Solar Q&A

Here are a few questions from our November 2016 solar workshop and from others at BBR.

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Will a solar installation affect the resale value of my home?

Typically, it will increase the home’s value. Many buyers are interested in purchasing a home powered by solar energy.

What are the most common issues with solar panels over time?

As solar panels age, there is a slight degradation in their ability to make electricity, so they become a bit less efficient each year. In one instance, squirrels chewed through the wires, so the wires needed to be replaced and outfitted with a protective covering.

Is any annual maintenance needed?

No. BBR’s system came on line in 2008, and no maintenance or repairs have been needed since that time. An inverter may need to be replaced after 10 years. The latest installations may include mini-inverters connected to each panel, which are more efficient and cheaper to replace. (An inverter converts the direct-current electricity made by the panels to alternating current for household use.)

How much electricity does BBR’s solar array produce each year?

Between 10,000 and 11,000 kilowatt hours. Here are a few examples:

  • 2016 – 10,721 kwh
  • 2015 – 10,703 kwh
  • 2014 – 10,884 kwh
  • 2012 – 11,706 kwh
  • 2009 – 10,970 kwh

What is the life span of a solar array?

The expected life of the panels is about 20 years.

What is the difference between different types or brands of panels?

Different installers use panels from different manufacturers. Some high-efficiency panels may be more expensive, but will last longer and have less degradation over time.

What about energy storage?

For most solar installations, net metering means the grid acts as a de facto battery. However, battery technology is evolving and home-based energy storage may soon be more common. In some cases, electric cars can serve as backup home power sources.

In what percentage of installations is a homeowner required to get a new roof or new electrical service?

SunBug Solar, a Massachusetts company that has designed and installed more than 800 solar arrays in the state, finds that 20% of residential clients must re-roof before going solar, and that an estimated 10–15% need an electrical upgrade.

What’s in it for the electric companies?

Solar power helps utilities handle peak demand. On a hot day in the summer, when air conditioning is going full speed, solar panels are also producing full speed. Without solar, the utilities would have to fire up diesel generators to meet the demand for power, which is costly financially and environmentally.

A telemarketer has contacted me about switching to a “green” electricity supplier. Is this for real?

Some electricity suppliers advertise renewable energy, but it’s likely they are reselling out-of-state renewable energy certificates—for example, from a wind farm in Texas. This is not really doing anything to displace fossil fuels, and the salespeople can be aggressive. It is possible to switch to local renewables by purchasing Class 1 Massachusetts RECs (“Class 1” is key). Mass Energy offers such a program. It will cost a bit more per kilowatt hour and will speed the transition to renewables.