Can I earn money with my solar power system?

Solar power system reduces your electric bill You may be asking yourself: When I install solar panels at my residence, what happens if I generate more electricity than I use? What happens to it? Can I sell that electricity back to my utilities company?

In other parts of the world, you can do just that. As well as saving money on your electricity bills, any electricity you generate that is in excess of the amount you use in your home can be sold back to your utilities company, who will pay you for it. Unfortunately, in most of America, you cannot do this yet.

In truth, you would need a pretty extensive solar energy system to create enough electricity to completely supply all the power you need for your home, unless you are a supremely energy conscious family. Most homes can just about manage a 4kW system, which is approximately 16 residential-sized panels. To have a completely solar-energy powered home, you would need a 6kW system, which is about 24 panels. Even that may not be enough to power your home completely. The days where families would still down together to watch whatever was on TV seem to be over. Instead, families are more likely to each be doing their own thing – watching TV, using a computer or playing on a PS4 or an Xbox in their rooms. More peripherals of course means more power.

The Net Metering system

Most of the United States currently runs under a system which is known as Net Metering, which allows your net electricity costs to be reduced to zero, but reduced no further. Don't forget, as well as paying for your electricity, you will also need to pay for your connection to the grid (which is typically around $100 a year), and to contribute towards maintenance, repairs and staffing needs. If you do contribute more electricity to the grid via your solar energy system than you use, then some of the value of that electricity is removed from the other costs as outlined above.

Some states do allow what is known as a “Feed-In” Tariff, where you get paid for the generation of electricity – in fact the federal government is keen for more states to offer the feed-in tariff, in order to persuade more people to adopt solar energy. The feed-in tariff has been very successful in Germany, which has been the most successful country in the world in encouraging people to install solar panels at their home.

A voluntary arrangement

Utilities companies may also voluntarily offer a feed-in tariff, just like the one offered by Dominion Virginia Power, as reported at www.eia.gov. Participants in the scheme are able to sell any energy they generate and supply to the grid for 15 cents per kWh – which is a pretty good rate when you consider that in Virginia, the average price for electricity is 10.5 cents per kWh.

More and more states and more and more utilities companies are likely to start to offer feed-in tariffs to people who “go solar” as time progresses, and the push to convert to renewable sources of energy gathers momentum. Don't forget the savings you will make if you do switch to solar power, and of course the contribution you will be making to helping prevent global warming from becoming a much more serious problem.

What does a full service solar provider do for you ?

Full service solar provider can be very helpful Having a solar energy system installed at your home is not just a question of hammering a few panels to your roof. There is quite a lot more to consider, and having to deal with all the issues when you just want greener, cheaper energy can seem a little daunting. If you want to save yourself the hassle that unfortunately comes when you want to install solar power at your home, then you need to make sure the company you choose to provide you with your system is a full-service solar provider.

Such companies are with you all the way through your solar energy installation and beyond. Once you have chosen the company who you will be using, they will come into your home, and speak to you about the installation. They will draw up blueprints of your house, and in particular any areas of your home which will be affected by the installation. They will design a custom installation for you, and will not decide anything unless they have your full approval.

Full-service solar providers come with their own, fully experienced installation team of certified employees. They will project-manage the whole installation for you, and make sure you have a customer care number you can ring should you identify an issue that you feel needs attending to.

Finding the best deals for you

One of the many reasons people “go solar” is so they can take advantage of the local, state and federal incentives that are on offer to people who wish to embrace greener methods of energy supply. Unfortunately, there are so many on offer it is difficult to find all that are available, and to work out which are the most beneficial for you to go for. In addition, there are forms to fill in and information to be gathered so you can be sure you're ticking all the necessary boxes in order to qualify for the incentives. Your full-service solar provider will negotiate this potential minefield for you, and will make sure you are getting the best deals possible for your decision to take responsibility for your own energy needs.

Once the installation is complete, your provider will not just shake your hand and leave you to your own devices. They will monitor your system, so that should your solar power installation not be performing as was expected, they will inform you of this, and advise you what you can do. It could be something as simple as having the panels cleaned, or replacing any panels that have proven to be faulty.

