Category Archives: Installation

To solve ‘duck curve,’ Missouri utility to pay bonus for west-facing solar panels

By Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

In an effort to better align solar-energy production with peak demand, the electric utility in Columbia, Missouri has begun to pay higher rebates for new west-facing arrays than it will for those facing south.

The city-owned utility adjusted its rebates as of Aug. 1 in order to encourage more solar production in late afternoon, when electricity use tends to peak, especially during the high-demand summer months. Continue reading.

Photo by John S. Quarterman / Creative Commons

Lincoln Electric System provides customers incentives that are based on the solar system’s orientation and its energy-generating capacity, as described in the PDF, Customer-owned Renewable Generation. These LES customer rebates are called “capacity payments” and are determined as follows::

South-facing, fixed-PV systems: $375 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity. The savings in the following examples would be:
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,125
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,500
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,875

West-facing or single or dual-axis tracking PV system: $475 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,425
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,900
5-kilowatt PV system: $2,375

For more information, visit LES.com, and select Savings & Energy > Solar & customer-owned generation or call LES Energy Services Specialist Jay Stoa at 402-475-4211.
Email: jstoa@les.com

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING
How much does a solar electric system cost in Nebraska?

5 Ways OPPD Is Making the Greater Omaha Community More Solar Friendly for Customer Owners

The first four steps that OPPD has stated it is undertaking to provide customer-owners with the information and tools they need to “go solar” are posted on our Home Page. These will make the solar installation process more streamlined and cost-effective for installers, code inspectors, and customers.  Additionally, OPPD is moving forward on community solar development. (See August 5th update, below).

OPPD is to be commended for taking each one of these steps for all customer owners who want to install a solar system on their homes and/or businesses or who wish to participate in a community solar program.

      • OPPD plans to offer solar installers and code inspectors training on the interconnection process and is currently reviewing three major items prior to that effort. They are:
      • OPPD Distributed Generation (DG) Manual: This document provides the guidance and specifications that inter-connected systems, such as solar arrays, are required to meet prior to going “on-line.”
      • The ConnectDER: Effective July 1, 2017, the ConnectDER has been accepted by OPPD for use on certain Distributive Energy Resources (DER), including solar installations. The device has the potential of creating a “fast track” for residential (net metering) solar applications.  The ConnectDER offers various advantages, including added protection of house circuit breakers and the Distributed Energy Resources installation, itself. Any questions should be directed to Wyndle Young 402-636-3552 or email at wlyoung@oppd.com
        ConnectDER Video
         
      • OPPD Website: Renovation of the Distributed Generation portion of OPPD’s website.
      • OPPD has met with representatives from 12 different groups, including Nebraskans for Solar, to discuss concepts for community solar projects, and has issued a Non-Sealed Bid Request for Community Solar Proposals (August 5th Update):

Photo: Solar farm on a former landfill. Credit: Energy Center

The ConnectDER – Solar innovation that saves time & money

Click image to watch a brief video about the ConnectDER.

The ConnectDER enables rapid connection of grid-ready distributed energy resources (DERs), especially solar photovoltaic systems, by creating a connection point to a collar that installs between a residential electric meter and a meter socket.  It drives a number of benefits for the installation process:

  • Reduces costs by removing some balance of system components and premises wiring upgrades
  • Minimizes logistics headaches & site inspection time
  • Eliminates one of the primary areas of inspection failures, the load-side wiring

It comes in two versions: the Simple ConnectDER, which provides the basic connection, and the Smart ConnectDER, which adds metering and management functions for the local utility.

Department of Energy Information About The ConnectDER
Typically, after sunlight gathered by solar panels is turned into electricity by an inverter, it must be connected to a home’s electrical service panel. This can be difficult because panels are often located in hard-to-reach areas of a home, like basements or attics. For those who live in older homes, electrical service panels may not be built to handle the amount of energy being produced by solar panels and upgrading may be expensive.

The ConnectDER device makes it faster and easier to install a solar array by removing the need to upgrade electrical service panels or run wiring through a home’s interior, meaning solar technicians don’t need to enter your home. The ConnectDER is mounted between a home’s electric meter and meter socket, which is located outside. Cables from the inverter are connected directly to the device instead of being routed through a home. The meter can also handle more voltage than an electrical service panel, easily bearing the burden of routing power into the home.

By removing the need to replace the electrical service panel and run wiring through a house, the ConnectDER device saves consumers in installation costs. It also saves time, shortening what can be a lengthy process.

