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Solar Projects - How to Get Started With a Solar Project

How to Get Started With a Solar Project

How to get started planning and installing a solar project at your home.

Hopefully, someday, if you are one of the few without a solar array powering your home in your neighborhood, you will feel left out. Neighborhood rules and conditions will someday indicate that every home in a sub-division will have solar. Today, rules and conditions cover things like roof shingle type, junk cars parked on the street, and house color. Neighborhoods will be better off when the rules cover things like solar power and home efficiency instead of how tall your backyard fence can be.

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Step 1: Energy Efficiency Audit

The first step in planning and applying for Solar Power is to complete a simple energy efficiency audit for your home or business. Energy-saving actions are the best way to save energy, reduce your energy bills and provide real, lasting benefits to the environment. Plus, you may reduce the size of the solar system you need, saving thousands in up-front installation costs. Don't throw clean, solar energy out the window! Contact the Solar Program Administrator in your utility area to see if they offer free home energy audits. Your Power Provider probably has a web site and would be a good place to start.

Step 2: Find a Solar Installer

Qualified contractors are your key to getting the most productive solar energy system for your home or business. Typically, the installer will apply for the Solar Initiative rebates and incentives on your behalf and arrange for your system to be interconnected to your utility company's power grid. The installer may also apply for local permits and assist you with federal tax credits on the installation.

Most power provider's can provide a list of Installers and Contractors who can help you participate in their Solar Program.

Experts recommend that you interview at least three potential solar installers before making your selection. Installers can help you understand the actual costs and benefits of installing solar after discussing the specific site attributes of your home or building.

Installers are required to register with their States Energy Commission through an online database. Except for those systems that are self-installed, all systems must be installed by appropriately State licensed contractors. All systems must be installed in conformance with the manufacturer's specifications and with all applicable electrical and building code standards.

For a Solar PV installation, consider a contractor's solar technology expertise, experience with roof installations and familiarity with your location. The Contractor can help you choose the right size PV system by providing an estimate of how much energy (measured in kilowatt-hours) the system will produce in a year.

A contractor's bid should include the peak generating capacity (watts) of your solar electric system and the total cost including hardware, installation, connecting to the grid, permitting, and warranty.

Step 3: Apply for Incentives

Once you hire a solar installer, he or she will contact your Solar Incentive program administrator on your behalf to apply for an incentive and arrange for your system to be interconnected to your utility company's power grid. The installer may also apply for local permits, if applicable.

The program administrator will provide you and your installer with an incentive application form and/or apply online using an online application tool. After the program administrator receives your completed application, it will reserve funds based on the size of your solar project. These funds will be reserved for a limited period of time within which you must install your system. By reserving your incentive prior to installation, you know for certain what the incentive amount will be and you might be taking advantage of the higher incentive level available earlier in the program.

When your application has been approved, you will receive a written notice confirming the dollar amount of your incentive reservation and the expiration date by which you must install your system - usually 12 months after your reservation has been confirmed.

How much will my incentive payment be? Incentive levels can change at any time based on the level of demand for solar incentives and current Federal and State legislative policies.

Step 4: Install Your System

Once you have completed your energy audit, selected a solar installer and applied for the proper permits from local government, you are ready to put the panels on the roof. Typically, it will take your solar installer no more than two or three days to complete the installation. Once the panels are on the roof, the installer will hook the system up to a separate meter that measures the energy output of the panels. Finally, you or your installer will contact your utility to connect it to the grid. When your system is connected to the grid, any electricity you produce in excess of your consumption will be sent back to the grid and credited on your account. In some States, this is called a net-metering program.

Your Contractor will schedule the necessary inspections needed to certify your installation according to local and State building codes. A representative of your utility will conduct a visual inspection of your system when visiting the site to interconnect the system to the grid.

Step 5: Claim your incentive

Once your system has been purchased, installed, and put into operation, you will submit your Incentive Claim Form and supporting documentation, including a verification of project cost and a calculation of the expected system output. The program administrator will verify that your system has been connected to the grid before sending your incentive payment. Depending on your payment agreement with the contractor, the incentive payment may be paid directly to the Contractor.

Remember to claim your federal tax credit!

In addition to cash back incentives from your power provider, you may be eligible for both State and Federal tax credits. To take advantage of these tax credits, make sure to keep copies of all documentation related to the purchase and installation of your system.

Will I be paid for the excess electricity I generate?

This all depends on the agreement you have with your power provider and the incentive program you used to install the solar system. Programs vary from one Power Provider to another and from State to State. Discuss the available solar Programs with your Power Provider and the payment and incentive differences between the programs.

Don Ames is the host at http://www.detectenergy.com and the author of the Energy Spy Insider, email newsletter about saving energy at home.

Article Source: ezinearticles.com
How to Get Started With a Solar Project
By Don Ames

>> Click Here To Make Your Own Solar Panel