Frequently Asked Questions
- How Does a Solar PV System Work?
SEE OUR HOW SOLAR WORKS PAGE
- What financial incentives are currently available for solar?
The big one is the 30% Federal Income Tax Credit provided by the Residential Energy Credit, IRS Form 5965. This is the #1 financial driver for solar nationwide and is available for both residential and commercial customers. It’s pretty simple, 30% of your solar expenditure is eligible to be refunded to you by the Federal government via a CREDIT to your tax liability. This is not an income deduction, rather a CREDIT and is available whether you pay for your solar system outright or finance it. Consult your tax preparer for exact details.
- Am I still connected to PG&E when I add solar?
Yes, PG&E is still your electric utility provider and you will still use their energy at night and during the day, when your home requires more energy than your solar system is producing. You will also continue to be a PG&E gas customer. Solar in no way affects your gas usage or billing
- How does my PG&E billing change with solar?
When you add solar you become a Net Energy Metered Customer, because you have a solar ‘generator’ integrated to your electrical system and connected to PG&E’s electricity grid. There will likely be several months out of the year in which you will have a negative electricity bill, because your solar system has produced more energy than your home has used, so you’ve ‘sold’ the excess energy back to PG&E at the same rate at which you would have purchased it. Rather than PG&E writing you a check for these over-production months (typically during the summer), they balance those financial credits against the darker winter months, when solar production is less and your home’s energy usage is typically more. So, when you add solar, you pay your electric bill once a year, based on the anniversary of your initial commissioning of your solar system. This is called a 12 month True-Up billing cycle, and it’s basically standard practice for all solar customers in California. You will still get a monthly electric bill and you will still see a subtotal, whether it be a positive or negative amount, but it’s reconciled after 12 months. You will still get a gas bill from PG&E and will still pay that monthly.
- Are there any batteries or energy storage with my solar system?
No. In effect, the grid utility is your energy storage. Anytime your solar system is producing more energy than your home requires at that moment, the surplus flows back out to the grid, your meter spins backwards, and you gain credit for that energy at the same value as it costs you. Likewise, anytime your home needs more energy than the solar system is producing, the grid provides the balance.
- What happens if there is a power outage, will I still have power if my solar system is operating?
No. The solar DC/AC inverter is constantly monitoring the utility grid, as well as your solar array. When the grid goes down, the inverter shuts down within milliseconds, disabling your solar system. This required function of all inverters in the U.S. prevents what is called an ‘Islanding Effect’. If your solar system stayed on during a grid power outage, the energy it would back-feed on to your local grid could electrocute a PG&E lineman who was down the street repairing the source of the outage. When grid electricity is restored, your solar inverter will automatically turn back on, re-enabling your solar system.
- I don’t want solar panels on my roof – I don’t want to see them – can I install them on the ground?
Yes. We have built many ground-mounted solar systems, and we encourage you to consider this solution if you have an appropriately sized and configured piece of property. Ground-mounted solar systems can often be perfectly oriented (not subject to the inherent limitations of roofing) and can be more compact, leading to simplified integration. Though they do require more material, such as concrete footers and a steel structure, they often are within 10% of the same cost as a roof-mounted solar system.