WHY INSTALL SOLAR PANELS?
At present, CCS is focusing on Photovoltaic’s - Solar Electric Power. We are installing solar panels for residential and commercial use. Let us help you save money by utilizing the energy coming from the sun. Current tax incentives, increased efficiency in solar technology, and increased prices in electricity, has made photovoltaic’s a viable method of reducing your electric bill. Currently, a system can pay for itself in about 3 - 5 years if there are no complications with the installation. Current electricity rates here are 42.5 cents per KWH. This is up from 25.5 cents ten years ago. About a year ago when the prices of oil were at a high our electric rates peaked at over 50 cents per KWH. Electricity rates are typically 5 times more than those on the mainland and are only expected to rise in the future.
Our president, Joe Butterweck, is the installer of the photovoltaic panels. Joe was educated as an engineer. During his time in college, he worked as an aircraft fabricator on $38 M military aircraft. The primary material he worked with was aluminum. This is the primary material used is installing the panel portion of a solar electric system. The mounting rails are extruded aluminum rails which are cut and drilled. His education and experience as an engineer helps with system design and other aspects of the installation process. Joe feels the best skill he can offer to the system installation is his experience as a roofing contractor for more than 15 years. He was the primary installer of over 300 roofs in the Pacific Northwest. He has installed all types of roofing. This is especially important because the rails that the panels are mounted to are held to the roof with a stainless steel hanger bolts. The holes for the hanger bolts are drilled through the roofing and secured into the trusses. Then they are sealed with specialized
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sealants and in some cases special lead or galvanized metal boots. Some of the sealants are designed for different types of roofing. In one of the jobs we recently completed, the solar equipment supplier was not aware that a particular type of sealant they were supplying their installers with, will dissolve the roofing membrane around a particular type of roofing. Joe shared his knowledge to the solar equipment supplier and explained what type of sealant CCS has been using - an SEBS polymer modified sealant around the hanger bolts. This is because the acid in the roofing will dissolve a silicone based sealant. They had no knowledge of this. Joe feels that his background in roofing is critical to the installation, roofing, safety, and fall protection arrest systems.
HOW SOLAR PANELS WORK
The photons from the sun’s rays excite the photovoltaic cells on the solar panel which then generate DV voltage electricity. These solar panels then are connected together in series and enter a power inverter. This converts the electricity into AC power. This is the type of electricity supplied to your house.
There are two primary types of solar electric systems used here on the Island of Hawaii:
1. Net metering - This system uses the suns energy to power HELCO’s electrical grid in which you are tied to. The energy generated from your system feeds back into HELCO’s power grid and then you use the energy from the grid. The goal is to have a net “0” which means that your system is generating as much electricity and you are using from the grid (HELCO). If you attain this, your electrical bill will show a net zero usage for the month and your electricity usage will be $0.00. However you still have to pay a meter fee of about $20.00 per month.
2. Off grid system - If you are in a remote location and electricity is not available then you will have an off grid system. This type of system uses the same type of solar panels to generate electricity which goes to a different type of inverter. Then the electricity is stored in a series of batteries similar to the battery in your car. A typical system will have 12 or 24 of these batteries depending on the electrical needs. These systems also needs a generator to charge the batteries during times of excessive electrical demands or extended periods of overcast weather. It is important to not discharge the batteries to lower than 50%.
- State Rebates-35% of the total with a cap of $5,000
- Federal Rebates- 30% of total with a cap of $4,000
For example: A $20,000 system will qualify for $9,000 in state and federal rebates. These rebates are per year. It is sometimes more feasible to install two smaller systems and qualify for the rebates for each system. For instance, installing two independently run $20,000 systems can each qualify for a $9,000 rebate. Another option is to install a system which allows for expansion. For example installing a system which has 20 panels, but the inverter has the capability of adding an extra 10 panels in the future. After January 1st of the next year the extra 10 panels can be installed. The money spent within the next calendar year will qualify for an additional rebate of up to $9,000 as outlined above. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. It will cost more to install the system in two separate stages. You will not be able to take full advantage of the system savings initially because you are not installing the entire system a one time. There is a risk that HELCO will not authorize the additional panels added to the system at a later time because the power grid is over the 15% cap required for HELCO to authorize for Photovoltaic’s.
PRICING AND EQUIPMENT QUALITY
Our pricing is based on other quotes we have obtained from other installers. Presently, we are matching the price of the lowest price installer known to us on the island. On their last job, it took them over 4 ½ months to complete. They were from the other side of the island and were not involved in the installation process. The homeowner had to fill out the net metering agreement, pick up some of the materials from local distributors, and even meet with the county building inspector to coordinate removing the electrical cover for access. The other prices we compared were 25% to $130% more than the cost of the materials, supplies, and inspections. Be sure to compare the type of installation the racking for the panels, inverter brand, and panel brands. The best panels are made in America and the best inverters are made in Germany and or America. Beware of solar panels made in China. Some are known to start having problems at about ten years old.
Systems are usually warranted for 25 years. If the panels become defective within the 25 year time period the manufacturer will replace them. The warranty works like a tire warranty. They are prorated. For example if a panel quits at 24 years, the manufacturer will credit you 1/25 toward the purchase of a new panel. They also offer a full free replacement within the first 10 years.
Initial consultation, electrical panel and circuit analysis: This is a free visit to your residence or business to determine what your electrical needs are, and inspect your existing electrical panel and discuss options for panel placement, inverter locations, and other wiring required to facilitate a photovoltaic electrical system. We will also test circuits to determine electrical loss from phantom loads and other energy related issues. This will be followed by a written proposal.
- Upon written proposal acceptance, we will ask for a nominal deposit and proceed with the insulation process as outlined below.
The installation process:
- Engineering Drawing: A certified electrical engineer will design a system for your use.
- Initial HELCO Authorization: A HELCO representative will determine if there is enough space on the grid in your area.
- Electrical Permit: Our electrician will submit an electrical permit to the county.
- Panel and Electric Equipment Installation: Normally, the panels are installed on the roof. All roof installations must have at least one fall protection arrest point for the connection of a safety rope. This must be completed before any other installation. Then the solar equipment is installed. From there the wires are connected into a junction box and are run in metal conduit to the inverter. The inverter is usually installed next to your electrical meter outside the building.
- System tuning: A technician certified by the inverter manufacturer will hook his computer up to your inverter and tune the inverter to 58Hz for HELCO’s power grid.
Submittal of "NET METERING AGREEMENT" to HELCO: This is a 7 page agreement between the owner and HELCO. We complete and fill out the agreement for you. You will have to sign it and we'll give you a copy.
- Final approval by County inspector: We meet with the county inspector to get final county approval.
- HELCO inspection and meter change: We submit a final county approval and the net metering agreement to HELCO. They will send a representative to swap your electrical meter with a digital meter and turn on your system.
- Final HELCO approval: At this time, HELCO will notify us that the system is complete. We will then notify you for the final payment.
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CURRENT PROJECTS ..... click to enlarge photos
Solar panels: www.solarworld.com ; www.kyercera.com
Solar inverters: www.smaamerica.com ; www.outbackpower.com
Federal tax rebate forms: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f5695.pdf
State tax rebate forms: http://www.state.hi.us/forms