Changes To The Mass Solar Loan Program

What a Great Program!
Rolled out in fall of 2016, the Mass Solar Loan Program (MSL), sponsored by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has been an extremely successful solar financing program. The MSL program was funded with $30 million for low-interest loans and Income Based Rebates. A major highlight of MSL is that the State benchmarked funds to provide low-interest solar loans (much lower than typical solar lenders). This element of the program was called the Interest Rate Buy Down (IRBD) program.

So far, Mass Solar Loan has processed over 3,000 solar projects – with a special emphasis on reaching typically underserved populations. MSL did this through a special Income Based Rebate. This rebate offered qualified moderate-to-low income homeowners an amazing 20-30% rebate! A $20,000 project could get a $6,000 rebate applied to their loan. What an awesome program!

In addition, MSL has provided homeowners other tangible benefits, such as a list of pre-qualified solar installers and lending partners. One thing I particularly like about the MSL lending regulation is that lenders cannot charge either the solar installer or homeowner high closing fees, which has been a chronic problem in solar financing for years.

What’s Changing?
Beginning Wednesday, December 13th, 2017, the new phase of the MSL program will roll out with some significant changes. These changes will affect the two major elements of the program: the rate on the low-interest loans and the Income-Based Rebates. Unfortunately, the IRBD program is coming to an end (the one where the DOER pays down your interest rate). This means the State will no longer offer solar loan interest rates below market value.

In addition, there will be a substantial reduction in the awesome Income Based Rebate, from 20-30% to 10%. In addition to that, the income requirements have tightened. What does that mean? A family of four that made $127,000 in 2016 used to be eligible for a 20% rebate. No longer. In this new program, they will not be eligible for anything. That same family of four would likely need an income less than $80,000 in 2017 just to qualify for the 10% Rebate. Obviously, this is a huge difference, and much fewer households can qualify. Sad face.

Is it too Late? “What Should I Do?”
Not yet. As just mentioned, most homeowners in Massachusetts won’t meet the new requirements for the Income-Based Rebate. These people aren’t millionaires, and without the rebate, it may be more difficult for these middle-income families to afford solar. If you think you may be eligible for this 20-30% rebate – NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT! Since it takes approximately three weeks to file MSL paperwork, based on the December 12th loan closing deadline, we suggest interested homeowners fill out their application as soon as possible.

 

Current Timeline

The Mass Solar Loan requires both MassCEC Technical Approval and IRS Income Verification. If you are applying for either the 20% or 30% Income Based Rebate, this process takes about 3 weeks. So do the math…. You would need to apply by Friday, November 24th to get into the program. So that is the timeframe: 

Friday, November 24th
Application Deadline for
20% – 30% State Rebate & 4.99% Interest Rate

 

The Aftermath – “Oh No, I didn’t get in on time – Now What?”
Again, after the December 12th deadline the MSL is not going away, it is just changing. The 10% Rebate for moderate to low-income homeowners is still pretty sweet (and better than anything you would find in other states). The other thing to note is that the Mass Solar Loan program will still be head and shoulders above other solar financing options.
This is a State program, with pre-screen solar installers, regulated financing, and best of all…no hidden fees.

Conclusion
In some regards, it’s kind of status-quo in solar – everything is changing, and we suggest you act now to take advantage of the current program. You may have heard that from us before, but… it’s the reality of this industry. So if you have been considering solar and would like to take advantage of either soon-to-end low-interest rates and 20-30% rebates, please don’t hesitate – call us now to find out how you can sign up and get in before the deadline. Our team will make it as seamless and as worry-free as possible. We’ll take care of the backend work to help you meet these goals. Of course, we cannot guarantee anything, but we are always willing to try!

 

AliYah Chidubem, Project Manager
617-564-3159 . info@rayahsolar.com . rayahsolar.com/freequote

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Solar Panel Warranties: Choosing The Best From The Start

For people looking to install solar for their home or business, one of the major factors in the decision-making process is the warranty. Will my system be covered in case of damage? How long will it be covered for? What issues are actually covered in the warranty? First, let’s break down the different parts that make up a solar panel warranty.

What Makes Up A Solar Panel Warranty?

Most solar panel warranties are comprised of three parts: a product warranty, a power output or performance guarantee and a service warranty.

