pass through the panel, reflect off the roof and hit a second layer of cells on the backside.

This allows in many cases a 25 percent bump in production. At first glance, that is a major development, however, a white roof is needed to reflect the sunlight in the way it needs for the second layer of cells to be of benefit.

“In Utah’s market, most pitched roofs will have a colored asphalt shingle, which won’t really work with a bifacial panel.” Curtis said, “The commercial market, however, especially for buildings with a flat, white, membrane roof, would likely get the production bump.”

The ITC tax credit legislation

The other major development from the show wasn’t technology, but was the legislation talk centering on the ITC, or Investment Tax Credit, which gives solar owners a 30 percent federal tax credit for their purchase.

Much of the talk was about the possible 80,000 jobs that are anticipated to be lost if the ITC wasn’t extended. Even Vice President Joe Biden was a keynote speaker with much of his remarks pointed at the ITC.

There was growing concern that nothing has been done, and many are preparing for the fallout of the make-or-break legislation. Curtis comments, “The feeling in the industry is still – get your solar installed by the end of 2016 or risk losing the credit. No one knows exactly how the legislation will go.”

For more information about this article, please contact Solaroo Energy, or click here.



Is do-it-yourself solar a good idea?

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Today we sat down with Kelly Curtis, Director of Operations for Solaroo Energy, a local solar installation company, to discuss the viability of designing and installing a solar system yourself. It’s DIY Solar 101.

1. Designing the System

Many consumers with engineering minds have done plenty of research regarding designing their own solar system. Product research is a big part of the design. Panels might not differ too much outside of efficiency and production, but inverters will dictate a lot of the design and functionality of the system.

If you get stuck on the design, however, many companies, including Solaroo Energy, have programs that interact with DIY’s to provide expertise as needed.

“We have many clients who have successfully installed their own systems.” Mr. Curtis explains. “They purchase the equipment from us, we help with the design when necessary, and it can add up to additional savings for the customer.”

2. Electrical Work

Probably the biggest area in which solar DIY’s need additional expertise is with electrical work. In fact, many municipalities require the actual connection to be done by a licensed electrician to pass final inspection. Many solar DIY’s with an electrical background can design their own wiring schematics, and then contract with local solar companies only when they need to.

“We welcome solar DIY’s. We encourage DIY customers to do as much as they feel comfortable with, and what they are able to do,” Curtis notes. “They can always come to us with questions, or have our guys come out on an hourly basis to finish up sections of the project. We would always suggest having a licensed professional take the system live and check it over when it is complete.”

3. Permitting and Warranty

Building permits, even though in most municipalities a property owner can file their own, the permit will probably need architectural drawings, structural engineering, or other equipment specifications that might stump a homeowner.

“With many of our solar DIY’s, we act as a solar consultant,” Curtis says. “You can use us for a line diagram, help filling out a city’s building permit application, or simply just buy the equipment from us and not use our services at all. We are interested in helping people make the jump to solar, and accept many levels of DIY ambition.”

Warranties on the product itself should be the same from the manufacturer regardless of where you buy it. The warranty on the workmanship, however, will be different if you do it yourself. Make sure you do your research before attempting to install your own solar system, and be sure to talk with a solar professional either way.

“Sometimes our full install price is better than the price of some of our solar DIY’s just because of our efficiencies,” Curtis adds. “No use doing it yourself unless you’ll save money.”

For more information on solar installation and equipment, please click here.


Getting your roof solar ready

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Today we are catching up with Tad Carter, Sales Director and Technician for Solaroo Energy, a local Utah Solar Installer, to discuss how different roof types and exposure can affect solar energy production. After all, every roof is different, and there are some key factors regarding roof orientation, tilt, shingle type and age that can be the difference of saving tens of thousands on your system, or not saving at all. We asked Mr. Carter to describe some of these factors for us to consider.

Roof Orientation

The order of the best producing directions for your solar panels to face is as follows:

First Place – South. South is the highest producing because the sun shines in the southern sky for most of the year. And more sun equals more production.

