1. Is my home suitable for the installation of a solar electric system?
Answer: Almost any building with a sunny roof which faced in a southerly direction is suitable for installation. The closer the roof is to true south the better, although roofs which face east or west work well with an annual performance drop of about 15%, which means the owner has to install a few more modules to make up for the off-south orientation.
2. How big a system do I need?
Answer: The size of the system depends on the amount of southerly roof area one has on their roof. Typically, a 2 kilowatt system employs about 200 square feet of roof space, a 5 kilowatt system 500 square feet of roof space, and a 10 kilowatt system about 1000 square feet of roof space. The NJ Clean Energy Program allows the owner to generate 100% of their historical demand, providing they have adequate roof space. Normally, systems are sized to meet 25-75% of their total annual electric demand, with the balance of their electricity purchased from the electric utility.
3. How much money can I save?
Answer: Conservatively speaking, without hyping the performance of these systems, a 2 kilowatt system will generate (save) 200 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, a 5 kilowatt system will generate 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, and a 10 kilowatt system 1000 kilowatt hours of electricity per month. The figures reflect the average generation per month over a period of twelve months, and take into account lower winter and higher summer generation. At today’s rates, a kilowatt hour costs from 10 cents to 14 cents per kilowatt hour, depending on the time of the year and which electric utility you buy from. On the average, a 5 kilowatt photovoltaic system will save about $ 50-60 per month on your electric bill, and more in the years ahead as electric rates increase. It is a great hedge against utility rate increases. You can use the Clean Power Estimator from the NJCEP website to estimate the savings at your home. The figures outlined above take into account a system facing south and no shade from nearby trees or obstructions.
Additional money savings accrue monthly through Solar Renewable Energy Credits, called "SREC's". The value of these SREC's will change over time, but at this time are expected to be from 10 cents to 20 cents per kilowatt hour of solar electricity generated. These SREC's are purchased by electric utilities or aggregators who combine lots of smaller systems and sell them in blocks to the electric utilities. The reason these SREC's are valuable is because they are added to the electricity savings to essentially double the income from your system, and can halve the payback period for the purchase of a solar photovoltaic system. The electric utilities are required by state law, New Jersey's Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which requires electric utilities in New Jersey to provide a small percentage of electric power sold in the state to come from renewable resources such as solar, wind, or landfill gas. This helps mitigate environmental pollution which is produced as a result of conventional electricity generation. A portion of the RPS must come from renewable resource generation WITHIN New Jersey from residential, commercial and industrial qualifying facilities. Hence the utilities need to buy SREC's from New Jersey homes and businesses. For additional information on SREC's, please see our site.
4. What is the procedure for participating in the NJ Clean Energy Program?
Contact an installer and have them perform a free site survey of your home. At this time the installer will take a compass reading of the site and look for any shading which would diminish performance of the system. The installer will also look at your electric bill, measure the roof, and let you know about how big a system will fit on your roof, within your expected budget range. The person performing the site survey will also be able to answer questions on placement of solar modules and inverters, wire runs , and connections to your main circuit breaker box. They will then take this information back to the office and a proposal will be written and mailed to the owner with all the technical forms and program application filled out.
2. When the owner decides to go ahead with the installation of the system, they mail the application, technical worksheet, and basic site plan to the administrator of the NJ Clean Energy Program. They will receive written approval of their system along with the rebate amount which will be paid at the end of the installation. The rebate “reservation” is good for six months, the time period in which the job should be completed.
3. When the owner has received the go-ahead from the NJCEP, they should send in the signed conract and deposit with their lot and block number. An electrical and building permit will be pulled before work can begin. Jersey Solar takes care of all permitting and submits the applicable electrical drawings and roof loading specifications to the local electrical and building code officials. Once the permits are approved, the installation is ready to begin.
4. When the installation is completed, usually in 2-4 days, the Installer explains operation of the system to the homeowner and calls for the local electrical and building inspection. Once the System passes the local code inspections, the Final Rebate Application is sent in, along with proof of purchase,proof of successful local code compliance, an amended technical worksheet if any changes are made, and a copy of the interconnect agreement. When the final rebate application and forms are received by the NJCEP, another inspector from the NJCEP will come out and make another inspection, making sure that the System passed the local inspection, has no or minimal shading, has the correct inverter and the correct number of modules and is installed according to program guidelines with good workmanship. The rebate is then mailed out. An interconnection agreement is also drawn up with the help of the installer, which is submitted to the utility. Upon utility review, approval and acceptance, the System is officially interconnected and net metering begins, allowing the Owner to interconnect with the electric grid.
5. How much are the rebates and do we have to come up with all the money at the end of the installation?
Answer: Presently, the rebates are $5.50/peak watt or 70% of the cost of the System, whichever is less. The rebate amount can be assigned to the installer, which is received after approval of the system. This way, the Owner only has to come up with 30% of the cost of the system, in two payments of 15%, the first a deposit and the second upon completion of the job. There is also no states sales tax on solar in NJ.
