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Before considering a solar system, energy efficiency improvements in your home should be considered. Lowering your energy
use will assist in lowering the cost of your solar system because a smaller system may be installed. Not to mention, energy efficiency is usually a faster return on your investment!
Roof top solar is powered by sunlight. When the sun is shining the PV cells convert the sunlight into electricity, and inverters transform this energy from DC power into AC power so it can power everything in your home. Want to learn more? Here is info on the process and the equipment used.
a. How Solar Works
Individual photovoltaic (PV) cells are connected to panels. These solar panels convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. An Inverter converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) for electricity in the home.
b. PV Cells
Photovoltaic (PV) cells, or solar cells, take advantage of the photoelectric effect to produce electricity. PV cells are the building blocks of all PV systems because they are the devices that convert sunlight to electricity. When light shines on a PV cell, it may be reflected, absorbed, or pass right through. But only the absorbed light generates electricity. The energy of the absorbed light is transferred to electrons in the atoms of the PV cell.
One of the most important components of any solar unit is the solar power inverter, which converts the direct current (DC) that photovoltaic solar cells produce into alternating current (AC). Types of inverters to consider:
On or Off Grid -
- Grid tied Inverters – are connected to the electric utility distribution system. The connected solar system allows you to power your home or small business with renewable energy when the sun is shining. Any excess electricity you produce is fed back into the utility distribution system grid. When the solar system is not running electricity from the utility (grid) supplies your needs. Having the utility as your energy back up source eliminates the needs to purchase costly energy storage device, such as batteries.
- Stand Alone Inverters (off-grid solar arrays) – are not connected to the electric utility distribution system. In remote locations off-grid solar arrays can be more cost-effective than extending a power line to connect to the electricity grid. Off-grid solar arrays may also be used by people who live near the grid and wish to obtain independence from the power provider or demonstrate a commitment to non-polluting energy sources.
String or Micro-Inverters
- String Inverters - All solar modules are connected in series to a DC electric cable, which is then connected to a single remotely mounted inverter box. The inverter box is typically mounted on a wall by the home’s main AC electrical panel. This creates a very centralized system with a limited amount of labor required to install.
- Micro-Inverters - Instead of having one inverter for the entire array, a micro-inverter could be installed on each panel or every few panels. The micro-inverters convert the DC to AC right at the module; then, AC wires run from the module to the home’s main AC electrical panel. Each micro-inverter would be handling lower voltage and therefore may not wear out as quickly. Micro-inverters allow the system to be more efficient and therefore produce more energy.
When designing a solar system, it’s important to consider what type of inverter will be used with the modules you will install.
- Traditional String Inverter Method - When set up in the traditional method, a solar array is only as efficient as the least efficient panel. If you have five (5) 200 watt panels, but one of them is shaded or dirty such that it’s only producing at 50% efficiency, then the entire system will only work at 50% efficiency. That means that instead of producing 1,000 watts, the system would only produce 500 watts. Additionally, inverters are currently sized according to the number and type of solar panels on the roof, and if a home owner wanted to add more panels in the future that may require a different inverter with a larger capacity.
- Traditional String Inverter with Optimizers Method - Adding DC power optimizers to the panels of a traditional string inverter method can solve most of the above string inverter challenges. Power optimizers optimally tune the performance of the solar panel to match the performance of the string inverter to improve overall performance. They are especially useful when the performance of the solar panels will vary widely, such as differences in equipment, shading, being installed facing different directions or widely separated locations.
- Micro- Inverter Method – In a micro-inverter installation, each panel has a micro-inverter on it. If one panel is dirty or shaded only that panel would be affected. So in the scenario with five (5) 200 watt panels, this time with micro-inverters, one panel would be at 50% and therefore producing only 100 watts, but the other four (4) would still be at 100% producing 200 watts for a total of 900 watts. When micro-inverters are being used and the homeowner decides they would like to add more panels, in theory, additional panels with their own micro-inverter could be added to an existing array without needing to replace anything.
The Home Energy Analyzer
is your online source to obtain your last 12 months of energy use. Armed with your account number - log on, enter your account number, answer the questions on the left about your home and hit the ‘Submit’ button to receive your customized report. When moving forward, the actual annual energy production in kWh (kilowatt hours) is the maximum amount of energy production allowed for a solar system on your home. Smaller solar systems may be of any size you choose.
