Equipment loans for residential solar

Have a sunny roof but don’t have the upfront cash to get rooftop solar? You’re not the only one.  In February, we wrote about whether you should buy or lease a system.

And recently came across this list of banks & lenders who offer unsecured (not home equity) loans for equipment.

Of note are these: Admirals Bank ~ EnerBank USA ~ Green Sky Credit ~ Home Loan Investment Bank ~ Lightstream ~ Provident Credit Union ~ SunPower Corporation ~ Sunnova Energy Corporation

If you’ve used any of these lenders to fund a solar installation, please write us and share your experience for others in Greater Philadelphia!

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Chestnut Hill United Church invites the public to learn about installing solar power

The Environmental Justice Center at Chestnut Hill United Church has been working for years to slow climate change.  Although climate disruption will hurt almost all sectors of the natural and human worlds, the Center recognizes that those at the margins of society – the elderly, the very young, the medically fragile, the poor – will be disproportionately and unjustly harmed.  Thus, addressing climate change is a moral imperative for the Center and its host organization, Chestnut Hill United Church.

Recognizing that current political leadership in Washington is not likely to take any meaningful actions soon to promote clean energy, which avoids the pollution of fossil fuel energy and slows climate disruption, the Environmental Justice Center is encouraging individuals to do more to lower their carbon footprints. “We are distraught that President Trump has chosen to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accord,” said Joy Bergey, the Center’s director. “While we will keep the pressure on our elected leaders to move us towards a clean energy economy – the only ethical choice, we also want to help community take their energy future into their own hands, as it were.”

To that end, the Center is partnering with Northwest Philly Solar Co-op to help residents learn what’s involved in putting solar panels on the roof. The Solar Co-op is working with solar installers to arrange neighborhood-by-neighborhood buying groups. This will result in lower prices and a more streamlined process for everyone involved.

According to Meenal Raval, the co-op’s coordinator, a group of twelve Mt. Airy households has formed the first neighborhood buying group, with solar panels being installed on all these properties, with a cumulative carbon reduction of 55.8 metric tons. Raval says, “We’re actively forming more groups in Northwest Philly neighborhoods, and we’re eager to create groups in the nearby suburbs like Cheltenham, Erdenheim, Ambler, and Lafayette Hill.”

“Come learn about what’s involved in getting rooftop solar on your home. We’ll discuss what makes a good site for solar panels, as well as issues like pay-back periods and available tax breaks.”

The group will meet on Sunday, June 25 2017 at 11:30 at Chestnut Hill United Church, 8812 Germantown Avenue (directly across from the Women’s Center.) There’s no cost to attend, and all are invited.

Contact joybergey@gmail.com or 215-313-1311 for more information.

 

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How much electricity do I use each year?

Ever wondered how much electricity you use in a year?  For those of you who get a paper bill from PECO each month, turn to page 2.

At the bottom right, you’ll see Total Annual kWh Usage; 4,896 in the example above.

This accounts for the seasonal swings in each month’s usage. This is also the number I monitor after replacing any electrical appliance with a newer, more efficient one. Within a month or two, I usually see this number go down!

When planning to install rooftop solar, we again refer to the annual usage, building a system that generates close to your current usage.

Curious about lowering your annual usage?

Curious about rooftop solar? Write us at nwphlsolar@gmail.com.

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Rooftop solar and your PECO bill

This post will explore the PECO power bill, before and after going solar. Be sure to check out the “Interesting Issue” near the end of this post.

Looking at a sample of page 2 of a PECO electric bill before going solar, you’ll see 

  • one meter reading showing monthly usage (451 kWh in our sample)
  • one fixed Customer charge of $8.44
  • three charges based on usage for Generation, Transmission & Distribution.

If you’ve gone to PAPowerSwitch and selected another electricity supplier, then you would see Generation & Transmission combined onto one line, with the rate set by that supplier.  

On your first month with solar, it will be a bit complicated for two reasons.

  1. PECO charges the installer for the new meter (part of your payment to the installer), and then PECO gives you a credit on your bill. The amount is between $300 and $400.
  2. You’ll therefore be billed part of the month with the old meter, and the remainder with the new meters.

You’ll see a bill like the one below with 3 meter readings:

  1. Old meter reading, partial month’s usage before switch to solar (sample: 81 kWh)
  2. New “in” meter (also called general service) for electricity you used from PECO (sample :232 kWh)
  3. New “out” meter, for electricity your rooftop system sent to PECO (sample 340 kWh)

plus a Customer charge of $8.43 (or 8.44, not sure why it varies a little).

What this means:
The energy from solar that was sent back to PECO was 27 kWh more than the amount received from PECO (340 – 232 – 81). This surplus 27 kWh will be banked towards next month’s use. You are billed just the Customer charge of $8.43 for the month.

 

To make it more complicated, for this particular bill, the 27 kWh surplus resulted in a  “Renewable Energy Credit” of $2.15 because the bill happened to be in May which is the month when PECO zero’s out the banked distribution of kWhs. They call this “settlement.”

This plus the credit mentioned earlier, for the meter, results in a total credit of $327.06.  Given that the customer charge was $8.43 the bill ends up with a credit of $318.63 that will be carried over to the next month. The image below is Page 1 of the May bill.
Note the “Message Center” which describes the “banked distribution” and the “settlement.”

The following months, when your grid-connected system is in full swing, you’ll see a bill like the one below:

  • 2 meter readings:
    “In” meter, for electricity you used from PECO,  (sample 287 kWh)
    “Out” meter, for electricity your rooftop system sent to PECO, (sample 525 kWh)
  • Customer charge $8.43

In the example, 238 kWh more electricity was sent to the grid than you pulled down  (525-287) . The surplus will go into your “banked distribution” and will be added to next month’s “out” meter reading to determine next month’s bill. If the total of these two is more than the “in” meter, then no charge, if it is ever less than the “in” meter, then you will see the three charges for generation, transmission and distribution for the extra kWh’s used.  This rollover and comparison will occur each month until the next May. In May, PECO will zero out the surplus “banked distribution” with a check or a credit on the bill.


INTERESTING ISSUE – There is one piece of usage information that is not visible on the PECO bill: How much electricity was actually consumed by the loads in the house. Since solar energy is used by the house loads first, PECO does not see this energy so can not meter this energy.

On the 13-Month Usage chart shown above, compare the usage for the prior year’s month of June, before the solar installation, to June of the current year which was after the solar installation. The current year is significantly lower than the prior year. This is because the big usage in June is the air conditioner, and the air conditioner tends to be on during the day when the sun is out and power is being generated by the panels. This is a clear picture of the value of solar because the electricity for the air conditioning load never had to enter the electrical grid. The electricity was consumed right where it was generated.   

The load information is not lost to the homeowner as it is being tracked by the monitoring system from the solar company which is used to track the output of the solar arrays.

This data in combination with the information available on the PECO bill will allow a full picture of the energy flow.

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