Solar = Financial Sense

Although solar power has been around for well over a hundred years, it really didn’t experience its residential boom until the 90’s. In the beginning, solar panels were bulky, expensive, and misunderstood. Over the years, solar panels have experienced a complete makeover, adopting sleeker silhouettes and becoming exponentially more cost effective. Today’s solar panels blend seamlessly with modern rooftops, blurring the line between form and function. Recent advertising campaigns have even touted solar panels as being “sexy”.

Perhaps the real sexiness of solar energy isn’t in the newfangled photovoltaic panels, but in the savviness of consumers who are going solar. Research shows that residential solar panels can pay for themselves in as few as five to seven years, resulting in fifteen to twenty years of pure savings. Modern panels pay off so quickly because their efficiency allows homeowners to save around 30% on their monthly home energy costs.

While solar panels used to be reserved for the rich and famous, lowered costs, increased incentives, and even leasing programs are giving all people access to the savings that solar power provides.

The surge in solar’s popularity and an increased demand for renewable energy is good news for homeowners. While increased resale value of a home with a feature like solar panels is never guaranteed, solar energy organizations like ours tend to expand locally in areas with tech smart and earth-conscious consumers. We carefully select markets where homeowners will get the greatest bang for their buck with solar energy, because we know that solar has to make financial sense for our customers. The more solar panels you see in a community, the more solar incentives your municipality offers, and the more solar companies and organizations in your market, the more likely you are to see potential home buyers who recognize the value of solar panels.

Reselling Solar

As homeowners ourselves, we know that we don’t even replace a light bulb in our home without contemplating its effect on the resale value of our home.

If you’re like the majority of Americans, your home is your biggest investment, and you don’t want to do anything to compromise that.

The old school mentality was that solar panels intimidated home buyers and could make your home more difficult to sell, or somehow decreased the value of your home. You may have heard this myth circulating as well.

So what is the truth? Will solar panels affect your home’s value?

We’ve got surprising news for you. YES. Solar panels will affect your home’s value… IN A GOOD WAY!

Recent research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory proves that homes with solar panels sell for higher values than homes without, and home appraisers are less reluctant to assign value to residential PV systems as home solar electric system value is better understood.

And, if you think about it, that makes a lot of sense (and cents).  If you were looking at two homes side by side that were exactly the same in every way except that one home had solar panels and one didn't, which would you choose?  House #1, that you knew had a $300 per month electric bill, or House #2, that you knew had a $200 per month electric bill?  That $100 savings per month, or $1,200 per year, adds up quickly.  Over a ten year period, $100 per month is $12,000, right in your pocket!

And that doesn't even count the effect of normal utility cost inflation, which means the actual savings would be even greater.  

Solar panel systems are expected to last 30 years (or more), so owning a home that has an energy bill that is 33% less is a great long term investment.  Even if you only live in it for 5-7 years and save only $6,000-$7,200 while you own it, the person who buys it from you after that can do the same math and figure out your home is worth a lot more with solar than without it.

 

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Solar power has gained popularity over the past two years so much, that installations of new panels and systems have outpaced the combined installs of the previous three decades.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the U.S. has set up more solar energy systems in the last 18 months compared to the number of systems they have set up the previous 30 years.

The year 2013 was particularly productive for solar developers as installations of new solar systems were up to 41% higher than 2012, resulting in 4,751 megawatts of energy.

Ten percent of all new electricity was generated from solar in 2012, which then went up to 29% in 2013.

Aside from natural gas, the alternative energy source is now the second-leading new source of electricity in the country.

In the previous year alone, there were 140,000 individual solar installations in the US, with a total market value of $13.7 billion. There are currently more than 445,000 solar systems in operation.

Of all the other states, California installed the most solar units in 2013. Half of their total installations ever added happened last year. Texas, which is number 8 in rank when it comes to solar additions in 2013, has enough solar potential to cover the world twice over.

The surge in solar power use has also lowered the price down on new systems, which now cost 15% less than original price in 2012.

Rapid customer adoption, grassroots support, improved financing terms, and public market success, according to SEIA, are factors that contribute to the success of solar power.

Solar Power is generally defined as the conversion of energy from sunlight into usable electrical power.  It includes direct technologies such as photovoltaics (PV) and indirect technologies such as concentrated solar power (CSP).

PV systems are typically utilized on residential or small commercial applications. They can be efficiently scaled down to an individual’s needs or can be scaled up to meet the needs of very large utilities, such as Germany’s Neuhardenberg Solar Park, mentioned here in a recent blog.

CSP systems, on the other hand, require a great deal of land to be efficient. As a result, you’re not likely going to see a CSP system installed in your neighborhood anytime soon.

Solar Power Technologies For the Future

As the needs of a growing economy evolve and concerns around green house gases continue to increase, its important for consumers to be informed about all the various alternative forms of sustainable energy.

Solar PanelsPV electrical systems are appropriate for the owner seeking to make a lifestyle change. A decision to outfit your home with solar panels (a photovoltaic system) reduces your dependence on the electrical grid that is most probably powered by fossil fuels.