When you purchase a solar system, the purchase of equipment and the installation is paid for up front and you own the equipment.
Ownership can come in a variety of ways – you may pay cash for the system, take out a loan, open a line of credit, refinance your home or enter into a PACE Program.
Placer County offers a financing opportunity to residents and businesses of Placer County, mPOWER
. This is a regional program to promote more efficient use of water and energy and enable property owners to reduce energy costs – energy efficiency, water efficiency and renewable projects may qualify. The financing model used in mPOWER loans is a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), where the financed amount is amortized and the annual amount due is added to your property tax bill each year until paid in full. If the property is sold, the equipment and the unpaid amount stay with the property.
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers FHA Title 1 Home and Property Improvement Loans
and information on how to finance a home improvement.
You own the equipment and are responsible for the operation and maintenance. You may consider entering into a service agreement for maintenance and repairs.
Yes! You will still receive a monthly utility bill. The installation of a solar system does not eliminate the monthly utility bill unless your system is “off-grid”. Remember, your solar system energy production is offsetting just the kilowatt hour portion of your bill. If the system is financed by a loan, lease or PPA agreement, you will now receive both a utility bill and a bill from your third party finance agency.
These helpful links provide additional information: Understanding Your Bill
points out how to read important aspects of your monthly utility bill; and the current Residential Electric Rate
link will describe the utility bill structure and monthly charges.
This question is often asked and the answer is – it depends! There is no one answer since each installation is different and each home uses energy specifically to their family’s needs. After you’ve learned more about solar, talk to at least three solar contractors and evaluate your options.
Initial System Cost
Installed costs of solar are coming down, but it is hard to say what your system will cost until you obtain quotes from contractors. Over the years the installed price per watt has reduced down from $10 per watt to typically less than $8 per watt. It is important to talk to at least three contractors to obtain a clear understanding of your installation and the potential costs. This way you can make an educated decision on the purchase of your solar system.
If you’re paying cash or obtaining a loan for your system, be aware there are a number of factors that vary from home to home and installation to installation. These factors affect the initial cost of the solar system. The initial system cost divided by the cost of the energy offset by solar will provide you with an estimated return on your investment.
- Quantity of Panels
- Type of Inverter
- Mounting Design
- Equipment Options
- Labor Costs
- Infrastructure Improvements
- Purchase Option
When you’re leasing your system or entering into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for your system, initial costs aren’t usually a factor. With these purchase arrangements you’ll be evaluating the energy offset costs of the system. See the Purchasing Option section for more information on leases and PPAs.
Energy Offset Cost
The initial cost of the solar system may not be the only question to ask. Consider obtaining answers for “What is the cost of the energy (kilowatt hour) produced by the solar system proposed for my home?”, “What is my current cost of energy from the utility?” and “How do they compare?”
Once the system is designed, the contractor will run a program to estimate how much energy the system designed specifically for your home is expected to produce. The same system facing a different orientation on someone else’s home will produce a different amount of energy. Energy, or kilowatt hours (kWh), is what will offset your electric utility bill. Make sure you understand how much energy is produced by the solar system each month and how it will offset your monthly bill. Your Home Energy Analyzer report will show you how much energy you use each month when you enter your account number and run the report.
Due to the angle of the sun and weather conditions, solar systems produce less energy during the winter months than they do during the summer months, so try to understand the monthly generation. Ask your contractor to show you the California Solar Initiative Expected Performance Based Buy Down Calculation (CSI-EPBB) report for the expected performance of your solar project.
Visit the online Solar Calculator to obtain information to assist you with this analysis. The calculator is designed as a tool to provide you with a guideline of how solar may benefit your location. Resulting calculations are based on average customer use with an ideally placed solar system with complete sun access. The situation at your location will be different; ask your contractor to help you with a system cost analysis specific to your location.
Creating energy efficiency inside the home is an important step before going solar. Reducing your energy needs is typically more cost effective than going solar; and reducing your energy use also means you can install a smaller, less costly solar system. Check out our Lower My Bill
page to help you get started.