Product Warranty

The product warranty covers defective materials. It is provided by the manufacturer of the panel, not the solar installation company. The warranty terms usually agree to cover only defects or issues deemed to be caused by the manufacturer themselves, and typically excludes issues like wear and tear, cosmetic damage, and damage caused by improper installation.

 

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LiDar: The Future of Home Evaluations for Solar

How Lidar Technology Can Change Your Perspective on Solar Readiness

In many regards, solar works the way one would expect: the sun shines on the solar panels, the panels produce electricity, which means your home needs to be facing the right direction (south) without anything blocking the Sun’s access. But what exactly is the “right” direction? And how much solar access is enough solar access? LiDar has helped us change the answers to these questions. So, What is LiDar?

The Past

For a long time, basic tools were needed to measuring solar readiness for a home: a tape measure to measure available roof space and obstructions, a compass to determine a home’s orientation to south, and a tilt meter to determine roof pitch. With the creation of the SolMetric SunEye, these hard measurements were combined with panoramic photographs of the sky to factor in shading from trees for a complete solar analysis.  

However, these methods had their drawbacks, requiring evaluators to climb on the roof and capture data from all possible areas. This means steep, tall,  dormered and generally human-unfriendly roofs would have to settle for the site evaluator’s best estimate, often prefaced with” you could go solar but…”

Until LiDAR.

The Present: LiDAR

LiDar stands for Light Detection and Ranging Technology, and is, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. In layman’s terms, LiDAR uses a series of lasers and scanners to obtain measurements by shining or “pulsing” infrared beams at an object. The scanners and lasers then measure the reflection of light from the targeted object, and calculates the distance between the object and point of reflection or the “range”. This allows for increased measurement accuracy in areas where it is not feasible or practical to measure by hand.

lidar

 

LiDAR has been used to obtain measurements since the 1960’s.  Commercial aviation has allowed for the use of LiDAR in air crafts to combine light measurements with terrain maps to create accurate topographical maps with laser precision (pun intended).  In 2013, NASA (a major user of LiDAR) combined their existing LiDAR technology with thermal imaging to create a system that would not only accurately measure land surfaces, but would also simultaneously measure the levels of heat they are exposed to.

Now I know what you’re thinking- “What does all of this have to do with solar?” Well, the sun shines on rooftops, heating as it illuminates. So, by measuring the distribution of heat on a roof it is possible to accurately measure the given amount of sun exposure that roof has. In this way, each area where the sun hits the roof can be mapped and measured.  This is head and shoulders above the Solmetric SunEye, which is limited to capturing sun exposure to only where the pictures are taken. LiDAR measurements are so accurate, in fact, that shade reports that include them (such as Aurora’s shading analysis) is accepted by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) as a valid proof of a home’s solar access when providing funding.

Your Home

The LiDar allows solar evaluators to measure the hard to reach spots on a roof as well. It accurately measures the amount and effect of shade created by obstructions such as trees and chimneys. For many homes, the effect of a tree’s shadow on the far, east side of a southeast facing roof is too hard to judge with the naked eye.  Dormers, while they can be shade causing, deepening on their placement, there still might be enough sunlight to suit the electricity needs of a home owner. And while you can’t necessarily change the orientation of an east-west facing house, you’d be surprised the amount of sunlight a home facing due east receives!

The Future: Solar For Your Home

Though the seasons change seemingly unexpectedly in the northeast, one thing is for sure; they will change and change again. Likewise solar still works the way you expect it: the solar panels collect sunlight, the sunlight collected is converted to electricity, and the created electricity can help offset your electric utility needs.   With that said, certain homes may still be better suited for solar than others due to factors they can’t change. However, just as every New Englander knows to carry an umbrella even when the sun is out, even though it seems “obvious” that your home may have some challenges for solar, LiDAR has helped reveal the potential of otherwise disqualified homes. It never hurts to take a second look.

 

References

  1. “What is Lidar” – US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (2012, October 01). What is LIDAR. Retrieved September 08, 2017, from https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/lidar.html

 

 

 

Article Written By Lumyr D. – Installation Team – Rayah Solar

 

 

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Consumption Monitoring: An Industry Game Changer

“What I really like about consumption monitoring is that I can check my SunPower portal on my phone and see when my electric dryer is being used! I have full control of my electricity. The power is in the palm of my hands!”

