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Author: Wholesale Solar

Wholesale Solar of Mt. Shasta, CA, is an employee-owned company specializing in the design and distribution of custom solar systems and components. Since launching in 2002, Wholesale Solar has helped thousands of DIY homeowners achieve lower power bills and energy independence. Learn more at WholesaleSolar.com.
Install of the Month – December 2017 Round Two

Install of the Month – December 2017 Round Two

Worth the Wait With Jason S.

Our second DIY hero this month is Jason S., who installed a Grid-Tied system on his Indiana home to save money on his power bill. Jason is the kind of guy who knows research, planning, and striking while the iron is hot will often pay off in a big way.

After his initial phone call to solar tech Jeremy A., Jason took two years before he decided to pull the trigger. He called Jeremy to answer his questions, and he gained the confidence to install himself.

Over two years working together, Jason was able to learn more about the specific system he wanted and was able to watch the market to purchase at the perfect time.
– Solar Tech Jeremy A.

Once he was confident DIY was right for him, and that quick ROI was attainable, it was just a waiting game: Jason watched the solar market closely and picked the time when he projected he’d save the most before giving Jeremy the go-ahead on Jason’s project.

But you know what they say about mice and men… Once Jason received his system parts and was ready to get to work installing it, mother nature decided his wait wasn’t over just yet. He was hit with a big rainstorm, making the space where he planned to put his ground-mounted system too muddy for a stable installation. But Jason wasn’t daunted. He just sat back, waited for the ground to dry, and soldiered on, finally completing his system in about a week. Now he only has one more wait… by the mailbox to see the big fat zeroes on his next power bill!

Interview with Jason

What type of solar power system did you install?

Grid-tied, but I had a lot of land to do a ground-mounted system so I could zero out my monthly power bill. 

What was your primary reason for going solar?

I had always wanted to become more energy independent and solar power made the most sense for us. It also made financial sense, especially since I had the means to install the system myself and save more money.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I am a locomotive engineer but I had a remodeling/construction business for a few years. I don’t like paying people to do anything, so I always tackle projects on my own and learn as I go. 

I don’t like paying people to do anything, so I always tackle projects on my own and learn as I go.
– Jason S.

What was the most challenging part of the installation?

The wiring and panel installation was a little technical, but easily manageable with patience. The most difficult part we faced was battling the weather and mud to get the pipes and concrete piers set in place for our ground install.

How many helpers did you have?

It was just my wife and me. To her credit, she is quite handy herself and doesn’t mind getting her hands dirty. 

Did you hire a contractor?

Nope! We did everything ourselves from start to finish.

 Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

No additional parts. As for tools, I did have a construction business, so I do have more tools than the average person. I didn’t need to go out and buy anything special.

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

It was spread out over the course of 2 weeks due to my work schedule and the weather. If I had more time and good weather I could have completeled in less than a week. I saved myself about $11,000 in costs from my efforts.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

It was a great feeling to get the project completed…and an even better feeling once the power company swapped out our meter, put the system online and started generating our own power!

Who else did you consider before going with Wholesale Solar?

Wholesale Solar was the first company I found. I looked elsewhere, and the price and customer service couldn’t be matched! 

What was the total cost of your solar installation project?

Total cost for me was around $18,000. $13,300 or so was the price of the solar system, while the rest covered the cost of equipment rentals and materials such as pipes, wiring, and concrete.

How much did going solar save you on your taxes?

We will be saving around $5,000 when we file taxes for this year thanks to the Federal Tax Credit. We live in Indiana, so we’re lucky to have no sales tax on our purchase or added property tax from the install.

Components in Jason’s System:

Tips:

Write off Sales Tax. You can include your system’s sales tax as part of your expenditures for installing solar. (30% Solar Federal Tax Credit). Learn more.

Pay less in property tax. Most states have a renewable energy property tax exemption. This means the value that a solar system adds to a home does not increase the property taxes you pay! In other words, you only pay property taxes against $200,000, and not the new appraised value of $256,000 with the additional solar system added—unlike a new kitchen where you have to pay more taxes for that additional value, you added to the property.

Jason's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Solar Components From Wholesale Solar: $13,300
  • All Other Expenses: $4,700
  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • How Much Going DIY Saved Him: $11,000
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $5,400 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Total time to install: ~1 week
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 13,000-14,000 kWh
  • Utility rates per kWh: 11.64¢/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: was $130
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None
Install of the Month – December 2017

Install of the Month – December 2017

A Family-Sized Install with Martin Verdin

This month we’re taking a look at a sprawling ground-mounted install with Martin Verdin. With a little help from solar tech Wil Burlin, he was able to install a massive solar array and grid-tied solar system for his dad.