When you lease a solar system you agree to pay a monthly rent (lease) payment in exchange for the right to use all of the power produced by the PV system. You do not own the equipment.
Leasing a solar system requires a contract, usually for 20 years. Typically there is no large upfront cost associated with a lease, easing the initial burden of ownership. The lease may include an annual price increase, called an escalation, on the monthly payment. Escalations are risky, and may exceed the rate the utility energy (kWh) rate is going up. Ask about pre-paid leases and how that may affect the contract and financial burden.
Most companies provide a guaranteed minimum annual energy (kWh) production for the solar system. Consider various size systems to meet your energy needs. Remember, your energy use changes month to month, and the solar system output varies month to month, but a lease payment is the same each month. Some months you will receive more energy production for your lease payment and other months you will receive less energy for your lease payment.
Talk with your provider about how maintenance and repairs are handled, and what happens if the solar system stops functioning. Before signing the dotted line make sure you understand the terms of the lease agreement and your obligations to ensure a safe and productive solar system installation.
Consider the consequences of the lease contract if you decide to sell your home. Will it be easier or harder to sell? Talk with your lease provider to investigate if the new buyers must qualify to assume your lease and what happens if they don’t qualify.
Homes with solar installations receive special meters called “net meters” that are certified for accuracy when spinning both forwards and backwards recording both the power used from the utility and the surplus generation delivered back to the utility.
What Is a Net Meter and Why Do I Need One?
Most customers have a simple electric meter that is designed to measure the flow of electricity only from Roseville Electric to the customer. To receive the full benefit of your solar system, you need a “net meter” that is designed to spin both forwards and backwards accurately. This is important in solar installations because during high producing times of the day the system may generate more than the home needs, sending excess energy back to the utility. There may be circumstances where two meters are used instead of one, producing the same effect. Customers installing solar will be assessed the cost for the meter upgrade and installation if a net meter is not already installed at the location.
How Does a Net Energy Meter Work?
When the solar system is operating during the day, it is possible to have times during the day when the solar system produces more energy than the home is using. When this happens the excess energy generated automatically goes through the net electric meter into Roseville Electric’s distribution grid, running the meter backwards to credit your account. At other times of the day, your electric use may be higher than the solar system is producing, and you must rely on additional power from Roseville Electric. This forward and backward spinning of the meter is instantaneous as power needs change and will not affect the quality of the electric power supplied.
How Does Roseville Electric Net Meter?
Roseville Electric’s net energy metering rules and processes are generally in line with net metering throughout California. Once the Interconnection Agreement is approved, a service order to install a net meter on the home is issued. Following the net meter installation, the Utilities Billing department updates your account to reflect the location as being on a Net Energy Metering rate, or "NEM". This is a special billing arrangement that provides value to you if you have an active solar PV system at your home or business. Under NEM, your electric net meter keeps track of the “net difference” between the electricity you consume and the electricity you deliver to Roseville Electric within each billing period.
Roseville Electric’s Solar Energy Program allows customers to offset up to 100% of their historical 12-month energy use. With your account number in hand, go to the Home Energy Analyzer
to obtain your last 12 months of energy use. If you have less than 12 months of energy use, download your Property Report
and multiply the developed building square footage by three (3); this is the maximum amount of energy (kilowatt hour) production of a solar system that will be allowed at your location until you have a 12 month history of energy use to evaluate.
This is a big decision – evaluate your options carefully. Will you own it, lease it or enter into a PPA agreement? They all have different financial impacts and are something for you to consider. The ‘Consider Your Purchasing Options’
section will provide additional information on financing options and how they may impact your bottom line.
Customers who install a solar electric system may be enrolled in monthly or annual billing. If not specified, customers are automatically enrolled in monthly billing. To sign up for annual billing, contact the City of Roseville Utilities Billing Department
- Monthly billing is available to all customers with a solar electric system, and this is the default option when a solar system NEM is installed. Customers receive a monthly utility bill for net energy consumption that is due and payable each month, just like you received prior to the solar system installation.
- Annual billing is available for residential customers and small businesses with a maximum yearly demand of 10kW or less. Customers receive a monthly utility bill showing the charges for all services. Annual billing customers may continue to pay for energy charges monthly, but they are eligible to delay payment of energy charges (kWh) to once every 12 months. All other charges, including the monthly electric basic service charge, and water, garbage and sewer, are due and payable every month.
