The clock is ticking on 30% federal solar credit

peakbagger Posted By peakbagger, Jan 25, 2019 at 5:09 PM

  1. SpaceBus

    SpaceBus
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    Maine is like this as well. I'm renovating my house this year and I'm considering having someone set me up with a solar system before the incentives are lowered. Maine offers no state incentives unfortunately and I'm not even sure if net metering is offered. I'm primarily interested because I want to be off grid because the local power company is terrible and the only option.
     
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  2. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    My niece lives in a small town in Maine and volunteers at a food pantry. They have a walk in freezer and refrigerators and electric power is big cost to them. Having this capability means that they can accept more food when available and stretch out its benefits.When a new pantry building was built, someone familiar with solar on the board had the foresight to orient the building for solar. They had funding for half the cost of an array but the project had lagged for several years during the prior governors administration that was actively anti solar. Well the new governor is pro solar and one of her first acts was to come up with funding for the other half of the cost using donated or at least reduced cost labor by a contractor that needed to train a new crew and the pantry now has a substantially reduced power bill. They are non profit so the tax credit didnt affect them but expect the overall decline in solar costs due to the tax credit indirectly benefited them.

    Realistically the barrier for solar has gotten quite low. With some planning once the racking and trunk cabling is in place on the roof, someone can start out with few a panels and microinverters and then buy additional ones (and take the credit) when they can afford them. The only hassle is that panel sizing and color varies so the resulting array may not look uniform if panels are bought over a period of years.
     
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  3. SpaceBus

    SpaceBus
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    You bring up a great point with adding as budget allows, but I don't think our roof is a good base go a solar array in the first place. The short side of the roof faces south and its also steep. Our I think our setup will have to be on the ground, but that's fine as we are on a hill facing south. Worst case for a ground install we have to clear some trees. If there's enough money left after we finish the house perhaps that will be the time
     
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  4. Where2

    Where2
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    Maybe if the legislature moves on it, Maine will go back to a net metering system. (They used to have net metering) Last I read in the BDN or Portland paper, Maine net metering was currently dead, but the new legislature offered a glimmer of hope. We have property in "the County" (my wife was born in northern ME), and we'll put a PV array online up there as soon as something favorable happens with net metering. Not because we'll get any federal incentives for it. Those only apply to primary residences. We'll put a PV array on our property, because a PV array goes hand in hand with the 50 acres of forest out behind the house... It's peacefully quiet and powered by sunlight! (just like a forest)

    $0.53/W for panels with micro-inverters was the last bargain I saw (last week), so yes the barrier is much lower than my $1.39/W in 2013 for panels + inverters.

    Yeah, I came up with that modular concept back in 2010 when my late father and I took a class on solar at my local community college. I likened it to Legos, because almost everyone understands their modular principle. I wrote it up for my final presentation. Unfortunately, in FL the permitting system is rigged so that you have to specify panels and inverters on day 1, which makes the modular system impossible for the average buyer. I envisioned people using their tax refunds or the savings from the array itself to add to their arrays over time. Alas, that concept is dead in FL, unless you can find someone to front the $$$ on day one to buy an entire set of panels, and rent them to you while you pay off the system.
     
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  5. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    I have a former coworker in the Fort Kent area. He is an engineer that was stranded up there as he married a "county girl" and stayed. The power utility up there is odd in that its not connected to the ISO New England Grid, rather its treated as a "poor stepchild" off the Canadian Maritime Grid. My friend worked for some period with the town several years ago and his opinion of the utility then was that power was very expensive and they did the bare minimum to required by law to allow renewables. Not sure if its changed. The DSIRE site seems to show that net metering is still applicable http://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/detail/280 but its the type where the utility does not allow carry forward of credits on a yearly basis which tends to make it less attractive especially if they set the reset date January 1st as a solar user cannot take advantage of a summer surplus to carry them through the winter. My friend lives in town but has a large lot somehwre nearby with small offgrid setup.

