About SolarUp New Hampshire

Frequently Asked Questions

A. Solar Up New Hampshire is a program to make it easy and affordable for residents and businesses to go solar—that is, to convert sunlight into electricity that we can all use in our homes. It is a regional initiative that towns compete to be part of.

Solar Up New Hampshire provides significant discounts off the cost of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system, which is in addition to incentives from the state and federal governments. Solar Up New Hampshire gives residents access to significant savings on the cost of electricity for decades to come.

A. Town money is not used for the Solar Up program. Solar Up materials are paid for in large part by the installer and grant funds. Other grassroots efforts as well as local program management are handled by volunteers led by the Energy Commissions/Committees in each town or town officials.

A. The Solar Up program works by giving residents and businesses the benefit of economies of scale. An installer can offer reduced prices by concentrating its efforts in one area and working with the community to spread the word about the program. The more people in the community who sign up, the lower the price goes for everyone, even the first to sign up. But everyone is free to use another installer or, of course, not to go solar at all.

A. The process began with Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission issuing a Request for Proposals from installers who were interested in serving the towns participating in Solar Up New Hampshire.  After a screening process between SNHPC, the non-profit SmartPower and the towns, a small committee from your town interviewed selected installers and ranked the proposals, based on prices, quality of the equipment to be installed, quality of service, and overall track record.

A. The most suitable location for a roof-mounted solar PV system is a south-facing roof with little to no shading from nearby trees, chimneys or other obstructions. Any shading on the system can reduce energy output, so it is important to assess the locations of current trees and buildings around your home as well as that of other obstructions that may exist around your home in the future. Advances in panel and inverter technologies can allow homes with east or west-facing roofs and moderate shading to benefit from solar PV as well.

A. Yes, just not as much. Under an overcast sky, panels will produce less electricity that they produce on a clear, sunny day.

A. Without a battery backup, grid-tied solar PV systems will not operate when the power grid is down. This safety requirement, called “anti-islanding” allows utility linemen to safely repair power lines during a power outage. You may choose to add a battery backup to your solar system to keep the lights on during a blackout, though they cost between $3,000 and $15,000.

A. From the day you sign a contract with an installer, it can take between a few weeks and a few months before your solar PV system will be turned on. The physical installation of the solar system typically takes anywhere from two to three days, but the time it takes to order and receive equipment, secure permits or schedule your installation can vary. Once installed, systems typically will need to be inspected by the town and utility.

A. It can be completely acceptable to locate an array on an asphalt shingle roof over 5 years old and the decision to do so is completely dependent upon the condition of the roof, not necessarily the roof’s age.  Mounting a solar array on a roof can actually extend the life of the roof as the area under the array is shaded from the harmful UV rays. It is important to note however that when a roof is over 10 years old, the owner may want to have a plan to remove the panels in the next 20 years to replace the roof.  This is not required, but the owner should be aware it might happen.

A. Standing seam metal roofs are very nice, and quite expensive, but are not required for roof mounted solar PV arrays. The best solution for solar mounting is really site dependent. Solar PV arrays can be mounted on existing roofs composed of asphalt shingles, standing seam, corrugated metal, rubber membrane as well as ground and pole mounts. Changing a roof to standing seam may be entirely unnecessary, but also may be a solution to consider given that metal will last approximately 50 years.

A. Micro-inverters, like other module level electronics such as optimizers, can be great options, but they are not the only option and there is not one size that fits all solar PV systems.  Micro-inverters can be great to maximize production under partial shading or other site conditions.  All solar electronics have to make electricity for a long time to achieve financial benefits: for example, micro-inverters sitting under a hot PV module exposed to the elements for 25 years or more will not last as long as a string inverter in a nice cool basement or in the shade of a building. It makes little sense to use these devices if the site does not call for it, but if it does, they are beneficial. System simplicity increases the probability of a long lived trouble-free PV array.

A. It is important that your solar PV installer have formal credentials to ensure that a system is properly designed and installed. This includes having a Solar Energy International Solar Professionals Certificate and a NH Electrician’s License, but may also include additional certifications such as NABCEP or other technical college degrees. It is a requirement in NH that all metallic structures that are part of a solar PV system are properly bonded by a licensed NH electrician. Also see attached Office of State Fire Marshal’s November 27, 2012 Informational Bulletin (attachment below).

