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Solar Electric or Photovoltaic (PV) Systems

 A solar system can significantly reduce the electricity you need to purchase from your utility company. The cost of solar modules have come down dramatically over the past years, so systems are now affordable. They provide a great investment for home owners, farms and businesses. And because energy from the sun is free, the cost of power from a solar system is fixed for its life, unlike the power you buy from your utility which continues to cost more and more each year. Just as important, power from a solar system emits no pollutants. So you are helping to clean up the air and provide a healthier environment for you, your children and your community. Installing a solar system on your property lowers your carbon footprint reducing the major greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. You are also helping to reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy and improve our security, while supporting jobs in your community and at component suppliers across the USA. Government incentives (30% Federal Tax credit) are available to significantly reduce system costs Financing is available to match cash flow with energy savings. Federal tax credits will expire Dec. 31 2016.

Utility Incentives

On October 6, 2008, Public Act 295 was signed into law. This Act, known as the Clean, Renewable and Efficient Energy Act, established a Renewable Energy Standard for the State of Michigan. The Renewable Energy Standard requires Michigan electric providers to achieve a retail supply portfolio that includes at least ten percent renewable energy by 2015.

 

Consumers Energy complies with its EARP offering an incentive program for customers who have installed or wish to install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their property. Applicants are selected in quarterly phases and given one year to bring their system online. Participants in the program enter into a long-term offer agreement to sell the output from their systems to Consumers Energy at a fixed rate.

DTE complies with its customer-owned SolarCurrents pilot program allows DTE Energy electric customers to purchase and install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems at their home or business by offering financial incentives to help offset out-of-pocket costs. In return, DTE Energy receives the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) generated by this renewable technology.

How solar Works

Producing electricity from the sun is not a new technology. The photovoltaic effect was discovered by French physicist, Edmond Becquerel in 1839 and introduced for modern use by Bell Labs in the 1950s. Today producing solar electric is easier and more affordable than ever. A solar electric system consists of solar modules (panels) which contain solar cells. A protective covering of glass or a polymer protects the solar cells from the elements. Most manufacturers also surround their solar cells with metal frames. Racking secures the solar panels to the roof or provide a ground supporting structure. Solar panels produce direct current electricity (DC) through a process known as the photovoltaic (or PV) effect. “Photo” means light and “voltaic” means electricity. An inverter transforms the high voltage DC to alternating current (AC) and feeds it directly to the building’s load center. In a centralized inverter system, wire is run from the modules to a central inverter. In a system with micro-inverters, the DC solar panel output is converted to AC by a small inverter attached to the back of each solar panel. 

Net Metering, any excess power that is generated is fed back onto the local power grid, causing your electric meter to turn slower or even run backwards! You will automatically be provided credit for this surplus by your utility company. At night and on overcast days, you’ll draw on utility company power just like you do now. 

Feed In Tariff (FIT)

In a FIT system such as Consumers Energy EARP and DTE's Solar Currents, all the power produced by the PV system is feed back to the utility via a separate meter, this energy is purchased by the utility at a premium rate and paid to the system owner each month in a bill credit of separate check.


Off Grid

Off grid means you are on your own, these requires batteries to store the energy produced during the day for use at night and during cloudy days. These systems are usually limited to remote homes and cabins.

 Grid-Tied

These systems energy is fed directly to the building’s existing electrical load center. Since the building remains tied to the utility grid, these system don't require a bank of batteries. Grid-Tied solar systems can only produce power when the utility grid is up and operating. They automatically shut off if the utility grid goes down, so they provide no back-up power, even if the sun is shining. If back-up is critical during power outage, a Grid-Interactive system with battery back-up (also called a Grid-Hybrid system) divert some energy to keep a battery bank charged, and feed both the existing electrical breaker panel, as well as, a sub-panel for critical loads. When the grid goes down, connection is automatically broken with the main panel and the grid, then power is provided by the solar system and the battery bank to the critical loads. Grid-Tied and Grid-Interactive systems benefit from Net Metering, where excess energy created by renewable energy sources is sent back to the utility for credit. This option is available to all customers in Michigan  Net Metering is also available from many municipal and rural co-op utility companies. Net Metering is available in most other states, however, the rules governing net metering are set by each state and so are not consistent across states.

 Getting Started To begin to scope out and define your renewable energy system, simply send an email to pecusack@gmail.com

We would be happy to review with you your energy usage, site characteristics, project scope and typical system costs. We are here to answer your questions or address any concerns you may have. It helps to have available a copy of your current electric bill when you call or write this will help determine your current energy usage. Please include your physical address which allows us to look at your location from Google Earth.

Sizing a System

Solar power systems are modular, flexible, and scalable. Therefore, we can size a system in one of three ways: based on your energy production goals (percentage of electricity to supply), your available roof space, or your budget. It takes about 1 square foot of space per 9 to 12 watts. So a 3,000 watt residential system would require approximately 300 sq ft of roof space. Each 1,000 watts or 1kW of solar will produce approximately 100 kWh per month on average in the region.If you want an off-grid system or a grid-interactive system that provides uninterrupted power during a grid failure, you will need a bank of batteries. Battery banks are a major sizing concern during the system design stage. Systems with battery back up are usually sized to run specific “critical loads” (such as a well pump, lights, blower fan and a refrigerator) for a certain amount of time. This is typically 3 to 5 days. When the battery bank size has been agreed upon, we size the solar array to ensure the batteries will be charged in a full day’s sun. If you also have a back-up generator, we can factor that into the system design. 

 Check out this link for why WEST MICHIGAN SOLAR LLC often recommends SolarWorld modules for our customer projects. WMS can also provide technical assistance for "do it yourself " installations performed by a sufficiently skilled homeowner.