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Solar is Solar, it’s all the same! Right?

your top 10 solar questionsBruce Howard – Energy by Choice

Solar is Solar, it’s all the same! Right?

It happens all the time. It seems to occur with more and more frequency. You’re at your kid’s soccer game or even walking by the copier at work and you hear someone say it again – “I had the guy out last night, we’re going solar!” The conversation seems to take on a life of its own. A crowd forms. A flurry of questions ensues followed by enticing statements and unbelievable numbers. Someone always offers the tale of their cousin that went solar and he swears that leases are better than a PPA. Or the guy at the end of the cul de sac who paid cash to have his custom engineered– he doesn’t have any bill anymore! Sighs and the typical salutation of “let me know how it goes” signal the end of this solar roundtable. Everyone moves on in various states of curiosity.

 

Homeowners speak about “solar” in a generic manner not seen since the advent of cellular phones and the refinancing boom. It can’t be helped. Although solar technology has been around for decades a number of larger, national solar companies have sprouted up recently that advertise heavily on TV, radio and may have knocked on your door during dinner. The pitch of “zero out of pocket” and “$25 PSEG bills” are attractive, but their cookie cutter approach to solar power has left many homeowners disenchanted since they were never made aware of all the aspects of a solar project. Many homeowners never stopped to think, ‘what do they really want to get out of going solar anyway?’

 

Solar is not just solar! When solar works it is a marriage of the right technology with the right financing installed by an experienced contractor you trust. Here is a brief overview of the aspects of “going solar” that vary greatly from panel to panel and company to company that will influence the technical and financial outcome of your project.

 

The Finances of Solar:
Will leasing the equipment be best for you or will financing the purchase of your system give you a better ROI? While owning the system gives vastly greater returns this decision is based almost exclusively on your tax appetite. Working homeowners with taxable income will be able to utilize the30% Federal Income Tax Credit (ITC) and discount the purchase price of their system significantly. This is not available to homeowners who lease their equipment. Since the Federal ITC goes to the system owner, the finance company gets that 30% credit in a lease. Leases are useful to people who are not looking to get maximum tax advantage from their transition to solar. Typically, retired homeowners do not typically have tax liabilities. For them, leasing is a great way to cap electricity expenses. The New York State ITC (caps at $5,000) is available to all homeowners that go solar in New York State, regardless of whether system is leased or owned. Latest studies indicate more people are choosing to own their solar system.

 

Think long term. While a low monthly solar payment looks enticing, those savings can quickly evaporate with annual escalators. Larger, national solar companies use escalators in a generic approach to finance. With your monthly payment raising 1.5% or even 2.9% annually you will not see much value in switching from PSEG (LIPA) since historically most local utilities average less than 4.5% increases per annum. Insist on a fixed rate loan or a lease with 0% escalator. The term of your payments is critical. With leasing – you will always be paying. While the lease payments are typically for 20 years and predictable, it never goes away. At the end of the lease term you either remove it or lease a new system. Leases do not allow for the purchase of the system except upon sale of the property. In a financed purchase the payments stop when the system is paid off. From that day on the homeowner enjoys payment free use of the system. There are premium systems that are reliably producing power for more than 30 years.

 

The majority of residential solar systems that are purchased by the homeowner are financed. Not only do you utilize both Federal and NYS ITCs, you can select the type of financing that fits your financial plan. There are several commercial and NYS subsidized loans available depending on credit worthiness and desired term of loan. Terms vary from 5 years to 20 with rates starting as low as 3.49% for typical borrowers and lower rates for those with FICO scores above 750. Many customers actually pay their systems off early increasing their ROI. Recent Department of Energy research confirms that homeowners who own their solar system enjoy increased value upon resale. Increased value in the area of $4.00 per kilowatt is typical. Leased solar does not always perform as well at resale of the property. Appraisal Institute and National Association of Realtors findings are similar. Consult with your tax professional to see which gives you the greatest benefits.