Every month solar electric customers will see the “Current Charges
” and the “Amount Due
” on their monthly utility bill statement. We encourage customers to pay the larger of the two to avoid a large amount due on the annual true-up bill.
City of Roseville encourages customers to carefully read their bills and remain current to avoid a potentially large payment due at the end of 12 months.
The monthly utility statement will only show the net energy used and purchased from the utility. It will not show the amount of energy produced by the PV system. This information you must obtain from your inverter or monitoring device.
If you have questions or would like to change to annual or monthly billing, please contact the Utility Billing office at 916-774-5300.
A PPA is similar to a lease, but the monthly payment is based on an agreed upon price per kilowatt hour (kwh) for each kilowatt hour produced by the solar system rather than a flat monthly charge. You do not own the equipment.
PPAs require a contract, usually for 20 years. Typically there is no large upfront cost associated with a PPA, easing the initial burden of ownership. Read the contract thoroughly. The PPA agreement may include an annual price increase, called an escalation, on the price you will pay for each kilowatt hour (kWh) generated by the solar system. Escalations are risky, and may exceed the rate the utility energy (kWh) rate is going up. Ask if purchase buy-out options are available and how that will affect the contract and financial burden.
Most companies provide a guaranteed minimum annual energy (kWh) production for the solar system. Each month your energy needs and the amount of energy produced by the solar system will change. Compare your monthly needs, and the system's monthly production, to ensure the system size fits your specific needs.
Talk with your provider about how maintenance and repairs are handled. Before signing the dotted line make sure you understand the terms of the PPA agreement and your obligations to ensure a safe and productive solar system installation.
Consider the consequences of the PPA contract if you decide to sell your home. Will it be easier or harder to sell? Talk with your provider to investigate if the new buyers must qualify to assume your PPA agreement and what happens if they don’t qualify.
Want to learn more or dig deeper? We’ve compiled some resources for you to do just that! There is a lot of information on the internet, so consider your sources as you endeavor in your own investigation and learn more about solar. The websites below can be helpful:
Go Solar California
The Go Solar California website provides California consumers a "one-stop shop" for information on solar programs, rebates, tax credits, and information on installing and interconnecting solar electric and solar thermal systems.
Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
US Department of Energy produces information on science-based energy upgrades helping homeowners reduce their energy bills.
Energy Efficiency Homes
and Photovoltaic Technology Basics
An educational website funded by the US Department of Energy dedicated to educating homeowners about solar power options.
National Renewable Energy Lab Solar Photovoltaic Technology Basics
NREL is a national laboratory of the US Department of Energy, operated by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLE.
Solar Power for Your Home
– A Consumer’s Guide
Unless you move 100% off the electrical grid with absolutely no connections to your electric utility, you will continue to have electric bills. After you install solar, the utility will continue to standby and supply power when your system is not producing. Even when your solar system is sized to offset 100% of your energy load there will be months where you purchase energy from the utility and months when you over produce and export back. This is because the solar system produces different amounts of energy each month depending on the sun's angle and the amount of available sunshine. Try our solar calculator to investigate monthly energy use and solar energy production.
For more information on NEM rates see the City of Roseville Municipal Code
14.24.051 Customer-Owned Solar and Wind Electric Generation Rates.
Solar System Monitoring
Once the system is installed, monitoring the energy production will be your means of verifying the solar system is operating properly. Ask your solar contractor what monitoring system comes standard with your solar system, what monitoring upgrade options are available and if there are any costs involved.
Monitoring is used to track and optimize energy production and to reduce long term operational and maintenance costs. Solar system monitoring is available in a multitude of ways. A simple way of monitoring, if you have a string inverter, is to look at the LCD screen and record the information you see on the LCD screen. Other providers may supply a display device to be located in your home or in your garage. And still others may provide an on-line portal to view near real-time energy production graphs. Investigate what is being offered with your system and the options you have available.
At a minimum, monthly monitoring is recommended. More often is better. With monthly monitoring, a system problem or lower than expected energy production may be identified, investigated and fixed providing you with the anticipated rate of return on your investment.