    I agree that the utility can make a phased in array a PITA but do not believe that they can prevent a customer from expanding an existing system as long as the original system is inspected, meets code and is approved. The concept I envision is buy standard racking and install a standard length of rail on the roof. Then buy a couple if panels with microinverters and a standard microinverter trunk cable and the gird interface box with blanking caps on the cable for the unused connections. The resultant mini system is complete and can be inspected and improved. Six months later when the owner buys more panels they will have to reapply to expand they system but its pretty well a rubber stamp application. The only issue I see is if the state has a solar allocation system where they only accept so many KW per year into a program. Obviously this can vary by state or utility but its worth looking into. The federal solar credit is still around but phases out over a couple of years and the owner I believe the owner can claim the credit for the additional panels once they are inspected and approved. To me the biggest risk is that the same panels are not available. They will still work but will look ugly I did a variation of this in NH over a 12 year period. I have three string type arrays that I built to three different code cycles that are treated as one system approval by the utility. They really do not care much about what is connected upstream of the actual inverters and list my system capacity as the total rated output of the inverters. I have 1 KW a 2KW and 3 KW string inverter so the utility only cares that I do not exceed 6 KW. I actually only have 4.6 KW of panels. My understanding is my utility approval covers the 6 KW so I can build out the system if practical without putting me in the newer net metering rate structure which is less attractive. If I did expand the system I would need it inspected and approved to the new code cycle and that is where I am in trouble as I would need to upgrade to the Rapid Disconnect System requirement but that is not an issue with microinverters or optimizers.
     
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  6. SpaceBus

    SpaceBus
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    @peakbagger I am clearly not educated enough on solar to do it myself. Who would you recommend in the downeast area to contract this out to?
     
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  7. OT_Ducati

    OT_Ducati
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  8. SpaceBus

    SpaceBus
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    Are you the guy I heard screaming down Cutler road in November? Someone near me has a really nice sport bike, not sure what it is yet, and they ride it hard. Makes me miss my Yamaha...

    Their work looks nice and they offer grid tied with storage. How does net metering work in the real world in Maine? I have read both that net metering exists and it doesn't. My primary goal with solar is to reduce the cost of living, and I hate Emera. I liquidated some assets recently, so I will be able to take advantage of the tax credit. I just need to figure out if the cost is worth it. It's really too bad Maine doesn't offer any incentives for solar.
     
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  9. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    Sorry you need to go more local to find out who is doing good installs in your area.

    Do not sell yourself short, microinverter based systems are basically plug and play. The only tricky spot is the tie into the main panel. If you have a 200 amp service it is not normally an issue but a bit trickier if you have something smaller. The folks at Alt E store in Mass will design a system for you and sell you a kit of all the parts. Odds are the local building inspector will want an electrician to do the final hookup. I did all three of mine completely solo. The tools required are pretty minimal. The biggest PITA is rigging the panels up off the ground and onto the roof. I had to rig mine up on the second floor roof (lots of going up and down a ladder) and pulleys.
     
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  10. SpaceBus

    SpaceBus
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    Eh, I'm a total novice to electrical outside of installing speakers in a car that doesn't require more than a few splices. I don't think my wife would trust anything I install. If I pay someone else they will pull the permits and hook it up. For most things in my life I would rather do them myself, but electrical is one area I don't like to deal with.

    Did your property taxes increase.after your install?
     
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  11. Where2

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    "County Girl's" are beautiful can't fault your friend there. :) Fort Kent is the north end of "the county", we're down at the south end of the county still on Emera's grid (Maine Public Region). Emera's map shows your friend and I are technically both on the same provider. I'm sure it will be interesting to do the interconnect. When I spoke to the folks at the town office before we bought our place (technically we're in town), I specifically asked what I'd need pull permits on to update the place myself. Town said: Plumbing. I asked: "Anything else?" Town said: "No, we're pretty laid back around here." That was great news! I almost need a permit to paint the outside of the house in FL. Obviously, to tie into Emera, I'll discuss my array with them, but considering I needed my three line diagram blessed, certified, and approved by the state of FL to pull a local permit to install my array in FL, I think Emera will have all their answers when I send them a three line drawing. On my three line drawing for FL, I showed everything between the meter and the array panels with manufacturer, model, and wire size notations. I generate the drawings in Autocad, and it looks like I do this sort of stuff for a living, because I draw in Autocad creating electrical single line drawings for a living. My drawings don't leave much up to the imagination, and they're in color to make them easy to follow. Our house is the only connection to the nearest Emera transformer, it hangs on the nearest pole in front of the house (with a nice 60Hz hum 24/7). If it can handle my 5400W electric dryer, my 20kbtu 220V A/C unit and my wall oven simultaneously, it can handle the twenty microinverters I want to plug in... They don't put out more than 1A each, unless it's really cold and I'm getting good reflection from snow, then they might peak at 225W, but that's all an M215 will do, they flat line at 225W output.

