GO Solar Frequently Asked Questions

1How does solar energy work?

Solar energy is very simple. Some materials, like silica (an element that exists in such abundance that this resource cannot be depleted), have a very unique reaction: silica is cut into very thin layers, put onto a metal sheet and is connected with some cables to an electrical circuit, creating a photovoltaic panel made up of cells. When the panel is exposed to sunbeam, it instantly produces electricity. No fires, no generators or any other equipment is needed. It is a gift from nature to human beings to produce electricity and keep the show running without poisoning the planet.

We set up a solar photovoltaic (PV) array consisting of a certain number of PV panels, an inverter, a solar Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) meter, and a PV system AC disconnect. The sun’s rays hit the PV panels, which capture the energy and convert it to DC power. The inverter converts the DC power to AC power, and is fed to your electrical panel on your home. While the sun is out, your utility meter will spin backward while your solar PV system is generating more electricity than you are using. Learn more

2What types of solar PV systems are available?

GO Solar offers three types of solar PV systems: Grid-Tied, Off-Grid and Hybrid Systems.

1. Our Grid-Tied systems are sized respectively to provide an annual energy production greater than the annual usage, which allows the user to “bank” kilowatt-hours; similar to rollover minutes in cell phone usage. This offsets the electrical usage during the night and cloudy days.

2. Our Off-grid systems are designed for places where no commercial electrical source is available. They start with maximizing energy efficiency at the site. These systems are sized to handle these efficient loads with a battery and/or generator back up to take care of surges or reduced output due to weather and nighttime.

3. Our Hybrid systems are designed for locations where commercial power is available and can be Grid-tied, but they provide a backup sized to the particular need of the location using batteries and/or generator- similar to Off-grid installations. Learn more

3Are there any incentives?

There are great incentives right now for installing a solar PV system on a residential or commercial building. When you file your taxes you will receive 30% Federal ITC Credit and 10% State Tax Credit ($9K cap) in New Mexico. These rates are projected to remain until 2016.

Federal Residential Energy Efficient Property Tax Credit in amount equal to 30% of the total cost of qualifying solar system placed in service before 1/1/2017 (see: IRS Form 5695 and Instructions). The unused portion of the credit can be carried to the next year’s tax returns. However, the IRS has not issued guidance on how long the tax credit can be carried forward beyond 2016 (see: Frequently Asked Questions at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Web site). To check eligibility requirements, visit Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. For more details on federal incentives, visit the U.S. Department of Energy Web site.

NM State Incentives for Residential Solar Energy Systems:

Solar Market Development Tax Credit in amount equal to 10% of the total cost of the qualified solar system. The photovoltaic or solar thermal system must be purchased and installed before December 31, 2016. The credit may not exceed $9,000. Unused credit may be carried forward for a maximum of ten years (see: NM Form RPD-41317 and Instruction). To be eligible for the Solar Market Development Tax Credit, the NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department must certify the system. To apply for the Solar System Certification, ask us or download and file NM Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department forms from the EMNRD website.

PNM Incentive: To meet the NM renewable energy standard, PNM offers Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) for each kWh produced by the smaller PV system (up to 10 kW). This doesn't mean that you become a power plant: PNM simply pays you the REC for what you generate and put into the grid. Larger systems are paid REC to the point of consumption. You can find current REC rates on PNM’s website. Net metering is also available. Find out more

4What is net metering?

Net Metering allows customers who own renewable generation systems to be tied to the grid with an electric meter that spins both forward and backward. During times when the customer-owned system is producing less than the customer’s load, such as at night, power is drawn from the grid and the meter spins forward. When the renewable system is producing more electricity than the customer can use, the meter spins backward as the excess electricity goes onto the grid to be used by other customers. If electricity generated by the customer exceeds the electricity supplied by the grid during a billing period, the utility credits the customer on the next bill for the excess kilowatt-hours generated. To learn more about net metering, visit NM Public Regulation Commission: www.nmprc.state.nm.us; or Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency Web site.

5How much does a solar PV system cost?

The prices for solar PV systems with installations and all permits vary depending on system size. General costs for small residential systems can start around $8,000 and increase, depending on system size. General costs for medium to large residential systems are around $25,000-$67,000 depending on system size. It may sound like a lot of money, but don’t forget about government incentives of 40% tax credit, REC (Renewable Energy Certificates) paid to you from the utility company and net metering. Installing solar is an investment which will also increase your property value. The payback period for installing solar is normally 5-8 years. Your utility rate will be locked in and you will no long be forced to pay rising electricity costs, which is about 6% on average each year in Santa Fe, NM.

The best option for financing your PV system is a Home Equity Line of Credit, and we work with US Bank- rates start as low as 1.99%. You can contact Paula Delair from US Bank at 505-946-9804 (direct), 505-660-1988 (cell), or Paula.Delair@USBank.com. In most cases, the solar PV system will pay for itself in about 5-8 years. It usually is cheaper to install a solar PV system than it is to pay PNM for your electricity! We would be happy to provide you with a solar cost estimation.

6What does it cost to receive an appointment and a solar cost estimation from GO Solar?

Nothing! We provide a complimentary site visit and solar cost estimation for our clients. Contact us to set one up.