At the end of the year, pull out your solar system contract. Note the estimated annual energy production for your installed system and if there is a performance guarantee. Compare the estimated annual energy production to the actual production obtained from the inverter or monitoring device. Is your solar system performing as anticipated? If not, contact your solar contractor and ask them to investigate.
Solar System Maintenance
Solar systems are low maintenance requiring occasional cleaning, electrical system checks and inverter preventive maintenance checks. Having your system inspected every year or two is recommended. Ask your solar professional for guidance on maintaining your system.
Dirty solar panels are the most common maintenance issue and can significantly reduce the energy production of the solar system. Dust, leaves, twigs, bird waste and soot on or under the solar panels can have a negative effect on the system. Keeping the array clean will boost energy production.
Shading on any portions of the solar array will reduce energy production. Shading of the system was considered by the contractor when your system was designed, and the energy production estimate included existing shading issues. Over time shading on the system may change – trees grow and other obstacles that create shade may occur. Routinely check for shading and investigate if there is an unexpected drop in energy production.
Loose wiring connections, cracked panels or other physical problems with the system may occasionally occur. System maintenance inspections should be performed to ensure safe and reliable operation.
To participate in the Roseville Solar Energy Program, all equipment must carry a 10 year warranty. A solar module has an estimated life of 20 or more years. The solar inverter typically has a shorter estimated life and often is the system component to fail first. Proper care and maintenance of the inverter will help extend its useful life.
Ask the installing contractor about a maintenance contract – talk about cleaning above and below modules, checking all mechanical and electrical connections and wiring, inspection of air ducts and cooling fans and checking expected energy production to actual.
Solar electric power will continue to grow in importance as part of our nation’s total energy portfolio. Why? Here are some reasons….
Improvements in solar electric production technology include:
Increasing Solar Panel Efficiencies
- Simply put, solar panel efficiency is the percentage of sunlight that can be converted into electricity.
- Solar panels are presently rated at about 24% efficient, up significantly since the early 2000’s.
- The expectation is for efficiencies to keep improving. With higher efficiencies, you’ll be able to generate more electricity in less space as designs improve.
Concentrated Solar Electric
- The amount of energy that can be produced by a solar panel is directly proportional to the amount of available light. Concentrated solar amplifies the sunlight to generate more power.
- Concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) uses lenses to concentrate sunlight onto a small area of photovoltaic material to generate energy.
- CPV is presently used in large utility scale solar installations.
Solar Harnessing Infrared Light:
- 40 percent of light from the sun is in the infrared spectrum and is useless to conventional solar.
- Panels that capture all of the light, including the infrared light, may someday be commercially feasible and available.
- This new technology helps solar panels capture sunlight at all ends of the light spectrum, producing more energy without using concentrators.
Hybrid Solar Panels:
- Companies are developing panels that do double duty – the captured light can be used for electricity production and for hot water heating.
- Hybrid systems contain photovoltaic cells and hot-water generating solar thermal tubes.
Solar Panels That Can Work With Indoor Light:
- Solar electric panels are currently designed to work outside in the sunlight.
- Under development are solar products that can harness indoor light to generate electricity.
- The technology is not very effective now, but may someday be common place.
Transparent Solar Panels:
- Solar panels are generally very dark and not transparent.
- Another technology in development is transparent solar panels of a very thin format to roll over a window to generate electricity.
- These products are presently only able to generate enough for small personal appliances and are not very efficient.
Qualified contractors are your key to getting the most productive solar energy system for your home or business, talk to three (3) or more contractors before you make a decision! Contractors will evaluate factors that affect your PV system performance such as the roof size, orientation of the system, shading and other factors. Typically, the contractor will complete the paperwork and apply the City of Roseville Permit and the Solar Energy Program Interconnection on your behalf. The contractor will work with you until the utility provides approval for you to turn the system on.
Learn more about contractors from these online resources:
A solar lease and solar PPA are similar in many ways, but have a few important differences.