Martin had bought a system from us in the past. He was already so knowledgeable because of his previous install, that it was a breeze to work with him.  – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

This SGA installation required a lot of work grading the land, digging holes, pouring cement, mounting panels and so much more, but the end result is worth all that effort, and the power it provides is hard to argue with!

Interview with Martin

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

I work full-time,  so we worked on weekends and a couple hours before or after work. I’d say from the day we broke ground to final county inspection it took about 2 months to complete the entire install. 

How many people did it take?

It took 3 people in total: myself, my wife and my son. Digging 26 holes for the ground-mount poles went a lot quicker with three people doing it! 

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I have some construction experience, but I’m no expert. My wife and I built our house together 20 years ago, and I currently work as an electronic technician, so we had a bit of experience between us that came in handy on this project.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Digging holes for the ground-mount poles was the most physically demanding part of the install. Figuring out how to align the poles was also a bit more difficult than I expected. Thanks to IronRidge’s how-to videos, I learned about using pipe horses which made installing the pipes and mechanical tubing much easier.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

Getting the proper extensions for our auger was a bit more difficult than we thought it’d be. Specialty tools like that can be a bit hard to find parts for.

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

I got estimates from a couple of the big solar companies,  and after checking with Wholesale Solar, I concluded that  I could DIY install for less than half the price. Plus after the federal tax credit, I’d be saving even more! It was a real ” no brainer” decision: the system would pay for itself after 5 years or so, and then it’s all ROI.

Martin’s father wanted to go solar and be more eco-conscious while reducing his power bill. His house uses quite a bit of power and we helped them into a very large grid-tied solar system. – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

What was your primary reason for going solar?

I have always wanted to go solar, but the cost in the past wasn’t worth the effort – by the time I paid off the system, it would be time to replace it, plus electric rates kept going up every year. After getting a quote from wholesale Solar,  it was an easy choice. Going green and decreasing my electric rates to 1/4, was the main reason.

Components in Martin’s System:

We went with SMA Inverters so they could have backup power during a grid outage, and we chose the panels because they were American-made with the best price. He went with Suniva over SolarWorld to save a few bucks and get a faster return on investment. – Solar Tech Wil Burlin

Martin's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Total Hours to install: 105 hours
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 36,000 - 37,000 kWh
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $13,500 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: 15.59 cents/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost before installation: $650
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None
  • Solar Payback Period: 4 Years, 1 Month
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Install of the Month – November 2017

Install of the Month – November 2017

“Going Big on Going Green” with Jeff Dickens

They say “go big or go home,” and that’s just what professional installer Jeff Dickens did for this month’s feature. He went big by going green with a full solar system on a commercial business, and the results are truly impressive. Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital is now powered by renewable energy thanks to his install.

I have worked with this customer in the past as he is a local installer.  He is one of the easiest electricians and solar installers that I have ever worked with. 
– Solar tech Jeremy Allen

This massive install was a huge undertaking, but the results can’t be ignored, and the benefit of offsetting the client’s power bill speaks for itself.

Interview with Jeff

What Solar System Type Did You Install?

I chose to install a grid-tied system to suit my client’s power needs.

What Was Your Primary Reason for Adding Solar to Your Home or Business?

My main goal was to provide green energy in a commercial business and to offset grid power consumption. The solar array I installed collects enough energy to power, and should help Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital save money month-to-month on their utilities.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

Yes, I’m an electrical / solar contractor and have installed numerous systems. My experience in the industry allowed me to make this install go very smoothly.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

An install on a roof like this, safety is your biggest concern. You need to be aware of your rope rigging and all safety measures taken. Sloped metal roofs can be extremely dangerous, so we took extra precautions with scaffolding, a man-lift, fall-prevention gear and waited for dry weather conditions to be as safe as possible. There was also a small snag with some of the permitting process, but we took care of it quickly.

Our wiring diagram had to be taken to a local electrical engineer to be stamped which was out of the ordinary, however did not slow down the process and was completed with only minimal additional cost. 

 – Solar tech  Jeremy Allen

How Many Helpers Did You Have?

I had two experienced workers helping with the install, who were also general contractors.

Did You Hire a Contractor?

Being a professional contractor, I always recommend at least consulting with a electrician or solar contractor before a DIY Install. It can save a lot of headaches. In this case, I was the contractor in question, hired by Mt. Shasta Animal Hospital to install their solar system. Wholesale Solar’s DIY systems make my job that much easier for a professional install.

Were There Any Unforeseen Additional Parts or Tools You Needed?

