New Jersey BySolar
973.784.4191 Renewable Energy Systems for Businesses & Residences

Whether we’re meeting with potential clients or making small talk with people who’ve just learned we work in the solar industry, my coworkers and I always seem to get asked the same questions about solar electric systems. We’ve compiled a list of the 5 most frequently asked questions and answered them here.

    1. How much electricity will the system generate and how will it affect my monthly bill?

    Without being too vague, it all depends on the size of your system. A knowledgeable installer will design your system based on two things: the area selected for the solar system and your previous 12 months of electric bills. Roof mounted PV system installations are more limited in space than ground mount systems, but other factors like shading and direction of the sun also play an important role in how much space is available for solar panels. Your electric bills are important because they show the maximum amount of your electrical consumption during the year. This is the amount of electricity that the solar system designer will attempt to meet when selecting the equipment and configuring your panel arrangement. (In NJ, a grid-tied solar system cannot be sized larger than historical electric consumption at the meter.)

    Most homes and businesses cannot cover 100% of their electric needs with a solar energy system, but your installer should be able to give you an idea of how much electricity the system will displace and it should amount to a substantial portion of your monthly bill. Don’t forget that it is possible for your system to generate more electricity than you are using at any particular time (such as during the day when no one is home) and you can benefit from NJ’s Net Metering incentive.

    2. How much does a solar power system cost and what is my Return on Investment (ROI)?

    The cost of a solar system largely depends on its size and the equipment being installed. As with anything else you may buy, solar panels and its accompanying equipment range in price depending on factors such as efficiency, warranty period, where it’s made, etc. However, even with the cheapest materials, the price will probably come as a shock to most people – you can expect to pay roughly: $6/watt for a system less than 10 kW, $5/watt for a system 10 – 100 kW, $4/watt for a system 100 kW – 1 MW, and $3.50/watt for anything over 1 MW.

    Fortunately, there are many incentives available to homeowners and businesses that help make a solar energy installation more affordable. Depending on how they’re utilized, these incentives can be used to pay off the system’s costs sooner and increase the ROI. Your solar installer should be able to tell you what you qualify for and how it will affect your system’s price and ROI before you sign a contract.

    Bottom line: A solar system is an investment. Although it will cost you a decent chunk of money up front, the system will pay for itself in a few years. Once you reach that breakeven point, you’ll continue to benefit from the electrical savings for the remainder of the system’s life (approximately 30 years).

    3. How much maintenance is required for solar panels?

    Very little! Unless you own a tracking PV system, there are no moving parts that need to be examined for wear and tear. An occasional visual inspection will let you know if you need to rinse off any dust, pollen, bird droppings, or leaves that may settle on your panels – and this can be done with a regular garden hose!

    4. Will I still have electricity from my solar system if there’s a power outage from the utility company?

    No. The National Electrical Code requires any grid-tied PV system to immediately shut down during a power outage in order to prevent the energy it produces from harming any line workers who are fixing the power grid. If keeping the power on during a power outage is your goal, you can install a battery backup system with your solar energy system for an additional cost.

    5. Should I wait to install a solar energy system in case prices come down?

    While it’s true that panel and equipment prices are decreasing, you have to keep in mind that many of the current incentives won’t be around if you wait too long. Although the federal government has extended some of its solar energy incentives in the past, it won’t announce if the current incentives set to expire at the end of 2011 will be renewed until the last few weeks of the year. Furthermore, the sale price of SRECs is falling quickly now that there is a surplus on the market. The lower the SREC selling price, the longer it will take you to break even on your system and start making a profit.

    Additionally, for every month you choose not to invest in a solar electric system, you’re paying full price for your utility supplied electricity at a rate that will continue to increase in the future.

Whether you’re just starting to research solar energy systems or you’re ready to get one installed today, don’t hesitate to ask questions. Solar systems cost a lot of money and the more answers you receive, the better you’ll feel about your investment. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about solar energy.

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