FAQ #1: Is there really enough sun in Minnesota for solar to be feasible?
FAQ #2: How do you attach panels to my roof?
FAQ #3: What happens to my new roofing warranty?
FAQ #4: What about batteries?
FAQ #5: How do I find out if solar will work at my site?
FAQ #1: Do we really have enough sun in Minnesota for solar energy systems to make sense?
Yes! Minnesota actually has equivilent or better "solar resources" than many areas in the southeastern US and pretty much all of the northeast. In fact, we have more "peak sun hours" here (on an annual basis, 4.6 hours daily average) than Germany, the top solar market in the world.
FAQ #2: How does Aladdin Solar attach panels to my roof?
FAQ #3: What happens to the warranty on my new roof if you install panels there?
We use top of the line, flashed standoffs by QuickMount, Unirac, IronRidge, SnapNRack and others depending on the PV module, the selected racking system and the roofing material. We communicate with the roofing contractor holding the warranty beforehand. They review the specs on the mounting components and may come out to inspect our work to verify that the work has been completed to their satisfaction. This is something that roofing contractors and shingle manufacturers deal with all the time and with proper upfront communication from us, the process goes very smoothly and the warranty continues without interruption.
FAQ #4: Don't I need batteries?
The most common installations are "batteryless" systems that are tied to the utility grid through your breaker panel and electric meter. In the old days, if your system was generating more power than you were using and you didn't store it, that power was lost. Now, if your system generates more than you are consuming at the time, the excess flows backwards through your electrical meter and your utility company gives you a credit for that amount. They will replace your existing meter with one that is calibrated to read current flowing in both directions. At the end of the month, the utility will show how much power they sold you and how much you sold them and bill you for the net. This is how this type of setup gets the name "net metering." In a way, the utility company "stores" power for you in credits.
We do occasionally install a battery backup system as part of the PV installation. The reason some customers want to include batteries is that with a batteryless grid-tied system and there is a grid outage, the grid-tied inverter is required to shut down so as not to send current out to the grid where utility line workers may be working (expecting the lines to be safe to handle). This means that during a grid outage your PV system will not produce any power. For most of our customers, this is not a big issue since grid outages tend to last only a few hours at the most. For those that want to be protected against longer outages, we install a "grid-tied PV system with battery backup". With this system, when the grid goes down, the inverter still disconnects from your main breaker panel and the grid, but continues to power one or more selected household circuits (refrigerator, some lights, etc.) drawing power from the batteries. This requires a more expensive, hybrid inverter, some extra electronic controls, batteries, some rewiring of existing household circuits and can add $8,000-$10,000 or more to the cost of a similarly sized batteryless grid-tied system.
FAQ #5: I'm interested in finding out if solar panels (PV or photovoltaic system) would work for my home or business. What steps do I take?
1. Initial contact: For a general discussion of your goals and expectations, answers to your questions, or to schedule a site assessment call or email a solar contractor.
2. Aerial site survey: Contact us to arrange for an aerial site analysis. We have access to high quality aerial photo libraries which can often give us a good start in evaluating your site for solar. Your complete address including zip code is all that is required. (We will not publish or sell your contact information). We can often get fairly accurate measurements of your roof size, pitch and orientation--even the heights of nearby trees. From this we can provide you with a brief report discussing initial thoughts on feasibility of a system at your site, and, if appropriate, a tentative or initial design with ballpark pricing and financial analysis of that design. All this before anyone even comes out to your site! With the information in the report, you'll have a good starting point as to what might be your options, costs and benefits.
3. In-person site visit and evaluation: If after reviewing your aerial site survey report you feel a solar energy system may indeed meet your goals and fit your budget, you can schedule an in-person site visit and assessment. A trained Aladdin Solar technician will evaluate your site using professional shade analysis tools, consider your existing electrical system, and discuss with you your goals and current energy usage requirements. You will then receive a formal report/proposal which may include: a review of various solar electric (PV) system options specific to your site; discussions of any shading or location issues; monthly and annual energy PV output projections; financial projections based on current and predicted utility rates; recommendations for realistic system size and placement and a proposal for installation.
4. Sign the installation agreement. Select a system option, sign the contract and provide your intial down payment to get the ball rolling. We will get to work creating the detailed engineering documents required for installation, permits, the interconnection agreement with the electric utility and, if appropriate, any rebates.
5.Installation Schedule: After permitting is cleared, interconnection confirmations are received and equipment orders are in, a realistic installation date can be set for your new solar electric system (manufacturer delivery schedules may vary depending on demand, etc.).
6. Installation: An average sized roof-mounted PV system normally takes 2-3 days to install but time requirements may increase under special circumstances like extreme roof slope or unusual roofing materials, substandard or unsafe existing electrical systems, difficult equipment or worker access, underground trenching if the array is not at the meter location, and so on.
7. Complete all inspections and start producing renewable energy! After the installation is finished, any required inspections by officials and the utility are completed, your new solar electric system can be turned on to immediately start providing your home with clean energy produced by the sun. We'll will review the PV system in detail with you and provide you with a site specific user manual containing diagrams, instructions, warranty information, and maintenance schedule. Any final payments are due at this time.
8. Apply for Federal Income Tax credits: With your next yearly Federal Income Tax return, you may qualify for a tax credit of 30% of the installed cost of the system. This credit can be used to offset both regular and alternative minimum tax (ATM) rules and unused credits can be carried forward. Consult with your tax advisor on whether you can claim this credit.
Our office is in Excelsior, MN. We serve Minneapolis, St. Paul, all of the Twin Cities area (including Blaine, Bloomington, Burnsville, Chanhassen, Chaska, Eagan, Eden Prairie, Edina, Lakeville, Maple Grove, Maplewood, Minnetonka, Plymouth, Wayzata, and Woodbury) and the southern half of Minnesota.