Not really. In the nuts and bolts category, a couple extra is always better than the exact amount.

How Long Was the Full Installation Process?

Start to finish for the complete install was about 7 days. The roof work to install racking and panels was 4 days. It took 3 days to complete all the electrical and setting the inverters.

How Did it Feel to Get Your Solar Project Finished?

The owners of the business are very happy with the install.

Who Else Did You Consider Before Choosing Wholesale Solar?

I only shop at Wholesale Solar.

How Much Did You Save On Your Taxes?

The client will save around $14,000 with the Federal Tax Credit and California’s state incentives combined.

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Should You Buy, Lease, or Loan to Finance Your Solar System? Understanding the Differences Can Save You Big $$$

Should You Buy, Lease, or Loan to Finance Your Solar System? Understanding the Differences Can Save You Big $$$

Buy, Lease, or Loan: Financing Your Solar System Has Never Been Easier

Solar panels are an asset to your home that can increase its value, save you money, and increase your energy independence. For many homeowners, there are two important factors to consider: the cost of entry and the ease of installation. After all, time is money, and if you’re already spending a hefty sum on acquiring your equipment, the added cost and time spent installing it can be problematic. We address the latter by selling only DIY solar kits, for which there is no cost of installation, and the job can be done over a weekend. For the former, we look at the options you have for solar power financing. There are also numerous  incentives, such as the 30% federal tax credit, and state rebates which can drastically lower your cost for going solar in the long run. 

The incentives begin: federal, state, and local

Since 2006, there has been a federal tax credit that underwrites some of the costs of a solar purchase and installation.

The government didn’t have a lot of luck with the original limit of $2,000, so the plan was changed to cover 30% of the total cost of the solar purchase and installation with no upper limit. 

Soon, state governments got involved, offering state-sponsored rebates, subsidies, and grants. Eventually local administrations joined in as well and local utilities agreed to buy excess energy that was fed back into the grid, often at twice the going rate that they were charging for electricity.

solar guide

Free Federal Tax Credit Guide

Learn More »

Why? Because by using a certain percentage of renewable energy, they were granted carbon credits which they could use to offset the pollution they were creating elsewhere.

Both of these programs combined can save you 30-50%, anywhere from $3,000 – $10,000 in the long run, but they’re usually applied after you’ve purchased – which means you still need money up front to actually buy your equipment. Enter your financing options.

solar financing options

Buy, Loan, or Lease?

What if I can’t afford to buy a solar system outright? Can I finance it? Some of our customers have enough in savings to purchase a system in cash, which is what we usually recommend (debt can be dangerous!). However, for those who want to take advantage of the Federal Tax Rebate before it sunsets in 2021, there are other options to help with affordability, such as:

  • Starting with a smaller system, such as our expandable Enphase solar starter kits (starting from just $1000), and adding more panels later. These have the additional upside of being able to squeeze every last watt out of individual panels under different shading conditions.
  • Consider a home equity loan with a local bank or credit union, especially those who participate in the federal PowerSaver loans program (see map of PowerSaver lenders).

If financing your solar system is the only way you can afford one, however, there are financing options available to help alleviate some of the costs. There’s a lot to consider with financing: you’re probably not buying solar purely for ROI, but getting a return on your investment is certainly one of the more enticing factors. Take into consideration how much you’re going to spend buying the solar system, how much you’re going to get back from federal and state incentives, and how long the system is going to take to pay for itself by offsetting your utility bill costs over the years, and you’ve got a good idea of what to expect. Let’s take a look at the three forms of financing, and their various benefits and drawbacks.

Buy:

  • If you buy it, you own it.
  • There is a fixed, predictable period of time over which it will pay for itself (The “payback period” of 3-6 years, depending on the install), after which it is pure profit (the ROI – Return on Investment).
  • It increases the value of your home.
  • You get to keep all of the subsidies, grants, and tax credits;
  • You get paid for extra power production if your utility allows net metering.
  • In most cases you can claim the interest on your loan to purchase the system as a deduction on your taxes, something you cannot do with the solar lease program;
  • Systems are very reliable; they hardly ever need maintenance aside from a scheduled inverter replacement a decade or two later. Inverters come with a warranty of 10 years (upgradeable to 20 or 25).
  • Upfront cost using your own money, often as a lump sum.

