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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.


5 Things You Didn’t Know About Solar

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This blog post was featured on KSL prior to the Deseret Home Show.

Solar energy is a resource with many benefits. It’s sustainable for energy consumption and continuously renewable. Not only can solar power be used to generate electricity, it can also be used to heat water. You may have already known these tidbits of information, but here are five additional facts that may surprise you about electricity and solar energy in Utah.

Utah’s residential electricity is expensive

If you were to research energy costs by state, Utah would appear to be one of the cheapest states. While this may be true in general, there is a big variance between commercial and residential cost per kilowatt hour.Residential rates average between 9 – 12 cents per kilowatt hour for the average home, and even more for larger homes. Summer costs can get even more expensive, with even higher rates charged to those who use over 1,000 kilowatt hours per month.

Kelly Curtis, Director of Operations at Solaroo Energy, a Utah based solar energy supplier, touched briefly on how the costs of residential electricity can add up quickly.”When it comes to commercial energy, the general rates for an average business are at three to four cents per kilowatt hour. Although that may be cheap, compare it to residential electricity. A house that is 4,000 square feet or more can be charged as much as 14.5 cents per kilowatt hour.”

Solar energy rates are fixed

According to the State of Utah Public Service Commission, one Utah power company has averaged 4.44 percent increases since 2000. In the last seven years alone, the rates have gone up 50 percent. The latest rate increase was levied just last month. “Utility rates have a history of going up, and they are projected to increase even more, whereas solar energy is fixed. You pay for it up front, but the cost of producing energy is fixed over the life of the system, and results in huge savings,” Curtis says. “Solar gives you the opportunity to control your rates, and control your power.” With solar energy, you are purchasing your own electricity generation at a fixed cost, allowing you to maintain the same energy rates for 25 years or longer. The best part is that the longer your solar panels produce energy, the cheaper your energy will be.

Solar system guarantee

You can now have a warranty on your solar system (not the one made up by planets orbiting the sun) that will guarantee how much energy you will produce over the next 25 years. While many companies offer leases for their solar panels, keep an eye out for a good warranty and production guarantee.

Technology has improved

Advancement in technology is the main reason why U.S.-based manufacturers are now willing to warranty entire systems and components for 25 years. Curtis also mentioned how using specially designed solar panels from SunEdison, a Fortune 1000 company and a global leader in solar technology, can make all the difference when switching to solar energy. “Many solar energy companies continue to purchase their solar panels from China because they are really inexpensive, but they are also poorly made. These solar panels lose their effectiveness only after a few short years,” say Curtis. “SunEdison guarantees that your panels will produce the energy we say they will over 25 years.”

Solar system costs have come down in Utah

The cost of installing efficient, reliable, and maintenance-free solar systems in Utah is much more affordable compared to other states, according to Solaroo Energy. For example, systems in California can cost up to $7 per kilowatt, whereas in Utah, systems will cost as little as $4 or less per kilowatt. The cost of solar energy has decreased over the last few years. With the ever-increasing electric rates, the time has never been better for installing solar systems in Utah.

battery backup

Emergency Preparedness with Solar

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This blog post was featured on KSL. Many of us are interested in a sustaining energy in case of an emergency—after all, the boxes, cans, and buckets of freeze dried food we have in our food storage is going to be pretty disgusting without the ability to boil water. Other questions we have all thought about: How do I keep a refrigerator or a freezer running, turn on lights, and keep batteries charged?Traditional fuels, such as propane, gasoline, and diesel are dangerous and hard to store in large quantities, and eventually your supply will run out. Solar Power is unique in that the average, everyday person has access to almost an endless supply of it.  It comes down to a matter of harnessing the power, and storing it. Here are a few options and tips for using solar energy for your emergency preparedness. SOLAR GENERATORS goal-zero-yeti 1250-01 Solar generators have made huge strides in effectiveness, and can be the entry point into storing solar power. Solar generators are portable, and the panels can be mounted just about anywhere—giving you flexibility to move to where the sun is shining. Sami Church, an associate at Solaroo Energy explains, “For most people who are worried about a power outage or a short grid interruption, a solar generator is a great way to go. They are affordable, and will keep the essentials running for a short period of time while the power is out.” Church continues, “Saving a freezer full of food during a power outage can save a lot of money. And having a microwave to cook is also handy. Most solar generators can handle the modest use of both.” ROOFTOP SOLAR, GRID TIED Flag (Working Copy) One option that is not often explored, is the emergency power that a grid tied solar system can produce when the grid is down. Special inverters offered by Solaroo can now be installed with an emergency outlet that is live in the case that the grid is down. This allows you access to a lot more power than the generator, since rooftop systems usually have more panels producing power. It does, however, only produce power while the sun is shining. Even though you don’t have a bank of batteries, like a battery back-up system, you can use that live outlet to charge a battery—including your solar generator. “With a live outlet on your rooftop solar system, and a solar generator to store power, you can use power while the sun is shining with your live outlet, and at night or on cloudy days use your charged generator,” Church continues, “Grid tied systems save you money on your bill, AND can be designed to give you options for emergencies.” ROOFTOP SOLAR, BATTERY BACK-UP battery backup For those who don’t want to just survive during an emergency, but thrive—a complete battery back-up system will be the choice. Battery back-up systems use a bank of batteries similar to what you would find in a car or truck, just bigger. The solar power is generated from your rooftop panels, and is stored in your battery bank. These types of systems can be also tied into the grid, so that you only use the battery power in case of emergencies. This “hybrid” system also reduces your utility bill, and prolongs the life of your batteries, since you aren’t drawing the power down frequently. They can also be designed to function completely “off grid”, which is often times the only option for cabins and remote properties. Both the Hybrid and Off Grid systems will provide you with completely renewable energy for years and years (warrantied up to 25 years). The downside to these systems is that the batteries will need to be replaced after 8-12 years, depending on how much they’re used, and the cost of battery back-up is prohibitive to many—it can add 50% or more to the cost of an average rooftop solar system. Church says, “Whatever your appetite for emergency preparedness is, solar is the only reliable way to generate power over a long period of time, at an affordable cost.” So whether it’s power outages you worry about, or the zombie apocalypse, it’s time to give solar some thought.