Frequently Asked Questions
What incentives are available for solar electric systems?
This can get a little complicated and helping you to figure this out is part of what we do when we provide an estimate. There are several potential incentives. The first is provided by NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority). You have to pay into the SBC (System Benefit Charge) through your electric bill in order to qualify for this one. Most folks including residential and commercial customers pay this unless you live in a municipal power district such as Massena or Tupper Lake. Municipal power districts sometimes run their own programs so check with your local municipal power authority.
A 30% federal tax credit is available to help offset the cost of a system. Both residential and commercial customers can access this. You need sufficient income in order to take this so it's best to check with your tax preparer to see how much of a tax credit is available to you.
A 25% state tax credit is available to residential customers. Again check with your tax preparer to see if this can work for you.
For commercial customers accelerated depreciation is allowed for solar electric systems.
And there is low interest financing through NY's Green Jobs/Green NY program. There is more information on this below.
How big of a solar electric system can I have?
It depends on several factors including: the size of your electrical panel, the size of your roof, your annual electric usage and of course your budget. The design of the system is constrained by how much your electrical system can handle based on the National Electrical Code. If you have a good roof to put the panels on, the available square footage is a limit to the size.
In New York you can only put in a system that generates no more than 110% of your annual electrical usage and get incentives from the system from NYSERDA. So, for example, if you use 5,000 kWh per year you can put in about a 4.5kW system. Such a system would take up about 325 sq ft. The shape of the available space makes a difference as to what can actually fit in the space. Figuring this out is all part of the design work that goes into planning a system.
Is financing available for my solar electric system?
In a word, yes. NY State has a financing for solar through its Green Jobs, Green NY program. The low interest loans can help cover some or all of the homeowner's portion of the system cost. Preapproval is available online and credit criteria is very reasonable. The purpose of the program is to help as many people go solar as possible. For more information visit Energy Finance Solutions at:
Do I need batteries for my solar electric system?
You can have batteries in your system but you don’t need them for a system to operate. Batteries add complication, expense, and maintenance and unless you have critical loads that you just can’t live without, don’t bother. Most power outages are very short term and the added expense and maintenance of batteries is not warranted. If you are really interested in backup power you might want to consider a generator as an option. We can help you with that.
Will the power company will let me connect my solar electric system to their system?
They sure will. In New York State we have what’s called Net Metering. This means you are allowed to connect a solar electric system to the power company’s system, the grid, and back feed power when you produce extra. Any extra power you make during the day can be used by your neighbors to offset what might otherwise have come from a power plant.
The power company gives you the same price for your electricity that you pay them for theirs. It’s really like a barter system where you trade electrons for electrons. You get credit for any extra you make when it’s light and can use that to buy what you need when it’s dark.
To connect a system you have to sign a contract with the power company. You can’t just connect a system without telling them. It wouldn’t be a good thing for you if you did because the meter you have now will record any power you sell as power you bought. You need a special meter that will also record what you sell. Your bill will show both your purchased kWhs and the kWhs you sold to the company.
Does a solar electric system require any maintenance?
A system that has no batteries needs virtually no maintenance. Solar panels have no moving parts so there is very little to break. The inverter, the electronic device that converts the DC electricity from the panels to the AC for the house, also has very little to break. The warranties on the panels are 20 to 25 years depending on manufacturer. Nobody really knows how long they will last because the ones made back in the 1970s are still working. So probably a lot longer than the warranty. Newer inverters are generally warrantied by the manufacturer for 10 years or more.
So what are the parts of a solar electric system?
Basically four. The solar panels, or modules, the rails on which they are mounted, the inverter or inverters and sometimes optimizers that are used to manage power output of individual panels. The panels make the electricity and the inverter converts it to the AC voltage that is fit to run your home.
What about lightning? Will it hit my solar electric system?
We have yet to see an on grid system we have built hit or damaged by lightning. But just in case lightning comes near a system we install lightning arrestors for protection. We do this both to protect the system and because it's good for the house in general. Lighting can enter a building in many ways including phone systems and water lines. Having some kind of lightning protection is a good idea for all homes. Devices such as lightning arrestors can help protect all kinds of electronic equipment in your home such as: TVs, computers, fluorescent lights, furnace and boiler circuit boards, microwaves, water pumps, cellphone chargers, etc, etc, etc…. A well grounded system can also help to protect against lighting. If lighting is of a particular concern to you consider installing a complete lightning protection system whether or not you install a solar electric system.