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Your Solar Questions Answered, Vol. 1

Avatar for Ben Zientara
Published on 06/06/2017 in
Updated 06/06/2017
Solar questions

Every now and again, we get questions from readers of our weekly solar newsletter. In this new feature, we’ll take the most interesting questions and copy the answers we gave, for the benefit of all our readers.

Please enjoy!

Lynn B. from Pennsylvania:

We’re really interested in solar power… we’ve heard that there are “incentives” and are wondering how to find them and IF they really exist. How many loops and backdoors do we have to jump through to get incentives?”

Thanks for your question, Lynn. There are incentives out there for solar!

The first one to know about is the federal solar tax credit, which gets you 30% of the cost of your system back as a tax credit. No loopholes here—if you make enough money to owe taxes, you can claim the credit on your taxes for the year the installation was completed.

States also have incentives, and they come in several different flavors:

  • Tax Credits are money back if you owe taxes. As simple as attaching another schedule to your tax form.
  • Rebates are money off the cost of your system, and are usually automatically applied by your installer. No backdoors!
  • Tax exemptions are automatic. They can either reduce the upfront cost by eliminating sales tax, or help you avoid increases in the assessed value of your home for property tax purposes.
  • Performance Payments are ongoing additional payments to you for the energy generated by your panels. This is the complicated one, because it might mean you have to sign up with your state’s regulatory body to get credit for the performance of your system. No matter how complicated it is, thought, a good solar installer should be able to walk you through the process, and even file the paperwork for you in most cases. They have a vested interest in making sure you get exactly what they promised is available to you. If your solar installer says there are incentives but they can’t help you fill out the paperwork, find a new installer.

Finally, Solar Power Rocks has information on incentives available in every state. Just go to our home page and select your state from the map or the list below. You can learn about the state’s solar laws and incentives, and get financial estimates for how solar will perform there.

We give every state a grade (A-F) based on how well the support home solar power. Here’s Pennsylvania’s:

Hope that was helpful!

Scott B. from New York:

(In response to our recent blog “How good are solar panels if they don’t face south?”)

What about tracking the sun both vertically and horizontally, is it worth the cost of the equipment?

Hey, Scott-

What you’re talking about here is known as “dual-axis tracking,” and it’s a pretty cool concept! The solar panels are mounted on a pole with a motorized system that turns the face of the panels toward the sun throughout the day, and points the panels at the right angle above the horizon based on the time of year.

This kind of solar tracking system is most often used in big solar farms, because as the the system tracks the sun, the panels cast shadows in different places, meaning they need to be spaced further apart (shade of any kind on a panel kills output):

dual-axis solar panels mounted on the ground

The extra space requirement means dual-axis tracking doesn’t work well on home rooftops. It might be a good investment if you’ve got a huge, office-building-sized carport, or flat roof of a commercial building.

There are tilt-mounts that allow you to change the angle of a solar panel to adjust for latitude, but they’re mostly meant for RVs or flat-roof buildings.

When it comes to solar panels on your roof, the best way is generally to set orientation once, and forget it.

Manuel D. from Massachusetts:

I have solar and am starting to regret it. I am trying to sell my home but can’t get into contact with SunEdison because they are restructuring. They have a lien on my home and I am closing within a month. I have even contacted the attorney general. What are my options?

Hi, Manuel. That is a tough situation.

It sounds like what you’re dealing with here is that SunEdison filed a UCC-1 financing statement for your home. A UCC-1 is a record of the interest the solar company has in the solar system it placed on your roof. Basically, it’s meant to ensure that if the house if foreclosed upon, the installation company can reclaim its asset (the panels).

It’s not usually a problem to get your solar company to transfer the UCC-1 to the next owner during the selling process, but your installer is restructuring, and not responding.

I assume you’ve attempted to contact SunEdison through its online portal for homeowners. Since you’ve already tried them and the AG, we recommend getting the Solar Energy Industries of America (SEIA) involved.

The SEIA complaint process

SEIA is the solar industry’s trade organization, and we’re hoping that reaching out to them could lead to some resolution. At the very least, they should know who to talk to at your installer, to get the ball rolling. SEIA has a complaint resolution form you can fill out to initiate the process of lodging a formal complaint against your installer.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Another helpful resource might be the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB. The CFPB helps whn you have a problem with a financial services company, and given that your installer has a lien on your property,, they certainly qualify. You can submit a complaint to the CFPB at their website.

Lawyer up

Our last suggestion would be to find a real estate attorney and hire them to bring suit against SunEdison. Nothing gets a response like a certified letter from an attorney, and at the very least you can begin the process of getting the UCC-1 eliminated. If you go to court to fight the UCC-1 and SunEdison fails to respond, you could end up with a default judgment that eliminates the lien.

Given your timeline for the sale of your home, you should do all of these things now. It will likely take a good deal of time and effort to fight this problem. We hope you emerge victorious!

Last modified: June 6, 2017

8 thoughts on “Your Solar Questions Answered, Vol. 1

  1. Avatar for SREE SREE says:

    100 WATS – 02Nos SOLAR PANEL WITH ME.I WANT TO USE THIS FOR 90 WATTS LED STREET LIGHTING.WHAT IS THE CAPACITY REQUIRED FOR THE STORAGE 12 VOLT BATTERY (Ah)

  2. Avatar for Adam Sharpley Adam Sharpley says:

    With solar advantages are manifold, apart from the financial benefits we get from the government, the massive amount we will save on energy bills and can even earn money by selling the excess power to the national grid.

  3. Avatar for Joe Wyatt Joe Wyatt says:

    where can I find a solar contractor in central West Virginia?

  4. Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

    Are solar panels available as siding? My roof is oriented mainly east west except for my garage roof but it has. Large dormer in the middle

  5. Avatar for Ty Ty says:

    I live in Nebraska which isn’t exactly Arizona sunny but should still produce enough to make it worth having solar panels on the roof. How susceptible are panels to hail? We tend to get more than our share of it!

  6. Avatar for Colin S. Colin S. says:

    My house can’t fit the standard size solar panels. Is there a company that can install a system comprised of non-standard panels?

  7. Avatar for Lee Cornelius Lee Cornelius says:

    Is my existing solar electric system subject to damage from a massive solar coronal mass ejection, as the commercial power system would be? Would putting my sensitive electronic controller and inverter inside a Faraday cage protect them?

    1. Avatar for Ben Zientara Ben Zientara says:

      Hey Lee-

      I have to admit I have no idea. There seems to be some pretty good explanation here: http://forum.solar-electric.com/discussion/9276/making-a-pv-system-survivable-in-emp-cme-conditions

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