Solar Lease vs. Solar PPA Agreement Differences
- In a lease: the customer leases or “rents” the equipment and is entitled to the benefits of using the system. Some leasing companies will guarantee the minimum production of the system. If the system does not meet its production targets, the company may agree to compensate the property owner. Leases may be for a fixed price per month throughout the term of the lease, or may contain an “escalation schedule” where the monthly payment increases each year.
- In a PPA: the customer agrees to buy the power generated by the system at a set price per kWh. This price may be fixed over the length of the PPA agreement or may include an “escalation schedule” where the price per kWh generated by the solar system increases at an agreed upon rate each year. The solar company estimates the production of the system installed at the residence, but only bills for the actual kilowatt hours (kWh) the system produces to offset your energy use.
||Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)
|You “lease” or “rent” the equipment and are entitled to the benefits of using the system, i.e. the free power that the system generates.
||You agree to buy the power generated by the system at a set price per kWh. This price could be fixed over the length of your agreement or the terms could include an “escalation schedule” where the price that you are paying for the power generated would increase at agreed upon rates each year.
|Some leasing companies will guarantee the minimum production of the system. If the system does not meet its production targets, the company agrees to compensate the property owner.
||The solar company estimates the production of the system installed at your property, but you are only required to pay for the actual kilowatt hours (kWh) the system produces.
|Residential lease terms are generally for 20 years, but some leases can be shorter ranging between 10-20 years. Commercial leases also can be customized. They generally range from 7 to 15 years.
||Terms are generally for 20 years, but some PPAs can be shorter ranging between 10-20 years.
|You have the option to buy the solar system at any time during the lease term and/or at the end of the term. The purchase prices will be predefined in your contract.
|The leasing company will monitor the system's performance for the duration of the lease. Because they own the system, they also are responsible for maintaining and repairing it, performing periodic maintenance, replacing inverters, etc.
|Most companies offer free online, smartphone, or tablet programs to track your system's performance. Many property owners choose to monitor their systems to track metrics such as energy produced, savings, SREC information, carbon avoided, etc. for their personal use or in the case of businesses, for marketing or other reporting purposes.
The benefits of owning the system, such as purchase rebates, tax credits, the ability to take depreciation, or other incentives would belong to the leasing company.
|If you have a prepaid lease or PPA, many leasing companies will allow you to benefit from the sale of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) either directly or through a reduction in the lease amount even though they are the owner of the system.
|Similar to applying for a loan, you will need to demonstrate that you have a good credit rating (>660) to qualify.
|Options for terminating the lease in the event you sell your property before the term ends are spelled out in the contract. These options generally include (1) transferring the remainder of the lease to the buyer or (2) you buying the system and selling it along with the property.
|At the end of the lease term, you can either (1) buy the system at the price predetermined in your contract, (2) have the leasing company remove the system at no cost to you, or (3) leave the system in place and renew the lease.
The solar system typically does stop working when the power goes out. Solar electric systems sold for use in California are designed with a power inverter which automatically disconnects from service if the inverter senses a loss of power from the electric utility. The inverter only re-connects the system once utility power has been re-established.
All solar systems that are installed to offset energy use in your home or business are “grid-tied” and must receive a City of Roseville permit and final permit approval before the system may be turned on. The contractor usually takes care of this for you. This is one of two approvals that are required before you obtain Permission to Operate. For additional information see the Residential PV Packet
Roseville Electric’s current and historical rate sheets
are posted on-line for your reference. Over the years the utility has been slowly adjusting the rate structures to capture fixed costs in the Basic Service charge rather than in the energy (kilowatt hour, kWh) charge. The 2011, 2013 and 2014 rate adjustments show this trend, you’ll see the basic service charge going up over the years and the cost per kilowatt hour remaining stable.
Looking to the future, utility staff is investigating “smart meters
” as a technology upgrade to the standard electrical meters that are on homes and businesses today. If the utility decides to replace the existing meter with “smart meters”, this will arm the utility with the information needed to create new, more appropriate rate structures in the future. Stay tuned by reading the utility Dispatch and Power Partners newsletters that are sent out to residences and businesses. Any rate changes made will be well communicated to you, our valued customer.
To learn more about our energy rates visit 12.24.040, 12.24.050, and 12.24.051 of the City of Roseville Municipal Code
Have you heard of the Solar Rights Act? Or the Solar Shade Act? Yes, there are laws and regulations allowing consumers with rights to install solar if they choose. Here is some helpful information on that subject.
