State Legislation Would Boost Incentives for Solar Owners

Proposed legislation in Olympia could increase the incentives available for solar installations in Washington state if approved by lawmakers during this year’s special session.

House Bill 1048 would bring an end to the outdated Renewable Energy System Cost Recovery Program on June 30, 2017, and would replace it with a new program designed to increase incentive caps for utilities and offer new incentives for homeowners, businesses or government entities who own solar installations or participate in community solar projects.

Under the proposed program, utilities would be able to claim a minimum annual credit of $100,000 up to a half a percent of the utility’s total power sales. This credit would be made available for utility customers to apply toward qualifying solar systems under the new program.

The new cost recovery program for solar owners allows for incentive payments starting at 15 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh) and increasing from there based on a set of factors primarily based on whether system components were manufactured in the state of Washington. A maximum incentive rate of $1.08 per kWh would be available for projects with an inverter and solar panels manufactured in Washington.

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, HB 1048 has been designated necessary to implement the budget, which means it will be considered as part of the budget approval process. A companion bill in the state Senate, SB 5499, similarly seeks to re-establish healthy solar incentives.

Solar Washington, a solar advocacy group, is supporting the so-called Solar Jobs Bill with a sign-on petition and offering information and suggestions on contacting legislators on its homepage.

Rooftop Solar Cools and Reduces Thermal Stress

With spring in full swing, the clouds have just started to give way to glorious sunshine. Soon things will be heating up. When considering the overall efficiency of your home or commercial building, a roof-mount solar installation may be able to help you beyond the generation of clean energy and savings in electrical utility bills.

That’s because one often overlooked benefit of a solar install on your roof is the way the panels act as a shield from the heat of the summer sun, resulting in cooler temperatures inside. In fact, researchers from the University of California San Diego concluded that the daytime temperature of a ceiling inside a building was “5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler under solar panels than under an exposed roof.”

In fact, the study found that the amount saved in cooling costs was worth roughly a 5 percent discount on the price of the solar panels. Obviously the modules themselves are a barrier to the sun’s heat — reducing the amount of heat reaching the roof by 38 percent in some cases — but there are other factors in play as well.

“Much of the heat is removed by wind blowing between the panels and the roof,” the study reported, adding that greater cooling effects are achieved with a tilted solar panel install and with high-efficiency solar modules.

At night, the study said, solar panels allowed buildings to keep the heat accumulated inside due to insulating properties of the panels. The study concluded that the reduced “variability” in rooftop temperatures “reduces thermal stresses on the roof and leads to energy savings and/or human comfort benefits.”

So if you’ve been pondering a switch to solar, here’s yet another reason why solar could be a great investment for your home or business. If you would like a free energy assessment, get in touch with us at Solora Solar today.

For more information on the UC San Diego study, we recommend a couple of great summaries at TreeHugger and EarthSky. You can read the full study on ScienceDirect.

Three Months Left to Cash In On Snohomish PUD Solar Incentives

If you have been considering going solar and happen to live anywhere between Lynnwood and Stanwood — that is, Snohomish County — you might want to go green before the greenbacks are gone.

Snohomish County PUD has announced that their Solar Express program will be sunsetting on June 30, 2017. This means residents of Snohomish County and Camano Island have just three months to get their residential or commercial solar project submitted in order to receive up to $2,000 in incentives for residential installs and $8,000 for commercial installations before the incentives expire.

The specific rebate Snohomish PUD offers for solar projects is $300 per kW. Projects must meet certain requirements, one of which is that the installation site must capture at least 75 percent of direct sunlight when taking into account orientation, shade, tilt and other factors.

If you would like to get more information about the expiring program, visit the Learn About Going Solar page on the Snohomish PUD website. If you would like a free estimate on your project from Solora Solar, give us a call at (425) 366-8953 or tell us on our contact page.

If you don’t live in Snohomish County but are curious about incentives, give us a call. In minutes, we can usually tell you the federal, state and local incentives for which you may qualify.

Five Years From Now

What were you doing five years ago?

