We’ve compiled some helpful information for you

If you’re just getting to know solar energy, it can be confusing. We understand, so we’re here to help. Below are commonly used words and pieces of information to help you through your solar exploration.

What happens if I sell my solar house/farm?

If you own your solar energy system, your solar house will sell at a premium: studies have shown that solar increases property values. We’d expect to see the same value added with businesses as well, because the costs associated with running the business are now lower.

How do I save money by adding solar to my farm/business/house?

NES offers several ways to save money with solar energy.

  • Own your personal array – With $0 upfront cost, NES will design, install and maintain a solar array on your roof or property.  All risks of production, maintenance and warranty is shouldered by NES.  Your participation comes with NO RISK. You own your own your solar array and use the energy it produces, selling excess to your utility thereby lowering or eliminating monthly bills.
  • Own a community solar garden (CSG) – Depending on your tax liabilities, owning your own CSG may be the most financially beneficial way to go solar.  Also with $0 upfront costs, NES will design, install and maintain a solar array on your roof or property.  You will receive your power at a low rate (set by you) and collect payments from subscribers for their use of your power.
  • Sell or lease your land – NES will buy or lease your suitable land on which to build an NES-owned community solar garden.  You can then also benefit from the CSG as a subscriber.
  • Subscribe to a Community Solar Garden (CSG). This option is currently only available to Xcel customers. Your electricity meter continues to run as it does now, but as a subscriber to a local CSG you will immediately begin getting credits to you Xcel bill to offset you electricity costs.  You will save approximately 10 percent on your electricity bill.  Your subscription is capped at 120 percent of you annual energy use.

What solar energy rebates and incentives are available?

Solar rebates and incentives vary depending on where you live. The most significant is the 30 percent federal investment tax credit (ITC), which allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of your solar energy system from your taxes. Some states offer additional tax credits, and certain municipalities and utilities also offer cash rebates or other incentives. Business and farm owners can depreciate the solar system to an amount nearly equal to the ITC value.

How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Solar panels absorb the sun’s energy throughout the day and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes and businesses run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity. At that point, you either use the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid. (1)

What happens if there is snow on solar panels?

Solar panels convert sunshine into power, so if your panels are covered in snow they can’t produce electricity. Snow generally isn’t heavy enough to cause structural issues with your panels, and since most panels are tilted at an angle the snow will slide off. If snow does accumulate, your panels are easy to clean.

Is solar a viable option in cold climates?

Yes. A general rule of thumb is that if the surface of the solar panels are not obstructed, they can produce electricity. In fact, given equal sunlight, a solar panel on a cold day will out-produce a solar panel on a hot day.

Because of seasonal changes, there is less sunlight in the winter, so your solar system output will change monthly. The table below shows a monthly breakdown of your total output. Summer months generally produce around twice as much as winter months.

Will I still receive an electric bill if I have solar panels?

Unless your solar energy system includes battery storage and you are fully off the grid, you will still receive a bill from your utility. However, you can dramatically reduce your bill, or even cut the amount you owe to $0, with a solar panel system that matches your energy use.

How much will solar-panel maintenance cost?

Nothing. NES will take care of all operation and maintenance required by your system. (The systems are made of durable tempered glass and require little to no maintenance for the 25 to 35 years that they will generate power.)

Do I need to replace my roof before installing solar?

Solar energy systems can last for 25 to 35 years, and it can be costly to remove and reinstall them if you need to replace your roof. If your roof will need to be repaired or replaced in the near term, you should complete that project before installing your solar array.

How long will my solar power system last?

The key components are warrantied for 20+ year, with modules being 25 years and inverters being 20 years. There are no moving parts except a small fan in the inverter. Our modules withstand a 1’’ steel ball at 50MPH and are capable of withstanding snow, wind, and hail.

What is a subscription to a Community Solar Garden?

A subscription lets you help produce local solar electricity without putting panels on your property. A subscription is like a service contract, rather than actual ownership of the solar array. When you subscribe, each month your utility will give you a credit on your bill for the electricity generated by your portion of the community solar garden (CSG). You then pay a portion of those credits to NES for building, maintaining, and monitoring your CSG.

What is a community solar garden?

