Solar Energy Works in Wisconsin

Posted by Laura Kocum on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 at 1:18pm.

There is a lot of discussion presently about green energy, and the use of renewable energy sources is increasing in the Madison area. One option available to homeowners is solar energy. Solar panels are being included in many new construction homes, but they can also be added to existing structures. It can make sense for a homeowner, especially if the roof faces south, and is not heavily shaded. 

"The cost for solar energy has dropped about 75% over the last 5 years," says Chris Collins, Regional Project Developer for SunVest Solar Inc.  "Many customers choose to amortize the cost of the solar installation into their mortgage. Customers who do amortize the cost of a solar electric system often find that their payments are less than what they would pay monthly for electricity."  In addition to the long term energy savings, the federal government offers a 30% tax credit, based on the cost of the system installed. 

How do you know if solar is right for you? It all depends on your typical energy use, your home's location and what trees or other structures surround your property. Providers of solar energy can help you determine if your home can produce enough energy to power itself, and to make the initial investment worthwhile. 

"Based on a home's latitude, we can put together a reliable estimate of the energy that can be produced. Then we know the numbers up front," says Collins. Knowing what you can produce is key to making the right decision for your property. Many Madison area homes can produce enough to power themselves. Any extra energy can be sold back to the utility, but the rate that extra energy is worth varies greatly between utilities. 

Once you know the potential energy output, and can weigh it against the costs, you can make a good decision.  If your average energy bill justifies the installation of a solar system, then it's time to order and install it. The complete process can take roughly 8 weeks. SunVest uses Tier 1 solar panels, offering the best energy output available. Each panel weighs about 40 pounds. This adds an overall weight of 3.5 pounds per square foot. Many existing roofs can handle this weight without an issue. If rafters need to be reinforced, this can be done before the panels are installed. The city of Madison has a permit requirement that ensures that the solar panels are installed with the right reinforcements.  Once all reinforcements are completed, the panels can typically be installed within a week.  They are added flush with the roof, and do not typically require any extra care, even in the winter. Most panels do not need to be raked after a snowfall.

Once installed, the panels will generate energy during the day, and allow users to "bank it" with the utility, and then draw from it at night. Solar panels come with a manufacturer’s warranty to produce 90% of their rated output for 10 years, and 80 % of their rated output for 25 years. Homeowners that have chosen solar power can enjoy their ability to produce their own energy for years to come. They can also be proud to be producing clean energy, and know that they are energy independent. 

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