Helping with finance

Finally, as buying a complete home solar panel system is expensive, your solar company should be able to provide finance for you, to cover the cost of the installation. The deals offered by your chosen supplier are usually much better than if you were to acquire your financial via a bank loan, for example.

Installing a solar system may seem simple on the surface, but once you look deeper into it you'll find that there's more to it than you might have expected. If this turns out to be the case, then there's no need to become disheartened – simply choose a reliable solar provider and they will take on virtually all of the hassle of installing a solar energy system for you.

How much does a solar system cost these days ?

Solar power system can save you big
One of the main reasons people tend to not get very excited about the prospect of installing a solar energy system to their home is their perception of the costs involved. The truth is, over the long term, a solar energy system will pay for itself, and will actually generate you money in the form of lower utility bills, tax incentives, and selling back a proportion of the energy you produce but do not use to utilities companies.

How much you stand to make depends upon where in the US you live, how much sunshine you typically see, and how electricity costs you. Naturally, the more money you pay for your energy supply, the more money you will save when you switch to solar.

The costs involved depends upon what kind of system you install. You can even have solar panels installed for free by allowing a solar energy company to lease your roof space off you so they can install their panels there. They sell the electricity the panels generate back to you at a cost that's typically much lower than mains electricity, but you will not receive the tax breaks and long-term benefits available to you if you go down this route.

How much electricity do you use?

If you do buy your own panels, then you will need to buy enough to make your switch to solar worthwhile, and you make it worthwhile by calculating how much electricity you use. You really need 1 kW worth of solar panels for every $50 you pay in electricity every month, so if you pay $200 for your electricity per month, you are going to need a 4 kW solar panel system.

Each solar panel is worth around 250 to 300 W, so for a 2 kW system you will need eight panels, and for a 4 kW system, you will need sixteen. You will need to make sure you have sufficient roof space to install the system that you require.

Check out your options

As you may imagine, there are plenty of different manufacturers of solar panels, all having different standards of the efficiency of the panels they produce, with different costs as well. When you come to install a solar system, unless you decide to do it yourself, the company you choose to perform an installation will provide the panels for you, and will advise you on your options.

A 4 kW solar panel system will cost you between $10,000 and $11,500 to install. If you want to up the juice a little bit, a 5 kW system will cost between $12,500 and £14,000 to install. Don't forget, it's not just the panels you are buying – there's the wiring into your home electricity system as well, plus the cost of the installation itself. You can find out more about the cost of a solar panel system at http://cleantechnica.com/2014/02/04/current-cost-solar-panels..

Typically, as soon as you have your system up and running, you will receive tax breaks in line with about 30 percent of the cost of your installation. Most solar panel systems pay for themselves within 8 to 10 years of installation via lower utility bills and tax breaks.

Don't forget, it's not just the financial cost you have to take into consideration – there's the continual cost in terms of damage to the environment if you continue to rely heavily on fossil fuels. Go solar and you'll be saving the planet, as well as saving dollars.

Clean solar energy is the future

Clean Energy from the Sun
The use of clean solar energy has soared since the millennium. According to figures from the International Energy Agency, the global of amount of solar PV (photovoltaic) energy was 1.4 GW (GW – Gigawatt = 1,000 megawatts = 1,000,000,000 watts) in 2000. By 2011 this had grown to roughly 67 GW, which is a 47,857% increase in only eleven years! More and more people are starting to understand that our reliance on fossil fuels cannot continue on at the current pace. Current predictions estimate that we will exhaust our planet's supply of oil by 2052, gas by 2060 and coal by 2088 – and once the supplies have gone, they have gone forever.

