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Frequently Asked Questions

Everything you need to know about Solarize Greater Media

About Solarize Greater Media

About Financing

About Solar Energy


About Solarize Greater Media

How does it work?

Solarize Greater Media was inspired by solar campaigns that have succeeded across the country. By combining our collective purchasing power, Solarize Greater Media ensures that program participants will be eligible for a special reduced rate on solar electricity systems and be able to take advantage of a federal tax credit. You should check with your tax accountant to see if you would qualify. The Solarize Greater Media Selection Committee has thoroughly evaluated proposals from many qualified installers, and we are pleased to announce that we have chosen Solar States as our installer.

Solarize Greater Media is coordinating a series of educational events in Media, Middletown, Marple, Swarthmore and Aston to inform community members about the program. Participants can sign up for a free solar assessment at their home from Solar States. Solar States will then remotely evaluate the property and contact the property owner(s) about their property's solar photovoltaic (PV) panel potential. If solar is a good option, a consultant will visit the site and take accurate measurements. The Solar States consultant will then present a system design and financial proposal to the property owner.

Solarize Greater Media program is a special limited-time offer only available for sign-up until May 21, 2016.

How can Solarize Greater Media offer a below-market price?

In addition to benefitting from volume pricing and consolidated installation costs, Solar States will receive customer leads through Solarize Greater Media's outreach efforts. As a result, Solar States' marketing costs will be reduced. Through this program, these savings will be passed on to customers. The more people that decide to go solar as part of the Solarize Greater Media program, the larger these savings will be.

By going solar together, Solarize Greater Media participants can secure a special price for solar that will be lower than going solar alone.

How was the installer selected?

The Solarize Greater Media Selection Committee consisted of solar experts, governmental agency representatives, and local community and business leaders. We solicited bids from qualified installers through an open, competitive request for proposals (RFP) process. The Ccommittee closely evaluated the proposals of the companies that responded. The evaluation criteria included experience, pricing, equipment, and their capacity to provide outreach and services to the 14 municipalities participating in Solarize Greater Media. We spent many hours meeting with company representatives and reviewing proposals, making sure that the company we chose was a good fit for the Solarize program. After carefully interviewing the finalists, the Solarize Greater Media Selection Committee chose Solar States, a company with strong experience that included serving other community-based solar programs in Pennsylvania.

This is the same selection process that many communities across the nation have used in their solar campaigns to find the installers that were right for them.

Why should I participate now?

Solarize Greater Media will offer participants a great base price for solar. Prices will be well below the state average and will continue to drop as more participants sign up.

Solarize Greater Media and Solar States will also help homeowners take advantage of all incentives that they may be eligible for, including a 30% federal tax credit and the ability to sell alternative energy credits (see below). Together, Solarize Greater Media and SOlar States will ensure that homeowners have all of the information they need to make an informed decision.

How can I learn more about the program?

Attend one of our Solar Community Meetings! Solarize Greater Media and Solar States will host events on February 6, February 13, February 27, March 12 and April 2 to discuss the value of solar electricity to our community and to share more information about the program.

Find an event near you!

 

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About Financing

How much does it cost to go solar?

We have negotiated significant cost savings for Solarize Greater Media participants. By signing up, you'll be able to access a lower price than you would be able to obtain when purchasing a system by yourself. What's more, we've negotiated a "tiered pricing" scheme for program participants: the more people that sign up, the lower the cost for everyone signed up!

For example, a solar system producing approximately 9,000 kWh per year (a 7.5 kW system), the cost might normally be around $24,750 based on the average market price of $3.30 per Watt.

  • By purchasing your solar system through Solarize Greater Media, you can expect to save as much as $1,875 right out of the gate.
  • If 15 or more participants purchase systems, you would save over $3,000.
  • If 30 or more participants purchase systems, you'll save over $4,000!

On top of those savings, you can take advantage of a federal tax credit to take up to 30% off of the total cost of your system, amounting to thousands of dollars in additional savings depending on the cost of your system. Consult your accountant to see if you will be able to utilize this incentive.

How much could I potentially save by going solar?

Solar PV systems are fairly modular, and you'll be able to choose a size to match your budget or home needs. If you want the largest system possible, it might be limited by space availability (roof or ground). Solar States will explain any potential limitations due to your home's design, roof orientation, and/or shading.