Lease:

  • The “zero-down” claims are not entirely true. You may not be giving them cash money, but by signing that power purchase agreement (PPA) or lease, you are giving them your 30% federal tax credit and any eligible state or local incentives. You’re giving them the thousands upon thousands of dollars that should rightfully be in your pocket or your bank account.
  • When all the adding up is finally done, you’ll discover that you paid the leasing company more than twice as much as it would have cost you to purchase the system yourself and finance it. With the available incentives it should cost less than $2 per watt (all-in) to install your solar system if you DIY it (like many of our customers do; see our Customer Installs of the Month)
  • Leasing is still a commitment, your panels and systems are installed on the home, but can be repossessed and uninstalled if you fall behind on payments.
  • Leasing IS however a great option if you’re more concerned about offsetting your power bill and using renewable energy sources instead.
  • If you lease a solar system, you are not responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and operation of it – that falls under the responsibility of the lenders, giving you some added peace of mind, especially if your solar system is on a vacation home or summer getaway.

Loan:

  • FHA PowerSaver Loans are available to qualified applicants in many states. These loans help cover the cost of solar installation (among other green energy improvements) and come with a reasonable interest rate.
  • With a loan, you’re paying back both the solar system’s costs and anything you owe on your mortgage, property taxes, etc, making any ROI or utility bill offset negligible until the loan is paid.
  • Loans can often be paid off in 10 to 20 years, which means you may be paying them off for the entire life of the solar system – by the time your loan is paid off, you may need to replace vital components to keep your solar system functioning.
  • A loan is, however, a “quick fix” solution for funding your solar system. Assuming you have the credit to qualify for one, this can be a desirable solution at the cost of a delayed return on your investment.

The Takeaway

Leasing or getting a loan for solar panels is a great idea… for the lender. It is not a consumer-friendly business model. In our recovering economy, loans and solar leases no longer make sense. Those two methods actually represent the most expensive ways for consumers to use solar energy. They were designed for investors to take advantage of a market in recession, not to help homeowners install solar.

Even more insidious is the escalator payment scheme, which allows leasing companies to increase your payment rate by 3% per year for 20 years. By year 20 you’re paying more than 175% of what you paid in year one.

By contrast, buying your panels outright saves you more and more money every year you own it. Even if you have to finance it, with a low enough interest rate there is still a good potential for positive payback.

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Install of the Month – October 2017

Install of the Month – October 2017

"Solar After the Storm" with Cyril Richardson

Have you ever weathered a hurricane?

Come face-to-face with the wind and the rain as it blows at you with twice the speed of a car on the freeway?

It’s one of the most powerful, terrifying experiences on Earth—and Cyril Richardson and his family went through it twice.

First, in early September, 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated the US Virgin Islands that Cyril calls home.

But then, just as they were only starting to wrap their heads around recovery, Cyril, his wife, and their two children had to stare down Hurricane Maria—their second category 5 storm in two weeks.

They made it through both safely, but, like thousands of other Virgin Island residents, they found themselves without power—and with no real hope of having it restored for months.

Luckily, before the hurricanes were even a concern, Cyril had started looking into solar systems. What had started as a plan to simply offset his utility bill quickly became a lifeline.

After considering his options, he chose Wholesale Solar as his supplier, working with Solar Technician Jeremy Allan, who helped design and deliver a custom system within 8 days.

Cyril and his family installed an off-grid system—the obvious choice, given the power system in the USVIs. To cope with both the rough weather and the requirements of his home, Jeremy helped Cyril settle on the dependability of The Ranch 8.85 KW system; this set-up both suits his needs now and can be programmed to work as grid-assisted once power is restored next year.

Cyril Richardson: In his own words

What kind of system did you install?

I bought an off-grid system, which just made more sense for the situation here. The power won’t be restored here for almost nine months, so it makes perfect sense to provide my own power and become self-sufficient.

What kind of battery bank did you get and why?

A 16-AGM (Absorbed Gas Mat) battery bank because it requires little-to-no maintenance. That makes it useful for going off-grid.

Did you have any previous DIY experience?

I own a company that builds and maintains reverse-osmosis water treatment, so I’ve done hands-on work in the past.

Was there anything difficult about the installation?

Pulling the wire through the conduit was a bit more difficult than I expected it to be, but I managed. There was some heavy lifting involved, so I had a couple of guys assist me with carrying the panels onto the roof. I definitely appreciated having extra help.

The batteries for the system were delayed unexpectedly, due to shortages. We were able to work with the manufacturer to ensure the quickest delivery of the freshest set of batteries, however. In the meantime I helped Cyril use batteries that he already had on-site to get his system up and running.
–  Solar Tech Jeremy Allen.

Did everything go smoothly?

I had everything I needed already, and was able to do it without hiring a contractor. It took about 14 hours after everything was said and done. The installation process went smoothly, and there weren’t any major delays.

