<![CDATA[creativesolarusa.com - Blog]]>Wed, 12 Feb 2020 07:43:39 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Seven Roadblocks to Rooftop Solar in Georgia]]>Tue, 11 Feb 2020 18:19:36 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/the-seven-roadblocks-to-rooftop-solar-in-georgia

by Cesar Prieto and Seth Gunning

Electricity revolutionized the world when geniuses like Edison and Tesla found ways to harness it. Since its inception, the electric utility business model had pretty much remained the same for more than a century: big centralized power plants generating energy, transmitting it through high voltage power lines and then distributing it to end users through utilities with local or regional jurisdictions. The flow of electrons always followed this one way street from generation to consumption.

This old business model is now being turned upside down by technologies like solar PV, which allow any suitable roof to be turned into a decentralized “mini power plant”, producing electrons that will be consumed “in-situ”. The industry uses the term ‘Distributed Generation’ (DG) for this type of model. The spill-over or excess power from DG goes through the utility meter “in-reverse” and back into the grid, serving the demand of neighboring buildings.

In Georgia there are over 100 electric utilities that can be categorized in three groups: (1) large investor-owned-utilities like Georgia Power; (2) Electric Membership Corporations that that re-distribute profits among their member base; and (3) municipal utilities owned by local governments. They have clearly marked geographical jurisdictions. In practical terms they are highly regulated monopolies that face limited competition. For many of them, but especially for the municipal utilities, DG represents a new unexpected source of competition from within their own customer base that threatens to reduce their revenue.  Others, like Walton EMC and Cobb EMC are more progressive in their approach toward solar.

In 2016 Georgia made it into many solar-related headlines. In that year more than 1 GW of utility-scale capacity came on-line, more than all previous years combined. Nonetheless today less than 2% of the state’s electricity comes from solar. Out of this fraction, we estimate that less than 10% is generated from non-utility DG sources. There is a vast amount of suitable unused roof space available for growth!

A recent analysis by Cape Analytics showed that in Atlanta only 64 out of every 100,000 homes have solar installed on their roofs. In Denver, by contrast, 1,776 out of every 100,000 homes host a rooftop solar energy system. There are many factors that can help explain the low level of penetration of rooftop solar in Georgia when compared to other states or when compared to large systems owned by utilities within the state. Yes, the [still] abundant tree canopy in Georgia creates more shade than in other places with less dense vegetation. Yes, economies of scale make it cheaper to build solar farms on large parcels of land than on rooftops. Nonetheless, there are many other less evident factors that come into play. This uneven distribution of Georgia’s growing solar capacity means that home and business-owners are missing out on the financial benefits that can come along with rooftop solar: dramatically lower utility costs, attractive tax-benefits and the stabilization of operating costs for decades to come.

Utilities’ Roadblocks to Rooftop Solar
To explain the hidden side of this unusually low adoption of rooftop solar energy, we turn to the punitive distributed generation and metering policies of many Georgia utilities. These policies, directly or indirectly throttle down the financial benefits of customer-owned clean energy. Those utilities that see solar technology advancements in the hands of their customers as a threat to their century-old business model are protecting themselves in numerous ways. They have built a complex jumble of regulations and rate structures that reduce the value of rooftop solar. Here are seven of the most commonly used roadblocks:

1.  Solar stand-by capacity fees:  This is arguably the most punitive way of preventing rooftop solar. Stand-by capacity fees are calculated on the nominal power rating of the array and are charged every month irrespective of the amount of energy produced. The standby fees significantly dilute the potential savings of solar, making it uneconomical within their jurisdiction. For example, a homeowner living in Fort Valley, the “Peach City of Georgia” will have to pay around $48 in monthly fees to the municipal utility for a 5kW rooftop system that would save him/her $65/month. This is like being taxed 74 cents on the dollar!. No wonder why peaches are the only ones taking advantage of the sunshine in Fort Valley.

2. Monthly fixed fees or administrative charges: Fixed fees are a reasonable way of recovering the cost of the infrastructure required to bring electricity to our homes and businesses, but high fixed fees make solar less attractive. Higher fixed fees shift the proportional cost paid to the utility away from the electricity consumed. This reduces the consumer’s ability to lower their overall utility costs with solar, energy efficiency, or even energy conservation. This is a way for utilities to lock the consumer into higher bills no matter how much electricity is used. Pricing mechanisms like these also disproportionately affect low income families, regardless of their capability to access distributed generation sources.