The long-term savings of your solar system will depend on your property, your electricity usage and current price, and the future price of the electricity you would otherwise buy from your utility.

  • We have vetted the installer and obtained below-market group pricing, giving you a no-hassle, easy purchase process that will save you money.
  • You can expect to save on your electricity bill in the long term by going solar, but exactly how much you will save will depend on how much electricity prices increase over the life of the system. While it's impossible to predict the future, estimates for how much electricity prices will go up range from 2-4% per year based on historical data, meaning that the cost of not installing solar could be as high as $25,000 over the life of the system. For example, PECO’s rates just increased 6%! Some long-term financing options may even enable you to start saving from day one.

Are there any incentives available for solar?

Yes, incentives from the state and federal governments are available to Solarize Greater Media participants.

  • Federal Renewable Energy Tax Credit. The federal government allows home and business owners to claim a credit of 30% of the total installed costs of their solar PV system. If you purchase this system yourself, you will be able to claim the credit on your next tax bill.
  • Alternative Energy Credits. Pennsylvania has passed a law known as a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which mandates that the major utilities (including PECO) ensure that a percentage of the electricity that they sell comes from renewable sources like solar and wind. If they are unable to generate enough electricity themselves, they must either pay a penalty or buy renewable electricity from homeowners or other generators.

     

    By generating electricity from solar, you will generate what are known as Alternative Energy Credits (AEC), which represent the clean, renewable attributes of the solar electricity you are generating. You will then be able to sell your credits to the PECO to help them meet their obligation under the state RPS -- at a market rate of approximately $15-20 per MWh of electricity you generate. For homeowners installing 5 kW of solar, this could be around another $100 per year right into your pocket!

If you decide to purchase solar, Solar States will help you sign up to sell your alternative energy credits (you will need to claim the federal incentive on your tax return -- consult your accountant for more information).

How do I get credit for the electricity I produce?

PECO's net metering program will allow you to send any electricity you aren't able to use in your home back to the grid. For every kWh of electricity you send back to the grid, it will offset any electricity you do use from the grid on a one-to-one basis. During the summer months, you may even find that you use zero electricity! When you generate more than you consume, the extra will be carried over to the next month, and on May 31, PECO will pay you for any excess credits you still have on your account.

You won't be able to completely zero out your bill: PECO will still continue to charge you a set amount (about $7) per month for being connected to the grid. When you install your solar panels, PECO will install two meters at your property that will track how much you use and how much you send to the grid.

PECO's net metering program is explained in greater detail here and will be discussed at the Solar Community Meetings that will be held from January to April.

Will installing solar PV panels affect my insurance rates? Solar panels usually do not affect property insurance rates or insurability, though you should check with your insurance agent as every insurance plan is different.
Will installing solar cause my property taxes to go up? Unfortunately, Pennsylvania has not passed a property tax exemption for the added value of a solar system like other states have. As such, installing solar will slightly increase your annual property taxes, but it will also add significantly to the resell value of your home.
What options are available for purchasing and financing a solar system?

Many people consider a solar photovoltaic system (PV system) to be a financial investment in a hard (physical) asset. An upfront cash purchase will provide you with the greatest financial return: returns of 6-10% are expected (depending on the future cost of electricity).

Purchasing a PV system with a home equity loan or second mortgage provides the lowest cost financing option. There are additional financing options that can be discussed with Solar States. Those additional options require FICO scores above 650.

We have a partnership with Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union (FMFCU), and they are offering a variety of Home Equity Loans with very competitive rates. These are no-fee loans, with no prepayment penalty and a onetime loan re-calculation for large principal payment. Non-secured loans are also available. Please contact Bryan Messick directly (bryanm@fmfcu.org or 484-802-4050) for solar loan rates, as everyone’s financial situation is unique. A representative from FMFCU will be available at our community information sessions.

You can also ask Solar States, our installer, for other loan options, as well as checking with your own bank.

Note: We will not be offering a lease or power purchase agreement (PPA) option, as we did not receive any responses in our request for proposals from any companies that offer this type of financing.

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About Solar

How do solar panels work?