A home powered by solar panel technology is home that is committed to reducing pollution and green house gases. For more information on how a solar panel system works, read our previous blog.

Concentrated Solar Power in a Nutshell

Concentrated Solar Panels (CSP) also utilize energy from the sun, but in a vastly different way. CSP systems use reflective panels to direct the sunlight to a liquid medium. The energy is transferred to the liquid, which becomes extremely hot. The hot liquid is channeled to a chamber where water is boiled and the resulting steam drives a turbine.

Solar PowerThere are a few competing implementations of CSP technologies. The first successful large-scale implementation of CSP utilized parabolic panels (pictured at right) to focus and concentrate sunlight to a centrally-located tube filled with synthetic oil.

The focused light is up to 80 times more intense than ordinary sunlight. Synthetic oil is used because it can transfer heat up to 750°F while keeping pressure manageable.

The parabolic CSP systems designed during the 1980’s and 1990’s and used to a great deal in California’s Mohave Desert do not have the ability to support electrical demands for its consumers independent of any other source of energy. Natural gas is consumed to support 10% of consumers needs.

Concentrated Solar Power Evolved

Solar PowerPictured at the top of this blog and to the right, is the new Gemasolar Plant in Spain. It was designed to collect energy from heliostat reflectors in a centrally-located tower filled with molten salts.

The molten salts are pumped to underground, highly insulated tanks where they drive steam-driven turbines. The stored heat can run at full capacity for up to 15 hours without sunlight.

 

As Texas grows, so does its consumption of power and electricity. Federal and state environmental regulations have required the winding down or closure of a previous generation of power sources. Solar electricity can meet the needs of a growing Texas economy.

No state is better situated to capture the power of the sun. If all usable land is included, Texas has more than twice the solar potential of any other state.

Solar Electricity is Viable Now

The Neuhardenberg Solar Park, pictured above, is located in eastern Germany. It’s an example of how Germany has gone “all-in” with solar and other other renewable energy sources.

Solar ElectricityGermany, the largest photovoltaic (PV) installer in the world, derives about 3% of it electricity needs from PV systems. Market analysts expect that number could reach 25% by 2050.

Solar Electricity in Texas

We can always hope that market barriers and regulations in the State of Texas will be further modified to facilitate growth like they have been in Germany. During 2012, Texas installed 51 Megawatts (MW) of solar electric capacity, 12th nationally. Texas also ranked 13th in cumulative installed solar capacity.

According to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, Texas currently ranks 7th in the total number of installations and 6th in total installed solar capacity. Quite a jump in just one year.

Solar Electricity across America

The third quarter of 2013, the most recent data available, was the second largest solar installation quarter on record in America. 930 MW was installed, a 35% increase over the third quarter of 2012. Within the residential segment, 186 MW came online.

Solar ElectricityFalling costs continue to be a driving factor in the growth of solar electricity.  The average cost of a completed PV system dropped 16% from the previous year to $3.00/W.

In Texas, the cost of all PV systems is $5.83/W, 9th in the country. In Ohio, the most expensive state in America, the average cost is $10.09/W. In California, the leading in terms of capacity and total number of installs, the average cost is still $7.08/W.

The average price of a solar panel has declined 60% since the beginning of 2011, largely because of the enormous growth in manufacturing capacity in Asia. These lower prices, a favorable regulatory environment and increased demand mean more record growth for years to come. By the end of 2013, 4,300 MW of PV were forecasted to come online, a 27% growth over 2012.

 

 

Zero Energy new construction and redevelopment projects are coming to your community!

Zero Energy – Tomorrow’s Future is here today

Science fiction authors have never failed to imagine and articulate a world where technology has solved man’s greatest challenges. Among other glimpses of the “future”, can you envision an endless supply of clean energy?

Zero EnergyEvery great accomplishment begins with a goal. So, while the introduction of solar collection panels has helped reduce electricity bills for millions of consumers, the question remains whether or not is feasible to push even further.

Is it possible to produce enough energy to satisfy all your energy demands over the course of a year? The concept of Net Zero or Zero Energy refers to just that concept.

Over the last few years, many notable zero energy projects have garnered attention in various building trade publications. Various techniques have been embraced by developers. Some feature experimental, highly-efficient building components. Some utilize a greater than expected amount of insulation. Some are trying to minimize heat absorption with highly reflective external surfaces.

Zero EnergySome feature geo-exchange systems, geothermal or wind energy-sourced electricity. Some even have co-located biodigesters.

It seems that all of these notable projects have at least one thing in common: an abundance of highly efficient solar electric collection panels and a southern exposure.

UC-Davis West Village

The largest planned zero energy community is the recently completed University of California at Davis West Village expansion. Spread over 205 acres, the development includes residential housing for 3000 students, 475 faculty and staff, 45,000 square feet of retail and office space, 60,000 square feet for the Los Rios Community College District and nearly 22 acres of recreational green space.

Zero EnergyThe multifamily housing units at West Village features a four megawatt roof-mounted solar collection system. Residents acquire electricity through a power purchase agreement (PPA) and the local utility.