Sometimes when we look ahead, five years seems like such a long time to wait to receive a promotion, save up for a new car, take a vacation or reach some other long-desired goal. But when we look back just five years ago and think about our family, our home, our lives — we are faced with the reality that five years goes by so fast.

Five years from now, what will you be thinking about the choices you’re making today? It’s a question that challenges us.

At Solora Solar, we gain great satisfaction from the five-year mark in our relationships with customers because that’s the point at which their solar installation typically has earned enough in energy production and tax incentives to have repaid their investment in the system. We haven’t encountered a customer yet who reached that five-year mark and regretted their decision.

It’s a great feeling for us, but an even better feeling for them.

That’s why if you are considering going solar, we encourage you to think back to where your life was at just five years ago. If you go solar in 2017, the next five years is going to go pass just as quickly as the last five. And then you will be living in a home that is worth more and generating free energy from that point forward.

What will your life be like five years from now?

Photo credit: Michael Ruiz

Solora Solar Wins 2016 Best of Yakima Award

best-of-yakimaSolora Solar won the 2016 Best of Yakima Award honoring the best local businesses in the community, it was announced last week. The 2016 Yakima Award Program chose Solora Solar as one of a select number of companies who demonstrate “exceptional marketing success in their local community” and “service to their customers and our community.”

“These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business,” the Yakima Award Program said in a statement. “These exceptional companies help make the Yakima area a great place to live, work and play.”

The program analyzes information from both internal and third-party sources to determine annual winners in various categories, identifying Solora as a winner in the Local Business category for 2016.

“Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value,” the award statement said.

Solora has won a number of awards for excellence, also being recognized as a Top 10 solar contractor in Washington state by Solar Power World multiple times.

The 2016 Yakima Award Program officially announced Solora Solar as a winner of the 2016 Best of Yakima Award for Local Business on Dec. 8. Solora Solar is owned by Syed Mujtaba and serves the entire state of Washington from its Yakima and Issaquah locations.

We Love Staying In Touch With Our Customers

raj-project
Solora Solar is fortunate to work with homeowners who like to build a long-term relationship with their solar contractor. We love this! It means we get to answer a lot of important customer questions after the installation of their solar system, and it also means we get to receive many enjoyable updates about how solar is powering homes and saving energy and utility costs.

One such customer, Raj from Richland, Wash., has dropped us a couple of notes over the first few months of his Solora Solar install, and we thought we might pass along a glimpse into the life of a solar-powered homeowner, as told by him.

When Raj first had his solar system installed, he checked in with this report:

“Solora was recommended by a couple of our friends with rather high professional standards. To satisfy our curiosity, we also got other bids. Solora’s professionalism (and their price) won. All round/consistent good job throughout the contract. Took just one day to install (6 weeks after contract). Even with roof panels facing South East (vs. true South) and the present “low April Sun”, it has already generated 800 kWh in 22 days and pushed 130 kWh back into the grid (DE). That’s ~$2000 in incentives just this “season” ending 6/30/2016.”

Things would only improve from there, as Raj noticed the impact on his power bill. He dropped us this note six months later:

“Following up on my above post from April…it has been almost 8 months now since system install. Our system has already generated 8.6 kWh in this time with 4 more months to go. I’m sure to break 10.5 kWh or more for the first 12 months. Zero electric bills since inception as well, with the excess (delivered) power being used to lower our (combined) water and trash bills also. Received more than double Solara’s original estimate of $1200 state incentive from date of install (March 23) to June 30. Very satisfied!”

Most of our customers will email or call with updates like these. Raj shared his as comments on a blog post titled, ironically enough, Attention Solar Customers: We’re In This Together.

If you are considering a solar install for your home or business, and you would like the benefit of a long-term partner in the project who you can turn to with questions or feedback, consider Solora Solar and contact us today!

Report: Solar Solar on Cutting Edge of Commercial Solar Increase

screencapture-yakimaherald-news-local-with-help-from-incentives-yakima-valley-small-businesses-look-to-article_536546fe-561e-11e6-882b-67e35894c28c-html-1475193780330Solora Solar was featured last month in the July 29 issue of the Yakima Herald as the newspaper called attention to the growing number of small businesses making the move to solar electricity in the Yakima Valley.