 

Solar Technology:
Then there is the technology itself, the panels, inverters and racking, the physical components that transform homeowners from consumers to producers. Your solar panel uses photovoltaic cells to capture light and convert it into electric power. There are hundreds of Photovoltaic (PV) manufacturers. Some are giant electronic manufacturers that make everything from smartphones and refrigerators to solar panels. Many of these have recently entered the market because of the increasing demand for solar power. Then there is the established research- and science-based companies bringing innovation and durability to the market. Mass produced panels manufactured with price point as the key feature offer only limited warranties and are often categorized as Conventional (or Standard) Efficiency panels. Panels from the older, technology based companies often offer greater reliability and production due to scientific research, testing and customer feedback collected over decades. These panels are considered Premium (or High Efficiency) Panels and their pricing reflect the consumer’s preference for performance and time-tested reliability. Premium panels are easily recognizable; they are the panels that have all-inclusive warranties (labor & shipping included) and would offer a performance warranty over 85% stated production at 25 years.

 

It is worth it to consider premium panels even if you are attempting to save as much as possible upfront. They produce more power now and over time. Aesthetics are considered better on some of the high end panels’ better grade of materials and even all black modules are used with low profile racking systems. Looking good is important! As the residential solar market continues to mature quality makes a greater impact both for power production and at resale of the property. Quality and reliability come under scrutiny when prospective buyers are involved since they will most likely be the ones to use the warranty.

 

Installers:
As far as your individual application use a local contractor. Local firms are usually most responsive and experienced with building and safety codes and if something does go awry, they are local! Feedback suggests that most homeowners feel more comfortable dealing with an experienced, local installer instead of national firms chiefly because this is a long term investment. Whomever you choose, ask for references, read reviews and go see their work. Some sustainability advocates assert that using local firms consumes fewer resources and keeps money in the local economy while it reduces local unemployment.

 

In conclusion, while solar is widely seen as an expensive and new technology it is neither. Government and industry have leveraged solar power for decades and now incentives and widespread adoption of solar is seen as benefit to the environment as well as homeowners. For the greatest energy independence remember to:

• Check with your tax pro and see if leasing or owning is a better strategy.
• No escalators! Use fixed rate financing for your solar project.
• Quality doesn’t cost extra – It actually pays dividends in production and resale value.
• Ask for references

 

How much will I have to pay the utility after I get solar?

By Stephen Boscarino There is not one answer to this question. It is mathematical and the numbers involved for each house are unique.   The pertinent numbers are, of course, the amount of electricity you are consuming over the course of a year and the cost of that energy and the amount of energy the… Continue Reading

How much does solar electric cost?

by Evelyn Polvere Both a solar purchase and a solar lease will cost you nothing out of pocket.   You are currently paying PSEG between 19 and 20 cents a kilowatt hour.  Our solar customers will pay an average of 8 to 9 cents effective cost per kilowatt hour.  That’s a 58% savings. How You… Continue Reading

Solar Energy for ZERO OUT-OF-POCKET – What are my Options?

by R. Sail Van Nostrand We often hear, ‘I’d rather lease because it’s Zero out-of-pocket.’ That’s a bit of a misnomer, so we’d like to set the story straight.   ZERO OUT-OF-POCKET can be achieved in one of several ways: A PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) is a contract in which someone else owns the equipment… Continue Reading

What happens to my solar when it snows?

Bruce Howard – Energy by Choice Your solar panels capture light and convert that light into clean  power for your home. Even on a snowy day there is light to be captured and while there may not be as much light as a completely sunny day your system will be generating power. It is not… Continue Reading

Solar Industry on Long Island ~ Good News and Bad News

UPDATE:  GREAT NEWS!!  AS OF 12/18/15 10:45AM, THE SOLAR INVESTMENT TAX CREDIT HAS BEEN EXTENDED! The good news is:The Federal Tax Credit is slated to be Extended! One of the main credits that makes solar more affordable to purchase is the Solar Investment Tax Credit.  It is worth 30% of the job to the customer. … Continue Reading