How did it feel to get your solar project finished?

Very excited! It felt great to finish a project this big and to have power restored to my home. It’s a great relief to have the lights on and everything functioning again.

Did you consider anyone else before choosing Wholesale Solar?

I looked at a few other companies here in the Virgin Islands, but none of them offered the same independence or DIY ease-of-installation that Wholesale Solar did.

What was your total solar install cost?

After everything was said and done my total install cost was around $30,000.

Cyril's Solar Breakdown:

  • Cost of Contractor: None
  • Cost of Electrician: None
  • Total Hours to install: 14 hours
  • Design Output of kWh per year: 15,000-16,000 kWh
  • Federal Tax Incentive: Qualifies for $10,000 U.S. Federal Tax Credit
  • Utility rates per kWh: 13.12 cents/kWh
  • Average Monthly Utility cost: was $175
  • Feed-in Tariff/Net Metering Issues: None (once Grid is Up)

Questions about Cyril's install? Ask us in the comments below.

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Brooklyn Microgrid: The Future of Solar For the Sharing Economy

Brooklyn Microgrid: The Future of Solar For the Sharing Economy

The Sharing Economy Could Be the Future of the Energy Industry

Brooklyn, New York is paving the way for a new system, and it’s called the microgrid. Combining state-of-the-art software with solar power, the Brooklyn Microgrid is a small-scale proof-of-concept that could prove to be the future of the energy industry.

Brooklyn is a densely-packed urban environment, with little room for new buildings and a good distance from the nearest power plant. What it does have a surplus on, however, is roof space. The Microgrid takes full advantage of this, with solar panels on most of the rooftops allowing the 50 or so initial participants to gather energy from the sun. The microgrid’s system offsets the local power grid, and users take advantage of net metering and green energy credits.

Those are just the standard benefits that come from solar power, however. 

microgrid conceptual power flow
In the future, sustainable community microgrids like this could provide power for entire cities, with solar and wind farms distributing power to homes, businesses, and other utilities hooked into their own self-sustaining grid.

Stabilizing City Infrastructure

So why is the Brooklyn Microgrid such a revolutionary idea? It reinforces city infrastructure and can provide emergency power in the event of an outage.

One of the biggest challenges facing communities is that when the power grid goes down – especially due to hurricanes or other extreme weather, people are cut off. It can take days or even weeks to restore it. There are only three main power grids in the US. If just one of these goes down or is disrupted – like we saw with Hurricane Katrina in 2005 – tens of thousands of homes could be without electricity. 

But with a microgrid, a community is able to sustain itself during an emergency. This reinforces the infrastructure of the city as a whole, functioning independently when other systems fail. By relying on renewable sources, such as solar, this makes the microgrid far more reliable and resistant to failure. 

four reasons microgrids are effective

Secure, Sharable, and Locally-Sourced

Using Blockchain, a secure, encrypted data transfer method used for currencies such as Bitcoin, Microgrid users pay each other for their power, creating a micro-economy. This micro-economy benefits all participants, whether they’re “prosumers” producing solar power with solar systems installed on their roofs or “consumers” who rely on the power produced by their neighbors.

Right now, the Microgrid is just an experiment. Small-scale transactions and energy usage monitoring ensure that everything is running smoothly. LO3 and Siemens Digital Grid Division monitor all information, in hopes that the city of New York will grant the system proper market status and permission to function in a full-scale capacity. If the project is a success and the permits are awarded, however, the microgrid system could be applied to other cities all over the US.

The Brooklyn Microgrid represents a way forward for both the community using it and the sharing economy as a whole. Much like Uber, AirBnB, and TaskRabbit, the Brooklyn Microgrid cuts through the bureaucracy and red tape that a normal power grid requires, and if implemented on a wider scale in the future, could change the way we power our homes for good.

The President to Decide on The Future of Solar Panel Costs

The President to Decide on The Future of Solar Panel Costs

The International Trade Commission (ITC) will hold a vote on the trade case’s proposed remedies in October 2017, and in November, the ITC will take the case to the President, who has until January 12, 2018, to take action.

Greentech Media Spells out exactly what happens in each phase of the 201 trade case through 2018 with this helpful timeline above.

Frequent readers will recall we covered the beginnings of a Trade Dispute Casting a Shadow Over Solar’s Bright Future a few months back. Suniva and SolarWorld, two of the leading solar manufacturers in the US, allege that cheaper solar products imported from abroad, especially China, are having a negative impact on profits and sustainability for American businesses.

The ITC is moving forward with the Section 201 Trade Case, affirming the precedent that these lower prices on overseas products are indeed harming American manufacturers.