3. Buy-back rates based on “avoided cost”: As opposed to places like California or South Carolina, with net metering policies that put solar on a level playing field, the vast majority of electric providers in GA will buy your excess solar power at a wholesale price that is often only 25% of the average retail residential price. These buy-back rates constrain the size of roof-top solar systems because the higher the amount of energy that is exported to the grid, the longer the payback for the owner.
When calculating their avoided cost, most Georgia utilities overlook the side benefits to the grid that arise from having mini-power plants dispersed across their service territory. For instance, reducing consumption and having solar resources that are generating power inside the neighborhoods where the electricity is consumed reduces the utility’s cost of building and maintaining big, long, power transmission infrastructure. In California, distributed generation (DG) and energy efficiency have accounted for savings of approximately $2.6 billion on utility transmission costs.
In markets with high solar penetration, it is clearly not a sustainable business practice for utilities to purchase excess solar energy at the same retail rate they sell it for. There should be a fair balance between the buy and sell rates. Figuring out this fair balance has been and will continue to be the subject of much debate within Public Utility Commission hearings for years to come.

4. Fair monthly billing vs instantaneous netting: Power consumption in one particular location is not a smooth line. For example, power demand spikes when your A/C kicks in and drops at the end of the cycle. Most utilities on locations with rooftop solar will install a bidirectional meter that is able to monitor the flow of electrons into the building and out of the building when solar production exceeds the building’s load (consumption). The cutoff window to calculate net energy flows determined by the utility is one of the least understood factors with the highest impact on a customer’s power bill, even to a greater extent than the buy-back rate.  
There are utilities that will calculate excess net energy exported at the end of the month. This allows for hourly and daily fluctuations to even out. However, there are others like Georgia Power that will account for any power that is exported to the grid on a real-time basis. In two homes with the same consumption profile and the same solar system, this simple “accounting practice” as they call it, can significantly reduce the savings. Consider the case of a residential customer, for which any electricity produced by solar that is not immediately consumed in the building will be “exported” to the grid at 3.8¢/kWh. Should this same customer need this energy back from the grid 15 minutes later, it will now cost him/her 12¢/kWh. This is equivalent to a 400% guaranteed margin on a commodity trade! Today’s “shark lending” practices would look more like a “guppy” if this exchange had been with money instead of energy.
To ensure that the electricity produced by a solar energy system is consumed on-site and therefore retains its full financial value, customers with instantaneous netting of energy have to either significantly undersize rooftop solar energy systems or couple them with energy storage systems.

5. Power demand charges (Commercial Customers only):  Imagine energy as the equivalent to the fuel that goes in your car’s tank. Power is the rate of flow of the fuel into your tank, and energy is the total amount of fuel you fill it with. Now imagine a gas station that would charge you not only for the gallons pumped into your tank but also for the speed at which the tank is filled. In this scenario, filling a 15-gallon tank in a minute would cost you more than filling that same tank in three minutes. A gas station could rightly argue that they need bigger hoses and more modern pumping stations that will allow you to draw the same amount of fuel (energy) in less time.
Similarly, most electric utilities’ demand charges are calculated based on the highest level of energy flow in a 15 or 30-minute interval during the last 12 months. At the end of each month, demand charges are either added to the cost of the energy supplied to calculate the final bill or used to calculate energy tiers (more about this on the next section). The issue with roof-top solar is that even if it were to produce 100% of the energy consumed in the building, it will not reduce the demand charges from the utility. All you need is a 15 or 30- minute interval of high power demand during the night or on a rainy day for that demand to be used as a factor in calculating the next 12 months. Rate structures in which demand charges represent a sizable portion of the total bill extend the payback of solar because they in fact have the same effect as a fixed fee, but labelled differently. Solar Energy systems coupled with batteries have the ability to offset both the energy and demand portions of a company’s utility bill. Unfortunately, the average cost of batteries for these types of applications in Georgia is still not low enough to make most projects pencil out.

6. Energy tiers with diminishing pricing (Commercial Customers only): When you visit the websites of electricity providers you will often find recommendations and policies intended to promote conservation. Many of these are effective and well-intended, but when it comes to some rate structures, their actions are not aligned with their words. If energy conservation was an honest driver, rates would reflect relatively low prices for base-load consumption and increasingly higher prices for what would be considered as excess consumption (relative to the building’s size or commercial activity). With some rate plans the opposite takes place; the higher your energy consumption, the lower the rate paid for that energy. For example, a building using 10,000 kWh a month may see an average energy cost of $0.10/kWh, which is a result of $0.13/kwh for the first 5,000 kWh and $0.07/kWh for the second 5,000 kWh. In cases like these, a competent solar installer would do a careful design to maximize the value of the system for the owner.  If one were to install an array that offsets 50% of the building’s total consumption, the value of solar energy produced would only be $0.07/kWh. It would be inaccurate to say that the value of the energy produced is equal to the average monthly rate ($0.10/kWh) because energy is effectively being accounted for on a LIFO (Last-In-First-Out) basis. Building a bigger system would allow us to tap into the more expensive energy IF there is no export to the grid. However, the bigger the offset generated by the solar system, the higher the likelihood that some energy will be exported at a devalued price, which increases the overall time it takes for the system to pay for itself.

7. Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Act of 2001: Last but not least, Georgia’s Legislature enacted a law that regulates electrical service. It contains specific provisions limiting distributed generation. In general it gives utilities the discretion to limit residential systems to 10kW and commercials systems to 100 kW. It also provides utilities discretion to deny buying excess power from solar customers in their territories once 0.2% of their peak generation capacity has been reached by distributed generation sources. No, this is not a typo. Zero-point-two percent! This means that the legal framework helps confine solar rooftop penetration to the equivalent of a rounding error.
We can’t think of a sound technical reason to merit such an artificially low ceiling on rooftop solar. As a matter of fact, some Georgia utilities already generate over 30% of their demand in certain parts of the year from solar resources on their system. The difference is that when the utility owns the solar generation, none of these restrictions apply. Fortunately, very few utilities to-date have cited this law as the reason to deny interconnection of new solar energy systems, perhaps because solar penetration behind the meter is still so small that they don’t want to bother, perhaps because it is overkill when layered on top of all the other barriers previously described.

Solar Energy has become one of the cheapest ways to generate electricity. This time around, access to the technology to produce it is available to everyday home and business-owners not just to a handful of regulated corporations. Utilities and regulators who are hired/elected to ensure they act in the best interest of the public, can embrace distributed generation by changing policies that unfairly limit the value of solar within their own customer base. In Georgia, where power demand is directly correlated with sun exposure (highest demand is during the day in the summer months), the expansion of hundreds of thousands of new solar “mini power plants” will allow these utilities to have access to excess power from their customer base at a low cost when it is needed the most.
You can learn more about your utility’s solar energy policies and get a free estimate on solar energy savings by contacting the expert consultant team at Creative Solar USA at 770-485-7438 or check out the database of utility policies compiled by the Southern Environmental Law Center on www.rateofsolar.com
<![CDATA[Historic Koinonia Farm Now Powered by the Sun]]>Tue, 11 Feb 2020 01:55:27 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/historic-koinonia-farm-now-powered-by-the-sunCreative Solar USA provides a low rate of solar power for local farm
Americus, GAKoinonia Farm, a Georgia based intentional Christian community non-profit organization that serves as a working farm and house of hospitality, is set to receive power from a new solar energy system at no upfront cost to the historic organization. Creative Solar USA, through its sister company 3P Energy, will install, own, and operate the solar energy system for 15 years and provide the power produced by the solar panels to Koinonia at a discounted rate through one of the State’s first private Solar Energy Procurement Agreements (SEPA). 

The solar panels will cover the roof of the Farm’s processing facility and were made possible thanks to a close collaboration between Creative Solar USA and Georgia Interfaith Power and Light (GIPL). GIPL provided a 10-year zero-interest loan that helped finance one-fourth of the total cost of the project. After the SEPA expires Koinonia Farm will have the option to purchase the solar energy system.

Stephen Andersen with Koinonia Farm shares, "Koinonia has a rich history dating from 1942, steeped in manifesting Christian compassion and love by welcoming anyone regardless of race or religion and launching the Partnership Housing Movement that became Habitat for Humanity. They also have a sustainability mission and are proud to announce the installation of a new solar project. The solar project will provide sustainable, renewable electrical energy as part of a long-term, low-risk investment. No additional costs are expected in the near term, and yet there are expectations for significant cost savings in the intermediate and long terms. A creative and experienced team of business and technical professionals, using a combination of business tax credits and incentives for faith-based organizations, made this project possible.”

Bren Dubay, Director of Koinonia Farm, adds “Since our founding in 1942, Koinonia’s desire has been to serve. We have looked for innovative ways to do that. Humility has shown us that it takes a community — good friend Steve Anderson, man of action Cesar Prieto of Creative Solar USA, entrepreneur Russell Seifert of 3P Energy and visionary Codi Norred of GIPL have made it possible for Koinonia to do what it could not do alone. We are humbled by this new partnership and delighted by this opportunity to become more sustainable allowing Koinonia to better serve not only our community but the larger community as well.”

3P Energy owner Russell Seifert, explains “With a SEPA in place, solar becomes accessible to a wide variety of organizations that lack the capital or do not have the tax appetite (for example, non-profits) as lessening the burden for the capital expense avoid having to purchase the system outright. While we will provide power to Koinonia at a discounted rate consistently throughout their 15-year solar agreement, at the end of the agreement they will have the option to purchase their system.”

Codi Norred with GIPL, states “Communities of faith are increasingly concerned about what they can do to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Not only that, but these same communities are also increasingly concerned about the cost of energy, and their own ability to be sustainable and resilient. We believe that communities of faith should be the leaders in exploring bold and creative solutions to address climate change and environmental impacts through clean energy alternatives. Koinonia is doing just that. We hope their example serves as a model for other institutions of faith across the state of Georgia to be leaders alongside them. ”

This project has special significance for all parties involved as Americus was the first place where a photovoltaic panel was installed by Bell Laboratories back in 1955.