6. Will solar electric modules detract from the “look” of my home?
Answer: Not at all. The modules are installed at the same angle of the roof and look like skylights. They have glass tops with blue or black crystalline cells underneath, and can actually enhance the look of the home. In addition, solar electric systems add value to the home, so a $30,000 system with a rebate of $ 21,000 and a net cost of $9,000 will add at least $9000 to the value of the home upon resale. The electrical savings become dividends.
7. How are the solar modules attached to the roof, and what effect do they have on the roof shingles?
Answer: The aluminum support structure which is underneath the modules are attached directly into the roof rafters of the home.
They are guaranteed to withstand 90-125 mile per hour winds and the weight of the modules is evenly distributed. The modules place a distributed load of less than 3 pounds per square foot on the roof, which is well within roof loading requirements of local building codes. The modules will actually protect the roof shingles under them from the sun, which is the force which cause roof shingles to dry up and curl. In addition, the solar modules block hot summer sun from hitting the shingles, which leads to cooler attic temperatures and decreased cooling costs.
An ashphalt-based sealant is placed between the shingle and aluminum support structure to prevent leaks from occuring.
8. What are some of the environmental savings associated with the installation of a solar photovoltaic system?
Answer: The annual emission offset for a 4 kW system is:
a) 4 pounds of oxides of nitrogen
b) 18,000 pounds of carbon dioxide
c) This is the equivalent of driving your car 22,600 miles per year
d) The carbon dioxide absorbed by 2 acres of trees.
As you can see, the environmental savings, when added to the obvious monetary savings, makes solar photovoltaic systems a good investment for the homeowner and society. In fact, the NJ Clean Energy Program is funded by a Society Benefit Charge (SBC), which is a tiny charge of about 10 cents per month for the average residential customer on their electric bill. That is to say, that the State of NJ has decided that there is a benefit to society in the installation of solar photovoltaic systems throughout the state. When one adds up all the electricity used within the state, in the residential, commercial, and industrial sector, it comes to about $30 million dollars a year in rebate incentives. These rebates are set to expire in 2008, not withstanding a challenge to the program by those seeking to end or diminish it by the elimination of the Clean Energy Fund.
9 . What is net metering and are all buildings eligible for the NJ Clean Energy Program?
Net metering is the term given which allows your utility meter to literally “spin backwards” when you are producing more electricity than you are using. During the day, especially for homeowners, the occupants of the home might be in school or at work while the photovoltaic system is making more than what the house is presently using. The excess electricity then spins the meter backward and the utility gives you credit AT THE RETAIL RATE for the power they buy back from you. This credit shows up on your monthly electric bill as your meter actually registers the backfeed amount. The meter spins forward (you purchase) at night, during rainy weather, or when your electric demand exceeds the amount of power you are generating on the roof at that given moment. For instance, if you are generating 2000 watts of power but only using 1000 watts, you use your own 1000 watts first and sell the excess 1000 watts back to the utility at retail rate. If you are using 2000 watts and only generating 1000 watts at the moment, you use your 1000 watts you generated and only have to purchase the additonal 1000 watts from the utility. This amount is annualized at the end of the year, especially during some months when it is possible to have a negative electric bill. It is state law that the utility must interconnect and net meter your system provided your system passes the local electrical inspection (National Electric Code)and meets the utility safety requirments as outlined in the law. A signed copy of the interconnection and net metering agreement is entered into by the Owner and the utility and is binding and transferrable, provided the safety requirements are maintained.
10. How many systems have you installed under the NJCEP and do you have referrals?
Answer: We have installed about 60 residential systems, 45 of which have been direct line tie systems(no backup power) and about 15 line tie systems with battery backup(uninterruptible power supply). The battery backup systems provide backup emergency power for lighting, heat, well pump, refrigeration, stereo/tv/computer circuits, etc. With these systems, these circuits stay energized, for a period of 1-7 days, when the electric grid goes away(utility power is down).When the utility power comes back, the battery backup goes back to “sleep’ and is ready for the next power outage. On direct line tie systems without battery backup, the solar modules stop making power so the lineman working on the pole nearby is protected against electricity backfed into their lines. Battery backup systems are more expensive, and the additional cost is not covered by rebates. However, if you are in an area with frequent power outages, have critical needs, or are simply tired of being “powerless” and inconvenienced during a utility outage, then this system offers an alternative to the direct line tie system. The transfer is automatic, about 27 milliseconds, so you do not need a manual transfer switch as you would with a backup gas or oil generator. We have installed photovoltaic systems throughout the state and can provide referrals from customers close to you.
11. How do I know my system is working?
Answer: All photovoltaic systems we install have a kilowatt hour meter which shows how much the system is collecting at that moment and also totalizes the kilowatts in memory storage. This way, the owner can easily find out how much they have generated daily/monthly/annually and can monitor their system’s performance. There is also a visible backfeed number which shows up on the meter so the Owner will know how much electricity they sold back to the utility. These meters are very much like the odometer on an automobile.