A Robust Solar Industry Depends on Happy Customers, and Solar Growth Is Robust

In a recent post, State Representatives Harold Naughton and David Baria make an important point that consumers deserve to be well-informed regarding their choice to go solar and not deal with bad-actors. We agree.

Unfortunately, they neglect a key piece of context. The vast majority of our customers are fully satisfied with their solar systems. It’s true, a solar revolution is sweeping America and bringing a choice of clean, reliable and affordable solar power to millions of Americans. It isn’t true that there are widespread problems with predatory companies.

Our companies rely on word of mouth, and unhappy customers don’t support business growth. Yet, we project there are going to be one million new solar installations in the United States in the next two years. That only happens if our customers have a good experience.

No doubt, customers deserve accurate information when considering whether to go solar. To that end, we proactively created a suite of consumer protection materials, working with states, consulting with the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission, and winning the accolades of the Better Business Bureau.

SEIA released disclosure forms to give consumers a snapshot of key terms in a contract. Our consumer guide provides prospective customers with the key questions to ask when deciding whether solar is right for them. We have also released a guide for community solar. The goal is to make sure consumers are fully informed.

Last year, SEIA’s Board of Directors put into force the first national Code of Conduct for the solar industry which presents rules on advertising, consumer interactions, and contracts, along with a complaint resolution process by which every one of our nearly 1,000 SEIA member companies must abide. Today, any consumer can easily submit a claim to SEIA for examination and enforcement. And SEIA stands ready to work with state and federal regulators. True bad actors should not remain in business.

Finally, the post ignores the suite of state and federal consumer protection laws on the books which prohibit false advertising, unfair trade practices and unwanted telemarketing and robocalls, along with the laws that regulate solar installers, leases and other solar contracts.

SEIA is leading the way to ensure consumers have the information needed to make informed decisions. Let’s also make sure that the fear of progress or the influence of old-line entrenched interests don’t lead government agencies to strip consumers of the power of choice.

How to Avoid Solar Scams and Get the Best Deal

We have had a lot of customers come to us with multiple quotes for solar systems spanning the incredibly expensive to the “too good to be true” cheap. Homeowners want a quality system at a fair price, but aren’t sure what is what.

I want to share a few key items that you should look for when obtaining estimates for your solar system.

1. Solar Company

Are they local? Are they intimately familiar with the permitting and inspection requirements for your jurisdiction? If not, you could be inviting unwanted delays in design and final inspection due to inexperience.

The team at Valley Energy has installed more than 100 systems throughout the Fresno, Tulare, Stanislaus and Kern county areas. Our team has direct contact with the city/county and know how to get permits approved and inspections signed off the FIRST TIME.

2. Installers
Are they experienced? Who oversees their work and ensures quality? Most national solar companies rotate through solar installers pretty frequently. They don’t have staff on hand that specifically reviews every single install to ensure quality and functionality. You want to know your installer is going to do this for you, and better yet, that they will walk you through the methods of monitoring your own system and how to ensure it is performing as expected.

Valley Energy installers have years of experience and every job is inspected for quality by a member of the solar management team. We make sure every bolt is tightened, every wire is connected and that all of your equipment is installed to the highest standards. All of our installers are OSHA 10 certified, which means they are well versed in all safety practices when they are on your roof installing your system.

3. Materials
What type of racking is being used? Don’t just take your contractor’s word for it. Make sure you review the building plans and that the spec sheets for what you are buying reflects the right material.

Valley Energy uses top tier solar equipment. Most of our systems are designed with SolarWorld, Canadian Solar or LG panels. We use both inverter/optimizer solutions, like SolarEdge and microinverter solutions like Enphase. Our racking is primarily Iron Ridge, although we are always exploring newer solutions to deliver systems that are not only reliable but aesthetic. We help you choose the best options for placement of the panels and inverter, and deliver systems with hidden or painted conduit, as the home design allows.

If you would like more information regarding how to select and price the best solar system for your needs, call us today! (559)909-4315 Find out how easy it is to work with the Valley’s foremost authority on solar power systems and get a no obligation, no pressure quote.

Pacific Gas And Electric Officially Enters Solar NEM 2.0

Shortly after Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) indicated it would do so by month’s end, the California investor-owned utility (IOU) has reached its 2,409 MW cap for offering the original net energy metering (NEM) tariff to customers. Starting today, PG&E solar customers will be interconnected under the state’s successor program, known as NEM 2.0.

“The lead-up to the transition has been smooth. There was not a big surge in interconnections as PG&E approached the cap, so the transition did not come suddenly and catch customers off guard,” notes Brad Heavner, policy director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), which led the fight to protect NEM against utility opposition earlier this year. Despite the IOUs’ efforts to dismantle NEM, which they claim subsidizes solar customers and is an unfair burden on non-solar ratepayers, the power companies have said they ultimately support solar in the state.

CALSEIA explains that the NEM successor tariff requires new solar customers to pay a one-time application fee, which is $145 for PG&E, and increases the assessment of charges for public purpose programs. The latter is the equivalent of reducing the value of NEM credits by approximately $0.02/kWh. In addition, residential customers will need to be on one of three available time-of-use rate plans.