What Are Your Rights to Get Access to the Sun?
- You may have questions about whether your neighbors can block access to your solar panels with shading.
- Additionally, can Covenants, Codes, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) limit your use of solar?
- State laws in California protect homeowner access to the sun for systems, and these laws have been in place for more than 30 years.
- Many homes today are part of planned communities that require a uniform and consistent appearance within the development. The California Solar Rights Act and the Solar Shade Act provide important information for homeowners considering to go solar.
Solar Rights Act (AB3250, 1978)
- The Solar Rights Act was created in 1978 (AB 3250, 1978), and it created a legal framework for solar access.
- The law includes protections to allow consumers access to sunlight (and prevent shading of systems) and limits the ability of homeowner associations and local governments from preventing installation of solar energy systems.
- The Solar Rights Act sought to promote and encourage the widespread use of solar energy and to "protect and facilitate adequate access to the sunlight which is necessary to operate solar energy systems.”
- The Solar Rights Act balances the needs of individual solar energy system owners with other property owners by developing solar access rights.
- The Act limits the ability of CC&Rs, typically enforced by homeowner associations (HOA), and local governments to restrict solar installations. These are the best known and important provisions.
- The Act also creates the legal right to a solar easement for a landowner to obtain adequate access to direct sunlight for a solar energy system.
Solar Shade Act (AB2321, 1978)
- The Solar Shade Act (AB 2321, 1978) provides limited protection to solar energy system owners from shading caused by trees and shrubs on adjacent properties.
- The law seeks to prevent a property owner from allowing trees or shrubs to shade an existing system installed on a neighboring property, provided the shading trees or shrubs were planted after the solar collecting device was installed.
Where Else Can You Get Information About Solar Rights?
There are two helpful reports written by the Energy Policy Initiative of the University of San Diego's School of Law about the Solar Rights Act and the Solar Shade Act:
U.S. Department of Energy Report on Private Land Use Restrictions and Solar:
- Bringing Solar Energy to the Planned Community: A Handbook on Rooftop Solar Systems and Private Land Use Restrictions. You can download this report as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file (62 pages, 1.0 MB).
Qualifying installations may be eligible for tax credits to help offset the initial cost of solar system ownership.
Federal Tax Credit: The federal tax credit may be available to the system owner for the purchase and installation of eligible solar systems installed. For more information on the federal tax credit, please refer to the Go Solar California Tax Credit webpage or consult a tax professional.
In addition to the permit, all solar systems that are installed to offset energy use in your home or business are “grid-tied” and must receive a utility signed Roseville Electric Solar Energy Program Interconnection Approval before the system may be turned on. The contractor usually takes care of this for you, too. This is the second of the two approvals that are required before you obtain Permission to Operate. For additional information see the Residential Solar Energy Program
or Business Solar Energy Program
What’s the truth about solar? Since the public’s first real awareness of electric solar panels in the 1950s, a lot has been written about what solar will do – and what it won’t do. Here are some common questions with some straight forward answers.
Solar means that I will never again pay an electric bill. Incorrect
Unless you move 100% off the electrical grid with no interconnection to your electric utility, you will continue to have electric bills. The utility will continue to standby and supply power when your system is not producing. And even if your system is sized to offset 100% of your energy load there will be months where you purchase energy from the utility and months when you over produce and export back.
Solar is experimental and not reliable. Incorrect
Solar electric panels and systems have been in use since 1954. This technology is well proven and very reliable. In California, all systems must come with a full 10 year warranty; some solar module manufacturers offer 20 year performance guarantees.
Solar is too expensive. Depends
Expense is relative to what you now pay for your electric power and what you will pay in the future. If your electric utility is a low cost provider, solar may not be less expensive than your present bill. Depending on the “ownership” model you select (lease, PPA, purchase) and your utility’s ability to keep future costs low, solar may or may not be a good hedge against future electric cost increases.
Be prepared before you decide. Investigate your utility’s past electric rate history. Ask them if future electric costs will go up. And find out if electric rate structures (how your electric bill charges are organized) will remain the same or possibly change in the future. Answers to all of these questions may impact your decision. In the end, it remains that you’re in the driver’s seat to make the best decision for yourself.