COP21 climate change summit: Obama ‘optimistic’ about agreement

By Holly Yan, Ben Brumfield and Michael Pearson, CNN,  Wed December 2, 2015 (CNN)The introductions and formalities are over. Now, it’s crunch time to get a deal on what U.S. President Barack Obama calls an “ambitious” global climate change agreement. Leaders of 150 nations are in the second day of the COP21 conference Tuesday. COP stands… Continue Reading

TOP TEN Reasons to Choose Solar

Solar power is more affordable than ever. Choosing solar is now available to everyone. Many financing options are available, whether you purchase or lease, and various tax incentives and rebates also help cut the cost. Electricity prices rise over time. Paying the utility company is never a pleasant experience, especially when the expense only grows over… Continue Reading

An Unwavering Climate Message from Pope Francis

Pope Francis concluded his visit to America, which included speeches to both Congress and the UN’s General Assembly addressing inequality, poverty and climate change. Two years after he took over as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is driving home the message which will surely define his papacy: start taking care of the planet.… Continue Reading

ON-BILL RECOVERY FINANCING SLATED TO CHANGE

The GJGNY (Green Jobs Green New York) residential revolving loan fund has filled a gap in the market for residential energy efficiency and PV loans for several years. The availability of the expanded loan offered through GJGNY has enabled households who cannot qualify for traditional lending to participate in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.… Continue Reading

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SunEdison Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy

April 29, 2016April 29, 2016

After weeks of speculation in the media, renewable energy company SunEdison Inc.

has filed for bankruptcy.

In an announcement, SunEdison says it has commenced a process to restructure its balance sheet and position the company for the future. To facilitate this restructuring, SunEdison and certain of its domestic and international subsidiaries have filed voluntary petitions for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in the Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. Notably, SunEdison’s publicly traded yieldcos, TerraForm Power and TerraForm Global, are not part of the filing. “Our decision to initiate a court-supervised restructuring was a difficult but important step to address our immediate liquidity issues,” says Ahmad Chatila, SunEdison CEO. “The court process will allow us to right-size our balance sheet and reduce our debt, providing the opportunity to support the business going forward while focusing on our core strengths. “It also will facilitate our continued work toward transforming the company into a more streamlined and efficient operator, shedding non-core assets as well as taking other steps to help us get the most value out of our technological and intellectual property,” continues Chatila.  “As a result of this process, we expect that SunEdison will be in an even better position over the long term to utilize our capabilities in the renewable energy sector in service of our customers, business partners and employees.” SunEdison says it has secured commitments for new capital totaling up to $300 million in debtor-in-possession financing from a consortium of first and second lien lenders. Subject to court approval, these financial resources will be made available to the company to support its continuing business operations, minimize disruption to its worldwide projects and partnerships, and make necessary operational changes. According to the company, the new financing will support day-to-day operations during the reorganization, including the following: – Proceeding with work on ongoing projects, both in the U.S. and elsewhere; – Paying wages and benefits for employees; – Continuing to provide services to customers; – Paying vendors and suppliers in the ordinary course for goods and services provided on or after the date of the Chapter 11 filing; and – Complying with all regulatory obligations. SunEdison has hired Rothschild Inc. and McKinsey Recovery & Transformation Services U.S. LLC as advisors in connection with the company’s restructuring. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP is acting as its legal advisor. Industry reaction The bankruptcy filing comes after SunEdison racked up large amounts of debt following an acquisition spree, its stock prices plummeted over the past year or so, and the company was hit with several lawsuits, including one from its TerraForm Global yeildco. A recently released internal investigation also pointed to an “overly optimistic culture” at SunEdison. Jenny Chase, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s head of solar insight, says SunEdison’s two-year, $3.1 billion acquisition binge “drove its debt to unmanageable levels and sent investors running for the exits.” “SunEdison’s bankruptcy says more about the company’s strategic decisions than about the solar industry as a whole,” notes Chase, adding, “Comparable companies SunPower and First Solar have managed a develop-and-sell business profitably over the past three years.” Dan Whitten, vice president of communications for the Solar Energy Industries Association, has echoed that sentiment. “This is a highly competitive industry with a massive upside,” he says in a statement. “As with other rapidly growing and successful industries, not every company in the solar market is going to stand the test of time. SunEdison is just one company, and today’s development does not reflect a trend of the broader industry.” Chase adds, “What has distinguished SunEdison has been the relentless and unfocused pursuit of growth, in which it has invested vast amounts of borrowed money. Not all of its ventures succeeded, which is inevitable in the project development business, but SunEdison’s win-to-loss ratio was evidently insufficient.”
on April 21, 2016
http://solarindustrymag.com/sunedison-files-for-chapter-11-bankruptcy?utm_medium=email&utm_source=LNH+04-22-2016&utm_campaign=SI+Latest+News+Headlines

