Solar energy isn’t for everyone.
You might be surprised to hear that from a solar installer, but it’s true. Paradise Energy exists to help you be good stewards of God’s natural resources - and we want to help you be good stewards of your own resources, too, whether that means installing solar or not.
Solar energy is a great way for many businesses, farmers, and homeowners to save money while helping the environment. But how can you tell if you’re one of those people? Here are four things to consider if you’re trying to determine if solar is right for you.
1. Your Roof or Ground Space
First and foremost, let’s talk about space. There are two places your solar system can be installed: on your roof as a roof mount, and on the ground as a ground mount. The one that is right for you depends on a few characteristics.
How Big Is Your Roof?
Solar panels are becoming more and more efficient, meaning you’ll need fewer and fewer to power your building. However, they still take up space. Take a look at your roof and determine how much of it you’d be willing to dedicate to solar panels. As a general rule, a 5 kW system (which would generally cover a $60 electricity bill) will cover around 280 sq. ft. of space.
You’ll also have to take into account how much sunlight that roof space gets. Roofs that face south are ideal for solar panels because they get the most exposure to the sun. West- and east-facing roofs are also options, as adding just a few more panels can make up for any lost production with little added cost.
Another thing to think about is the pitch of your roof. Angles of 30 to 45 degrees are ideal, but not essential to having a productive roof mount. According to EnergySage, a solar system pitched at a 5-degree angle only produces 10% less than an angle pitched at the optimal 30-degree angle. And if your roof is totally flat, ballast mount systems allow your panels to be tilted up to keep production high.
You’ll also want to take a look at trees, buildings, and other things that cast shadows on your roof. If your building is tucked away in the woods and is blocked by trees most of the day, your solar system may not get enough sunlight to produce a lot of electricity. If your building is in the city, tall buildings could potentially cast shadows on your system. To find out more on how shading affects your solar panels, watch this video.
What Condition Is Your Roof In?
One of the most dreaded repairs of homeowners and businesses alike are new roofs. If your roof is at the end of its life, you may have to get a new one before going solar. Placing solar panels on an old roof could cause structural issues, and when it comes time to replace your roof, you’ll have to remove and reinstall the solar system. The good news, however, is that solar panels can protect your roof from the elements, meaning they may extend its lifespan.
If you’re worried about the installation process creating holes in your roof, that’s valid, but don’t fear. The industry’s standard installation process takes your roof’s well-being into consideration, ensuring your solar panels will be mounted securely to the roof while keeping the elements out. If you’re concerned with your roof’s warranty, have your solar installer double-check with your roofing contractor to make sure the solar attachments don’t void it.
While condition matters, the material your roof is made out of doesn’t make a huge difference. Solar can be installed on all types of roofs - metal, shingled, flat roofs, and more.
How Much Ground Space Do You Have?
Solar panels can be installed as a ground mount in many different locations. Unlike a roof mount, ground mounts can be optimally positioned to face south at the best tilt. However, they will take up space on your land and may cost more to install than a roof mount.
If you’re a farmer, you may be concerned with taking land out of production for solar energy. However, many farmers find that the electricity their solar systems generate saves them more money than crops on the space could ever make them.
You should consider the long-term plan for the plot of land, as solar panels can last over 30 years.
2. Financial Considerations
Do You Pay Federal Taxes?
If you pay federal taxes, you’ll be able to take advantage of a huge solar incentive: the solar investment tax credit from the federal government. Through 2020, this incentive returns 26% of your solar system’s cost through a reduction in your owed taxes. What happens in 2021? The tax credit steps back to 22%. In 2022 and beyond, it will exist as a 10% credit for businesses only.
If you’re a business, you’ll also be able to take advantage of accelerated depreciation, which allows you to push all of the solar system’s depreciation savings to the first year.
If you can take advantage of one of or both of these incentives, solar can be a great investment with a high return. But if you don’t pay federal taxes, installation costs will shrink that ROI and increase your payback time.
Can You Take Advantage of Other Incentives?
In addition to the federal tax credit and accelerated depreciation, you may be able to take advantage of other incentives that bring the price of solar way down. Some states and even some utilities offer incentives for going solar. If you’re a farm or a rural business, you might also qualify for the USDA REAP Grant.
What Are Your Financing Options?
There’s no way around it. Even though solar costs you much less in the long run compared to utility electric, you have to pay for the system upfront. Whether through cash, loans, or capital leases, your ability to fund the project is key when deciding whether or not solar is right for you.
3. Electricity Usage
Do You Use a Lot of Electricity?
Solar pays for itself - and then some - by providing its owners with free electricity. The more electricity you use and it provides you, the more money you’ll save over the course of the system's life.
If you live in a small home with small electricity bills, you’ll likely have a long payback period, and solar may not offer you great financial benefits (but it always offers environmental ones!). If you live in a large house or have a business with very high electric bills, solar could save you a substantial amount of money.
Are Your Electric Rates High?
The higher your electricity rates are, the more money you’re wasting by purchasing electricity from the utility. And the bad news is that rates are only going to increase in the long run.
If you live in an area with really high electricity rates, your payback will be that much quicker and your ROI that much higher. However, if you have relatively inexpensive electricity rates, solar can still be a great option, because the one thing that's better than inexpensive electricity is free electricity.
4. Your State/Location
What’s The Weather Like?
Believe it or not, the weather has less of an impact on your solar’s payback than you may think - however, it’s still something to think about. While we’ll never say a solar system in Phoenix produces the same as a solar system in Portland, solar has been shown to be profitable in all different types of climates.
If you decide to get a quote, your solar installer should include a production estimate that takes your local weather into account, so you’ll be able to see for yourself how the weather in your area could impact the solar system’s production.
Does Your State Have Net Metering?
Net metering is a fantastic program for solar owners. While solar systems only produce energy when the sun is shining, net metering allows you to essentially “store” the extra energy your system produced so you can use your free solar electricity all times of the day and through all types of weather.
Many, but not all, states have net metering. If your state does offer it, you’ll be able to power your building around the clock with solar power - without having to purchase batteries.
Does Your State Have an SREC Market?
Solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) are an easy way for solar system owners to get even more money out of their investment. SRECs are credits solar producers receive for every 1,000 kilowatt-hours (aka 1 megawatt-hour). These credits are then sold on the SREC market so the state can meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard.
While solar can still be a great investment for those living in states without an SREC market, it’s a great way to get a little bit more out of solar energy.
Take the Next Step
If you’re considering solar energy, this blog gives you a place to start, but requesting a free, no-obligation quote will put real numbers behind the hypotheticals. We’ll show you how much your system will produce based on your area’s weather, we’ll tell you how much money your system will save you, we’ll show you your system’s cash flow, and most importantly, we’ll give you our honest, expert opinion as to whether or not solar makes sense for you. Request Your Free, No-Obligation Quote Today.