Consumer Report Alert May 2021
1) Why shouldn’t we sign a contract with a 2nd or 3rd party utility company?
Only if there is a clause that allows you to cancel your contract with a 3-6 months notification without penalties. Why? Because these utility companies are purposely tying customers into longer term contracts with only penalties to get out, and specifically structuring the contracts in a manner that the terms, payments and fees are changed so the customer can not receive government Aid,
2) If I do not apply for the ILSFA Government program and any other program for renewable energy, do i have a risk of missing out on all those rebates and incentives?
Yes, The government wants the state of Illinois to be 25% renewable energy by 2025 and the utility companies do not have the infrastructure, so once they meet their goal of 25%! The state can then no longer offer it if they choose.
3) What do you mean by the calculations for the government program that are hidden by the utility companies in their contracts?
The utility companies are showing you a large savings in your rates you are paying for you Kilowatts, but only to increase your delivery charges rate to offset the savings to where the consumer is paying the same rate or higher on their invoice now, and to the untrained eye it will go undetected
4) Can hail damage the solar panels?
Solar Panels are protected with tempered glass, so they are hail resistant. Larger than golf-ball sized hail could potentially damage the panels, but they are built to withstand the elements.
5) What are the chances of a solar panel malfunctioning and causing a fire?
Solar panels do not produce heat, even when generating electricity. Because of this, the risk of a panel starting a fire is very, very low.
6) How long are the panels designed to last?
Panels are designed to last 30 years or more.
7) How many years are the solar panels guaranteed?
Panel output degrades over time. Generally speaking, this decrease in power is less than 0.5% per year. All panels come with a manufacturer’s guarantee regarding power generation for 20 years. However, panels can produce power for decades beyond 20 years.
8) Can solar panels be insured?
Solar panels may be insured as personal property or potentially as a structure attached to a building. We
recommend contacting your insurance agent to obtain the coverage that is right for your situation.
9) What kind of maintenance do solar panels need?
It depends on the regional climate conditions. Rain and Snowfall tend to keep solar panels clean naturally. Snow melt happens quickly on the panels and rain washes them immediately. However, desert conditions may require a periodic washing to maintain maximum power output due to dust accumulating on the panels. A semi-annual inspection by a qualified technician or trained maintenance employee is recommended.
10) Can solar panels be as effective in the winter months than the summer months?
In general, solar systems will produce more total power in the summer time due to longer day duration and sun exposure.
However, with reflective light from surrounding snow, solar panels are often more efficient on a per hour basis in the winter time.
11) If one panel gets destroyed, does it knock out the remainder of the system like a dominoes effect?
If a solar panel is damaged or destroyed, it will effect the output of some of the surrounding panels that are connected to it (known as a “string” of panels) but the remainder of the system will continue to work as normal. There is no domino effect.
12) Can we use the solar panels as any part of an education exercise to teach kids about green energy?
Yes, solar systems are an excellent energy educational tool. However, it is not recommended to let children climb on solar panels. Although touching the panels is fine, it should never be done unsupervised because the panels can get warm to the touch in the direct sunlight, similar to touching the hood of a car on a sunny day. There is no risk of electrical shock from just touching the panel itself because the system is grounded and sealed.
13) What are some of the different types of solar energy systems?
There are basically two types of solar systems. The most common solar systems are known as a Photovoltaic systems (PV). PV systems convert sunlight directly into electrical current. The other type of solar systems are thermal technology based, using the heat energy from the sun to generate electricity through a mechanical means such as a steam generator.
14) How much does solar photovoltaic systems (PV) cost?
Cost depends on the size of the system, the accessories attached such as battery banks, the install location, and the quality of the equipment. Prices can range from $1.50 for very large utility grade commercial applications, up to $4.00 per installed watt on small residential systems.
15) Where can I install solar systems?
Solar systems can be installed in most places unless prohibited by local ordinance or other real estate covenants. Solar systems are usually located on the ground or on roof areas facing the sun.
16) Describe what the differences between Off-Grid, and Grid-Tie, and Hybrid Solar Systems?
An Off-Grid solar system is the most costly type of system because it is installed as the PRIMARY source of power in a location that does not have (or want) access to conventional utility power. These systems usually involve a battery bank to store energy when power is not being produced by the solar array.
Grid-Tie solar systems are the most economical because there is less equipment needed, the equipment that is needed is usually less expensive, and there is no battery bank involved. In a Grid-Tie system there is only electric solar power available when the sun is shining. When the sun in not shining, the power is exclusively supplied by the power company. With a Grid-Tie system, it is important to remember that in the event of a power outage from the utility company, the solar array is unable to supply power to the location.
Hybrid Solar systems are Grid-Tie systems that incorporate some type of energy storage (usually a battery bank). In the event of a power outage from the utility company, the system is still able to supply power to critical electric loads such as internet, communications, and refrigeration.
17) What is a Community Solar system?
A community solar system is a solar array that is built by a third-party and the system supplies the utility company with “green energy” in the form of electricity that is generated from solar power. The third-party is then allowed to sell the “green” solar power production directly to the utility company’s customers as a way for the customers to be supporting and buying “green energy“.
18) What if I don't use all the power that I generate with my Solar system while the sun is shining?
On bright, sunny days, there may be times when you are not using all the power that your solar system is generating. In this case, the power is fed back to the power company and your meter will literally run backwards. When this happens, you are credited for the power you send to the utility, which you will then use when the sun goes down.
