3 Reasons Why Winter is The Best Time for Your Solar Project

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If you're thinking about switching to solar this year, you might need to start planning earlier than you think.

Let’s take a look at 3 reasons why it is a good idea to start planning your solar project during the winter.

1. 2 to 6 month Project Timeline

While most people wait until the summer months to start their home projects, if you are thinking about solar and want to maximize your first year returns, you will want to start searching and getting quotes between January and April.

Getting all the necessary permits, engineering, power agreements, and installation completed typically takes a couple of months at a minimum.

Solar can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months to go from design to installation.

Solar projects have to be approved by the city, power company, fire department, and sometimes HOA’s; this can slow down the installation process.

We typically get projects turned around in 2 months, but turnaround time is different from installer to installer.

To get your system installed in time to catch the summer months and maximize your summer production, start looking into solar as soon as possible.

2. Maximize Summer Sun Hours

During the summer months the sun shines for much longer than in the winter, and because of that, your solar panels will produce a majority of the power that is needed to power your home for the entire year during the summer.

If you look at the chart below that details the amount of time the sun is shining, you can see that it starts to increase in April and May. As a homeowner getting solar, to see best results, you want to have as many of the peak months over 4 hours as possible.

During the first year, a homeowner will see better returns if they have their system installed to capture as many of the summer months as possible.

Sun Minutes By Month


3. Yearly Solar Credit Reset.

When you install solar, you sign a net metering agreement with your power company that allows you to tell sell back your extra power and accumulate solar credits.

With solar, you want to accumulate most of your solar credits at the beginning of the credit cycle because your solar panels will produce more power during the summer months than the winter months.

Rocky Mountain Power resets your solar credits on April 1st every year. To maximize your first-year power production, we recommended that you switch as close to the new solar credit cycle as possible.

The ideal time to get your solar installed is at the beginning of the solar credit cycle.

How You Accumulate Solar Credits

Your solar panel system is meant to offset the amount of power that you have historically used.

By checking how much power you’ve consumed in the past year, a system is designed that can produce the same amount of energy.

During the summer months the sun shines for much longer than in the winter, and because of that, your solar panels will produce a majority of the power that is needed to power your home for the entire year during the summer.

During May, June, July, August, and September; your bill will be entirely replaced, and your system will produce extra energy.

During these 5 months, your system will produce a majority of the power needed for the year.

Because your system produces extra power in the summer, the credits that you accumulate compensate for the energy that your system can’t produce during the winter.

Conclusion

While most people wait until the summer months to start their home projects, if you are thinking about solar and want to maximize your first year, you will want to start searching and getting quotes in January/ February.

Getting all the necessary permits, engineering, power agreements, and installation completed typically takes a couple of months at the minimum. We usually get projects turned around in 2 months, but turnaround time is different from installer to installer.

To get your system installed in time to catch the summer months and maximize your summer production, start looking into solar as soon as possible.

Key Takeaways

  • Start planning early

  • Solar takes 2-6 months to install (We typically take 2 months)

  • Your system will produce most of your power in the summer

  • The credits you accumulate in the summer will be used in the winter

  • Solar credits reset on April 1st

  • Get quotes in January/February/March to get installed in the spring/summer

SunPower Voted #1 In Solar Sustainability

When you think about solar and solar panels, the first thing that most likely pops into your head is sustainability. While solar panels and solar energy are sustainable, the manufacturing of solar panels does have a footprint.

Solar panels require various minerals and processes that use natural resources and have an impact on the environment. Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition created the solar scorecard to grade solar panel manufacturers sustainable practices to help reduce the impact of manufacturing solar panels.

For the second year in a row, SunPower was rated the most sustainable solar panel manufacturer.

Let’s take a look at what makes SunPower the most sustainable solar manufacturer.

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What is the Solar Scorecard?

The solar scorecard is a comprehensive rating for the top 35 solar manufacturers that ranks the sustainability of a company by looking at eight different categories:

  • Extended Producer Responsibility

  • Emissions Reporting

  • Worker Rights, Health, and Safety

  • Supply Chains

  • Module Toxicity & Materials

  • Energy & GHGs

  • Conflict Minerals

  • Water

Each category has a specified top rating of either 10 or 15 with a total possible score of 100. SunPower scored a 98/100 on the scorecard.

What Makes SunPower More Sustainable?

SunPower institutes a variety of practices in research, development, and manufacturing to make sure that all resources used are used minimally and thoughtfully.

At SunPower’s Silicon Valley Research Facility, they deployed techniques that help cut down on water usage and the electricity needed to produce cells and panels.

SunPower also has a solar recycling program in place to help achieve the vision of producing landfill free products.

SunPower has also joined forces with other solar manufacturers and SEIA to launch a first of its kind U.S. Solar Panel Recycling Program.

All these efforts and more, both by SunPower and other leading sustainable companies, aim to create quality products and goods that consumers can feel good about supporting.