A Community Solar Garden (CSG) is a large solar electric array which generates bill credits for participating subscribers. It is located off site from the customer’s location, so the electricity goes into Xcel’s grid, and Xcel compensates the customer with a bill credit. When you subscribe to a CSG, you will immediately cut your electricity costs by 10%.

What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

Solar power, like other renewable energy resources, has many environmental and health benefits. Going solar reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change, and also results in fewer air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which can cause health problems.

What is net metering?

Net metering is a policy that allows customers to feed solar electricity into the grid when they don’t need the power, and pull it back off the grid when they do need it.

Customers get credited (at the retail rate) for what they produce, and only pay their utility for their net consumption. Net metering gives solar owners peace of mind that they don’t have to always use the electricity the instant it is generated by their solar system.

What are the net metering rules in Minnesota?

ustomers with 1,000 kilowatts (kW) in capacity at investor-owned utilities like Xcel, and less than 40 kW in capacity at municipal utilities and electric cooperatives, are eligible for net metering. Investor-owned utilities may require customers with a net-metered facility of 40 kW or greater to limit total generation capacity to 120% of the customer’s annual demand.

It is important that we size your solar system for only the amount of energy that you actually need, due to how utility providers handle credits of excessive energy production. For example, if an Xcel customer buys a solar system that produces more than 120 percent of their demand for a given year, Xcel credits the customer at an avoided cost rate instead of the retail rate. The avoided cost rate is much lower for the customer (around 2-3 cents per kwh). Coops and municipal REA’s start crediting customers at the avoided cost rate for electricity greater than a 40kw system. So keeping your system to a size that will reap the retail rate as the credit is key to deriving your greatest benefit.

Credits can be reflected on utility bills or received as checks from the Coops and REAs, depending on the utility.

Do my solar panels produce power when the sun isn’t shining?

The amount of power your solar energy system can generate is dependent on sunlight.

As a result, your solar panels will produce slightly less energy when the weather is cloudy, and no energy at night. However, because of high electricity costs and financial incentives, solar is a smart decision even if you live in a cloudy city. (1)

Do I need to install solar batteries with my solar power system?

Solar power systems that include solar batteries, known as solar-plus-storage, are increasingly popular, but can be pricey. Luckily, batteries are not necessary for most solar homeowners. As long as you are connected to the grid, your system does not need a battery: excess power goes back into the grid, and you can draw from the grid if you need more electricity than your panels can generate.

Can I go off the grid with solar panels?

When you install solar panels on your property, you will still be connected to the grid. This allows you to draw from the grid when your system is not producing all of the power that you need, and send power back to the grid when you produce more than you use. It is possible to go off the grid with a solar energy system that includes battery storage, but it will cost significantly more and is unnecessary for the majority of homeowners.

Do solar panels work in a blackout?

If your solar panel system is connected to the grid, it will shut off in the event of a blackout. This is to prevent emergency responders and electricity utility repair-people from being injured by your panels sending power back to the grid.

Is my roof suitable for solar panels?

Southerly-facing roofs with little to no shade and enough space to fit a solar panel system are ideal for installing solar. However, in many cases there are workarounds if your home doesn’t have the ideal solar roof. If your roof does not have enough space, NES will work with you to create a ground-mounted system.

What size solar energy system should I get?

The size of your solar energy system will depend on how much electricity you use on a monthly basis, as well as the weather conditions where you live. We work with you, to gain an understanding of your average usage as well as your ability to take advantage of the tax incentives, to develop your unique solar energy system.

Can I join?

Anyone with an Xcel Energy electricity account can join; including renters, homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits. You must be in the same or a contiguous county to the CSG. We expect to have plenty of gardens serving the Twin Cities metro area, as well as other parts of Minnesota. To join with no up-front cost, subscribers need a FICO score of greater than 650.

How many solar panels do I need to offset my electricity consumption?

The number of solar panels required will depend on how much electricity you consume, what percentage of this electricity is offset, and the available “solar resource” at your site. A great resource for determining system size, annual production, and providing a rough estimate of system cost and savings for your given location is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) PV Watts calculator. The calculator can be found by going to the following web address: http://pvwatts.nrel.gov/index.php

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