<![CDATA[A Solar Christmas Story]]>Tue, 24 Dec 2019 21:26:56 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/a-solar-christmas-story
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,
The panels were mounted on the rooftop with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The homeowners were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of utility savings (thanks to solar) danced in their heads.

With ma in her pj's, and dad in his cap,
They had just settled their heads for a (well-deserved) long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their bed to ensure their solar panels weren't battered.

They tore through the screen door with a thrash
And away to the lawn, they flew like a flash.

When what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a big red sleigh, and eight hardy reindeer.

With a jolly old driver, careful not to disturb the solar panels,
Yet still lively and quick,
They knew in a moment it must be St. Nick!

With a friendly wink and twist of his head,
He assured them that they had nothing to dread.
He then spoke not a word but went straight to work.

Down the chimney, he went
Where the stockings were filled, then he turned with a jerk.

After giving a nod, up the chimney, he rose;
Then he hopped on his sleigh, and away he drove.

But they heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight,
"Your solar helps to make the future look bright!
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!"
<![CDATA[Solar + Storage vs Generator for Grid Resiliency]]>Thu, 19 Dec 2019 17:02:12 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/solar-storage-vs-generator-for-grid-resiliencyPicture
It is safe to say that climate change is already impacting modern society’s ability and methods for meeting basic human needs for clean water, nutritious food, secure housing, and reliable electricity.  The last 5 years have been the hottest ever recorded100-year floods, devastating wildfires, and severe drought are rampant and become increasingly normalized. 

Larger and more frequent hurricanes leave countries and states in a constant rebuilding cycle. Even large power companies aren’t immune to these devastating impacts of severe weather. In October, California’s largest electric utility threatened to cut the power supply of 500,000 customers for as many as five days over wildfire threats.

Nearly 75% of Americans say that climate change is “personally important” to them. That means that many Americans have started to think about and prepare for extreme weather events with the capability of knocking out power for days or weeks at a time. What’s the best way to secure your home and your quality of life in a grid-outage situation that is both environmentally friendly, affordable, secure, and reliable? We here explore the best long-term solution to building resilience in your home and business.

There are two commercially available and affordable options for most Americans to keep the lights on when the grid goes down: natural gas/propane generators or solar energy coupled with battery energy storage. Both generators and Solar + Battery allow homeowners to experience uninterrupted power supply through the use of an automatic transfer switch which makes your home’s electrical circuits their own island, separate from the rest of the grid and allows you to consume the energy being generated on-site.

Natural Gas or Propane Generators

Name-brand residential generators can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $12,000 after installation. Like any fossil-fuel-powered combustion engine, generators need to be exercised and will generally run automatically about once a week for 10 minutes to keep the moving parts lubricated. These motors also require regular service, with annual maintenance costs of around $400. Even the best commercially available residential back-up generators typically have warranties lasting no longer than five years. Considering the long term maintenance costs of generators, the total cost of ownership over a ten year period is roughly $12,000-$16,000 excluding the cost of propane or natural gas fuel used to run the system.

In areas without access to natural gas service, propane tanks can cost well over $1,000. Propane costs, on average, between $2.00-$2.50 a gallon. A generator sized to provide back-up power to an average 1500-2000 sq ft home will consume between 2-4 gallons of propane an hour. That means for a 24-hour grid-outage, the fuel costs for a propane generator system can cost $120. 

The fuel costs for fossil-fuel run generators are considerably lower in areas where natural gas service is available.  A generator sized to provide back-up power to an average 1500-2000 sq ft home will consume between 150 to 300 cubic feet of natural gas per hour (or 1.5 - 3 Therms). In the State of Georgia, the rough average cost of a therm in 2019 is about $1 meaning that running your home on a natural gas generator during a 24-hour grid outage can cost around $75 dollars. 
Over the course of ten years, assuming an average of 5 days of grid outage each year, the total cost of owning a fossil-fueled powered generator can range from $15,750 to $23,000. But remember, a back-up generator’s only purpose is to provide electricity when the grid is down, however often that may be. This makes it very difficult- if not impossible- to quantify any ‘return-on-investment’.

Solar + Battery Storage

Solar Energy plus Battery Energy Storage, on the other hand, is an investment opportunity to become grid resilient and own your own power production that works to create a return on your initial investment from day one. In addition to providing immediate back-up power to your home in the event of a grid-outage, energy storage can also help your home to maximize the value of the clean solar energy produced in the home and in variable rates offered to you by your utility company. 