While we are proud of this ranking and achievement, we view the Solar Scorecard not as an award but rather as a benchmarking tool. It helps us understand what we are doing right and what we need to improve. It also encourages us to have an ongoing dialogue with SVTC and other stakeholders to help guide SunPower’s sustainability strategy.

Marissa Yao, SunPower

SunPower also believes in building new highly efficient manufacturing plants. SunPower’s Mexicali, Mexico plant became their first triple certified plant.

This means the plant has earned three of the industry’s most stringent sustainability certifications: The direct current E-Series and X-Series solar panels it manufactures are Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver, and the facility holds LEED Gold® certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and Landfill-Free Verification from NSF Sustainability. (SunPower)

SunPower is the world’s first and only solar company to earn the prestigious Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver designation.

Products that receive recognition from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute are ranked against strict standards in material health, material reuse, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Conclusion

Solar panels and solar energy are a great source of clean energy, but though most people think of sustainability when thinking about solar, some manufacturers do a better job of producing sustainable solar panels.

Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition’s scorecard helps consumers and solar manufacturers learn about their manufacturing practices and determine how sustainable a company is.

SunPower was ranked the #1 solar panel manufacturer with a score of 98 out of 100 thanks to their sustainable practices and commitment to constant improvement.

SunPower's Most Powerful Solar Panel Ever

Last March, SunPower announced it most powerful residential solar panel it had ever created. The new panel improved on their previous X-series solar panels and increased the watts per panel to 370W.

The new 370W panel offers incredible power generation capabilities when compared to traditional solar panels. SunPower’s new 370-watt residential solar panels offer 20 to 40 percent more power per panel than conventional solar panels.

Because each SunPower panel can produce more energy, it reduces the amount of panels the homeowners need to offset their power bills.

Homes with limited roof space or big power bills, will be very benefited from the new 370W panel.

SunPower’s new 370-watt panel is top of the line when it comes efficiency. The new 370W panels offer an industry leading 22.7% efficiency.  That means more sunlight is converted into energy.

A conventional system would require 22, 260W solar panels to cover a home 5.5KW energy requirements. With the new SunPower 370 though, that same home could have its energy requirements met by 15 panels.

That leaves plenty of room fro expanding a system and adding an electric charger or adding extra panels for a hot tub.

Although the SunPower 370W was announced in March of 2018, it is finally becoming available this year. We have met with our SunPower rep and they have confirmed the panels availability for 2019.

Should Park City Do What California just did with Rooftop Solar?

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For the past decade, regulators and solar advocates in California have been working on changing the building requirements that the California Building Standards Commission enforces to be more environmentally progressive.

On December 8th, 2018, the California Building Standards Commission and the California Energy Commission signed off on 2019 Title 24, Part 6, Building Energy Efficiency Standards which will require all new homes built after 2020 to incorporate solar.

Let’s take a look at what the new standards will mean for homeowners and builders and see if this type of energy code could be beneficial for Park City.

What Are The New Building Standards

Under the new building codes that will take effect on January 1st, 2020 all new homes will be required to incorporate solar power.

The solar array on a home under the new building codes will need to be sized to net out annual Kilowatt-hour usage of a house.

That means that all new home will need to be capable of producing 100% of the energy required. Under the new codes, there have also been revisions made to energy efficiency measures that are estimated to reduce the power consumption of a home by 50%.

The new building standards mark a first in the United States and are the most ambitious efforts to date.

What Do The New Codes Mean For Homeowners?

One of the aims with changing the building codes was to eliminate friction for homeowners. Rather than having homeowners deal with getting solar installed, the people behind the changes thought it would be more effective to have solar be more B2B between contractors, suppliers, and home builders.

For anyone buying a home in California after 2020, the only thing that will change will be the price of your mortgage. The solar array will come included in your total home price and will be part of your mortgage.

After studying the energy consumption in California for three years, the California Energy Commission determined that solar would be cost-effective in all climate in California.

The analysis found that requiring solar would be cost-effective in all climate zones of the state and that homeowners would save $40 each month, or roughly $500 per year, due to the new rules. The codes are expected to add around $40 per month to a typical mortgage payment, but the costs are outweighed by a projected $80 per month in energy savings.

- Julia Piper, GreenTechMedia

The new codes will mean energy savings for homeowners and a reduction of carbon emissions.

Could Park City Do This?

We believe that Park City could be a leader in Utah by adopting similar energy codes for new homes.

Most areas in Park City are great for solar, and in areas where it might not be as ideal like Summit Park, requirements could be lowered.

Enforcing stricter building codes seems like a great approach to adopting more solar power, and in a city that is committed to being carbon neutral, this could be a great approach that accelerates the adoption of solar.

Conclusion

California’s new building codes are the most ambitious solar initiatives in the United States and mark a very important first in the United States.

By requiring solar on new homes, the homeowner doesn’t have to worry about the solar process and can instead buy a house and move in like normal.

The new codes will also lead to energy savings for new homeowners in California.

We believe that similar building codes work in Park City and could help shift the city shift to carbon-free energy.