Second Place – East. Really? East? There are a couple variables, but yes, East might be inferior to the West in the NBA, but not with solar in our climate. One common misconception is, “the west side of my house gets so hot, it has to produce more than the east.” But, heat does not equal production, sunshine does. In fact, most solar panels operate more efficiently in cooler temperatures than in hotter temps. West will also have more clouds on average than East, mainly for the fact that afternoon thundershowers in the summer are more prevalent. Therefore the East (morning) is generally more productive than the West (afternoon).

Third Place – West. OK, let me stick up for West a little. West is not much behind East as is, and it can move into second place if you consider snow melt, or if you live on the east bench next to the mountains. East is not very productive when the sun is stuck behind the Wasatch Mountains until 10:00am.

Last Place – North. We should almost say “No Place”, because north facing roofs won’t even qualify for the tax rebates.

Other factors can play into which sections of roof are the best to install panels, such as: trees, chimneys, roof vents, and other shading issues.

Roof Tilt

The tilt or pitch of your roof will determine how much summer sun (directly above you) you will get, and how much winter sun (low at an angle) you will get.

The most efficient angle in the dead of the summer for where the path of the sun is over Salt Lake City, is roughly 16 degrees, which is between 3/12 and 4/12 pitch. The most efficient angle for the dead of the winter is roughly 64 degrees, which is really steep (roughly 24/12 pitch). If you average each month of the year, and weight the summer heavier since we have more sunlight in the summer, a good angle would be between 28– 35 degrees (roughly a 6 or 7/12 pitch). If you are steeper or flatter than this, it does not mean solar won’t make sense, it just means you’ll be more efficient at different times of the year.

Shingle Type and Age

When talking about shingle type, the concern isn’t really about production, it’s about installation. Asphalt and aluminum shingles are relatively easy to install solar to. Tile shingles and corrugated metal roofing are more difficult. But production won’t be materially different based on your type of roofing.

Age brings up two concerns: First, if you need a new roof next year, you’ll probably want to do that roof first, then install solar. It is expensive to remove a system and reinstall. Second, If your home is older and doesn’t have trusses, there could be some structural braces that will need to be installed to your rafters to be able to support the weight of your system. Most of the time those structural modifications aren’t expensive, but they will need to be made. Keep in mind that your roof and structural upgrades can be eligible for the federal tax credit, which can further help your solar investment.

Mr. Carter comments, “Whatever your roof exposure is, we recommend having a SunEye test done to determine the available sun on your roof for each season. We will do that test at no cost for people who want to see what their roof will produce.”

For more information about solar, or to see how much energy your roof will produce, go to


Solar Review – Panels and Inverters

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This week we sat down with Tim Philbin, Solar Analyst for Solaroo Energy, a local Utah solar installer, to talk about some common questions solar customers have on modules (panels) and inverters.

What is the difference between Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline solar panels?

Monocrystalline (Mono)

Mono panels have the higher efficiency rating of the two, since they are made of higher grade silicon. The manufacturing process of mono panels produces silicon wafers that look like the corners have been cut. This gives a distinct, uniform coloring and look that can be easily distinguishable from polycrystalline panels, which are perfectly rectangular with no cuts or rounded off edges.

Mono panels will also perform better in low light conditions, in higher temperatures, and last longer than poly panels. Most manufacturers that offer high efficiency mono panels like SunEdison, Solar World, and SunPower will warranty the modules for 25 years or more, and offer linear degradation protection as well.

“For Utah’s climate and for most local roof designs, mono panels are a good choice,” Philbin said. “They will deliver the most production for the space, the most production for the longest period of time, and will operate efficiently in our harsh climate.”

Polycrystalline (Poly)

Poly panels might be the old technology, but they aren’t without their own advantages. The manufacturing process of poly panels is simpler, and produces less waste.

Poly panels have been produced by melting raw silicon into square wafers since 1981, which means they have been in use for a lot longer. Because the per panel cost is less than mono panels, other applications seem to fit a polycrystalline price point and production capacity better than mono, such as solar radar speed signs, LED traffic signs, and other mobile and small use solar needs.

For these needs, maximum production is not so much a concern—adequate production and cost will fit the bill.

What are the major differences with inverters?

