solar makes cents - a residential consumer's guide to harnessing the sun's energy

The sun is a powerful energy resource that gives the Earth its life. It provides both heat and light energy that are essential to everyday living of plants, animals and humans. Solar energy produces sunlight allowing plant life to grow; it creates the phenomenon of wind; and cycles water and moisture as rain to replenish the Earth. The sun provides all of this with only a small percentage of its energy reaching the Earth. Even with only that small amount of energy reaching us, this clean and abundant resource, if harnessed properly, could provide all of the power needs manny times over.

Scientific innovation has made it possible to use solar energy in high-tech ways. Since the 1890's the United States has harnessed the thermal energy of the sun with solar water heaters. More recently, science has developed photovoltaic technology that allows us to covert sunlight directly into electricity. These solar panels are composed in an array of tightly woven solar cells which absorb sunlight. When sunlight hits these panels, it excites electrons that can be used as electricity to power our everyday lives.

There are other ways the sun is used. The power of the sun is so intense that it can be used for thermal electric generation. In this technology, parabolic mirrors are used to collect the sun's heat energy. The heat then evaporates water into steam which, in turn, operates turbines to release electricity.

Individual buildings also can use solar energy to passively provide heat. The process uses the building's structure to generate heat through a process called direct gain. The collected heat is then released at night throughout the building.

Although these are larger scale uses of solar energy, there are individual applications that range from solar-powered calculators and landscape lighting to solar powered cars and backpacks that can charge your portable electronic. But one place solar power is only now gaining some traction is in powering our homes.

solar works in arizona

Although many people think Arizona would not be an ideal place because of heat or utility companies hot and cold on the subject, the potential for solar energy use is extremely promising. Arizona averages 6 hour to seven peak sun hours daily in the summer. This accounts for the varying weather patterns that occur in Arizona throughout the year. With this level of sun energy, the state gets approximately 40 percent more energy than Germany, which is one of the world's leaders in solar energy production.

Even when there isn't full sun available, solar panels still generate electricity. Germany is a great example of this. The country is one of the cloudiest nations in the world yet it still produces 1 percent of it's total electricity though solar energy. Germany has been able to achieve its more than 3,800 megawatts (MW)2 of solar energy through a variety of commitments to subsidize solar installations to make them more affordable and encourage its population to embrace renewable energy. The German government also instituted a feed-in tariff which pays residents with solar modules a subsidized price for electricity.

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what are the benefits of utilizing solar energy?

The rising cost of energy coupled with several financial incentives is making solar energy an attractive option for homeowners. Solar energy is a clean, renewable resource that does no harm to the environment. It helps reduce Arizona's dependence on fossil fuels for electricity and protects our electrical generation everywhere from terrorists. It may help you keep your electricity running during power outages. With a solar system installed on your home, you can offset the monthly electricity you do use. If you generate more electricity than you use, you can sell the excess power back to your utility (up to 125%).

Solar energy systems also improve property values. National statistics show that property values increase by $20 for every $1 of annual utility bill savings (Nevin, Rick and Gregory Watson, "Evidence of Rational Market Valuations for Home Energy Efficiency" The Appraisal Journal (October 1998). Additionally, a homeowner who uses solar energy can obtain renewable energy credits which can be sold to the utility or into the market. This will help offset the cost of installing solar energy on your property. To be able to sell the credits to an Arizona utility, your solar panels must be certified by the California Go Solar Website.


are solar panels right for my home?

Before you commit to solar energy, there are a number of items you may need to consider to determine if it is a feasible option.

1. Shading - Tree shading on your property can really affect the efficiency of a solar system. The solar cells in an array work as a team. We have all heard the anecdote, "You're only as strong as your weakest link." That same principle applies to solar panels. Trees casting large shadows on your house will need a trim if a rooftop solar panel is going to be able to produce the amount of electricity it is capable of generating.

At PEP solar our 2nd Generation and 3rd generation modules and TRUEAC and Optimizers allow your panels to work individually. Our 3rd generation thin film modules can be 92% shaded and still operate with only 8% module sunshine and your system is still producing power.

2. Roof attributes - The condition of a home's roof is another big consideration before jumping ahead with a solar installation. The best place for a solar panel is on a roof that is facing south. The next best direction is to face panels west, then east, the north (reverse tilt). The further away they become but in Arizona its a small difference from South or West Facing. Even utility companies are encouraging Arizona residence to face their panels west. Contact us to provide you with our roofing partner.

The pitch, age and condition of the roof also are important for maximum solar panel efficiency. As a certified, utility-preferred solar installer, and the oldest residential solar electric installer in Arizona, we are able to help determine the optimum angle the panels should be installed for maximum solar collection. The age and condition of the roof are a bigger issue because it would not be an ideal situation to install solar panels onto an aged and worn roof. If a roof installation is not possible, a ground-mounted solar unit may be an alternative.

3. Repayment period - There is no upfront cost (on approved credit for the entire amount) when installing a solar panel system. There are not short term 18 months no payments no interest, or 12 months no payments with long term rates starting at 2.99%. The average pay off time for your solar system is 6 to 7 years for Arizona utility companies. As the electricity you produce with a solar system offsets the amount needed from an electric company, the saved benefits will help pay down the costs of the solar panel. When researching solar systems and determining how much it will save you, it is important to know that solar systems at homes that use less electricity will have a longer pay back period that homes that use more.