During sunny days, a solar battery system will capture and store any surplus solar energy being produced on your roof but not immediately consumed in the home. That power remains available until demand in the house again exceeds the energy produced by the solar energy system. As the sun goes down and your solar energy system stops producing, the home battery system will discharge and power the demand in the home. This process of maximizing the amount of solar energy that you consume in your home can help ensure that you receive the greatest value for every kWh your solar energy system produces.

Over time, regular operations of the battery will allow you to use less and sometimes eliminate your night time consumption. In what is called ‘backup mode’, the battery will charge and stay charged until power is lost, it is then at that point that the battery will discharge and provide power to the home. 

The amount of energy discharged from the battery and where it is discharged can be catered to the homeowner’s preferences. For example, if a homeowner wishes to only run the ‘essentials’ during an outage the battery will keep the set essentials powered while reserving power from the rest of the home. Some batteries can even gather weather data from the internet and presumptuously charge in preparation for a potential outage.

In the Georgia market, two Tesla Powerwalls (27kWh of battery capacity) will cost roughly twenty-three thousand dollars (including installation) and is often adequate to provide whole-home backup for the average Georgia home. This means when the power goes out, your entire home will be powered without having to choose which appliances get power and which do not. 

Modern battery storage systems require virtually zero maintenance and when paired with a solar energy system is also eligible for federal tax credits. In 2020, the Federal Residential Clean Energy Tax Credit for solar + storage systems will be 26% making the after-credit cost of your two Tesla Powerwall batteries just seventeen thousand dollars.

The industry-standard warranty for any lithium energy storage system doubles that of even the best residential generators at 10 years, guaranteeing 70% of the battery’s original capacity is available after that same amount of time.

Solar + Storage creates the opportunity for homeowners to essentially become their own power plant with a strong return on investment. The typical return on investment for owning a solar energy system in Georgia can range from 6-12 years generated when the sun is shining and the grid operating, however, only when the system is paired with a battery or generator does it provide power when the grid is out.

Generators are reliable if you have a fuel source but are used very infrequently, burn fossil fuel, are accompanied by high maintenance costs and have zero return on investment. Adding solar with a battery can do more than make you grid resilient during outages but it will also reduce your demand for energy from the grid and thus save you money on your utility costs.

Unlike generators, a battery will be charged and discharged every day working to help you save instead of sitting idle awaiting power outages. When considering the functionality and overall cost of ownership of solar alone vs solar with storage, a solar energy system paired with a battery is the wiser investment overall and does more than simply providing you backup power during an outage, it brings intelligent energy consumption to the next level.

When you’re ready to take control of your home’s energy with solar + storage, give us a call at 770-485-7438 and let us show you all the power the sun can bring to your home!

**Costs fluctuate based on labor prices and region

   Written by Matthew Johnson,
​   CSUSA Solar Consultant 

<![CDATA[DIY Solar: The Spooky Side of the Sun]]>Tue, 15 Oct 2019 20:43:31 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/diy-solar-the-spooky-side-of-the-sunBy Jarred Clark, Sales CSUSA
DIY has gotten more and more popular with the proliferation of the internet and the widespread access to information. Now, a homeowner can get online and get all the information necessary to design, size, source, and install a solar project. This may sound simple enough, but there is also a reason solar installation companies are around and growing rapidly, one DIY mistake could be very costly. 

Selecting a certified solar energy provider to complete your home or commercial solar energy installation will ensure that 1) your insurance company will cover systems they may not cover if installed DIY, 2) manufacturers will honor warranties which sometimes require professional installation of equipment to specific code, 3) your system may be eligible for additional rebates from your utility that are not available to you if you install the system yourself. 

If you are still thinking about installing a DIY Solar Energy system let’s take a walk through the whole process and see where things can get really scary. 