– Brad Stoler; SunPower customer & Rayah Solar Employee.

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 12.49.37 PMThe SunPower PVS-5 monitoring system allows you to monitor your solar production, energy consumption, and net difference. This feature sets SunPower apart from the competition. All SunPower Equinox solar systems installed by Rayah Solar, come standard with consumption monitoring.  This tiny device, hidden and integrated into your solar system, allows you to monitor your home power usage every minute of every day.  That means you will know both how much power your home is consuming and how much power your SunPower Equinox System is producing; day to day, month to month for the lifetime of your solar system. In this article, I will discuss what consumption monitoring is, how it works, and it’s purpose.

Solar panel monitoring is a common feature with almost all solar systems. This helps keep track of how much power your solar system is producing.  In recent years, this is done in a way that is visually appealing and easy to understand, with detailed charts and graphs. However, this has traditionally been limited to production monitoring only.  If you wanted to know whether you produced more solar power than you used that month, you had to wait until your electric bill came in and then compare it to your production monitoring. If you had a negative bill, then you overproduced that month. If you had a positive bill, then you know you produced less solar power than you used.  And if you really wanted to get precise, you could subtract the kWh on your electric bill from your solar production to see how much power you actually used.  Ugh! That’s a lot of work.

Consumption monitoring has changed the landscape of solar monitoring and moved us one step closer to Smart Homes.  Think of a car. It’s good to have a car to take you places, but imagine that car without an essential feature, the fuel gauge.  Without a fuel gauge, you would not know how close you were to empty. Many drivers would probably spend most of their time driving in fear – “oh no, I might run out of gas!”

Consumption monitoring is like that fuel gauge. It gives you true insight into what is happening with your home.  In a nutshell, here’s how it works: during your solar installation, we install a pair of consumption Current Transformers  (CT) inside of your main service panel (these are tiny devices that you can’t see from the outside).  This allows SunPower to connect to your electrical supply to monitor what’s being used every time your AC kicks on or when you are cooking on your electric stove, doing a load with your electric dryer, plug in your EV car, or even flip a light switch at night.

Are you producing more or less power than you are using?  That’s the bottom line of dollars and cents for most homeowners  We call that the net difference. Essentially, how many kWh did you deposit into your solar electric bank account – in other words, how much money are you saving.  The below screenshot captures one of our customer’s solar savings information at a glance.  This customer can clearly see a lifetime overproduction of 138% or 5,473 kWh deposited into the grid. That’s a saving of $2,490!  This dynamic information would not be available with typical solar monitoring.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 2.34.05 PMBest of all,  SunPower has managed to put all this useful information in a user-friendly, easy to navigate format that is accessible via your phone, tablet or computer. You can view your solar production and household power consumption in real time. You can view production and consumption down to the minute, or by day, week, month, year and even the lifetime of your solar system. For each segment, it gives you a simple display saying how much power you used during that time versus your solar production. It tells you if you were net positive or negative, and the exact dollar amount.

  It’s really easy to view your system on a minute to minute basis using our monitoring system. I like to turn it into a game and watch the green line of production move above the blue line of consumption!”          

– Isaac Opalinsky SunPower Corp employee and customer.

Here is an example of what a solar energy graph in SunPower’s monitoring portal looks like with consumption and production monitoring (please refer to the image on the leftScreen Shot 2017-08-30 at 7.31.51 PM). The green bars (solar generated) on the graph shows how much energy this system is producing and the blue bars (household use) display how much energy this home is using each day.  Notice the blue spike in the morning? That must be when this customer woke up and was getting ready for the day. As a certified SunPower dealer, we install fully integrated solar systems that give our customers the total package:  a beautifully designed system with top-rated panels and the ability to monitor system production and home energy consumption on all mobile and computer platforms.

Give us a call today at (617) 564-3159 or visit us on the web at www.rayahsolar.com/free-quote.html to start your process with going solar.

