Is solar power right for you?
You may be considering the option of adding solar to your home’s roof or finding another way to harness the sun’s energy. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solar solution, Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative is here to clear up confusion and offer resources that can help you figure out what works best for you.
Your average electric bill helps determine the size and potential savings for solar at your home. According to EcoGen America, "Is Solar Worth It In NJ?," the average homeowner in New Jersey who has installed solar panels saves $20 per month on their energy costs. This amounts to a total savings of $240 per year.
If you're not sure about solar, the information provided below can help give you insight into what installing and owning solar panels is like. If you are ready to move forward with installing solar panels on your home or business and have found a solar company that works well for your needs, you can use the buttons below to access our interconnection applications.
The first thing you need to look at is how you currently use energy. Are you using energy inefficiently? What can you do to cut back or make your home more energy efficient?
- Use your appliances more efficiently and consider investing in highly efficient products like Energy Star appliances, smart thermostats, load control devices, etc.
- Switch to energy-efficient lighting, such as LED light bulb.
- Weatherize your space. If you use electricity to heat or cool your home, this will significatnly impact the amount of solar energy you need. Weatherizing your home and installing more efficient heating and cooling technologies will help reduce the amount of electricity you need to produce with solar.
- View trends in your energy consumption through your online profile at srecbillpay.com.
SREC highly recommends conquering these hurdles first before you consider installing any type of renewable energy. It's not wise to spend thousands of dollars to generate electricity only to waste it due to inefficient windows, doors, refrigerators, or heating and air conditioning.
If you are confident you have achieved a high level of energy efficiancy in your home and you are ready to look at a renewable energy system, you might want to consider the following:
- Do you get enough sun? To generate the most electricity, solar panels should be placed in locations with the most sun exposure. In the northern hemisphere, the optimum solar panel location is a south-facing roof. West-facing orientations are also suitable for solar installations as these systems produce more energy later in the day when electricity is generally more expensive. Make sure there are no trees on your, or your neighbor's, property that could eventually grow to block the sun.
- Do you want a system that will provide all your power needs or do you want supplemental energy generation to reduce the amount of power you buy?
- How long do you plan to live in this house?
- Can your roof handle it? Ensure the roof can hold the weight of the system (about 3-5 lb. per square foot) and that the roofing material will last as long as the PV system (25-30 years). If your roof is in poor condition, you may be a good candidate for solar roofing. If you expect to need a new roof within the next few years, you may want to consider making that improvement before installing solar.
- How much are you willing to spend?
- Are there any city, county, or HOA requirements that could pose a problem?
Available resouces and useful online links:
From our newsletter Currents - "What to Consider Before Installing Solar"
There are a lot of scams. Scammers are trying to get your personal information. Be aware of callers who ask for your personal information or say that they are from or work for SREC.
Don't be fooled. Your bill will not be zero. Companies make promises that are not always kept. Remember: your average electric bill helps determine the size and potential savings for solar at your home. According to EcoGen America, "Is Solar Worth It In NJ?," on average homeowners in New Jersey who have installed solar panels save $20 per month on their energy costs. This amounts to a total savings of $240 per year.
System Connection Fee. No matter how much energy your solar panels produce, you still must pay your system connection fee. The System Connection Fee (previously called the Facilities Charge) is a fixed charge on your monthly bill used by the Co-op to cover the expenses of maintaining and investing in improvements to our equipment and infrastructure. This is the cost of bringing power to you, the member. Every member pays this fee each month, regardless of kWh (kilowatt hour) use. Even when you are making use of solar panels to provide energy to your home, you still make use of power from SREC at nighttime or when the sun isn't shining. The system connection fee helps us maintain our power lines and ensure power can get to you when it's needed. For solar consumers, the system connection fee is outlined in our Tariff (page 41 of this document).
Sizing requirements. Generators cannot exceed one hundred percent (100%) of the member's previous year kWh usage per service location.
Companies who tell you that SREC does not work with them. Solar companies are trying to sell you a product in order to make a profit. Instead of telling you that they will not make enough money from you because of our low rates, many contractors will tell you that we do not work with them. This is untrue. SREC has over 100 residential solar installations in our territory that have been installed over the last decade plus. If they will not work with you, find someone who will.
Do your homework!
It is important to choose the right installer. Some members recommend getting multiple bids to consider in order to find your best option. A bid should include the total cost of getting the PV system up and running, including hardware, installation, connection to the grid, permitting, sales tax, and warranty. A cost/watt and estimated cost/kWh are the most useful metrics for comparing prices across different installers, as installers may use different equipment or offer quotes for systems of difference sizes.
Here is a list of questions to consider asking each solar installer.
- Is your company familiar with SREC's interconnection process?
- Is your company familiar with the township's requirements, as well as the State Electrical Inspection process?
- Can you provide references from other members in SREC's service territory?
- Are you properly licensed/certified?
- Do you carry liability insurance?
- What is the warranty for this system?
- What happens between you and the contractor if you sell your house and you have signed a long-term contract with the solar contractor?
- Are there any state or federal tax credits that will help to reduce your out-of-pocket costs?
- What does a service call cost?
Ask how much energy the system will generate. Remember that the output of a renewable energy system is highly dependent on the weather and therefore will not generate at its full potential all of the time. Have your contractor run numbers using local weather data.
It is very important that you compare based on your cost per kWh from Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative. You may see big savings in literature which are based on Investor Owned Utilities that have higher rates than Sussex Rural, so make sure you compare savings to the rates you currently pay. Make sure your contractor's proposal includes the rate included in the solar application packet.
Will the system pay for itself in a few years? Ask your contractor about system upkeep and warranty issues. Check out the manufacturer's and contractor's references. Ask about and visit other local installations and talk to the owners. See what lessons they learned and what they have to say about system performance.
Solar companies have a responsibility to follow all of Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative's rules throughout the installation and interconnection process. We offer an online guide for solar companies, available here.
If you are interested in beginning the interconnection process with Sussex Rural Electric Cooperative, you can find a step-by-step guide and a link to our online interconnection application on our SREC Interconnection Process page.
For a quick overview of the process, consult the infographic below:
Net metering is the accounting process that SREC uses to bill for members that use solar power. This process requires replacing the current meter with a net-meter that is programmed to capture energy flowing from the SREC distribution system to the member's home and energy generated by member's solar that is flowing onto the SREC distribution system.
Please note: the net meter does not measure your solar output. During the installation phase, your solar company will install their own meter that measures the output of your solar system. Some of that energy will be consumed by your home "behind" SREC's meter. The net meter, installed by SREC at the end of the inspection process, only measures energy that passes through the primary meter, either flowing into the home or back out to our power lines. Effectively, the net meter is there to measure the difference between your electricity usage and the output of your solar system.
The Net Metering Process
The basic concept behind our net metering process is to accurately determine both power consumed and power produced. Based on these values, Sussex REC will calculate the monthly bill amount. At a minimum, the member's monthly bill will be the applicable service connection fee as defined by our tariff and further revised as per your specific situation. On a monthly basis, the Net Energy will be calculated by subtracting the "Received Energy" from the "Delivered Energy." Excess energy is "banked" and is purchased on an annual basis by Allegheny Electric Power according to your contract with them.
A more in-depth explanation of net metering can be found on our SREC Interconnection Process page.