Last Updated: 4/18/2016
Solarize Plano Project Frequently Asked Questions
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- Enrollees are encouraged to visit the Texas Solar Energy Society website FAQ section - see FAQ-SolarPV. There are many great questions and answers provided.
- Financial and economic considerations - What is my payback, ROI, etc... This question is understandably asked a lot. However, to answer it with some reasonable amount of certainty, you need to know what electricity prices will be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 15 years... Try calling your electricity provider and getting them to commit to a price per kWh next year, let alone 5+ years out! Also, consider that the asset in which you are investing (a solar PV system) has a useful life of up to 30-40 years. If the payback was as short as only a few years, you probably wouldn’t be able to get one installed because everyone would be wanting one. And that would drive the price up! So here are a few alternative ways to look at this vs the traditional payback or breakeven estimates......
- When you install a PV system, you can reasonably estimate your cost/kWh for the electricity produced from the PV system over let's say the next 25 years (like we did in the information presentation). So for that energy generated from the PV system, you can know your costs. So while you don't know the cost of electricity from the utility many years in the future, you can effectively "hedge" that future uncertainty by knowing what the cost of electricity from your PV system is -- in our two examples 4-6 cents/kWh for 25 years and then free after that.
- Compare your investment in a PV system to putting that same money in a Certificate of Deposit. For example, if you invest $10k net for your system and it saves you $750/yr, that's like a CD earning 7.5% with no taxes due on the interest income. I don't know of any CDs like that around these days....
- Investing in a PV system adds value to your home similar to having an energy efficient home. Some estimates are that for every $1 in annual electricity bill reduction, it adds $20 in value to the home. So if you save $500 per year, that's like adding $10k value to your home. (Also see www.pvvalue.com)
- How many homes have fireplaces and how many ROI calculations have been done on them? How much time per year do you spend in front of the fireplace vs hours of sunshine?
- Leasing solar panels - The Solarize Plano Project is a group purchase project. Ultimately, regardless of purchase or lease, we feel it is very important for participants to understand the basic cost elements and calculations. This is why it is a crucial part of the consumer education that is provided in the Information Sessions. The project selected solar company may offer a lease option, but it is generally not required. Overall there are some pros and cons to lease options. First, leasing involves another party in the transaction that is in business to make money. Therefore, the overall long term costs are generally higher with a lease than a purchase. Alternatively, some advantages to a lease may include little or no upfront costs. Also, for persons that cannot take advantage of the Federal Investment Tax Credit, leasing may prove advantageous. Again, the Solarize Plano Project is focused on a group purchase.
- Roof age and condition - When preparing to install a solar PV system, you will want to make sure that your roof is in good condition. After the system is installed, the roof can be replaced, but there will be the added expense of removing and re-installing the solar PV system. Therefore, if you don't know how old your roof is, or if you know it's more than 10 years old, you should consider getting a roofer to inspect your roof and give you their recommendations regarding the overall condition of your roof. Most reputable roofers offer free evaluations. For a composition roof, some warning signs might be:
- Your roof is over 15 years old
- Shingles that are worn or discolored, broken, cracked, or curling at the edges.
- Lots of shingle granules in the gutters
- Missing shingles or flashing
- Sagging roof deck
Note - If you have your system covered on your homeowners insurance policy as is recommended and the roof has to be repaired or replaced as part of a claim, the cost of removing and re-installing the solar PV system would generally be covered by the roof claim.
- Roof and building structure - A structural engineer, normally hired by the solar installation company will inspect the structural integrity of the roof prior to installing a roof mounted solar system. In addition, a structural inspection is often part of the permitting and inspection process for local jurisdictions. In almost all cases in our area, there are no modifications required to the building roof structure because the structural load of the panels is well within the building code requirements that have been in force for many decades.
- Will hail damage my solar panels? Solar panels are quite durable, and should withstand most wind or hail storms. Solar modules have passed tests for durability that require them to withstand high winds and 1-inch hail. However, just like your roof, if your solar panels are pummeled by grapefruit-sized hail, they will probably be damaged. Also just like your roof, a solar system on your roof is part of your house and is covered by your homeowners insurance. If a hailstorm is intense enough to damage your solar panels, if would have damaged your roof. The tempered glass used in solar panels is similar to automobile windshields. Hail can damage the body of an automobile long before it breaks a windshield.
- Replacing Hail Damaged Roof with Solar Installed - What if I need to have my roof replaced due to hail damage, but my solar panels are OK?
- Is there any regular maintenance required? Cleaning the panels might be required occasionally. However, as long as it rains every once in a while, then nothing extra is needed.
- Why does Oncor provide incentives? As the regulated part of the transmission and distribution utility that serves much of North Texas, Oncor is required by the Texas Public Utility Commission to control costs of their utility grid elements. One way to do this is to reduce the growth in demand of electricity usage. Oncor accomplishes this by incentivizing energy efficiency and distributed generation renewable energy. (Note – continued growth in demand results in Oncor having to spend more money on upgrades and expanded maintenance). Incentives are short term spending investments resulting in long term benefits.
- Why is there a Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC)? The Federal ITC encourages the use of renewable energy, including solar energy to accomplish longer term benefits to our country. Like the home mortgage deduction promotes and encourages people to make long term investments in their homes, the Federal ITC promotes and encourages people to make long term investments in renewable energy.
- Is there a Texas property tax exemption? Texas provides a property tax exemption for solar PV systems. Search for exemption form 50-123 Exemption Application for Solar or Wind-Powered Energy Devices. However, so far (as of mid-2014), the county tax appraisal offices are not yet appraising and adding the value of the systems to the property tax roles. Therefore, our recommendations going forward are as follows:
- Every year when you receive your property tax notice in late spring, see if they have changed your property tax appraised value. If so, log onto the county website and see if the change was due to them adding an "improvement" to the property related to the addition of your solar PV system. If so, then file for the exemption. If no addition was made for the solar PV system, then do nothing.
- Repeat above step annually.