Solar Pv

A Journey To A Net Zero Energy Home

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Solar Panel System with Battery Storage


As Texas weathers heat waves, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, drought, and rising sea levels, rooftop solar panels offer an affordable solution to restore natural systems with renewable, carbon-free energy. Distributed solar offers tremendous potential to reduce our nation’s GHG emissions, and large deployments will also reduce sulfur and mercury pollution while saving approximately 60,000 American lives each year.

One remarkable net zero energy project that had a positive impact on the community, the environment, and our company is the Starkey solar project.

Background

Gil (James) Starkey is co-founder of 350 Austin, a nonprofit organization fighting the climate crisis. He has dedicated his energies to inform people about global warming while personally taking on the climate crisis by shifting his reliance away from fossil fuels and moving toward clean energy with rooftop solar, a battery system, and a fully electric vehicle.

Starkey and his wife Roberta Tsurkahara have been interested in solar and energy conservation for a long time. They had solar on the home prior to their move to Texas and were familiar with the benefits when they purchased their new home in the Mueller neighborhood. Installing another rooftop system seemed like the right thing to do. They have owned their current system for three years now and are contributing to a more fossil-fuel-free world.

Since their home was newly built, they were not certain what their energy needs would be, but they wanted a photovoltaic system projected to offset over 90% of their consumption. After some discussion and number crunching, they concluded a 7.5 kW system would be a good fit. The system produces an average of 10,705 kWh yearly by utilizing 25 LG 300W AC modules. However, the Starkey family has managed to consume less electricity than the average home of its size. The result is they produce more electricity than they use and the family has yet to pay an electric bill. 

This year, with federal incentives scheduled to decline in 2020, the Starkey’s decided to make their next big investment by purchasing an electric vehicle and a battery system. With two Tesla PowerWall batteries, they can manage their entire home electricity consumption and monitor their usage. Battery storage is another tool that helps the Starkey family deal with climate change and manage their way through blackouts.

 

Tesla

Power

Wall

& EV Charger

Customer Interview

I had an opportunity to ask Gil a few questions about his solar journey.

 Nafi: What interested you about going solar initially?

Gil: Having lived most of my adult life in the Boston area, we had no real opportunity for solar power, since we lived in urban condominiums. These buildings ranged from 70-110 years old and were difficult at that time to retrofit for solar.  I became interested in solar when I moved to Austin in 2000 and built a house. Our interest at the time was to limit, as much as possible, our direct impact on the environment. Generating our own electricity was, therefore, appealing.

We were not able to implement solar before returning to New England, this time to an ecovillage in Maine.  We installed solar there for the same reasons we had planned to do so here in Austin.  By the way, we were in mid-coast Maine, where wintertime overnight lows are quite frequently below zero, often 10-15 degrees below zero. Our house was designed to approach the Passive standard, so it was extremely well insulated and faced solar-south to maximize passive heating.  Because of these factors, our home had to be, and was, 100% electric, even in a frigid climate.  Our solar panels enabled us to live very comfortably at nearly net-zero. That experience sold us on solar panels.

By the way, solar panels were cropping up all over Maine on 100 to 150-year-old farmhouses. I was surprised to learn that although Maine receives much precipitation and experiences many cloudy days, it actually receives more sunshine than Germany, where solar panels are ubiquitous.  No wonder Mainers, thrifty New Englanders that they are, were installing solar!

Nafi: How did you choose a solar installer?

 Gil: Having already decided to go solar once we returned to Austin, I began researching companies as soon as we knew where we were going to live.  My research narrowed things down to a few companies and my decision was confirmed when I discovered that our neighborhood had gone through a selection process for a significant solar project a year or so before we moved in.

Nafi: What advice would you give to someone who wants to go solar?

Gil: First of all, it just makes sense from economic, environmental, and climate change perspectives. Texas is absolutely bathed in sunlight. I am baffled that governments and electric utilities do not promote and subsidize solar more strongly. The more solar people install, the fewer utility-grade power generation facilities must be built, and that alone will save utilities hundreds of millions of dollars.