We are also starting to understand that our over-reliance on fossil fuels has caused irrevocable damage to our planet's environment. There was a “balance” created when, millions of years ago, lifeforms died, and the carbon they contained became buried deep underground. By digging up and burning the remains of those lifeforms in the form of fossil fuels, we've upset that balance by releasing carbon back into the atmosphere. As a result, we've seen the average global and sea surface temperature of the Earth rise by 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900, with two thirds of that rise occurring over last thirty years. That may not sound like much, but every tiny rise in temperature has profound effects on our planet, such as the reduction in snow and ice, the rising of sea levels and more frequent extreme climate events.

Solar energy = Clean energy

Solar energy is a clean energy source, as it releases almost no greenhouse gases – gases such as carbon dioxide that help cause global warming – and produces very little in the way of waste. The sun's energy is sufficient to provide enough energy for the whole of mankind for an entire year, and not just once over, but over 8,000 times over! That's the equivalent of over 10 billions tons of oil!

Solar energy is also a versatile source of energy. The traditional method of collecting energy using PV or photovoltaic cells is expensive, as those cells contain a lot of silicon, and a single PV cell will need to collect light for between 8 and 10 years before it has collected the equivalent monetary value of energy as it cost to manufacture it. An alternative is high-temperature thermal solar technology, which works in the same way as thermal power, concentrating heat energy (the sun's rays) to heat water to very high temperatures, creating steam which is then used to power turbines.

Solar energy power plants

An increasing number of countries are waking up to the potential of solar energy as a clean, environmentally-friendly method of energy generation, and are building full-sized industrial solar energy power plants. France, Switzerland, Germany and the United States all now have several solar power plants, while the Amareleja plant in Portugal generates enough power to supply energy for 30,000 homes, and the Victoria concentrated solar power plant in Australia powers 45,000!

We may have done too much damage to our environment already, but at least if we further move towards the cleaner, emission-free energy solutions provided by solar, we may prevent the damage we have done from becoming any worse.

How do I choose the best solar PV system for me?

Choose the best solar PV system for your home If you go back twenty years, then choosing the best solar PV system would not have been difficult – because you wouldn't have had many options! Domestic solar panel manufacturers were few and far between, and companies willing to install a solar PV system for you would have been even harder to find.

Thankfully, the world has begun to wake up to the potential of solar as a clean, renewable source of energy, and both solar panel manufacturers and installers are much easier to find. Both of these factors have meant that the price of panels and installation has fallen sharply, particularly in the last five years or so, as the market has become much more competitive. Previously, German panels were seen as the PV panel of choice, but more and more Asian companies (particularly Chinese companies) are starting to produce panels that are just as efficient as their German counterparts.

When it comes to choosing the best solar PV system for you, there are three things you need to consider: how much energy you will be using, how much appropriate roof space you have, and how far your budget can stretch.

Factoring it all together

For a family of two adults and two children, if you want to generate enough power so you are in effect, “off the grid”, you are going to need a system worth between 5kWh and 10kWh. For a 5kWh system you're going to be looking at spending between $14,000 and $20,000 – a 10kWh system will put you closer to $30,000. As for the roof-space, for a 5kWh system you are looking at room for 10 panels, and of course 20 panels for a 10kWh system.

If this all sounds a bit too much for you, then don't worry as you can still install a 4kWh system for between $10,000 and $12,000, which will generate between half and two-thirds of the electricity your family uses on a daily basis. You will not be “off the grid” but you will at least be reducing your utilities bill by partially powering your home with solar power.

Why do quotes differ so much?

If you manage to arrange quotes from two different solar energy system providers, then you may be surprised that the figures they quote for the supply and installation of a solar PV system differ significantly.

The reason for this is likely to be the standard of the PV panels that they use – the more expensive the installation, the more efficient the panels. However, you need to make sure this is the case, and that the company with the higher price tag are simply not just trying to overcharge you. Ask each installer how much energy their system is expected to produce in the first year, and then divide the total cost that you have been quoted by the amount of energy produced. Whichever system gives the greater amount, then that is the system you should be going for, as – if the promises made by the installer are correct – that will provide you with the best value.

By making a careful choice, you'll end up with the most effective solar PV system for you, and you'll soon be benefiting from cleaner, greener solar energy.

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