A. Solar PV systems require very little maintenance. Rain showers will generally take care of pollen and dust that fall on your solar panels. If your system is shaded by trees, you may have to trim and maintain branches to protect your system from falling limbs and to minimize shading and maximize production. In extremely snowy winters, you may have to clear snow from your roof to protect your solar panels and maximize winter production. It is important to note that snow will melt off of a tilted system except when there is an extremely heavy snow or prolonged freezing temperatures.

A. Every home is different. As such, your system size will be determined by your roof space and electricity needs. The average residential solar system is approximately 7 kW and produces approximately 8,400 kWh per year, but this could be too big or too small for your home. If you use certain technologies that are highly dependent on electricity, such as an electric car or geothermal heating and cooling, you might require a larger system. Your installer will work with you to design a system with characteristics that will meet your specific needs. Reducing your electricity demand through energy efficiency and conservation is another important consideration when sizing a PV solar array in order to produce only what you need so that you need not pay for excess capacity.

A. Typically, solar systems add to a property’s value. This is due to the fact that unlike electricity rates, solar rates will never go up. Thus, a solar PV system insulates you from rising electricity rates. Once the system has paid for itself, the electricity it generates is absolutely free!

A. Your savings depend on the size of the system you choose, your annual electrical usage, electricity rates, and any financing option that you choose from your Solar Up installer. To start, ask your solar installer how much electricity your new system is expected to produce on an annual basis and then compare that number to how much electricity your household uses to get an idea of how much you could save. Installers can also help you determine how much money you could save if electricity prices escalate over time.

A. Typically, a residential electricity bill is comprised of charges from a variety of supplier services, mainly: the fixed customer charge, generation services, delivery services, transmission charge, and distribution charge. For further reference, please go to your utilities website and search for “average bill” in the “Rates” section.

A: Yes. You will receive a monthly bill from your utility company as you always have, but the amount owed will differ depending on your monthly electrical usage. Depending on how your system is sized, you may accrue credits in the more productive summer months which through “net metering” can be carried over and used in the less productive winter months. Even if your system entirely offsets your electrical usage, there is still a flat monthly fee required, in order to be connected to the grid.

A. To take advantage of the tiered pricing structure offered through the Solar Up New Hampshire program, you’ll need to work with your pre-selected installer. However, other solar installers may be able to offer you competitive pricing as well. Residents and businesses in your town or city are free to work with any contractor they wish to do business with, but may feel more comfortable working with the installer that was competitively selected by community leaders.

A. It can depending on whether your town has in place a local property tax exemption for solar PV systems. While your property value will likely increase, some towns have in place property tax exemptions for renewable clean energy systems. Claims for these exemptions must be filed with the assessor or select board in your town. Make sure to contact your local tax assessor’s office for more information. Such an exemption may also apply to solar water or wind turbine systems or geothermal energy resources, regardless of the type of facility the system serves.

A. If you prefer to own your system directly and either purchase it outright or finance it via a loan, you should check with your insurance agent to find out whether your system will be covered under your existing policy.

A. Yes, see the New Hampshire PUC website at: http://www.puc.nh.gov for information about the state’s residential renewable rebate programs – which currently provides incentives at $0.50 per Watt up to $2,500 or 30% of total facility cost, whichever is less. There is also a residential solar hot water rebate program. The NH PUC also has an incentive program for commercial solar energy systems up to 100 kilowatts in size. If your system is interconnected with the grid, you also have the option of creating and selling Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) through a state-certified independent monitor.

A. The federal government provides an investment tax credit equal to 30% of your system’s total installed cost, net of state incentives. This can be claimed on your 2015 tax return. This tax credit is set to expire at the end of 2016.

A. To learn more about financing options for a solar system on your home or business, view our financing handout on the homepage: Solar Financing for Solar Up NH.

To download the .pdf version of the FAQ and attachment, click Frequently Asked Questions Updated September 24, 2015.