  1. System Sizing
    1. This part of the process seems fairly simple right? Take a look at your utility bill and size the system to create as much energy as you use. Wrong. There are over 50 different utilities in the state of GA. All of them have different solar policies. If you size the system incorrectly, you can accidentally cut your return on investment in half and double the time it takes for the system to pay for itself without even knowing it. 
    2. Have you taken into account shading? Do you know how many hours of sunlight you get on average?  Is there space on the roof for the necessary amount of panels? Did you take into account fire code? All things to consider when sizing a solar system. 
  2. System Design
    1. This is where it starts to get really scary. Here are just a few questions that will need to be answered. Luckily, Creative Solar USA has more NABCEP certified professionals on staff to answer these often challenging questions for you than any other installation company in Georgia, 
      1. How are you inverting power? What type of racking? Is the surge protector in the combiner box or do you need an external surge protector? What type and how many of panels are you using and how does impact the inverter(s)? Are you getting battery storage? If so, AC coupled or DC coupled? What type of charge controller is necessary, so you don’t over charge/discharge your batteries and ruin them? Where do the AC/DC disconnects go to meet code? What is required structurally to ensure a successful installation? How long are the runs of wire, do you need to size up the wire to reduce loss? Is your system meeting all National & local building & electrical code requirements to ensure the safety of your home?
  3. Permitting 
    1. Once the design and engineered drawings are complete, you will need to permit. We have all heard and experienced the nightmares concerning permitting.  Nothing is scarier than the permitting department, nothing. 
  4. Installation 
    1. We’ll skip the arduous process of researching, comparing prices, and purchasing all the right materials required for your project, but there can be some spooky times when you go to order your panels and they are not available for 3 months. The more important part is the physical install. 
    1. Do me a favor and take a look at your roof. Look for the highest, sunniest, spots as that is where the install will occur. Imagine yourself on the roof for two-three days. Now imagine carrying a solar panel up a ladder and walking on the roof to get to that spot. They are not only bulky (3.5’ x 5.3’) but upwards of 40 pounds.
    2. Roof leaks are fairly uncommon with professional installations as we have the tools, materials, and expertise to properly locate and seal penetrations. DIY systems are much more likely to experience roof leaks after install. We also warranty our work for 5 years to ensure peace of mind. 
    3. Electrical installation is where the vast majority of issues occur with DIY solar installs. Most “DIYers” hire an electrician who may not have solar experience to do the install and they still fail to properly wire the system. Electrical failures can disable the system, damaging the electrical system of the house, or worse, create a fire hazard. 

There are many examples of faulty electrical work causing big issues. Googling this can be scarier than a haunted house on Halloween. 

At the end of the day, we want everyone to be able to harness the free energy provided by the sun. Are some people able to successfully DIY a solar system? Absolutely. Does the average person have the knowledge and patience to properly go through the whole process? Very Doubtful. 

At Creative Solar USA we have NABCEP Certified PV Professionals in Sales, Engineering, and Installation. With more than 11 years of experience in the industry, we are still learning, but understand that in a rapidly growing industry, constant change is a given. We have the training and experience to get any project done, from off-grid to grid-tied with storage and would love to help you on your solar journey.

<![CDATA[My First Week In Solar]]>Mon, 07 Oct 2019 16:57:07 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/my-first-week-in-solar
Hello, my name is Sarah O’Connell, and I’m proud to be the newest team member at Creative Solar USA as their Marketing Executive. In my career, I've had a hand in several different industries from veteran organizations, nonprofits, and even car sales. Like many in Georgia’s emerging solar energy market, Creative Solar USA is my first career introduction to solar and the energy industry as a whole. After finding Creative Solar USA I was moved by their commitment to educating the public about solar power and all of its possibilities while still maintaining top-notch customer service. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be offered a position and I was ready to hit the ground running. 

With every new endeavor, I do my best to understand not only the product but the industry's ins and outs from top to bottom and what I found out in the solar industry in Georgia truly astonished me.

As a lifelong resident of Georgia, I've always taken great pride in being from the south, particularly the Atlanta region. From our famous pecans to our award-winning tourist attractions we have a lot to be proud of here in the Peach State however residential solar is not something about which we can toot our own horn.

With Georgia Power heading up the lead of energy utility providers the majority of us fall at their mercy when it comes to energy rates, however, solar would seem to be the solution to that. Unfortunately, though, it's not that simple. What I have discovered from learning about the interworking of energy in Georgia is that the consumer's best interests are not always taken into account by the power companies, to say the least.

For example, John Kraft wrote in an email to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (and then published by Matt Kempner at AJC) “The current basic service charge does not cover the costs to connect customers to our electrical grid that exists whether the customer uses any energy or not.” So even if you never use much energy, Georgia Power is asking you to pay the price for their grid.

But the fun doesn't stop there folks, "Georgia Power wants state regulators to approve changes that would eventually add about $200 a year to average home electric bills. That doesn’t include expected higher rates once a multi-billion-dollar nuclear expansion is completed at Plant Vogtle." according to Matt Kempner.

And it's not difficult to assume who will have to pay for the Plant Vogtle project (which went way beyond the proposed budget). That's right, you guessed it. You, and me). It must be nice to go over budget and have someone else pay for it, I wish that applied to Amazon shopping. I guess that means it's not smart for everyone, huh? But I digress.

So why not just use solar you ask? This potential increase in the base charge could "dissuade some from adding rooftop solar" according to Lisa Bianchi-Fossati, who directs policy for the Southface Institute, an Atlanta nonprofit that advocates for clean energy and environmental sustainability. “It limits consumer control over how to manage their energy use and, therefore, it limits the impact of their choices on their energy bills,” she said. 

Georgia once again stands at a crossroads. Do we stay imprisoned by the rates that Georgia Power declares we will pay? Or will we as a community and as a state band together for better options for energy consumption? Maybe then Georgia could catch up to other states who offer sensible solar policies including state tax credits for renewable energy sources like residential solar power systems as well as strong net metering and interconnection laws that layout sufficient standards to protect consumers like you and me.
Thankfully, not all is lost.