Solar panels work by using the photoelectric effect to convert sunlight into electricity. Check out this great video from the U.S. Department of Energy that explains exactly how this works.

Are solar panels safe?

Solar panels are completely safe in standard operation. You should refrain from touching any exposed wires (if there happen to be any) or tampering with any of the equipment. All of the installations will be inspected and tested by local municipal inspectors for safety and compliance.

What makes my home an optimal site for solar?

A few factors determine whether a home or business is a good location for solar:

When you sign up for Solarize Greater Media, Solar States will help you determine whether your home is a good candidate for solar.

  • Buildings with south-facing roofs make the best sites, as they have more access to sunlight, though roofs facing east or west can be used as well.
  • The location for solar should be largely un-shaded by trees or rooftop obstructions such as chimneys.
  • The roof should be in good condition and not in need of replacement in the near future.

How big of a system do I need?

Every home is different: each home uses a different amount of electricity and each home's roof will only be able to support a certain amount of solar panels.

Solar States will optimally size your solar system so that it will generate around the same amount of electricity over the course of a year as you consume so that you can maximize the value of any net metering credits you accrue with PECO.

Are new construction projects eligible? Solar projects incorporated into newly-built homes or planned buildings are eligible to participate, but contracts must be signed by the program contract deadline of June 11, 2016. Solar States will work with individuals interested in installing systems on buildings currently designed or under construction.
How long will it take for me to get my solar panels installed? After the initial assessment takes place and a contract has been signed, a typical timeline for installation is as follows:
  • 3 days for engineering
  • 30 days for permitting & interconnection approval
  • 1-3 days for construction
  • 1 day for testing and commissioning.

Please note that this represents an average timeline. Your installation timeline may vary depending on size and other variables. Solar States will be happy to discuss a specific timeline with you.

Can I put in a ground-mounted system?

Yes! Sometimes the best location for solar might not be on your roof. Although ground-mounted systems typically cost more compared to rooftop systems, they can still be great investments, particularly if they are able to get more sun than your roof does. Solar States will work with any homeowners interested in ground-mounted systems to design one that meets their needs. Solar States will also check with your municipality for any zoning regulations that may apply.

Are there other energy efficiency improvements I can make in my home before I purchase solar? Most homes in the United States can take several energy efficiency actions to reduce their electricity bills. PECO offers a special price for home energy assessments and audits, which will help determine what actions you can take to improve the efficiency of your home. If you plan on undertaking some home efficiency actions, we recommend that you do so before Solar States sizes the system for your home's energy usage, as you may find yourself generating more electricity every year than you can use, reducing the value of your system.

 

For more information, click here to visit PECO's website to learn more.

Is there enough sunlight for solar in Pennyslvania? Yes! Pennsylvania isn't exactly known for being the sunniest or warmest state in the country, but it might surprise you to learn that Philadelphia actually receives only 18% less sunlight than Los Angeles! Philadelphia even receives 50% more sunlight that Berlin, the capital of Germany, the global leader in solar installations. As long as your roof is well-suited for solar and not shaded by trees, there will be plenty of sunlight available to make going solar worthwhile
Will my solar panels stand up to severe storms and hurricanes? Solar panels are very resilient and hardy. They are built to handle golf-ball sized hail, hurricane force wind loads, and winter storms. Your panels will generate less electricity when covered with snow, but snow on solar panels will melt and fall off more quickly than snow on your roof due to the panels' smooth surface and heat production.
How much maintenance is needed for solar panels? Solar panels need very little or no regular maintenance. Regular rainfall will clear off dust and debris. The solar panels used in this program will have long-term performance (25 years) and workmanship warranties and will usually continue generating electricity for over 25 years. Systems installed in the 1970s are still working today. The inverter—the component of the system that converts the power generated by panels into usable electricity—will usually have a 10 to 25-year warranty, depending on the type of inverter, with the option to purchase extended warranties. Solar States offers a 10-year installation warranty, which is above industry standards, in addition to the warranties that are offered by the equipment manufacturers. Solar States will walk through these warranties with you to ensure that you understand your options.

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Any questions we missed? Get in touch with the Solarize Greater Media Coordinator at 484-589-0581 or solarize@transitiontownmedia.org.