Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Solar Photovoltaic Project Update

The renewable energy rebate in Virginia was limited by the $15 million in stimulus funds that the Commonwealth of Virginia allocated to the program. Applications to the Solar and Wind Incentive Program closed on November 18 because all the funds were allocated to projects. Though, I personally reserved only the 6 kilowatts that I estimated would fit on the main portion of my roof and my available funding (and ultimately went into contract for), I am sure that plenty of individuals signed up for the full 10 kilowatts and not all the rebate reservations will be used. There might be a second opportunity to sign up for rebates, so keep your eye on the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy website for updates.

I signed up for the renewable energy rebates two days before the cut-off, I did not complete my due diligence and select my contractor, sign the contract and make a good faith deposit until after Christmas having been delayed by the mid-December snow. My selected contractor is a local company employing local residents and is affiliated with a Virginia roofing company. I obtained three bids, reviewed references, checked the contractor licenses for complaints for both the solar company and the roofing company, and decided to go with American made solar photovoltaic panels. As the winter snow storms hammered northern Virginia over the winter my selected contractor struggled to prepare the engineering work and drawings necessary to obtain the permits. Weather delays and the usual contractor delays (always a couple of days later than the salesman promised) interfered with obtaining the completed engineering work and the permits.

You have 180 days to actually install the system and meet all the requirement of the program to obtain your rebate. Signing up only guarantees that there is still money available for your project not that you will receive the rebate, so the clock is ticking and there is 60 days left. The contractor has assured me that they are still on schedule to meet the deadline. I hope so since all the contractor’s projects need to be finished in virtually the same two week period, and the window grows tighter. I have received my HOA’s permission to continue with the project, so now I wait for the contractor.

We decided to go with Sharp Solar PV panels. Sharp has manufactured 25% of the world’s solar PV currently installed having been in the business for over 40 years. Sharp has continued to invest in the research and development of photovoltaic solar panels. Their newest panels put out almost 10% more wattage using the same square footage than many competitors and allowed me to fit the 6 kilowatt array on the main roof section avoiding any shadows from vents. The Sharp panel sold in the United States is manufactured in their Memphis Tennessee plant, which has produced over a million panels to date. The Sharp modules meet the intent for the “Buy American” provision in the stimulus bill. In addition, the plant has achieved Green Factory Status.

The standard warranty period for most PV solar panels is 25 years. Sharp has panels in operation since the 1960’s are still producing in most cases up to 85% of their original rating. When I viewed the various panels the Sharp panels had a more uniform appearance and finish. One of the reasons we choose our contractor was his use of Sharp panels.

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