    My wife would move back to "the county" in a heartbeat. I'm content with the 73° temps we have outside right now in FL. We discussed this concern prior to ever getting engaged. <>

    I'm certain the town will expect a tax value increase for the property when the PV array goes in... I'm sure they noticed the person in my town who has a wind generator on their lot in town too. You can't really hide it, and like the sign on the wall at the local restaurant says "Even if you don't know what you're doing, in a small town your neighbors probably do!" ;) We're on one of the main roads leading out of town. If I drop an 18" orange traffic cone in my front yard, I'm sure people in town will start chatting "What's that Florida couple doing with that orange cone?"
     
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  12. SpaceBus

    SpaceBus
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    There's a house with a wind generator and what appears to be a solar water heater on the roof not far down the road. I've always wanted to ask them how much electricity their wind mill generates.
     
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  13. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    Oh yes there are some fine county girls up there ;). Maine technically requires all new building construction to be inspected to IBC but many small towns and the unorganized townships ignore the law. There was legislation several year ago to force the issue using paid independent inspectors but it was real impractical. I think I saw a short form interconnect application for systems less than 25 KW on the Emera website. Generally the utility could care less of what equipment is connected up to the inverter as long as they know what inverter is installed, if its UL 1741 complaint and the nameplate rating.Some require a sign off by an electrician. I dont think there is a viable SREC market in Maine but in NH I had to have a electrician sign off to sell SRECS.

    As for taxes on renewable equipment it varies by jurisdiction. In theory tax value is supposed to be based on the actual value of the property based on what a willing seller would pay to willing buyer. The appraisal is supposed to be based on comparable sales in a comparable market. In my area the appraisers have not statistically established that PV adds value to house and some argue it detracts from the value so solar is not taxed. Realistically, in my area property taxes are high and the actual value of power generated by my panels is not a lot, if they hit me with a significant increase in value on my property raising my taxes, it may make economic sense to remove the panels.Taxes vary significantly from town to town in NH so maybe its motivation to build a house on my wood lot in the town next to me which has a tax rate that is 2/3rd lower (no services to speak of) and more importantly not a lot of kids to educate.
     
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  14. Gunfixr

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    I want to add solar here at some point. As there is a regular good wind here, maybe that as well.
    For now, it'll have to wait.
     
  15. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    Before you hold off check with your utility some of the offer very good incentives. We helped up someone on this forum a few years ago in I believe NC by the time he got all his incentives added up he paid for more than half plus got limited backup power when the utility was down. Check this website to see what may apply http://www.dsireusa.org/
     
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  16. Where2

    Where2
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    Funny you say that, a few years back I picked up a solar thermal panel on Craigslist for free that we already transported to Maine. I've got a list of friends who want them if I find more... The previous owner in Florida had just installed a new standing seam metal roof, and didn't want the potential liability of punching holes in the new roof to reinstall the solar thermal panel. When I was picking it up and said I was going to take it to Maine, his head tilted sideways like: What?? I intend to set it up as a drain back system to add thermal energy to a heat bank tank setup to temper the 47° summer ground water. Using it to actually heat water to bathing temps seems like overkill once get the PV array installed. Using a free panel to collect thermal energy and boost the water temps so my electric tankless hot water heater won't have to work so hard sounds like a more reliable use for my free panel. It's not quite as reliable as using a PV panel to heat the heat bank tank, but I can't seem to find PV panels for free...