The report highlighted Solora Solar’s success with bringing solar to commercial businesses as well as Solora’s upcoming commercial project with Green Acre Farms in Wapato, Wash., which promises to be one of the largest solar projects of any kind in central Washington state. That project is projected to save the company up to a half a million dollars over the next 25 years.

The article highlighted the fact that commercial installations account for about 25 percent of Solora Solar’s business and that, nationally, commercial power accounts for about 15 percent of all solar power currently generated in the United States.

Quoting Solora Solar owner Syed Mujtaba, the report noted that the increase in commercial solar installations has been driven by the lower cost of solar panels, the increased efficiency of these panels and the numerous incentives and tax credits available to businesses who act now.

“All that adds up,” Mujtaba told the newspaper.

View the complete article here: With help from incentives, Yakima Valley small businesses look to solar 
power

Attention Solar Customers: We’re In This Together

A solar power system is a significant investment — one that makes a positive impact on your wallet and the environment. You should know that when you choose Solora, you have the assurance that we’re with you for the life of your system, and that’s a long time.

To start with, there are lots of forms to fill out in order to take advantage of all the tax incentives. We take care of those for you. All you have to do is add your signature. We also follow up each year when the incentive paperwork is due again to make sure that you aren’t missing out on those savings.

We want new solar power system owners to feel confident and capable. That’s why, at the time of installation, you will receive a binder with your owner’s manual and all the documentation. We walk you through everything you need to know to get the most out of your system.

Our goal is to see you more than satisfied with your solar system. If you ever experience an issue of any kind, we’re just a phone call away.

There’s a reason that 70 percent of our business comes from referrals of happy customers.

As a way of saying thank you, we offer a $500 bonus for any referral resulting in an installation.

Project Sunroof Offers Residents Solar Analysis

Google is making it easier for you to go solar.

With their new Project Sunroof, soon you’ll be able to use Google Earth & Maps technology to complete a shade analysis of your roof. Previously a task set aside for solar professionals, it’s one of the first steps in determining if solar power is the right choice for your household or business.

Currently only available in the San Francisco Bay Area, Fresno, Calif., and Boston, Google’s ad says that Project Sunroof will “soon… grow to include the entire country… and maybe even the whole world.”

How Does it Work?

Just enter your address and your solar analysis will be generated in seconds. It takes into account a 3-D model of your roof, the shadows that nearby trees and buildings cast, the angles of the sun over the course of a year, and historical weather patterns that might affect your solar production.

You will be given a recommendation on the size of your installation in square feet and a cost/savings estimate (including federal and state tax credits, utility rebates, etc.). After that, you’ll have the option to share your analysis with one or more local solar providers listed to begin discussing your next steps.

Ultimately, your solar provider will run a final solar production estimate before beginning installation. But isn’t it amazing what kind of detailed information we have at our fingertips?

Put in an address for one of the featured cities and take a look at what it will be like when it comes to our neck of the woods in Washington state.

New Type of Cell, A Game Changer

Two sets of scientists have reported promising results from a new recipe for solar cells, which could result in panels for solar power that are easier and cheaper to make.

 

Solar panels were recently placed on the roof of the building that supplies energy to the AirTrain at NewarkLibertyInternationalAirport in Newark, N.J. A scientific advance could help bring a new class of solar cells to market.

 

Efforts to bring a new class of solar cells to market may have received a significant boost from a new recipe for making the cells, developed independently by two teams of scientists.

 

The recipe involves solar cells that use the mineral perovskite as a key ingredient. Until now, researchers had been working with a semiconductor built around a blend of lead and perovskite. The new recipe blends tin with perovskite, an approach that uses cheaper materials than many of today’s generation of solar cells and carries far less environmental and regulatory baggage.

 

During the past few days, two independent groups have reported encouraging results from their initial experiments with this new tin-pervoskite solar cell.