19) Is there battery backups to store electricity so we can sell it back to the utility?
No. Excess energy causes the meter to run backwards, leaving no reason to store energy to send to the power company. Any stored energy would be better used by the location when the solar is not producing power at night.
20) Do we still need are electricity company?
Yes. We still need the electric company because most solar arrays will not replace all the energy that a location will use or need. The electric company becomes the overflow value on bright sunny days and the primary power source during the night time. The exception to this is an Off-Grid system, but most locations with Off-Grid systems often times require strict energy saving protocols in order not to run out of energy.
21) What is the most likely damage to the Solar system we could expect?
Solar panels are not fragile, but extreme wind and hail weather events, such as a strong tornado, which is going to damage other property as well, is the main type of risk that would damage solar panels.
22) Can someone get electrocuted or hurt from merely touching a solar panel or any part of the solar system?
No. Solar systems are grounded and sealed. However, as with any electrical system within reach, unauthorized or reckless tampering of equipment could result in injury due to electric shock.
23) Is there a notification that makes us aware that the system is down or broke?
Some systems have full-offsite-mobile-app monitoring. This includes the ability to monitor the output on each individual panel on an instantaneous basis. Depending on the equipment installed, you may or may not have this ability. However, all systems would have an on-site display as to the current and past power production. This is easily monitored in any event.
24) What is the estimated wait time in a case the system was not working?
This depends on the availability of a service technician. In the event that a National Solar Energy System we installed has a problem, we strive to have a technician at your location within 24 to 48 hours.
25) Is there an emergency service we need to call or can any electric company service the equipment like a home?
Any qualified electrician should be able to evaluate and service any solar array system in an emergency. As with all electrical systems, solar systems are designed with people and safety in mind.
26) Do we keep an account open with our electric company in the case the system breaks, and we need electricity?
Yes. You need to keep your account with the electric company so that you can have power at night or if the battery storage runs out.
27) What happens if we do not want to under contract for 25 years through a PPA?
If accepted by ILSFA government project? Balance Solar’s contract can be anywhere from 7-15 years depending on the system size and kilowatt usage is different.
28) Can we still do solar even if we are not accepted by ILSFA?
Yes, There is an adjustable block program that allows the schools to still purchase solar on their own with still a great savings. that allows the schools to still purchase solar on their own with still a great savings.
29) What rate are we paying to the finance company for the solar system compared to ComEd, Ameren or our 2nd or 3rd party utility company?
The district will pay the finance company 2.6 – 3.2 cents per Kw for all electricity generated by the solar systems, and 7.5 – 9 cents to their utility on all electricity that the solar systems do not generate. (Note: The finance company is taking all the risk purchasing the solar systems, and selling the systems back to the district for $1.00 at the end of their PPA).
All electricity produced by the solar array after the expiration of your PPA will then be FREE.
30) Roof repair costs in the event there is damage to the roof after the installation of the solar system.
The districts will have insurance and maintenance that is covered by the finance company over the first length of the PPA contract that will cover any solar panel related issues. If there are roof repairs that need addressing that are not solar panel related, the district would call a roofing specialist to service the roof. The craft of the roofer is to fix the roof by caulking, patching or anything necessary despite any obstacles such as HVAC systems, gas lines or solar panels etc…
(Note: The solar panels are made to NOT move and are engineered tested to withstand the harshest weather elements such as snow, sleet, rain and high winds).
31) What is the weight of a solar panel?
Solar panels weights vary and are all different dependent on how many panels you have to install per project. The panels we normally use for our projects are approximately 40-45 pounds per panel that are put onto racks. The panel racking is engineered to distribute the weight evenly across the surface of the roof.
32) Why didn’t our other schools qualify for ILSFA and is there another program for them?
The calculations are all formatted by the state of IL based on their data and statistics. NSE uses the tools provided by the state and the program for our data and research. Yes, there are solar programs for the district building or schools that did not qualify, and they will also show an incredible savings with a good ROI.
33) Are there schools who didn’t qualify for the program still purchasing solar systems for their school districts?
There are many schools already that have purchased solar systems over the last few years and are upset now that they can not participate in the ILSFA program. (Schools all around Illinois are purchasing more systems for their other schools for the savings alone. Their cost for the system are usually paid for by their village taxes because they do not meet any of the ILSFA qualifications, but understand the importance of the transition into renewable energy as such the big corporations have).
34) Please explain the curriculum offered by Energy Illinois & NSE ?
NSE has a curriculum that is taught by the finest colleges in this country. NSE would communicate and work with the districts departments to determine how they would want the kids to participate in the schools projects, and make sure that the experience is not only a learning experience, but also a memorable one.
35) What other schools have solar panels and want solar panels in an area equivalent to our county?
There are 1000’s of schools that qualify for the program in all the Illinois counties. These districts are also in the application process trying to be accepted into the program to receive a solar array system for $1 with a GUARANTEED savings of 65% on their electricity for the next 25 PLUS years.
36) How do we know we will receive enough sunlight for our solar system?
The federal government (NREL) National Renewable Energy Laboratory uses weather data that goes back to 1961. The data provided by the NREL which is federal funded and sponsored agency that has mapped the weather pattern and solar radiation over the last 60 years. The NREL relies on that data for how the solar radiation would affect the entire country and Illinois.