Suniva’s recommended remedy has changed several times over the course of the case, based on current market trends and recommendations from various authorities and lawmakers. The main remedies proposed have been to impose a tariff- an import tax on overseas solar products, and a quota – a restriction on the amount of solar panels and modules that can be imported from foreign manufacturers.

Initially, Suniva proposed a tariff of $0.32/watt that would drop to $0.29/watt after 4 years. Following discussions and delegations, this proposed tariff has been reduced to $0.25/watt that would fall to $0.23/watt after 4 years. Although that amount doesn’t seem like much money, those watts add up, and in total solar projects will cost 10-20% more with the tariff in place.

More troubling is the proposed quota – a restriction on the amount of solar equipment imported from foreign manufacturers. The current proposed quota is 220 MW and 5,700 MW worth of cells and modules respectively imported from foreign sources. Restricting the flow of solar cells and modules from non-US manufacturers effectively cripples the available supply, which, if demand continues to increase (as it has been on track to project over the next few years) will drive up prices considerably.

A third option has also been presented, and would ideally be the best solution: a manufacturing tax subsidy. This would essentially incentivize foreign manufacturers to establish factories in the US, manufacturing on US soil, providing jobs, and eliminating the need for import tariffs and fees.

Whatever the outcome, the solar industry is in for a shakeup. DIY suppliers like www.altestore.com, boxedsolar.com, and www.wholesalesolar.com allow you to cut costs on the overhead – even if system prices go up 10-20%. When you’re ready to start planning your solar project, make sure to talk to an experienced solar technician first.  They can help you through the designing process.

TIP: Don’t forget to file for the 30% Tax Credit and pay less on your income tax.

Install of the Month – September 2017

Install of the Month – September 2017

A Long Install With a Big Payoff, with Larry E.

This month we get a look at an install that took a little while, but paid off in a big way for Larry E. Working for three months on-and-off (weather permitting), he was able to build a stellar ground-mounted solar power system on his property, with 24 solar modules providing plenty of power to his home.

Larry was great to work with. Easy going, confident and comfortable with DIY with good previous knowledge of grid tied solar.
– Solar tech Salesperson Zach S.

Larry had a little help for a day or so, but after that he was on his own, installing his system one panel at a time over the course of the project – although he also hired an electrician to help out towards the end. Larry has been a general contractor for 45 years, so installing on his own was no problem and he was no stranger to DIY projects!

Interview with Larry

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

The project took me 3 months, but it was only “part time” – working on my solar installation when I had the free time to do so. It took a bit of time to finish since I wasn’t able to commit full days of work to the project.

How many people did it take?

I had two people helping with the installation for one day, but after that, I was on my own. Towards the end, I hired an electrician to help me with the wiring and final testing before we flipped the system on.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I’ve worked as a general contractor for 45 years, so a DIY project such as this was right up my alley.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

Permitting my solar system and dealing with the utility company was the hardest part of the process. Getting my paperwork in order and checking everything off with my local AHJ was a difficult step that took a lot longer than I expected it to.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

There were a couple of tools I didn’t have in my toolbox: a 10-150 in/lb torque wrench, a DC disconnect, and a Kwh meter. The torque wrench I could pick up at my hardware store, but the other two items were a bit more difficult to find. 

How/Why did you choose to self-install and add solar to your home?

Primarily to save money on my monthly utility bills, the choice to install solar was an easy one once I realized how much I could save each month, and with the size of the array I installed, I expect my decision to pay off very quickly.

Larry’s primary objective was to save money and make a solid investment. We collaborated on components for the system, with the Suniva sale, and it being a ground mount I recommended the 340’s as it is all ground work so easier to handle bigger panels, and there were no space constraints
– Solar tech Salesperson Zach S.

Components in Larry’s System:

Install of the Month – August 2017

Install of the Month – August 2017

A Real Contender of an Installation with Rocky H.

This month’s install is a real contender, with a difficult project that took three hard, 12-hour-long days of work to complete, proving that with a little patience, anyone can be a champion.

Rocky H., the champion in question, rose to the challenge and ended up with an exceptional solar array for his home!

An “extreme DIY’er,” Rocky H. had no professional construction background but built his own house, garage, and workshop by himself.

“There was a large learning curve as I didn’t know anything about solar or DC wiring/properties, but it wasn’t anything that can’t be learned.  You don’t have to be a licensed electrician to complete a solar system.  Willingness to learn and research what you don’t know will get you there.”
– Rocky H.

Rocky had the help of a little manpower from friends and family, as well as a 60ft. man-lift to help reach the rooftop a bit easier – with an 8/12 pitched roof, a ladder wouldn’t be quite as simple!