Even the covered parking space, visible in the upper right of the photo at right, is entirely covered with solar collection panels!

Over the last decade, highly efficient photovoltaic (solar panel) systems have become more affordable than ever. Factors are growing more favorable every year:

Innovative design and engineering techniques are leading to improved product yield. Worldwide, dozens of reputable manufacturers are competing for market share, further driving down costs. Federal, state and municipal regulators are encouraging implementation through tax incentives and rebate programs.

Solar LeasingWhile prices have dropped, they can still be a substantial capital investment for some homeowners.  Luckily, banks have now realized how solar panels are a safe investment, and have begun to provide loans for homeowners to go solar.

DFW Solar Electric has partnered with expert loan providers to provide solutions to help homeowners take the big step towards renewable energy through solar panel ownership.  All of our programs allow our customers to go solar for no-money down.  We also have reduced interest loans, and loans that are interest only until our customers can receive the Federal tax benefits that are available for solar energy.

Solar Loans eliminate your up-front Investment

Under a solar loan arrangement, DFW Solar Electric will design, permit, and install the solar panel system on your property for no money down. We have an easy application process that utilizes an instant credit check and seamless approval and disbursement process, all of which you can do in the comfort of your own home. Under this program, you get all of the utility incentives, and you get to keep the Federal and State tax benefits.

Electricity your system produces in excess of what is consumed may be sold back to your Retail Electric Provider for a credit used to reduce your electric bill even further. When your system does not produce enough electricity to meet your needs, you use electricity from the power grid to make up the difference.

Solar Panel Technology can sound quite Technical

The technology behind successfully harnessing the energy from the sun has been improved dramatically over the last decade. For an in-depth technical explanation of how it works, we recommend our favorite expert in all things solar, NASA.

Solar Panel Technology in a Nutshell

Solar Panel and Plant LifeFor the vast majority of us, an in-depth study isn’t needed. We all understand how the bright sun can warm our face, even in winter. We’ve all had a sunburn. We understand that plants take in light energy during photosynthesis.

Let’s take a simpler look at how light energy from the sun becomes electricity for our homes.

The most critical element of a solar panel is the photovoltaic cell. These cells are aligned within the solar panel for maximum exposure to the sun.

When sunlight strikes the surface of a photovoltaic cell, this electrical field provides momentum and direction to light-stimulated electrons, resulting in a flow of current when the solar cell is connected to an electrical load.

Solar PanelPhotovoltaic cells are made of special materials called semiconductors, like silicon. When sunlight strikes the solar cell, a percentage of their solar energy is absorbed into the semiconductor material.

This energy is now inside the semiconductor. The energy knocks electrons loose, allowing them to flow freely. PV cells also have one or more electric fields that force electrons, freed by light absorption, to flow in a certain direction.

This flow of electrons is an electrical current. Metal contacts on the top and bottom of the PV cell draw current off which is used to power external electrical loads by way of a power inverter.  Battery storage systems can also be interfaced to store excess power.

Contact DFW Solar Electric today to find out more details and how a residential or commercial solar electric system can provide an environmentally-friendly source of electricity for years to come!

Solar Tax Incentives

Solar Tax Incentives Don’t Last Forever

The folks at DFW Solar Electric aren’t tax advisers, we’re your friends. And friends don’t let their friends end the year without one last reminder that some key federal tax laws are changing.

Solar Tax IncentivesBusinesses have a lot to think about at the end of the year. Capital investment decisions among the most important. Solar electric PV systems, purchased and installed before the end of the year may be eligible for a first-year 50% Bonus Depreciation. This accelerated 50% bonus expires December 31, 2013.

Companies which invest in solar energy systems may be eligible for federal income tax deductions through the Modified Accelerated Cost-Recovery System (MACRS).

The Internal Revenue Service allows commercial solar PV system owners to deduct up to 85 percent of their tax basis. This type of depreciation can be claimed over a five year period.

Solar Tax Incentives – Franchise Tax Deduction

The State of Texas has a few ongoing tax incentives of its own. Texas entities which are subject to the state franchise tax may deduct 10% of the amortized cost of a solar energy device from their apportioned margin.

Solar Tax IncentivesFor the purposes of this deduction, a solar energy device means a system or series of mechanisms designed primarily to provide heating or cooling or to produce electrical or mechanical power by collecting and transferring solar-generated energy.

It also includes mechanical or chemical devices, such as batteries, which have the ability to store solar-generated energy.

Solar Tax Incentives – Property Tax Exemption

Texas property tax code allows for an exemption of the amount of the appraised property value arising from the installation or construction of a solar energy device. The primary use must be for the production and distribution of thermal, mechanical, or electrical energy for on-site use. It may also include devices used to store that energy.

Solar Tax IncentivesThis exemption defines “Solar energy device” as an apparatus designed or adapted to convert the radiant energy from the sun into thermal, mechanical, or electrical energy. It also includes storage and distribution equipment.

Those wishing to claim this exemption must fill out Form 50-123, “Exemption Application for Solar or Wind-Powered Energy Devices”.
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