Solar Basics

Do we get enough sun in Blacksburg?

Absolutely — we receive almost as much solar radiation as Miami does annually. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory collects and publishes data on the average solar radiation for the entire US.  The New River Valley receives about 4.5 – 5.0 kWh/sq. meter/day — a value used in deciding what size solar PV system you need.

What is net energy metering?

Net energy metering is a special metering and billing agreement between you and your electric utility. Normally your electric meter spins forward as it measures how many kilowatt-hours of electricity you buy. A net energy metering agreement allows you to use the electricity you generate first, reducing what you would normally buy from your electric utility. If you generate more electricity than you use, the excess goes through your electric meter and into the grid, spinning your meter backward. Your meter records the net amount, measured as the difference between the electricity your system generates and the electricity you purchase from your electric utility.

What happens if the grid goes down?

“Grid-tied” or interconnected solar PV systems  typically do not have battery back-up systems.  If a power outage occurs, your solar PV system will automatically shut down to protect utility workers.  However, with recent advances in technology, we can offer a system above base price that can power part of your home when the sun is out and the power grid is down — all without batteries.  

Is solar right for my home?

We will need to check the roof of your home for structural soundness, orientation to the sun, shading, and other details. Unfortunately, solar doesn’t work for every situation.  Still, solar can work for roughly half of homes.  Even if your home isn’t in a good spot for solar, we’ll keep you updated as new options become available.

Technology

Who installs the systems?

Solarize Blacksburg reached out to installers across Virginia looking for the best deals for Blacksburg residents.  We reviewed all the bids, and in the end awarded the contracts to Blacksburg’s two local solar installation companies — Baseline Solar and Solar Connexion.  Both companies have exceptional reputations and track records.  When you participate in Solarize Blacksburg, they’ll handle all the technical details — the permitting, the design, and the installation.

Where are the panels made?

Both installation companies are proud to offer time-tested American-made panels from SolarWorld.  The PV panels are manufactured  in Oregon.  For more information on SolarWorld, visit their website.

What is an inverter? 

Your solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity.  The DC electricity travels to your solar power inverter, which converts it into the alternating current (AC) electricity your home’s appliances run on.

What are the warranties?

The panels have a power production guarantee for 25 years, while the labor is warrantied for 5 years.  The inverters are guaranteed for at least 10 years.

Finances

What does it cost?

If you’re like us, the high cost of solar PV systems is what’s come between you and owning solar panels.  In the last five years, the price of panels and inverters have declined a great deal. By going solar as a community, we can cut installation costs by an additional 20-25%.
While every home is different, here’s what you can expect the cost of an average 3KW and 5 KW solar PV system to be:
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Note: 1 kiloWatt (kW) = 1000 Watts (W)
Your monthly payments for solar will never increase — protecting yourself from utility rate increases.  And you can expect your system to perform efficiently for 25 years or more — providing you with decades of free electricity.

Are there other incentives? What about renewable energy credits (SRECs)?

Yes! These can get a bit complicated though, so here’s an FAQ page just about SRECs.

Will my electricity payments go up in the future?

One of solar power’s many advantages is that the sun will always be free.  It’s like buying a house instead of renting an apartment — your mortgage won’t ever change, even as landlords constantly increase their rents.  Once your panels are installed, you never have to worry about the price for your solar PV system going up.

What financing is available?

The upfront cost of solar can be a barrier, and many don’t have cash on hand to invest in a system.  That’s why we are lining up a special solar loan.  Admirals Bank, a national financial institution providing capital for social-based development projects, offers a Solar-specific loan. Admirals created this loan package with backing from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Exact terms will vary based on your credit rating and preferred loan terms, but we offer several options to fit your financial profile — including loans up to 20 years, without tying up your home equity.  We will work with you to try and find the best financing option.

Why just in Blacksburg?  

We love all our neighbors in Southwest Virginia.  It’s just that we’re able to get such great deals by concentrating our efforts town by town.  We get the greatest pricing efficiency if we focus on one community at a time. So if you’re interested in bringing a Solarize program to your community–fill out the short form to get started, and we’ll be in touch as soon as we’re coming your way.
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