    Yeah, the number of residents in the town we're in is twice the number of students in my graduating class from high school. I remember reading a BDN article about the concept of using "paid IBC inspectors" to review finished construction in the north woods. I'm sure the locals had $0.02 about that, especially the guys in the construction trades.

    The Enphase M215 inverters my systems will all use are UL1741 compliant. When I tell people I have a PV array, everyone seems to assume I have power when the grid goes down. No, I have a 5,500W B&S gas generator just like all my neighbors for hurricane season. It was an investment of less than $1,000. that works when I need it to, very reliably! When a storm approaches, I flip the PV disconnect breakers, shut down the inverters and isolate the PV system components from the crazy spikes that happen as trees sway into the wires and short circuit the grid. It's easier to drain the gas out of a generator and buy new gas when a storm is approaching than it is to maintain batteries year round for 10+ years between storms, especially now that I installed a float bowl with a drain plug in the generator carburetor. (perfect use for a chinese copy-cat carburetor). If net metering ever goes away, I'll reconsider a battery system to be able to store energy on site and island myself.
     
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  17. peakbagger

    peakbagger
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    Smart way to go, I have the same setup, the inverters dump the PV when the power line gets dirty or goes out and I have a generator in the garage if its going to be long one. No way do I want batteries unless there is ongoing incentives to dispatch them to the grid so I have a way of paying for them and their eventual replacement.

    There is a utility in VT and now one in NH that is doing that with Tesla batteries, they lease or sell the batteries at a low cost to homeowners but retain the right to "borrow" some power during peak power demand periods. In theory its cheaper to dispatch a fleet of batteries then starting up a peaker power plant for short term demand. They can also financially encourage folks to load shift from high demand periods to low demand periods by going with different rates at different demand periods. Efficiency VT used to install a set of red green and yellow lights in prominent areas of commercial buildings, When the lights are green the power is cheap, yellow its getting expensive and red means they are paying for peak power.

    The other new technology with solar is a new UL standard for grid tied nverters. The standard for years was UL 1741. A 1741 inverter looked at the gird and if the grid was out of a very tight spec or not there, the PV system would shut down and wait 5 minutes once the grid stabilized. This was intended to protect linemen from a PV system putting power into a dead grid. The problem is that when there is lot of renewables on the grid like Hawaii, a minor voltage or frequency dip in the grid meant all the PV systems would drop off the grid causing a much bigger problem. The utility would need to start up a generator and once the grid was stable all the PV would come back on line causing another big spike and this could bounce around for awhile. The new UL 1417 SA inverters that are now being required on commercial installations in Mass and CA and I think on all installations in Hawaii, do a couple of things to help the grid. The grid detection range is lot wider so if the grid goes out of spec the inverter automatically tries to help out the grid to stabilize it. The other feature is that the utility can communicate directly to the inverter and ask it to proactively shape its output for voltage and frequency support.

    For now if someone thinks they need backup power, SMA offers string inverters that have a small backup power option if the grid goes out. A 15 Amp outlet can be wired to the inverter and if the grid goes out but the sun is out the outlet will be live. Not good for running a house but good to charge a cell phone. There are no batteries so anytime there is not enough sun, the outlet stops working.

    There are couple of big grid sized batteries in Maine. I think the old oil fired station in Yarmouth has a large battery installation and I think there is one in somewhere along the coast in tourist town where the power demand during the day is very high and low at night so the utility charges up the batteries during the night and then dispatches them during the day to take care of peaks so they do not need to install new power lines just to deal with short term spikes. Mass is subsidizing a lot to big grid batteries at health care facilities. Its a brave new world on the grid, unfortunately the easy way to pay for it is to stick in on the retail customer on the basic line charge. The sad joke in Mass is if you dont pay to put PV on your roof you are paying to put it on your neighbors roof via increase rates.
     
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  18. OT_Ducati

    OT_Ducati
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    Not me. I'm in Bangor area.
    Credit year from January to December, use what you make.
    [They will size your system according to your load.]
     

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