Everyone wants to do something good for the environment, and everyone knows that solar provides clean energy from an unlimited resource. But before you invest in a state-of-the-art solar installation, you probably have lots of questions about how your system will work, how your business will benefit, and what happens if something goes wrong.
Today, I’m sitting down with Meridian’s Travis Moller, a NABCEP-Certified Photovoltaic (PV) System Installer, to get the answers to solar’s most frequently asked questions.
MS: How does grid-tied solar work? Does my solar system have to have batteries?
TM: No, if you install a Meridian system, you won’t need any batteries. Your solar PV system will be tied directly to your local power grid via inverters. This means that your facility will use the energy produced by the system first. If your system produces more than you use, the system will push that energy back onto the grid. If you need more energy than your system is producing, you can still pull energy from the power grid, just like you do without solar. A big advantage of grid-tied systems like this is that the power grid essentially works like a battery for you, but you produce a big chunk of your own energy, especially during peak demand times like those hot Texas summer days.
MS: So what happens if the grid goes down? Do I still get credit for the energy my system produces?
TM: If the grid goes down, your solar PV system will shut down, too. Typically you don’t get credit from the utility company while the grid is down.
MS: Texas is known for its crazy hailstorms. What happens if my roof gets hit?
TM: Solar panels are made of little PV cells encased between layers of glass. Typically, we install the panels at a slight angle to capture the maximum amount of sun. This means that when hailstorms come through, the hail usually hits the panel at an angle, lessening the chance of a fracture. In 15 years of installing solar systems, we’ve never have one get destroyed by hail, but if that did happen, your whole solar installation would be covered under your regular insurance. As a plus, solar installations very rarely ever cause your insurance rates to rise significantly. There is very little that goes wrong with them, and they have a low aftermarket value so they very rarely get stolen.
MS: What kinds of incentives are available, and why do the utility companies offer them?
TM: Solar incentives from the utility companies vary by location, but we are seeing more and better incentive programs crop up as the utilities realize that solar can do one very important thing for them: since solar installations produce the most energy during bright, sunny days, they reduce the demand for electricity at peak hours. If the demand for energy during those peak times is lower, the utility doesn’t have to build expensive coal- or nuclear-powered plants to meet that peak demand. So the utility companies actually save money by offering great incentives to businesses that invest in renewables like solar.
MS: How much maintenance does a solar installation require?
TM: We recommend an annual cleaning, which is just as simple as hosing down your panels. One of those sponge/squeegee things you use at the gas station works well, too. We like to install our systems so that the majority of dust and grime catches at the bottom of each panel, rather than building up and blocking the sunlight. Beyond that, a quick check of your inverter every month or so is all you need to do. If you see red lights instead of green, call Meridian and we’ll send our maintenance team out right away. You can also schedule cleanings with us any time.
MS: How long will my solar panels last?
TM: The panels we use have a 25-year production warranty, and while they do produce a bit less each year (>1% annual decline in production), we expect them to keep producing for up to forty years. Meridian uses only high-quality panels and system components sourced from companies that we expect to be around for a long time, so you can feel secure that your warranty will be honored for the life of your system.