Through many current reports, it’s apparent that not only is solar positive for the environment but it can reduce your utility bills significantly. However, the benefits of solar stretch beyond just reducing utility costs and improving the environmental impact of energy consumption, solar power also creates long-term ROI and is proven to improve profits for businesses across the United States. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) “solar is creating well-paying jobs and driving down electricity costs for consumers, businesses and municipalities. It also has generated significant economic activity, accounting for $140 billion in private investment since its inception.” 

Customers time and time again report meeting a high percentage of their demand and with the data shown from their system, they are able to see how much money it saved them. The data is clear, solar is the way to go for homeowners who have access to it. Many even regret not going solar sooner!

Here at Creative Solar USA we strive to offer you the highest quality customer service available and we would be proud to guide you throughout the entire process of having solar power in your home, from your first call to your first utility bill report post-install, we’ll be there every step of the way. With current incentives available for a limited time only, give Creative Solar USA a call today and let us show you the power that the sun can give!
<![CDATA[How to know if Solar Battery Storage is Right for Your Home]]>Wed, 02 Oct 2019 14:49:02 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/how-to-know-if-solar-battery-storage-is-right-for-your-home
Solar storage has long been a great option for those interested in capitalizing on the power their solar system is producing. Solar batteries allow for the ability to store extra energy generated by the solar system and then draw from that storage when the panels are not producing as much power, vs sending that stored energy back to the grid.

In states like Georgia, there is no true net-metering where the local utility provider credits a solar customer at the retail rate for their surplus solar energy.

Instead, most electric utilities pay a wholesale rate, called “Avoided Cost”, for solar energy not consumed on-site.

This avoided-cost rate is usually between ¼ and ½ of the retail rate and is typically what your utility company would have to pay if they were to buy that same power from another source. The effect of this unbalanced exchange is the monetary value of each kWh of solar power you use is higher than what you’re sending back to the grid while it’s still the same product or ‘energy’.

Solar batteries, however, offer a solution to this predicament. With solar batteries, you are able to maximize how your energy is used every day.
Additionally, batteries allow you to use any stored energy during times that your panels are not producing as much power, such as during bad weather or at night. The time that each battery will run the home from stored energy ranges from a few hours to a couple of days depending on the appliances within the home as well as the capabilities of the battery itself. Creative Solar USA’s solar consultants work closely with every homeowner to determine the size and type of battery best suited for their needs, based on the specific energy usage of the home, solar production at the home, and the types of appliances to which we’re providing back-up power.
The best value from solar batteries is obtained by homeowners who are still connected to the grid and use the battery as an excess solar energy storage unit. 

Overall due to the lack of true net-metering in Georgia and the control that batteries give you over the power being produced by your panels, it’s economically sensible to add a battery to your system. 

For full details on all of the benefits that a solar battery can bring to your home, give us a call TODAY and let us show you how to capitalize on the power given from the sun!
<![CDATA[On the fence about solar? Come visit a home currently using solar as a part of the National Solar Tour!]]>Tue, 24 Sep 2019 07:00:00 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/on-the-fence-about-solar-come-visit-a-home-currently-using-solar-as-a-part-of-the-national-solar-tour
By now you’ve heard that solar power is starting to take hold in homes across the US, but have you considered it for your home? Now is your chance to see solar, up close and personal with the National Solar Tour.

The National Solar Tour is a chance for people all around the country to learn about solar, meet their neighbors, and see solar power at work in their communities. Solar owners host solar open house events to share their experience going solar and interested visitors get the opportunity to ask questions and consider going solar themselves. Events are volunteer-led, free, and open to the public. The Tour is organized by Solar United Neighbors and the American Solar Energy Society, along with tons of local organizations and solar installation companies across the country.

We invite everyone to come visit the homes CSUSA is hosting at the National Solar Tour (October 5th 2019). Even if you are at the early stages of considering going solar or you simply support solar in your community, we encourage you to attend a solar open house on the National Solar Tour!

For a full list of homes in your area visit https://www.nationalsolartour.org/localtours/creative-solar-usa-tour/ then click on the location you are wishing to visit and RSVP!!

Time is running out, so don't delay, be sure to RSVP today!!

<![CDATA[Urging Congress to Extend the Solar Tax Credit]]>Wed, 21 Aug 2019 16:43:32 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/urging-congress-to-extend-the-solar-tax-creditOn July 17th, 2019 the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) sent a letter to Congress signed by roughly 1,000 companies in the solar sector across the nation, urging them to extend tax code section 48 and section 25D known as the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for Solar Energy which has proven to be one of the most prosperous clean energy policies in history. 