 

 

Article Written By Doretta J. – Project Management – Rayah Solar

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Is It Time To Backup? A Brief Talk on Battery Backups and Energy Storage

 

sonnenbatterieSonnen Batterie

Recently, I attended the Smart Energy America Conference in Boston. My goal was to get a better understanding of the prospects of battery backup systems, especially in conjunction with solar systems. As many know, battery backup and energy storage has been a hot topic in recent years. I’ve been heavily involved in the industry for years, being certified as an Outback and Sonnen designer and installer, and I have traveled abroad performing energy storage installations.

If you had called Rayah Solar a year ago inquiring about a battery backup, the conversation probably went something like this: “Battery backup is great, and I love it, but the truth is, you will spend about twice as much on a battery backup system as you would a natural gas or diesel backup generator.” So has that changed? Has my expert opinion changed? Perhaps, and I will explain.

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SRECs in Real Life – A Case Study

Welcome to the second installment of everything you need to know about SRECs. Last week we discussed the basics of SRECs – what they are, how you get them, and how they can affect your return on investment and years to pay off your solar system. If you didn’t have a chance to catch that blog click here.

We think that it may be easier to understand how SRECs contribute to your solar system by using some real numbers. So this week, we’ll be looking at an actual Rayah Solar customer, and how SRECs changed their bottom line.

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SRECs 101 – All You Need To Know

Bob: “Hey. What’s happening?”

Chris: “You know. Same ol’, same ol’.  Kids just finished up with school, busy with work. And oh yeah, we own a power plant now.”

Bob: “A power plant?”

Chris: “Yeah, we just put solar panels on our house.”

Bob: “So how does that work, you get paid for any excess solar you don’t use?”

Chris: “Nope, we get paid for all the power we produce?”

Bob: “So does the electric company pay you for the extra power.”

Chris: “No, it doesn’t work like that.  You see, the State of Massachusetts doesn’t have enough power in the grid, so for every kWh of power our solar panels produce, we get paid. Not just the extra. Think of it like this, whether we use all the power or send it all back into the grid, we are still offsetting the burden of the utility company by producing that power. Does that make sense?

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Here Comes The Light – Solar on an International Front

Rayah Bringing the Light to Men

Solar has been an increasing trend for countries such as Germany and the United States, bolstering their economy and creating jobs with the implementation of solar. However, as many of us probably know, solar is still an unknown and untapped resource in countries throughout the world. In many locations financing, electrical infrastructure and even corruption play large roles in keeping countries and communities from taking advantage of the benefits of solar. Despite all of this, with one home and building at a time, solar is slowly making its way across the globe, helping those less fortunate to have a more consistent means of electricity; many times creating a thriving economy – where there had only been chaos and theft – against all odds.

For instance, last summer, Rayah Solar’s non-profit, Rayah.org, set out to Nigeria to install solar on a local church. We were able to sit down with one of the installers for the project to talk about his experience bringing light to men in a foreign country.

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Solar Production – Recently disMAYed

Man… Doesn’t it seem like we have gotten a lot of rain lately?  In fact, from a solar production point of view, it feels like the month of May was a wash – literally!  That is how we felt at Rayah Solar, so we did what we do, we ran an analysis of the past and current solar production.  We compiled the production outputs from our customers and compared the following factors over the last four years; 1) Yearly Outputs, 2) Q1 Outputs, 3) Q2 Outputs, and 4) Month of May Outputs.

Research Overview

Please note, we choose to only use data since 2014 since any prior data did not include panel level monitoring. Yes, we have been using panel level monitoring since 2014!  We were one of the first to do so. Solar systems without panel level data were not chosen because there were too many potential variables. Also, we excluded systems that had inconsistent monitoring data (i.e. internet connection issues, etc).

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Rayah’s Leading Panel

Looking for the right panel is never easy unless you’ve done your research. Not sure where to start? Here are a few key points you should look out for when searching for the right solar panel.

Many solar companies do not see the value in searching for the right panel and believe that panel and brand do not matter. But the truth is, every part of a solar system contributes to how well it works for you. Rayah is backed by SunPower products that produce incomparable results. SunPower is leading the charge with innovative ideas for the solar industry and is light speeds ahead of any other solar manufacturer! So does the panel matter? Is the type of inverter that big of a deal? Is the name backing your system really that important? Read how SunPower stacks up against the competition below, and you be the judge.

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