Mike’s Long-Term Savings are Incredible!

December 17, 2015December 17, 2015
solar story icon for news pageOur customer Mike came to us through a referral.  He's one of a few neighbors that were looking into solar together. Massapequa Park 9810 Mazol 12 15Mike's system was installed a week ago, and it should be covering all of his PSEG bill.  His system will be producing 10,968 kilo watt hours of electricity for him yearly.  His effective cost of energy will be about 7 cents, a fraction of the 22 cents he's been paying PSEG.  And his 25-year savings number is just under $119,000 dollars.  Money not sent to the utility = money in Mike's pocket.  Awesome!

Just finished!

November 12, 2015November 12, 2015
3 guys on roofOur team just finished working on Michael and Susan's solar PV system in Levittown. solar story icon for news page The 15,369 watts that went up should produce over 16,500 kilo watt hours of electricity for them. That means they'll be saving over $3,400 yearly, that's almost $300 in their pocket every month.     Sweet.                

Carl’s system will save him $3,460 this year!

October 28, 2015October 28, 2015

Carl's system will save him $3,460 this year!

Babylon 12753 Tedeschi 8 15Babylon, NY ~ Energy By Choice installed this beautiful 12.753 kilo watt system for our customer Carl.  Carl's system will save him $3,460 this year!solar story icon for news page

Carl has chosen to finance his system, so his immediate savings are $70 a month from what he was previously paying PSEG.

Once his system is paid off, he will be saving about $300 a month.

His savings started immediately and will continue to grow over the long life of the system.

In addition to having more money in his pocket, by putting this solar system up the ecological savings are the equivalent of Carl planting 4 acres of trees.  Saving the planet....saving money....one solar story at a time.  [view more installs]

Long Island’s Solar Energy Industry Booming ~ Newsday ~ 10/16/15

October 19, 2015October 19, 2015
imagejpeg_0Long Island’s Solar Energy Industry Booming ~Newsday, 10/16/15 Sail Van Nostrand, owner of Energy By Choice, said system prices are down 15 percent to 20 percent over the past three years, to between $30,000 and $35,000 for a 10-kilowatt system. Most residential solar installations are for systems between 5 and 10 kilowatts, or 5,000 and 10,000 watts, respectively, with the intention of reducing a PSEG energy bill to just about zero. Tax credits and other incentives cut the cost nearly in half, and low-interest loans cover the balance, greatly reducing or eliminating customers’ upfront costs…. read Newsday's feature

Commercial Project Complete

October 13, 2015October 13, 2015
Our team spent the latter part of August on the roof of Delta Computers in Farmingdale installing over 500 SunPower 327 watt panels.  The install went meticulously and the final outcome is quite spectacular. delta best crop

Energy By Choice at Fall Festival in Huntington, Oct 10-11 2015

October 13, 2015
This weekend, Energy by Choice will have a booth at Long Island Fall Festival in Huntington. We'd love to see you - October 10-11 11am-6pm. Come learn about solar for your home.  Speak with the owners. fallfestival