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FAQ's and Resources

Q: How much does a government/non-profit  solar electrical system cost?
A: In general, the bigger the system, the more it will cost and the more electrical savings will be received. From a cashflow perspective, a PV system properly designed to the building’s electrical consumption can have a positive cashflow beginning in Year 2 with savings lasting 30 years and longer. Typical Return On Investment is 3-to-5 years.  Rebates and tax incentives, which are higher than other commercial projects, can reduce the cost of your system by 70-90%. In addition, PV adds value to your property without increasing cost because solar improvements are property tax exempt.

As a government/non-profit entity, you can take advantage of these incentives for installing solar:
30% Federal Investment Tax Credit
5-Year Accelerated MACRS depreciation
Section 179 Deduction – up to $500,000 for 2011
3-5 Year Return on Investment
Positive cash flow for 30 years 

Q: How much money will a solar electrical system save me?
A: You can buy a PV system that will zero out your electric bill. However, limited roof space and a higher Return On Investment usually make better economic sense.

Q: How does the solar rebate work?
A: SES submits all the necessary paperwork so that your business begins receiving the solar rebate when your PV system is turned on. Each month for 60 months you will receive a check from the State for the amount of solar electricity that your PV system produces.

Q: How much money will a PV system save our organization?
A: You can buy a PV system that will zero out your electric bill. However, limited roof space and a higher Return On Investment usually make better economic sense.

Q: How does SES work with Government and Non-Profit Organizations?
A: SES has extensive experience working with government agencies and non-profit organizations. First, we look at the property to see how much PV will fit on the building or grounds. We review the electric bills to determine the best size PV system to reduce electric consumption and maximize savings. Then we work with the client to identify the best way to pay for the project.

Q: How much roof area does a PV system require?
A: The south-facing roof of most homes has more than enough space for a solar array that will produce 100% of the energy used in the home. Every 100 square feet of solar array will produce about 1,000 watts of PV power for an average of 5 kilowatt-hours per day.

Q: What is a solar electrical system?
A: A solar electrical system is a clean, quiet, long-lasting generator with no moving parts that produces electricity from sunlight - even on cloudy days. A solar electrical system is also known as a photovoltaic or PV system (photo = light; voltaic = electric power). A PV system literally spins your electric meter backwards to give you free solar electricity during the day and also at night thanks to net metering.

Q: How does a PV system work?
A: The main parts of a PV system are solar modules and inverter. Solar modules are made with solar cells encapsulated in tempered glass and framed with rigid aluminum. Solar modules are assembled into panels called the solar array. Solar arrays are fastened to metal racks that are fastened to your roof or to the ground. The solar cells are solid-state semiconductors made of silicon and trace amounts of phosphorous and boron. Sunlight strikes the solar cells causing electrons in the cells to move in one direction producing direct current (DC). The electrons then flow through wires that connect the cells. Many solar cells are connected together to produce the voltage and current needed to power the inverter. The inverter is a solid-state electronic device that converts solar generated direct current into alternating current (AC) to power your electrical equipment and appliances.

Q: What is net metering and how does it work with a PV system?
A: Net energy metering (NEM) is a special billing arrangement that provides credit to utility customers with PV systems for the full retail value of the electricity that their PV system generates. Your utility meter keeps track of how much electricity you consume how much excess electricity your PV system generates that is sent back into the utility grid. You pay your utility only for the net amount of electricity used. During the day, your PV system can produce more electricity than you use. The excess power automatically goes through the electric meter into the utility grid spinning the meter backwards to credit your account. The new digital meters electronically measure electric current flow in both directions. Excess solar production is carried over from one month to the next on an annual basis. Net metering optimizes your solar investment rate of return and allows you to install a PV that can zero-out your annual electric bill.

Q: What types of PV systems are there?
A: There are 4 types of PV systems: direct, off-grid with batteries, on-grid with batteries, and on-grid without batteries. Direct PV is simply a solar panel connected to a DC device like an attic fan that is not connected to your building wiring or the utility grid. The fan operates only when the sun shines. Off-grid PV with batteries is used to power millions of homes and electrical devices around the world that do not have utility power. Off-grid PV with batteries use special batteries designed to be charged and discharged for many years. The batteries in an off-grid PV system store energy to provide autonomous power at night and on cloudy days. On-grid PV with batteries operates similar to off-grid with batteries except that the battery stored energy is used to provide emergency power during grid power outages. Batteries and other parts increase PV system complexity and cost 30% or more than on-grid PV without batteries. An on-grid PV system without batteries is the most popular urban and suburban solar solution because it costs less, is virtually maintenance-free and trouble-free and offsets costly and polluting grid electricity.

Q: What are the differences between PV systems with and without batteries?
A: The primary differences are cost and complexity. We are all concerned about power blackouts, but utility power is reliable in most urban and suburban areas in southern California so very few people need the extra expense of batteries. If your utility power is unreliable, you have 3 options. You can purchase a fossil fuel generator for occasional emergency power. Solar Electrical Systems can design and install an on-grid PV system with batteries for you that will power your important electric loads (lights, refrigerator, communications, etc.) during a utility power outage. SES can also design a separate battery and inverter system without PV that will provide you with uninterruptible power for special electric loads.

Q: Will a PV system give me power during a grid power outage?
A: Only PV systems designed with battery back-up can give you power during a grid power outage. PV systems without batteries turn off automatically during a grid power outage to prevent possibly injuring workers repairing the grid power. When grid power is restored, the PV system turn on automatically.

Q: What happens with a PV system at night?
A: When there is no sunlight, the inverter automatically switches to standby mode and you get electricity from your utility company. The next morning, when light strikes your solar array, the inverter turns on automatically to provide you with PV power.