Watch a brief video about the ConnectDER.

Website: www.connectder.com
Questions? The website provides a contact form, or send an email to: info@connectder.com 

Madison solar firms picked for group buy program

By Bill Novak, Wisconsin State Journal

A sample system shown on Midwest Solar Power’s website would cost $13,000, but that would be cut almost in half through federal tax credits, rebates and the group buy. The group purchase program is run by the non-profit RENEW Wisconsin Inc. on behalf of the city of Madison with support from Middleton. Read the entire article here.

Photo Credit: RENEW Wisconsin

RESOURCES FOR NEBRASKA COMMUNITIES CONSIDERING SOLAR GROUP BUYING

ECO-Omaha Team’s Program Selected by Solar in Your Community Challenge

More people will soon have access to solar, as over 250 teams have been named to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Initiative: Solar in Your Community Challenge. The Challenge is a $5 million contest to support innovative and replicable community-based solar business models and programs that will bring solar to underserved communities.

The ECO-Omaha Team was selected to develop a community solar program that will install solar arrays on city-owned vacant lots and former brownfield sites with the power generated from the arrays sold to OPPD. All of the generated revenue will help fund Omaha’s Energy Conservation/Healthy Homes Program, which provides free energy efficiency repairs and improvements to low-to-moderate income (LMI) households.

Team Leader: Lisa Smith, City Planner/GIS
Timeline:
Challenge Begins May 2017
Challenge Ends October 2018
Final Prize Announcement January 2019

Teams Directory by State

TOP NEWS FROM DOE’S SOLAR ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES OFFICE

SunShot Technology Awardee:
Solar Software Platform Can Make Interconnection Times up to 98% Faster
With more than 42 gigawatts of solar on the grid, one SunShot awardee is making sure utilities can fast-track the interconnection process and add even more solar to the grid. GridUnity is completely changing the interconnection process with a new platform that can remotely assess a solar project’s impact on the grid. Its platform enables utilities to screen applications more efficiently, allowing them to focus their time and resources on connecting high-impact projects and helping them speed up connection for everyone. Learn more here.

National guidebook maps the way toward ‘tipping points’ in solar adoption

By Heather Fitzgerald, Yale News

Backed by research out of Yale and Duke, a newly released guidebook details a range of best practices for boosting the adoption of rooftop solar power. Titled “Solarize Your Community,” the national guidebook makes the case for “contagious” rooftop solar. The findings are distilled from a three-year study of successful campaigns in Connecticut that tripled the number of rooftop installations, reduced the average cost of residential solar by 20% to 30%, and created local jobs in participating communities. Continue reading.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Download Solarize Your Community: An Evidence-Based Guide for Accelerating the Adoption of Residential Solar

  • Digital version click HERE
  • Printable version click HERE
  • Printable step-by-step timeline click HERE

Midwest states seek to cut time, costs for solar connections

Written by Karen Uhlenhuth, Midwest Energy News

States across the Midwest are updating their interconnection rules for solar customers, a process likely to cut the time and money required to establish a connection to the grid. In addition, the new standards will equip utilities to efficiently process solar applications as their numbers likely escalate in coming years, according to an attorney who worked on revisions recently approved by the Iowa Utilities Board. Updated and improved interconnection standards are “a critical part of moving distributed generation ahead.. And having clear, fair and efficient interconnection rules is critical to enabling a healthy distributed generation market,” said Sky Stanfield, an attorney who was involved in negotiating the new standards.
Continue reading.

Photo by plien / Creative Commons

LOCAL ACTION

In March Green Bellevue presented the workshop, “Solar Powering Your Home,” co-sponsored by the Green Omaha Coalition and Nebraskans for Solar. If you missed it, you can watch it on YouTube here.

Updated Information: Regarding the discussion toward the end of the video about interconnection, OPPD is offering solar installers and code inspectors training on this process. Undoubtedly, this will make it more streamlined and customer-friendly, and OPPD is to be commended for taking this step.

Co-Ops Bring Solar to Hundreds of Rural Communities

By Tina Casey, Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit

The U.S. Energy Department pushed out a raft of good news for renewable energy fans this past week. Of particular note is an update on the PV System Toolkit supported by the agency’s SunShot solar initiative. The toolkit focuses on helping rural communities partake in the surging solar market that cities and suburban communities now enjoy. The new PV System Toolkit demonstrates just how deeply the solar industry is now embedded in the civic infrastructure of the US. The effort is helmed by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which won an Energy Department ‘Sunrise’ award designed to cut costs by developing templates for replicating solar innovations. Read more.

ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING

Green Bellevue’s March Program – Solar Powering Your Home: Learn how to install solar panels step-by-step

Presenters: David Holtzclaw and Don Preister

Solar energy is finally getting its day in the sun, and an increasing number of residents are installing solar panels at their homes as a way to lower energy bills and reduce carbon footprints. If you are considering a solar install – or just want to better understand the steps involved – come to Green Bellevue’s March program and hear how it’s done!

David Holtzclaw, Energy Consultant and Owner of Transduction Technologies, will outline the process of installing residential (and small business) solar generators, describing the steps and considerations involved.

Don Preister, Green Bellevue President and Councilman, will then walk through his own experience of installing a home solar system this past year.

The presentation will be followed by a Q&A. Members of Nebraskans for Solar will be in attendance to add to the conversation and serve as resources.

Refreshments will be provided. The public is invited, so please join us and bring a friend. We will meet in Conference Room A at Nebraska Medicine Bellevue, 2500 Bellevue Medical Center Drive. You can park in the visitor parking lot and enter through the main door. Go down the stairs, make a “u-turn” and Conference Room A is down the hall on your left. Share and join this event on Facebook!

How much does a solar electric system cost in Nebraska?

  • Residential Rooftop Systems – Size Range: 3-10 kilowatts (kW)
    Typical Cost = $3.00 – $3.50 / installed watt
  • Commercial rooftop systems: 10 kilowatts to 2 megawatts have a separate price range.
  • These estimates are for installations not using the “Plug & Play” ConnectDER, which saves labor and time.  

Cost estimates for 3-5 kilowatt systems. 

At $3.50 per installed watt, the costs of three sizes of PV systems, before rebates & other incentives are subtracted, are:
3-kilowatt PV system: 3000 watts x $3.50 = $10,500
4-kilowatt PV system: 4000 watts  x $3.50 = $!4,000
5-kilowatt PV system: 5000 watts x $3.50 = $17,500

The cost of a system after subtracting theFederal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30%
3-kilowatt PV system: $10,500 – $3150 = $7,350
4-kilowatt PV system:   $!4,000 – $4,200 = $9,800
5-kilowatt PV system: $17,500 – $5,250 = $12,250

Additional Solar Energy Incentives Offered by LES

 

Lincoln Electric System (LES) provides additional customer incentives based on the solar system’s energy-generating capacity, as described in the PDF, “Customer-owned Renewable Generation.” These LES customer rebates are called “capacity payments” and are determined as follows:

 

South-facing, fixed-PV systems: $375 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity. The savings in the following examples would be:
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,125
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,500
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,875

The costs after both the federal Investment Tax Credit + LES capacity payments are subtracted:
3-kilowatt PV system: $6,225
4-kilowatt PV system: $8,300
5-kilowatt PV system: $10,375

West-facing or single or dual-axis tracking PV system: $475 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $1,425
4-kilowatt PV system: $1,900
5-kilowatt PV system: $2,375

The total cost to the buyer after both the federal Investment Tax Credit + LES capacity payments, above, are subtracted:
3-kilowatt PV system: $5,925
4-kilowatt PV system: $7,900
5-kilowatt PV system: $9,875

Two Additional Incentives for Installing a PV System

  • Accelerated Depreciation for Businesses
  • Self-Employment Tax Credit

REAP Grants for Nebraska Farms & Rural Small Businesses

Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grants, available to qualified Nebraska farms and rural small businesses, provide an additional 25% of the cost of a solar electric system.

The costs of installing a PV system after the 30% federal Investment Tax Incentive and a REAP grant of 25% are subtracted:
3-kilowatt PV system: $4,725
4-kilowatt PV system: $6,300
5-kilowatt PV system: $7,875

For more information about REAP grants, contact Jeff Carpenter, State Energy Coordinator at the Nebraska USDA Rural Development State Office, Suite 308, Federal Building, 100 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln, Nebraska 68508.
Telephone: 402-437-5554 / Email: carpenter@ne.usda.gov
Nebraska USDA Rural Development Website: http://www.rd.usda.gov/ne

The Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has established an energy-auditing program to assist agricultural producers and rural small businesses in evaluating the energy efficiency of their operations and the potential for incorporating renewable energy into them. An energy audit is required for the REAP grant application. MEP will pay 75% of its cost for qualified applicants. Contact: Matthew Jorgensen, Project Specialist, Nebraska Manufacturing Extension Partnership Telephone: 308-293-5884 or Email: mjorgensen@unl.edu. Website: http://nemep.unl.edu/

The Incentive to Conserve Energy
The average household uses about 1000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity each month. Check your electric bills over the past 12 months to find out how many kilowatt-hours your home or business is currently consuming. Conserving energy saves money and, of course, reduces the size solar system you will need.  Nebraskans for Solar board member Eric Williams’ 3-kilowatt system, shown above, produces about 50% of the electricity used by his energy-efficient home and electric car. The solar panels are warranted by the manufacturer to last for 25 years.

Additional Resources

Off Grid Solar, by Joseph P. O’Connor

This is an excellent guide written with do-it-yourselfers in mind. The author, Joseph O’Connor, is a solar manufacturing entrepreneur as well as a consultant, speaker, and prolific writer on solar energy.

Solar Electricity Handbook – 2017 Edition, by Michael Boxwell

Now in its eleventh edition, this book provides a step-by-step guide on how to successfully design and install a solar energy system from scratch. The website that accompanies the book includes online solar calculators and tools to simplify a solar installation. Michael Boxwell is a leading expert on solar energy, authoring more than twenty books in the field, which he first started working in twenty years ago.

COSTS FOR DO-IT-YOURSELFERS


How much is a solar electric system?

A solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system typically costs $1 to $1.50 per watt, depending on the brand name. This includes solar panels, inverter and racking.


At $1 to $1.50 per watt, the costs of three sizes of PV systems, before incentives are subtracted, are:

3-kilowatt PV system: $3,000 to $4,500
4-kilowatt PV system $4,000 to $6,000
5-kilowatt PV system $5,000 to $7,500

The cost of each system after subtracting the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) of 30%
3-kilowatt PV system: $2,100 to $3,150
4-kilowatt PV system:  $2,800 to $4,200
5-kilowatt PV system: $3,500 to $5,250

Additional incentive offered to Lincoln Electric System customers: Capacity Payments (See Above). The cost of each south- or west-facing system after these are subtracted:

South-facing, fixed-PV systems: $375 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $975 to $2,025
4-kilowatt PV system:  $1,300 to $2,700
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,625 to $3,375

West-facing or single or dual-axis tracking PV system: $475 for each kilowatt of the system’s nameplate DC capacity.
3-kilowatt PV system: $675 to $1,725
4-kilowatt PV system:  $900 to $2,300
5-kilowatt PV system: $1,125 to $2,875

Where can you buy solar systems in Nebraska?
Van Meter, an employee-owned electrical supply company in Omaha at 10931 E Circle, sells solar energy equipment. Dixon Power Systems on 3250 N 20th Street in Lincoln and Solar Heat & Electric at 7342 Farnam Street in Omaha also sell everything a do-it-yourselfer needs to install a solar system at his or her home or business.

Two Additional Incentives for Installing a PV System

  • Accelerated Depreciation for Businesses
  • Self-Employment Tax Credit

Solar Permit
There is an additional cost of paying an electrician to obtain the permit to install a solar system on your home or business.

Solar Installation Workshops / Classes in Nebraska – These are announced in our electronic newsletters and posted on our calendar

  • Solar installation classes at local community colleges.
  • John Hay, Professor at UNL’s Biosystems Engineering Department with a focus on energy and Nebraska Extension Educator, teaches solar seminars and installation workshops at Extension Offices across Nebraska, which have been featured on our website and in our newsletters. Subscribe to our newsletter at nebraskansforsolar@gmail.com.
  • Van Meter sponsors solar installation training workshops in partnership with Julie Brazeau and Matt Parks from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association. MREA is the sponsor of the annual Solar Energy Fair in Custer, Wisconsin. Check Van Meter’s website for information about their workshops: www.vanmeter.com
  • Solar do-it-yourselfers, including Eric Williams, Nebraskans for Solar board member, and Don Preister, President of Green Bellevue, are also happy to answer questions from anyone considering going solar. You’ll see them both at Earth Day Omaha and Sarpy County Earth Day events and at solar energy workshops and forums.

Nebraska Community Colleges
Central Community College
Metropolitan Community College
Mid-Plains Community College
Southeast Community College
Western Nebraska Community College