 

On May 1, a team led by OxfordUniversity researcher Henry Snaith reported producing a tin-perovskite cell that converted more than 6 percent of the sunlight it receives into electricity. A formal description of the work appeared online, published by the journal Energy and Environmental Science.

 

Three days later, a team led by NorthwesternUniversity researchers Robert Chang and Mercouri Kanatzidis reported similar results at a slightly lower efficiency – 5.73 percent – in the journal Nature Photonics.

 

These figures are low compared with the top performing photovoltaic cells made today, which boast efficiencies of up to 35 percent. But these high-efficiency cells are expensive to produce and tend to be used for the most demanding applications, such as solar panels for satellites. Even lower-cost versions still require expensive, energy-hungry machines in clean-room environments to make them.

 

The perovskite blends require not much more than bench-top, wet-chemistry techniques that are well within the industry’s ability to use, researchers say.

 

Scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory have suggested that the maximum theoretical efficiency individual perovskite cells can achieve is around 31 percent, or higher if the cells are stacked together to form multi-junction cells.

 

So far, the lead-perovskite predecessors to these new solar cells have reached efficiencies of up to 15 percent.

 

But “I don’t think we have to go that far,” says Northwestern ‘s University’s Dr. Kanatzidis. As long as efficiencies top 10 percent, the tin-perovskite recipe “is quite viable” commercially. At around 6 percent, these new cells are within hailing distance of that goal.

 

Another potential contributor to the tin-perovskite solar cells’ lower cost is the ability of a single cell to operate effectively over a broader range of visible wavelengths than cells currently in use. To achieve the same effective “bandwidth,” today’s cells have to be stacked, with each layer sensitive to a particular portion of visible wavelengths.

 

The prospect of ever-cheaper solar panels to generate electricity makes electric utilities nervous. Beyond the benefits solar energy can provide in reducing the climate-warming greenhouse gases that burning coal and natural gas emit, wider adoption of photovoltaic technology for homes and businesses threatens to serve as the firecracker tucked into the utility industry’s business model. That model relies on large capital-intensive power plants to deliver enough electricity to meet peak demand, even as solar installations feed unused electricity into an interlinked grid.

 

Last year, the Edison Electric Institute published a report on so-called disruptive challenges to utilities and the way they structure their rates. The report singled out the spread of photovoltaic technologies as a key threat, one whose effect has been intensifying. One reason: The highest demand for electricity comes during the day, precisely when increasing numbers of distributed “solar power plants” nationwide would be getting the most sunlight.

 

To take advantage of that sunlight, the new cells take a layer-cake approach.

 

A top layer of electrically conducting glass receives the sunlight, followed by a thin layer of titanium dioxide, which serves as one of the cell’s two connecting points, or electrodes. Next comes the tin-perovskite semiconductor, which absorbs the sunlight. The teams then applied a chemical to the underside of the semiconductor. This facilitates the buildup of an electrical charge between the electrode near the top of the cell and the final layer, another electrode, at the bottom of the cell.

 

The process of adding the semiconductor to a cell and adding the so-called transport layer between the semiconductor and the final electrode must be conducted in a glove box filled with nitrogen gas. The oxygen in ambient air can destroy the semiconductor. But once the transport layer is added, the rest of the cell is ready for outside-the-box assembly.

 

Indeed, the whole effort to explore the use of perovskites represents some outside-the-box thinking, Northwestern’s Kanatzidis says. Within the photovoltaic research community, the mineral hadn’t been given much thought. But once its usefulness became apparent, labs all over the world began to work with it.

 

Its potential for solar cells was first uncovered in 2009 by researchers in Japan – its ability to absorb light was deemed too inefficient to merit further exploration, researchers say. By 2011, however, researchers began to see glimmers of perovskite’s potential. Since 2009, efficiency gains have been taking place at a far faster clip than those for conventional solar-cell semiconductors, which have been steadily improving over decades.

 

Even now, “we don’t understand everything about it,” says Kanatzidis of the new recipe. Still, with no theoretical limit to reaching an efficiency level comparable to today’s top-tier solar cells, researchers are focusing on ways to improve what several say is likely to represent a breakthrough in solar-cell technology.