Interview with Rocky

How long was the full installation process from receiving your equipment to flipping the switch?

I ordered my equipment in May, but didn’t start installing until June. I had some things to install on my existing electrical systems before starting on the solar system. The actual installation took 3 twelve hour days. I installed the disconnect and inverter before starting on the roof. It took about 4 hours. The electrical inspection was two days later, and the system test with my utility company was two days after the electrical inspection. I will admit I had all my i’s dotted and my t’s crossed!

How many people did it take?

The first two days, it was just my father in law and I. We installed all the anchor points for the racking and then the racking itself. The second day we installed all the optimizers, optimizer cabling, grounded the racking system and starting running wiring to the inverter. The third day I had two more friends help. Finished up wiring to the inverter first thing in the morning and then installed all the panels. The 36 panels took us about 6 hours.  It probably would have taken twice as long if we didn’t use a man-lift. I used a 60 ft. man-lift as I have an 8/12 pitched roof and the peak is about 40 ft high. I would recommend one if you can get one. It’s much easier than hauling everything on a ladder. Unless you have a big crew.

Did you have any previous construction experience?

I have never worked in construction, but I built my house, garage, and workshop.  I’ve also helped my friends with their projects, etc. I’m 37 years old. I’m an extreme DIYer. I would say my working knowledge is probably better than most. There was a large learning curve as I didn’t know anything about solar or DC wiring/properties, but it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be learned. You don’t have to be a licensed electrician to complete a solar system. Willingness to learn and research what you don’t know will get you there. Will Burlin at Wholesale Solar was a big help. I probably came in thinking I knew more than I did, but he helped me bridge the gap on things I didn’t have experience with — like derating a panel to land a large enough breaker for my system. Trying to wrap my head around that one was interesting.

“Will Burlin at wholesale solar was a big help. I probably came in thinking I knew more than I did, but he helped me bridge the gap on things I didn’t have experience with like derating a panel to land a large enough breaker for my system. Trying to wrap my head around that one was interesting.”
– Rocky H.

What was the most difficult part of the installation?

This may sound lame, but I stressed a ton about locating the center of my trusses. You can try to measure from the end of your roof, but that isn’t always accurate. I couldn’t find them using a stud finder, so I ended up doing it the old fashioned way and used a hammer and my ear just like finding a stud in the wall. It was pretty dang accurate. Within 3/8’’. Pounded a nail where the sound was more solid. If it was off, the flashing from the anchor would cover it easily. Overthought that part 100 times over. Also stressed about handling the DC wires coming from the optimizers. Was afraid of getting shocked, etc. After a little research, I found out that each panel in the string would carry approximately 1V until activated by the inverter. The system comes in many parts and seeing it sitting in my garage for a month before I attempted the install was intimidating. I just hoped it would all fall together once I began… and it did! The way they piece the system together makes it easier. I didn’t have to cut any of the rails. They come in lengths that seem to go together for any number of panel rows. All the paperwork they gave me had all the answers I would need. There were several attachments emailed to me that I had to read a couple of time before they were clear.

Were there any unforeseen additional parts or tools you needed?

There really weren’t any tools. Like I said before, I over-researched the process. I have most tools a general contractor would have, so I was ready. The one tool I’d recommend if you have a shingled roof is a Dasco shingle ripper pry bar. $20 on Amazon. It worked way better than a regular pry bar, saving me a ton of time. I found a guy using it for his panels via YouTube. You’ll have to supply the AC wiring and the breaker from the inverter to the disconnect and then to wherever you connect to the utility (meter socket, sub-panel). Any conduit needed. Metal conduit for DC/strings to inverter and metal or PVC conduit for AC wiring. I think labels now come with Wholesale Solar packages, I didn’t get any with mine (Our solar packages now come with a 55 piece pack of labels designed to meet 2017 NEC – Ed.) . I also had to supply some engraved plastic labels required from the electrical inspector and a couple from the local utility. pvlabels.com got them to me in 3 days and cheap!

How/Why did you choose to self-install?

My neighbor had a system installed by a contractor. I started asking him questions and we both thought we could install it ourselves and save a bunch of money. We were right! I have a 4,000 sq ft home and also a 2,000 sq ft home and was tired of high utility bills! Plus there are great rebates and tax savings. I’ll get 30-45% of my money back in tax credits and rebates.

“Rocky was on top of all the technical aspects of his project, he had clearly done his research and was asking all the right questions. Besides a little advice here and there, and a quick revision of the diagram, everything was smooth sailing”
– Wil Burlin, Solar Technician

What was your primary reason for adding a DIY Solar Kit to your home?