The solar organization estimates the combined impact for a typical residential solar customer will be in the neighborhood of $10.00 per month compared to NEM 1.0. Notably, as part of the new rules approved earlier this year, customers who already have solar will not be subject to the new charges and will continue to have the original NEM tariff for the first 20 years of operation of their solar systems.

“The industry should be prepared for some hesitation in the market as the new tariff sinks in, but I expect it to be short-lived because NEM 2.0 continues to offer substantial value to most customers,” adds Heavner.

PG&E is now the second of the state’s three IOUs to enter NEM 2.0, following San Diego Gas & Electric’s switch to the successor program in June. According to CALSEIA, Southern California Edison (SCE) still has more than 500 MW of capacity available under NEM 1.0, and the organization does not expect that utility’s allotted cap to be reached before the deadline for the transition to NEM 2.0; therefore, SCE customers can expect to take service under the NEM 1.0 tariff if they interconnect by June 30, 2017.

Solar Industry Sees Largest Quarter Ever

Quarter after quarter, the solar industry grows more and more, but never like this. The solar industry just experienced its largest quarter ever with more than 4,143 MW of PV installed, according to SEIA & GTM Research’s Q4 Solar Market Insight report, which provides third quarter data.

The booming utility-scale solar market accounted for roughly 70 percent of this growth, particularly in California, which became the first state to ever install more than 1 gigawatt of utility PV in a single quarter.

This record-breaking quarter brings the total nationwide solar capacity to 35.8 gigawatts, enough to power 6.5 million U.S. homes and reduce carbon emissions by 41.7 million metric tons annually.

How did the industry grow so much in just a few months? A new solar project was installed every 84 seconds, culminating in a new megawatt every 32 minutes. That is about the same as 125 solar panels every minute. And with another record expected for the final quarter of 2016, we will hit 14.1 gigawatts of new capacity for the year, an 88 percent increase from 2015’s total.

Expansion and growth of burgeoning state markets helped drive this record-setting quarter. Utah is now a member of the “Gigawatt Club” with more than 1.2 GW installed, joining California, North Carolina, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Nevada. North Carolina has been shooting up the state ranks, and has taken over the #2 spot for total capacity from Arizona.

Here is what else we saw from this record-breaking quarter:

  • Through Q3, solar accounted for 39 percent of all new electric generating capacity brought online in the U.S.
  • This impressive growth has been driven by 14 states that have each installed more than 100 MW so far this year.
  • Community solar added more capacity than the segment installed in all of 2015, supporting the second-largest quarter ever for the non-residential PV market.

Average pricing for residential rooftop systems fell below $3/W for the first time ever.

As the industry matures, we will continue seeing records broken and costs falling. This quarter’s growth sets a benchmark for the industry to strive toward and grow past on its projection to nearly quadruple by 2021. The state of solar continues to strengthen, and proof of that can be found at seia.org/smi.

Florida voters reject solar Amendment 1

Florida voters said “no” to the utility company-backed Constitutional Amendment 1 known as the solar amendment on Tuesday.

Amendment 1, known as “Rights of Electricity Consumers Regarding Solar Energy Choice” or the solar amendment required a 60 percent “yes” vote to pass and did not receive that.

Fifty-one percent voted “yes” and 49 percent voted “no,” according to the Associated Press.

“Today, as a coalition representing every part of Florida’s political spectrum, we defeated one of the most egregious and underhanded attempts at voter manipulation in this state’s history,” said Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice and director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “With God’s blessing and the hard work of every member of Floridians for Solar Choice, we won against all odds and secured a victory for energy freedom. This is a win for the people and I could not be more honored to be a part of this historic victory as Chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice.”

The solar amendment would have given Florida residents the constitutional right “to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use,” according to Consumers for Smart Solar, a political group backing the amendment.

Residents already have this right under Florida’s current law.

LIVE ELECTION RESULTS

Leading up to Nov. 8, the amendment became a tug of war between the power companies backing the amendment and the pro-solar energy groups who called the ballot measure a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Six days before Election Day, pro-solar energy groups filed a lawsuit asking the Florida Supreme Court to stop Amendment 1 in a last ditch effort to halt the controversial ballot measure.

The challenge came after a leading proponent of Amendment 1 was recorded saying that the measure was written to appear pro-solar, even though it could end up restricting solar growth in Florida by raising costs.

The Florida court rejected the case four days before the election.

Octobers polls showed that 66 percent of residents would vote yes to pass the amendment.

Off Grid Solar Systems

Have you heard about the “off grid” concept but are unsure about what it means and more importantly, how you can benefit from this type of solution?

Most CA residents are growing weary of electrical rate increases from their utility company.  But in some areas, residents are even more disappointed by poor service, especially in the warmer and cooler months of the year.  Solar PV Systems can help alleviate the cost of electricity, but it cannot help homeowners in remote locations with regular service outages and interruptions.

This is when an off grid system can be of benefit.  An off grid system typically includes a power generating source (i.e., solar panels, generators, etc.), transfer equipment and a battery bank that stores excess energy generated for use during non-production (nighttime hours).  The size of this system will be based on your average usage and can virtually eliminate the need for you to utilize commercial electric power.

Valley Energy is your source for off grid solution design and installation.  We can perform a detailed analysis of your electrical usage and customize a system that will help you go off grid, and even eliminate your electric bill completely.

Call us today at (559)909-4315 to schedule a free consultation and home survey.