4. Energy use - the amount of electricity used in you home can help you determine if solar is the best fit for your home. You should review your utility bills with one of our energy specialists by calling (623)806-8806 to determine the amount of electricity, in kilowatt-hours, you use over the course of a year. With this information, you can work with one of our energy specialists to determine the amount of electricity you would like to be powered from solar energy. It is possible you may be able to offset most of your entire yearly kilowatt usage.

5. Certified Solar Installer - To qualify for the state and federal incentives that help with purchasing a solar system, you must use a certified installer.


average pay off of

6-7 years

maintaining a solar panel system and other important considerations

Dirt, dust, leaves and snow are all culprits that could rob potential solar energy output of your panels. It is essential solar panels are regularly cleaned so they can produce electricity at their rated output. A simple cleaning with a soft sponge, warm water and dishwashing liquid followed by drying with a cloth that will not scratch the panels will help keep them in prime operating condition for decades. Or you can use PEP Worldwide Solar's new Sparkle Clean Solar System© Your PEP Treatment using Spark Clean Solar System© adds nano protection so you do not need to clean your panels for over a year. Contact PEP Solar (Master Dealer of PEP Worldwide Spark Clean Solar System©) (623)806-8806 or (844)SPARK-81.


time-of-use pricing

These options set different prices during various periods of the day, month or year. Prices for electricity are typically cheaper during the morning and evening hours and most expensive in the middle of the day when the demand for electricity is at its highest. Solar panels are generating the most electricity during this time of the day. Consumers with solar panels may be able to take advantage of these pricing options by selling the electricity they do not use, typically in the middle of the day, for profit. These extra payments may be able to help reduce the time required to pay for a solar panel installation.


storage batteries

Batteries that store electricity you don't use all but eliminates the concerns about where to get electricity after the sun sets. Battery technology is relatively new so it is currently an expensive investment. As the technology evolves, it could be smart and more financially feasible investment that will make you less dependent on traditional means of electricity.


smart grid

The smart grid will help deliver a variety of benefits for solar energy users as electric utilities begin to make upgrades to their aging infrastructure. It will allow you to respond to real-time prices and better manage, monitor, and control energy use. As utilities update their electric grids, it will be easier for you to use solar and other renewable energy as well as make time-of-use pricing and storage batteries more accessible to residential consumers.

federal incentives

Investment Tax Credit - This 30 percent tax credit is available to homeowners who install solar panels after Jan. 1 2008 and before Dec. 31, 2016. There is no cap on the cost of the installed solar system. For a solar system to qualify, it must provide electricity for the home and meet applicable fir and electrical code requirements. The federal tax credit will then drop 10 percent January 1 2017.

Net Metering - Arizona law allows customers who utilize renewable energy to connect to the electrical grid to feed the electricity produced from their systems to the utility. Only the net electricity used by the customer over the billing period is charged and there may be times when the system produces more electricity than used, resulting in a credit for the generation portion of the excess electricity.

equity boost when you - own your solar™

For every dollar you save per year, $20 will be returned on average as Real Property Equity Increases. Don't be fooled by solar leases claiming increased value as this is not the same as equity. A tree adds value but it does not add equity. In fact you are not able to borrow against value. So, Own Your Solar and build equity over night today.


how much will a solar panel system save me?

The amount a solar panel will save you depends on a number of factors. Because solar energy is energized by the sun, it can only produce electricity during the daylight hours. The electricity produced is also affected by weather patterns and the angle of the sunlight. The price you currently pay for electricity per kilowatt-hour also affects the amount of savings you will see from a solar panel. Time-of-use pricing, smart grid upgrades and more options to store more profitable and help pa back the cost even faster. PEP Solar sees battery technology really taking off in 2018.

Based on current electric rates (as of January 2010) and the average yearly electricity use of 17,500 kilowatt-hours, consumers in Arizona might expect to save about 80 percent of their electricity bill if they install a 9kW solar system on their homes. With a lifespan of about four to seven (on select models) decades, solar panels can produce significant savings year after year.

In Arizona a solar system has the potential to produce more than 14,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year. With electric rates averaging 14 cent per kWh, a solar system can save about $1,960 per year. If electric rates increase, the potential savings a solar system can achieve also will increase. This will, in turn, help pay off your solar system quicker.

assumptions - average customer (example only)

Size of System (kW)3
Installation cost (per peak kW)$ 7,000
Installation cost (Total)$ 21,000
Arizona State Tax Credit$ 1,000
Federal Tax Incentive (30%)$ 12,600
Total Out-of-Pocket Cost$8,400
Solar Panel Savings
Total annual energy use (kWh)10,200
Average annual energy savings from solar (kWh)3,347
Average residential rate (per kWh)$ 0.13
Average annual energy savings from solar$ 435.11

arizona laws and regulations regarding solar energy use

Solar energy has been making considerable gains in the United States over the past 40 years. With the growing interest in renewable energy, it is predicted that the United States will surpass Germany as the leading user of solar energy . In Arizona, we are one of the most sun shine states in America, so the progress has been much faster. With Arizona's solar electric energy law in May 2003, solar and other renewable energy technologies will become a bigger part of the electricity generated in the state. There is no doubt that solar is not a fad, and in fact you are seeing solar panels go up all over the valley. At PEP solar we look up at the stars and the answer is already there, its out sun and trillions of suns in out universe. You can fit 1 million earths into our sun (which is one of the smallest suns in the galaxy).

the power is consistently available for another 5 billion years!