To save money.  After all my expenses it only came to $15,000. Another neighbor had a similar size system installed for over $26,000.(my system is a little larger too). I will be saving hundreds per month!

Anything else you’d like to add?

I will say I was a little skeptical to work with any solar company. I was afraid that after giving them money that I would be left in the wind if I ran into problems. Wholesale Solar really helped with everything. Everything from ordering to shipping was pretty easy. They provided all the engineering required for permitting and required by my local utility. I had a couple questions about grounding and some other minor things that were answered within a day if not the same day. At the end I needed my line diagram changed for my final inspection. My rep was on vacation, but another rep stepped in an handled it the same day. My rep came back the next day and made sure I had what I needed. There was a point were I got really frustrated with my rep because I couldn’t understand some of the technical aspect (derating I mentioned earlier) and my rep was very patient with me. I will be honest, I’m not the easiest person to deal with. My patience is really short when dealing with salespeople. But these guys aren’t pushy. They are really laid back. They don’t seem like they are pushing for a sale. They must really love solar! (We do! – Ed.) I’m now thinking about installing a system on my business office!

Components in Rocky’s 11.16 kW Grid-Tied System

Questions about Rocky’s install? Ask us in the comments below.

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Go Solar While You Still Can: Trade Dispute Casts a Shadow on The Industry’s Bright Future

Go Solar While You Still Can: Trade Dispute Casts a Shadow on The Industry’s Bright Future

Business Tactics Dimming Solar Prospects At Home and Abroad

Go solar while you still can: 2017 may see the end of solar’s rapid growth period – at least, for the moment. Recent trade disputes between Suniva and overseas solar manufacturers are set to spark a significant increase in the price of solar panels before the year is out, which could spell doom for the already-struggling American solar industry. This dispute comes hot on the heals of SolarWorld’s insolvency in Germany – the company currently survives only in its Portland, Oregon-based offices (with manufacturing in nearby Hillsboro, Oregon).

In 2011, SolarWorld was right there alongside Suniva – alleging that Chinese manufacturers used unfair practices through government subsidies to finance the manufacture of solar products at a much cheaper cost than American competitors could manage – in some cases allowing those manufacturers to sell their product for lower prices than were even required to build them. Essentially, the case alleged that Chinese manufacturers were undercutting their overseas counterparts illegally. The American manufacturers (six in all, including Suniva and SolarWorld) won that case, and now 2017 sees a new battle in the ongoing trade war.

Suniva has requested that the International Trade Commission look into the impact that imported solar cells and modules (and their lower pricing) has on domestic solar manufacturers – alleging that the competition has dissuaded the development of American solar products in favor of cheaper, less regulated foreign products. At Suniva’s urging, the ITC is taking a thorough look at the case – but if they decide to act on the company’s proposed tariffs and pricing increases, industry experts are worried it could put solar power in a downward slump for the foreseeable future.

The Price of Trade War

With the proposed price increases, solar power would reportedly be set back to pre-2012 levels in terms of pricing for equipment and 2015 levels for installation – a nearly 40% increase, which would be disastrous for many solar projects – including California’s recently-announced renewable energy initiative. Some sources suggest even greater increases – predicting solar cells and modules could rise nearly 70% in costs!

Suniva tariff price increase predictions

Industry experts estimate, should Suniva’s proposed tariffs and price increases be approved, 47 Gigawatts (GW) of planned photovoltaic projects currently in the works could be canceled – to give some indication of how much 47GW is, that’s enough power to keep the lights on for over 4,000 American homes for an entire year. And that’s just the basic wattage of the proposed systems – they would provide continuous power for residential and industrial projects for years to come if installed.

Buy Solar While it’s Still Affordable!

The only good news in this potential trade deal is that you, the DIY customer, will be largely unaffected. Low prices are a market expectation that customers have come to know and love, so most retailers are locked in. The trade war and its looming price increases largely effect industrial and municipal solar projects, which while bad for the country as a whole, have little effect on retail. Utility projects will be worst hit, and many planned projects may well be abandoned, so if you’re a residential customer whose on-the-grid power is currently or will in the future be provided by solar – now might be the time to look into a DIY system. Save yourself money and spare the politics by switching to a grid-tied or off-grid solar system to cut costs and avoid the hassle that comes with being a utility company customer. But act fast, as this trade war shows, the market can change on a dime, and you may not have long before prices skyrocket! Many manufacturers who sell to utility projects also provide solar installation for residential customers, so they may raise prices there to compensate for the difference, so don’t wait.

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