By Jeff Studenka
Have you ever wondered if going solar is right for you? Converting to solar power from residential electrical power isn’t an easy decision, but from my experience it’s a good one. After doing research and discussing our options with others who have gone through the process, our initial reservations were quickly replaced by a newfound understanding and excitement. In some ways, it is much like renting versus owning, and in this case, you can either “rent” electrical power from the power company each month, or you can invest in your own electrical power generation system instead.
Here are a few things we learned from our research:
- In Utah, Rocky Mountain Power allows residential solar power system owners to connect their systems to the electrical grid in “net metering” That means that when your system produces more power than your home is using, that extra power is pushed back into the grid, essentially turning your electric meter backwards. So you get credit for the excess power you produce each month. You can also draw any extra power you need from the grid when your system is producing less than your home is using, such as at night and on cloudy days. You are able to bank production credit for a full year, until the credit is set back to zero every April Fool’s Day. No joke!
- Using our historical power usage, our contractors designed our system to ensure that the annual power generated by our solar system will closely match our demand, and thereby not pushing too much excess power back into the grid. Conversely, if our system as designed does not generate enough power over the course of a year, then the difference is paid by our solar power contractor.
Once we felt comfortable and ready to sign on the dotted line, the entire installation and startup process could not have gone much smoother. It took just less than two months from the day we signed up until the day we actually started generating solar power! I was pleasantly surprised by the slim look of the solar panels configured with the roofline. Even our neighbors and visitors did not notice the solar panels right away. The inverter box and setup was also compactly configured in the garage to minimize wall space.
Overall, we were very pleased with the system setup and how easy it is to manage and check the status and output performance. The online status program, which can be accessed from a computer or cell phone, provides real time current performance data, as well as historical output data for reference. It was nice to see that even on cloudy, rainy, or even snowy days, the system was still generating some power, albeit much less than on a sunny day. But some power is better than no power!
Utah has plenty of sunny days throughout the year that make solar power projects a viable option for both residential and commercial applications. Tax credits and other financial payment incentives help to make solar power an attractive and worthwhile consideration. Even our experience with the local permitting and inspection requirements was painless.
Imagine that? Permitting and inspection requirements that are painless? I think that is something we can all appreciate!
We very much enjoy our new “solar system” and encourage others to consider their own similar enlightening experience as well!
Want to learn more about solar energy or how you can go solar at your home? Check out Solar Simplified, Utah’s one-stop shop for information on solar energy for your home or business.
I am the Storm Water Section Manager for Division of Water
Quality, where I’ve worked for the past 12 years helping to protect Utah’s waterways through our permitting and compliance inspection programs. Previously, I worked for Michigan DEQ before moving to Utah in 2002. Outside of work, my wife and I enjoy traveling and spending summer vacations at our cabin in Northern Michigan.