Solar requires a great deal of space to install. Incorrect
Solar has become much more efficient in producing electricity. This means that it takes much less space than in the past.
Solar energy production isn’t greatly affected by a little shading. Maybe
Shading of solar panels affects solar electric production. There are systems that use “micro-inverters” where impacts can be decreased, but the inescapable truth remains the same. Shading of solar panels affects solar electric production.
Solar can supply all of my electric energy needs. Incorrect
At some point, you will need utility power. A solar system creates energy only when the sun is shining. If you want solar to provide ALL of your power you will need to install batteries with the solar. Batteries can be charged during the day by the solar and then discharge energy at night to provide your power. Solar systems only produce power about 19% of the 8,760 hours of the year. Batteries are not yet commonplace with solar interconnections in California, but interest in this technology is growing. Use of batteries would disqualify the system from a simplified rapid interconnection application track and take longer to receive interconnection approval.
Solar will act as a backup power supply if I lose power from my electric utility (allow the system to “island” from the utility). Incorrect
Generally, solar electric systems sold for use in California are designed with a power inverter which disconnects from service if the inverter senses a loss of power from the electric utility. The inverter only re-connects the system once utility power has been re-established. At the present time, Roseville Electric does not allow systems to island when utility power is lost.
Solar only works where it is always sunny and warm. Incorrect
It is true that solar panels perform best where there is clear and unobstructed sunlight. But, solar panels are powered by UV light from the sun. This means that solar panels will even produce some power in cloudy places. Be sure to “model” your proposed system based upon your actual location, the angle of installation and shading. The contractor will do this as part of your solar project installation. Or, you can check it out for yourself at CSI EPBB.
Solar requires a lot of maintenance. Incorrect
Solar requires very little maintenance. Routine cleaning of the panels in dusty or dirty environments is recommended, along with annual wiring connection and inverter inspections. Talk to your contractor to make sure you follow their maintenance recommendations.
Solar requires an ideal sun exposure. Incorrect
Solar produces energy when the sun is shining. A south facing roof with full sun exposure will provide an ideal location. Deviations from the ideal position and full sun exposure will impact the solar system energy production. Sometimes there is a minimal reduction; sometimes it is great – depending on the installation.
As an example, the same system characteristics evaluated in four different orientations, with full sunlight, result in different amounts of energy being generated.
- The south orientation provided the highest amount of energy production
- The east and west orientations were very similar results with a 15% reduction in energy production
- The north orientation resulted in more than a 30% reduction in energy production as compared to the south facing array
Your house or building location is unique; the roof design, shade from trees or other obstacles, and aesthetic preferences may dictate which orientation(s) are selected for your solar system. When considering the size of the solar system start with the orientations that provide the most energy production, they will be the best “bang for your buck.”
Ask the contractor to share the CSI EPBB report with you for each orientation to understand the affect placement and orientation of your solar system has on your system's energy generation.
Roseville Electric offers customers installing qualifying solar systems a rebate to reduce the cost of installed solar. As the cost of solar has come down, the rebates have come down, per guidelines of the California Million Solar Roof Initiative, also known as SB1. Rebates will be available through December of 2016. Rebates are based on the wattage of the system after site specific losses are taken into account. For more information see the Residential Solar Energy Program
or Business Solar Energy Program
The term “Permission to Operate” is used to indicate an installed solar system has received BOTH (1) City of Roseville Permit Approval and (2) a signed Roseville Electric Solar Energy Program Interconnection Agreement. Once these are complete, Roseville Electric will send a signed Interconnection Approval document to you authorizing “Permission to Operate”. Operating a system without this approval may result in Code Enforcement issuance of a Compliance Order and/or citation(s) that carries Administrative Penalties of $25.00 to $500.00 per day with a maximum penalty of $50,000.
Once the system is installed, ask the contractor to teach you how to use the solar system production display or website to monitor energy production. Take time to learn how to monitor your solar system's performance and be diligent viewing your energy use at least monthly to verify the system is running and creating the expected energy production. Also, ask your contractor for advice on maintenance or better yet get a maintenance contract to have it routinely checked and cleaned!