In this letter, SEIA laid out the contributions that the ITC has brought including “creating nearly a quarter-million well-paying jobs and driving down electricity costs for consumers, businesses, and municipalities. It also has generated significant economic activity, accounting for $140 billion in private investment since its inception.” They also explained the economic benefits of solar with “more than 240,000 Americans work[ing] in solar energy today, a figure that has more than doubled since 2010. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “solar installer” could become the fastest-growing occupations in America.”

So what’s the big deal?
Well, after 2019 the ITC will be reduced from 30% down to 26% in 2020 and 22% in 2021, and finally, in 2022, the residential renewable energy credit is eliminated completely. This could mean serious problems for the growth of the solar industry, according to the letter, “the solar industry has experienced $8 billion of cancelled or deferred investments and the loss of 9,000 jobs in the wake of federal policy changes singling out solar” which is a result of the tariffs placed by the federal government. According to James Ellsmoor a contributor at Forbes, “the U.S.’ decision to add a 30% tariff on foreign-produced solar panels had a negative effect on its domestic solar industry, which heavily relies on cheap imports. The loss of the solar ITC is likely to have some negative impact on the development of new solar energy projects as well. Without new solar energy systems coming online, utility customers are more susceptible to high rates of pollution and rate-hikes as utilities rely on fossil fuel generation that is becoming increasingly more expensive to build and operate.

Specifically in the state of Georgia changes impending on the local level could also result in heavy impacts for residents. For example, Georgia Power and its partners are pushing forward with their nuclear power plant construction. With the financial influence of continued construction at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, also known as Plant Vogtle, not only will Georgia Power rates continue to rise (to pay for the long exceeded budget and plan to build the plant) but it will also impact other residents who do not get their power through Georgia Power (or one of the dozens of EMCs and municipalities who also have a stake in Vogtle). According to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy “A utility company’s energy resource mix affects all residents in Georgia, even if they aren’t Georgia Power customers since it influences power generation across the state”.

It makes sense to rely on an energy source that is not only good for the environment but also good for the people and solar is the natural selection for that, but until we the people stand together for a change in energy resources solar may never reach its full potential for Americans. As stated by Luke Richardson at Energy Sage “solar’s low-cost trajectory is likely to continue: unlike oil, gas, and coal, solar PV is a technology not a fuel – meaning that its costs will continue to fall every year as research continues and technology improves.”

So, while there may be a few roads bumps a future with solar energy is bright and there are ways to save with solar!! Give Creative Solar USA a call secure your install before the end of 2019 and receive all of the incentives you can before they could be gone!!

<![CDATA[Three Things to Consider When Going Solar in Georgia: Rising Electricity Costs, Payback Period, Your Home’s Location and Value]]>Tue, 20 Aug 2019 14:58:00 GMThttp://creativesolarusa.com/solarblog/three-things-to-consider-when-going-solar-in-georgia-rising-electricity-costs-payback-period-your-homes-location-and-valuePicture
Did you know that the state of Georgia receives approximately 217 sunny days per year? That means that solar energy is a perfect option for residents wishing to save on their utility costs!   Here are three things to consider before going solar in Georgia. 

The first question to ask is what are the future factors that are on the horizon that could affect utility costs. In Georgia, the first thing most residents think of is the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant (AKA Plant Vogtle), a multi-year and multi-billion dollar project led by Georgia Power and it’s partners. This plant is the only nuclear power plant currently being built in the United States and its way over budget. Unfortunately, to cover those costs, utility companies will likely be turning to their customers to make up that difference. Solar and solar storage can help you avoid these rising costs in electric bills by allowing you to produce and store your own power. 

Another thing to consider when going solar is the time it will take to recover your initial investment in a solar energy system via the energy savings it produces. This is often called the Payback period. For Georgians, the typical solar payback period is roughly 8-9 years for a system that is accurately sized for your use (compared to Florida's 10 year ROI). This means that in Georgia you will have an end date of approx. 8 years for when you will begin receiving free electricity in your home. 

The other factor to think about is your home’s location. If your home is surrounded by forestry and your roof rarely gets sun, it will likely take a longer period of time for you to see any major savings in energy as solar panels need a good amount of sunlight to produce enough energy for you not to have to resort to the grid. However, with adequate sunlight solar can add significant value to your home. On average it can increase your home’s value up to $15,000.00 making it a no-brainer for any smart homeowner. 

Remember, a solar energy system qualifies for the federal tax credit that will be fading away prior to 2020 so it’s wise to jump on board now so you can receive all of the incentives possible!! 

It’s a good idea to look over your utility bill and see how you can save by making your own energy with solar. While we support producing as much of your own energy as possible, this does not mean you will be totally off the grid, but simply that you will not have to resort to it as heavily and thus save on utility costs.
At CSUSA we would be glad to give you a free consultation and see if solar would be a good fit for you. Give us a call TODAY and see how you can save with solar!!