Category Archives: energy retrofitting

Solar tax credit falls after 2019

By 2022, the residential tax credit is scheduled to be eliminated altogether

Used as an incentive by the U.S. government to build out solar across the country, the ITC since 2006 has allowed commercial and residential customers to deduct 30 percent of the cost of installing a solar energy system from their federal taxes. Since a rooftop system can frequently cost $20,000, a 30 percent credit can amount to $6,000 in tax savings.

But 2019 is the final year the ITC remains at 30 percent. Starting in 2020, the tax credit steps down to 26 percent and in 2021 it drops to 22 percent. And in 2022, it is scheduled to go away completely for residential customers. For commercial solar installations, the ITC will drop to 10 percent in 2022, where it is scheduled to remain.

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New SDG&E rates ‘time of use’ may vary for rooftop solar


San Diego Gas & Electric is rolling out “time of use” rates that will eventually affect the monthly bills for about 750,000 of the utility’s residential customers.

But will the switch affect the nearly 155,000 residential customers who have rooftop solar systems on their homes?

Yes, but the full answer is complicated.

The vast majority of solar customers will eventually move to time of use rates but some have the option to stay on a more traditional tiered-rate structure that is considered more financially attractive than time of use — it all depends on how long ago they activated their rooftop solar systems.

“It really varies on the residential side,” said Edward Randolph, the Energy Division Deputy Director for the California Public Utilities Commission, which has directed the state’s investor-owned utilities to adopt time of use rates, also known as TOU. “That’s why (solar customers) need to contact their utility to find out their exact circumstance.”

And circumstances have been changing quickly, in California’s energy landscape.

Many customers — those with solar installations as well as those without — had just gotten used to the latest iteration of tiered rates and adopting TOU means a transition to a different pricing plan.

For solar customers in the SDG&E service territory, the 20-year rule applies to those who activated their systems before June 29, 2016.

Randolph said the commission instituted the 20-year rule as an issue of fairness to solar customers who invested in a solar installation on their homes — a purchase that can frequently run to $20,000 or more, depending on the size of the house.

“When they installed the panels, they were looking at the financing and the payback of those panels based on the rate structure at the time,” Randolph said. “Ultimately, the commission made the policy determination that the most equitable way to treat those customers was to give them the option of staying on the old rate structure.”

After the 20 years are up, customers must move to time of use rates.

“If you’re a customer who installed solar a few years ago, you’re probably going to want to stay on those tiered rates and not get shifted over to TOU,” Heavner said.

But what if you installed solar on your home after June 29, 2016?

Here’s another part of the story that’s complicated.

Customers who activated their rooftop solar systems between June 29, 2016 and March 30, 2018 were defaulted to standard, tiered rates rather than TOU.

They can stay on tiered rates for now but eventually, they will migrate to time of use — either five years from the date their system activated or June 2021, whichever comes first.

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How long should a solar power system last?

It’s a long-term investment with a long-term pay-off for your hip pocket and the environment.

But putting solar panels on your roof isn’t the end of the story. How do you get the most out of your system, and what happens if it fails?

How long should the solar panels and inverters last?

Hunter-based Trade Pro Solar’s Tim Brown said good quality solar panels — such as LG, Sunpower, or Yingli Energy — would last 25 years.

Quality mattered for inverters, too,  and reliable brands had a 10-year standard manufacturers’ warranty on their inverters, he said.

“Never put an inverter in direct sunlight,” he said, adding they could fail around the eight or 10-year mark.

Keep them maintained

“In terms of performance, they don’t require much but do keep an eye on the system. If an error comes up, it will shut down,” he said. “Make a point, once a week, to look at your inverter, and make sure there’s not an error message there.”

Future-proof your purchase

“Don’t buy the solar system for today – look where we are heading for tomorrow to buy a future-proofed system,” Mr Lambert said, citing electric cars as one emerging product that could demand a lot of a household’s power supply.

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