The price continues to plummet. Two years after installing solar in Maine, we purchased a system here that was 40 percent larger, but the net price of the two systems was the same. We (humanity) must move to a zero-carbon economy at warp speed. Global heating is approaching tipping points that once crossed, cannot be reversed. Utilities have traditionally contributed the most greenhouse gases, so widespread solar (and wind) generation is a necessity. It makes sense. Do your research. Find a strong, reputable company, and get a proposal.

 Nafi: Do you have any data on your solar system’s performance you found it interesting to share?

Gil: Our system was intentionally over-engineered because we planned at some point to purchase an electric car. We now have our EV, and I am pleased to report that our solar array is supplying all of our home's electricity, even in summer, plus charging the car. We are effectively off-grid for home and transport. Since installing solar in February 2016, we have not paid any utility bills. That’s right, $0, and we have a substantial credit with Austin Energy.

Without a rooftop solar system, they would have paid approximately $1,243 per year for the electric bill. Moreover, the solar panel system cost will be paid off within 8 years and the total amount of money the household will save within 30 years is estimated at $41,785.


Net Zero Energy Home: Austin,Texas

Net Zero Energy Home: Austin,Texas

Solar+Storage Data Monitoring: a Strong Tool to Manage Usage

 Everyone is familiar with data collection trends and the ways in which information is used and misused; from sabermetrics in baseball to news blasts on Facebook. But when it comes to conserving energy in your home, energy monitoring tools are extremely useful. These tools are available for consumers to monitor the production of their photovoltaic systems and the energy consumption of their home or business.

 The ability to see and use consumption data enables the Starkey’s to make informed decisions about their electricity use— knowledge is power when it comes to conserving energy. Online monitoring tools enable customers to access information from their browser or smart phone. After three years of monitoring, the Starkey system has offset 100% of their home electricity consumption. This could change next year with the additional EV home charging load; time will tell.

The graph illustrates the electricity generation and consumption for two summer days related to the Starkey family solar system. Despite the higher consumption in the summer time and using an EV charger the production still matches what the household demands.

The graph illustrates the electricity generation and consumption for two summer days related to the Starkey family solar system. Despite the higher consumption in the summer time and using an EV charger the production still matches what the household demands.

Conclusion

The United States installed 2.7 gigawatts of solar in the first three months of this year, which set a record for the first quarter of a year. In addition, 25 percent solar growth is predicted this year by Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables institute. According to Renewable Energy World Texas holds great potential to increase renewable energy generation and to integrate distributed solar resources in innovative ways while preserving our deregulated market structure. Collective action is all that is required to move and make Texas green.
If you would like to learn more about Lighthouse Solar services or be a part of the green movement, contact us at Lighthouse Solar for a free estimate and consultant.

Click HERE or call us at (512) 476-5555.

 

- By Nafi Shah & Jay Bramble

Attention Austin Energy Customers!


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Lighthouse Solar

August 31st is the last day to secure the Austin Energy $3500 summer rebate!

Are you surprised by your summer electric bill? July has been the earth’s hottest month on record. Solar panels are the best tool to combat a high electricity bill and save money.

If you’ve been waiting to go solar, now is the perfect time! Austin Energy (AE) solar incentives can go a long way to make solar affordable. Austin Energy provides a chance for its customers to get a $3,500 rebate when they install a solar system on their home. In addition, you are eligible for a 30% Solar Tax Credit from the Federal Government - which is dropping to 26% in 2020. Don’t lose your chance to maximize your savings by installing a qualifying solar photovoltaic (PV) system on your home.  The Austin Energy $3,500 rebate will expire on September 1st Installation is not required by this date. Rebates can be secured through a letter of intent with Austin Energy. Contact us to show you how.

Support sustainable green solar energy: 

  • To Save Money & Reduce Your Electricity Bill

  • To Protect the Environment and Keep Austin Green

  • Strengthen Our Local Economy by Creating Clean Energy Jobs

  • Reducing Your Electricity Bill

  • Help Grid Demands During Peak Hours

 At Lighthouse Solar our sales/design team will generate a customized proposal for your home!

If you’re interested in getting a free solar consultation call us at (512) 476-5555 or click on the button.


_ Nafi Shah

Communication Coordinator

LighthouseSolar

Solar Tax Credit Is Stepping Down in 2020

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Rooftop Solar Panels

Designed & Installed by LighthousSolar

What Is the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC)? 