7Who installs my system?

We do. At GO Solar, we do everything from start to finish. We apply for all the required permits (Building and Development Permit, Multi-Purpose State Building Permit and Electrical Permit), and we apply for your installation with your electric company. We prepare and present the information about your installation to your Homeowner's Association. We notify NM 811 Call Before You Dig, and we install your system. We also prepare all of your paperwork so you can receive your tax credits. We will ask you to sign some forms and you relax while we handle everything.

8How many PV panels do I need?

This can be different in every case. We find this out by looking at your electric account and retrieving your annual usage, measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Once we have that information we can determine what size system will cover 100% of your annual usage. The best case scenario is to zero out your electric bill, but you can always start smaller and add more panels at a later time. Depending on the watts per panel, your system size could be anywhere from 12-48 panels. Again, this depends on your electricity usage. We would be happy to go over the options with you. Bring us your bill and we will go from there. You can also click here to use our calculator.

9Will the panels be installed on my roof or the ground?

It is your choice whether you would like your solar PV array installed on the ground or your roof. At GO Solar, we recommend ground mount systems if you have the space. Installed at the optimum fixed angle of 35 degrees, this provides the best angle for energy production year round. The arrays are fixed so there is no maintenance. The panels also stay cooler so they produce more energy. If you don't have the space, a roof mount system will work great, too. There are ballasted roof mount systems which require no drilling or holes in your roof, with a tilt angle of 7-15 degrees. Keep in mind that your roof size plays a part in how many panels can be installed there. We also install solar carports so you get two uses out of your investment. We have a solution for whatever your energy needs are.

10How much sunlight would my solar PV system require?

New Mexico is one of the best places in the world for the amount of sunlight needed to power your home or business. However, solar energy is a great idea no matter where you are in the world. For example, Germany is the top country for its use of solar energy, though the solar radiation there is comparable to Alaska's. You can use the calculator on our website (under the Learn tab) to see what size system in kW you would need to eliminate your electric bill. The calculator uses an average of 6.5 hours of sunlight a day (averaged over the whole year). We will make sure your solar PV array is installed in the best possible location on your property, free of shade and obstructions. We work with our clients on finding what is best for each home or business.

11Will the weather affect my solar PV system?

We use world-class, high quality equipment. The solar panels we install are made with tempered glass and able to withstand the weather in New Mexico without damage; even hail. Watch the video to see how SolarWorld tests their panels. The mounting system is able to withstand winds of 90-120 mph. All components are structurally engineered and rated for the weather for your address. There are excellent warranties from our vendors, such as “25 years linear performance guarantee and 10 years product warranty” from SolarWorld. On cloudy days, energy production of your system will decrease to maybe 30% of normal production. Luckily, New Mexico is sunny about 310 days of the year. Snow will have a factor in energy production as well, but the degree of tilt of the panels should not allow much snow to accumulate, especially in ground mount installations. We do recommend occasional cleaning of your solar PV panels to keep energy production at a maximum.

12What are some environmental benefits of installing a solar PV system?

When we use energy from sources like oil, gas, coal, we are actually using the energy originally delivered by the sun. Oil, gas, coal and wood are simply energy transfer mediums. In order to release their solar energy, we have to burn them. The heat will feed a generator, and finally, we can send electricity into cables connected to our houses and businesses. The negative impacts on the environment doing this are well known; amongst them are air pollution, global warming, oil spills and developing questionable methods, such as fracking, in order to quench the remains of these recourses out of Earth.

Solar panels, on the other hand, are using the same energy that is stored in mediums like oil, gas, wood or coal. The main difference is that these panels are harvesting the infinite amount of energy sent by the sun to our planet without any negative side effects. There is no pollution or toxic waste associated with solar energy, as it is very clean and quiet during installation and use. Solar energy is projected to be infinitely abundant for at least another five billion years. There is no downside to solar energy!

13 What if lightning strikes my solar PV array?

Of course, none of us want this to happen, but if it does, your PV array is very well protected. First of all, the panels are made with tempered glass, which is a lot stronger than normal glass and made to withstand high amounts of stress (i.e. tempered glass is used in bullet proof glass). Second, during installation of your solar PV system, we install two separate lightning arresters, on both the AC and DC power source, and the panels are grounded to the ground.

14What if the power goes out?

If your solar PV system is grid-tied and the power goes out, you will lose power until the electrical grid is back on. If you have an off-grid solar PV system or hybrid system with battery or generator backup, you will not lose power if the grid ‘s power goes out. Off-grid and hybrid systems are the best choice if you are concerned about losing power, and are also more expensive. Please refer to question #2 for a description of these systems. Click here to learn about each PV system.

15What is the Solar Rights Act of 1978?

New Mexico's Solar Rights and Solar Recordation Acts (both contained in NMSA § 47-3) allow property owners to create solar easements for the purpose of protecting and maintaining proper access to sunlight. The Solar Rights Act established the right to use solar energy as a property right. The solar right prevents neighboring property owners from constructing new buildings or planting new trees which would block their access to the sun. You can also file for a solar right through the County Clerk's Office. Once awarded, the solar right is attached to the property and will remain in effect even if the property is sold. Click here to read more.

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