Enphase micro inverters

Micro inverter technology has made it possible for each individual panel in a solar array to act independently with regards to shading. For example, if half of your array is under shade, the sunny half is still producing with micro inverters. That equals more production. They tend to be a little pricier, but more production can offset the cost.

SMA string inverters

String inverters have been around a lot longer than micro inverters, so some micro inverter skeptics might say that micros haven’t been on the roof long enough to fail. String inverters do have the shading problem described above—meaning that if one panel is shaded, then all on the string act as if they are shaded.

The one benefit from the SMA inverter is the ability to wire in emergency power outlets in case of power outage. Mr. Philbin notes, “We have many customers that are happy to trade a little energy production for the ability to have access to their solar power in case of emergency. There aren’t any batteries for storage, but the SMA can give you a little emergency power when the sun is shining.”

SolarEdge inverters with power optimizers

SolarEdge is a blend between two described above. It is a string inverter, but places power optimizers on the back of each panel that makes it act like a micro inverter with regards to shading. Mr. Philbin also adds, “Lately, many customers are choosing SolarEdge as their inverter because of Tesla’s partnership with SolarEdge on the Powerwall battery. Tesla has announced that SolarEdge will be the only inverter that will be able to be retrofit with the Powerwall—and there is significant interest in the Tesla battery.”

Whatever your equipment choice is, be sure to contact a trusted solar professional as your consultant. For more information on the article, click here.


3 common questions about tax quotes

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Today we are talking solar tax credits with Andrew Mullen, Sales Director for Solaroo Energy, a local solar installation company. Here are three common questions Andrew routinely answers about solar tax credits.

1. Can I use the tax credits multiple times?

There are two main tax credits for us in Utah: A state of Utah credit of 25 percent up to $2,000, and a federal tax credit of 30 percent.

The state of Utah’s guidelines for the renewable energy credit is a maximum payout of 25 percent of the cost of your system up to $2,000. So you can actually use in more than once in the scenario that you install a solar pool heating system this year for a cost of $6,000, which would give you a state tax credit of $1,500 (25 percent).

This option would leave an additional $500 to be used in the future on another qualifying solar purchase. But for the state of Utah tax credit, once the $2,000 is used, no more can be claimed.

The federal tax credit, however, does not have a ceiling.

“You can do a 20 solar panel project on your house this year,” Mullen said. “And add another 20 panels next year. Both purchases on your primary or secondary home would qualify for the 30 percent tax credit.”

Photo credit: MountainStar Health Care

2. Can I use the federal tax credit if I normally get a refund each April?

You can’t tell how much of a solar tax credit you can take by whether you pay or get a refund come tax time. Withholdings are taken from your check each pay period, and are used to pay your taxes all throughout the year, instead of one big check in April. So if you pay too much, you get some back. If you don’t pay enough, you pay the difference in April.

The federal solar tax credit is a credit, not a deduction, off your total tax paid. Line 63 on your 2014 1040 federal tax return is labeled “total tax”. This is the number you want to look at. This is the amount you paid in taxes.

You will not get back more than this amount from your federal solar tax credit in the current tax year.

“If you normally get a $1,500 refund because your withholdings were too much,” Mullen explained. “Then you would get back that $1,500 plus your solar tax credit, as long as the solar tax credit was not more than your total tax.”

3. When is the tax credit going away?

The federal tax credit is set to step down to 10 percent from 30 percent at the end of 2016. Because of the way the tax credit is written, you have to have your system installation complete by the end of each tax year — and at the very latest by the end of 2016 — to take advantage of the credit. Because of this, most solar companies are planning on a big surge for 2016.

“Usually we see a surge in the fall, just so people can finish installation by the end of the year and use the tax credit for the current tax year,” Mullen said. “But next year is going to be crazy. There will be many who wait until the summer or fall of 2016 who won’t be able to get on the install schedule in time for the tax credit, and will miss out. The ones who don’t wait and do it sooner will be fine.”

Whatever your question is on solar tax credits, or installing solar on your roof, be sure to have a knowledgeable solar consultant who can answer your questions. Click here for more info.