The solar Investment Tax Credit is one of the most important federal policies to support the expansion of solar energy in the United States. The ITC is a 30% tax credit for the solar system installed on residential, commercial, and large-scale utility solar farms which enables you to deduct 30% of the cost of solar installation from your federal tax liability and there is NO cap for that!

The most important benefit of the solar tax credit is to provide financial support for customers and make the process of shifting toward a solar power system more affordable, as well as providing market assurance for companies to develop long-term investments that drive competition and technological innovation, which result in lower energy costs for consumers.

How the Solar Tax Incentive Works? 

The most important consideration to be eligible for the solar tax credit is that you own your solar energy system. Either as a business owner or homeowner you can claim your tax credit directly. If you don’t have enough tax liability to claim your whole tax credit in the first year, don’t worry, you can rollover the remaining credits across the next 5 years. 

On average, American households use 11,000 kWh electricity per year and to offset all of that electricity use, we would recommend an 8 kW solar system. If installed by LighthouseSolar, this would cost you an estimated $20,000 (before tax credits and rebates) which makes you eligible to receive $6,000 solar tax credit. The net investment, without considering any local rebates, is thus $14,000.                                                                               

How Long will the Solar Tax Credit be in effect?

There has been a much debate on the expansion of solar tax credit. Congress passed a bill in 2015 and the tax credit is now available to homeowners and commercial sectors with different rates through 2021.

However, the full 30% tax credit WILL NOT be available after 2019 and will drop by 4% as of January 2020. The tax credit will thus begin a slow rampdown through 2022 as follows: 

2019: The tax credit remains at 30% of the cost of the system. This means that if you get your system before the end of 2019, you will have the opportunity to get 30% tax credit for your solar panel system.

2020: Owners of a new residential and commercial solar power system can only deduct 26% of the cost of the system from their taxes.

2021: Owners of a new residential and commercial solar system will be able to deduct 22% of the cost of the solar power system from their taxes.

2022 onwards: Only owners of a new Commercial solar PV system can deduct 10% of the cost of the system from their taxes. There is No Federal Tax Credit for Residential solar energy systems.

In summary, the solar Investment Tax Credit is applied to your solar power system cost and the amount you receive varies based on the solar system size you choose. A simple example of the differences in the solar tax credit in 2019-2022 for a 13-kW solar system size is shown below:

Changes in your savings as Solar Tax Credit changes in 2019-2022 

Year

Total Solar Cost before Tax & Rebates

Tax Credit

Credit Amount You Receive

Tax Deductible

% Change

2019

$28,448

30%

$ 8,534 

 

N/A

2020

$28,448

26%

$7,396

($1,137)

-13%

2021

$28,448

22%

$6,258

($1,137)

-15%

2022 onwards

$28,448

10%

$2,844

($3,413)

-55%

 

* No Tax Credit for Residential Sector by 2022 onward.

In 2020, the Tax Credit will drop 4%, which means you will earn $1,130 less than the previous year in terms of tax credit. So, if you are interested in going solar and have been waiting for the right time, you should act now to enlarge your savings.

LighthouseSolar Hints:

  1. Battery storage systems are also eligible for 30% solar tax credit when the battery system is charged at least 90% by a renewable energy source (solar) and is installed at the same time.

  2. It is important to understand your solar investment. To the extent that getting multiple quotes helps you understand the value and specifics of solar, we encourage you to pursue your options.

  3. Demand of your solar provider the level of experience and service proportionate to your investment. Solar has a claim on permanence that many other investments around your home cannot compete with. We recommend relying on the experience of your friends and peers as trusted sources of information and validation. The solar installation is an investment and you would like to have a company that supports you and provides great services when you need it.

  4. Working with local companies has many values. There is a community and economic value to supporting your local economy, but more importantly, your solar system will need support and or a tune up at some point in its life and it is very important to work with a company that is of this place. Based here, operates here - today and in the future.  

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Residential Solar System

If you’re interested in figuring out the value proposition that solar can offer, we provide Free Consulting. The LighthouseSolar professional sales team will be happy to answer any questions you might have.


- Nafi Shah

Communication Specialist

LighthouseSolar