Q: What types of PV systems does SES offer?
A: SES offers PV systems with and without batteries for both on and off-grid applications.

Q: What is a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA)?
A: A PPA is a long-term agreement to purchase power from a company that produces electricity. PPAs make it possible to benefit from solar electricity without having to buy or lease the generating equipment. Ask SES about its PPA and leasing programs.

Q: Why do you list good, better and best PV systems?
A: There are at least 3 ways you can benefit financially from a PV system. SES thinks that owning a PV system from the start has the best economics. However, you may find it better to purchase the solar electricity or lease the equipment and perhaps buy the system later. Or you may think that getting the solar electricity savings is good for you and are not interested in owning the PV system. You should get immediate savings on your electric bills whether you buy or lease an SES PV system or buy the solar generated electricity.

Q: How does the solar rebate work?
A: The California Solar Initiative (SCI) is a 10-year solar rebate program that subsidizes and reduces the cost of your PV system. The CSI program began in 2007 with high rebates that reduce to zero by the end of 2016. SES discounts the price of your PV system by the rebate so that you save money up-front and do not have to pay income tax on the rebate. SES also handles all the rebate paperwork for you.

Q: Are there other solar incentives?
A: Yes. In addition to the California solar rebate, homeowners and businesses are eligible for a generous 30% federal tax credit. There are additional solar incentive for commercial PV systems like accelerated depreciation and other tax breaks that turn a commercial PV system into a profit center with an excellent return on investment. Both residential and commercial PV systems add value to your property but do not increase your taxes because PV systems are property tax exempt in California.

Q: Do PV systems cause any negative effects?
A: No. A PV system has no moving parts, is extremely reliable and long-lasting, and requires almost no maintenance. Solar power works in conjunction with utility power and in no way adversely affects grid reliability or causes grid outages. On the contrary, PV actually improves grid stability and electricity quality. In addition, PV modules produce more energy than used to produce them which is good for the environment. PV modules are net energy positive in less than 4 years, whereas grid power from coal, gas and nuclear materials consumes non-renewable resources and pollutes the land, air and water.

Q: Can a PV system produce enough power to run my air conditioning, refrigerators, pool pumps and other devices that use a lot of power?
A: Yes, but PV is not usually used to power separate circuits for specific equipment. Instead, the PV systems is connected to the main bus bar in your electric service panel to offset all power consumed. In this way, there is no negative effect on equipment like motors that have large startup and operating current consumption.

Q: How long do PV systems last?
A: A well-designed and properly installed PV system can last for many decades. PV systems installed in the 1970s are still in operation. Since solar modules have a 25-year power output warranty, most people plan on at least 25 years operation, but the first silicon solar cells made by Bell Laboratories in the 1950s are still operational so 40 to 50 year lifetimes for the early PV systems are not unusual.

Q: What are the warranties?
A: Solar modules have a 25-year limited warranty on their power output. Inverters have a 10-year limited warranty. SES provides a 10-year turnkey warranty on all the California Solar Initiative PV systems that it installs.

Q: What maintenance is required?
A: Your on-grid batteryless PV system is virtually maintenance free. There are no moving parts and nothing to lubricate or adjust. Rain keeps the solar array clean or you can rinse off dust and dirt with city pressure water from a hose.

Q: How much roof area does a PV system require?
A: The south-facing roof of most homes has enough space for a solar array that will produce 100% of the energy used in the home. Every 100 square feet of solar array will produce about 1,000 watts of PV power and generate an average of 5 kilowatt-hours per day.

Q: Are batteries required?
A: No. A grid-tie PV system does not require batteries. Any excess power produced during the day is deposited into the grid at full value to be withdrawn later automatically thanks to net metering.

Q: Do PV systems work at night and on cloudy days?
A: A PV system without batteries produces power from daylight. Full sun produces full power. On cloudy and even rainy days reduced power is produced. Your PV system is designed based on climate data which takes into consideration changes in the weather.

Q: How do I get a quotation for a PV system for my home?
A: Give SES your name, address, phone number, email address and a copy of a recent electric bill and we will email you a preliminary quotation based on the aerial photo of your home or business and your electric consumption.

Q: Do I need a building permit for a PV system?
A: Yes. All electrical work over $500 and all PV systems must have a building permit to be eligible for a solar rebate and tax credit. SES is a licensed contractor which is also a requirement for some electrical work.

Q: Who does all the complicated rebate and permit paperwork?
A: SES does all the paperwork, from system design and engineering, to rebate, permit, and utility interconnection application. We also answer all your questions to demystify anything that seems complicated.

Q: Do I need approval from my homeowner’s association?
A: Maybe. Consult your homeowners’ association covenants for details. California prohibits homeowners’ associations from restricting PV systems.

Q: Can Restrictive Covenants and Homeowner Association (HOA) rules stop me from putting a PV system on my roof?
A: No. California has a Solar Rights Act that prohibits a homeowners’ association from restricting installation of PV systems. The Solar Rights Act also allows homeowners to install solar on open ground space.

Q: How much experience does SES have?
A: SES is one of the world’s most experienced licensed photovoltaic contractors with 30 years of PV installation experience that includes over 10 megawatts, over 1,500 residential and more than 250 commercial PV projects plus PV systems for 12 State Municipalities.

Q: What is the process for getting an SES PV system?
A: Buying or leasing a PV system from SES is simple. 
In order to provide you with an accurate quote for your custom solar electrical system, we would need to review your most recent electric bills.  Once we receive a copy of your electric bill, we will send out a quote within 24-hours and schedule an On-Site Analysis to take measurements, inspect the structure of your roof, review electrical components and confirm tilt and azimuth.  Let the team at Solar Electrical Systems help you Go Green!

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