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Frequently Asked Questions - All FAQs

FAQs - All FAQs
Solar energy applications are many and varied ranging from planning, policy, solar architecture and building construction to different kinds of equipment and their applications, and technical engineering. The information ranges from conceptual to technical. The Arizona Solar Center website provides for these different aspects of "solar and renewables" and for a variety of connections to a multitude of resources. Please review the site for the aspects of solar you are interested in, and use the resources available to you on the site.
Yes! In Arizona, depending on your electric utility, there are incentives on solar systems. In addition there are Arizona and Federal tax credits and/or rebates that may apply to your situation.
This inquiry is best met by direct contact with the various non-profit organizations and for-profit businesses. The Arizona Solar Center's Resources Directory is a good place to start. 
The Arizona Legislature passed a bill in 2007 prohibiting homeowners’ associations (HOAs) from restricting the installation or use of solar energy devices. The legislation only authorizes an HOA to adopt reasonable regulations on the placement of the solar energy devices. This link  (HB 2593) provides the full text of the bill in a PDF formatted file.
In the specific case of idling or lightly loaded electric motors, KVAR units (kilovolt-ampere-reactance units or power factor correction capacitors) actually do save energy. In this case, the KVAR units reduce the voltage and correct the power factor (a measurement of the phase difference from applied ac voltage and the resulting current), and save energy.  The motors also run cooler and last longer. But in most cases, such as air conditioning, refrigerators, and the like, the motors are fully loaded and there are no savings.

In the case of commercial accounts, the utility uses meters that measure both the real power (watts) and the reactive power (volt-amperes reactive or VAR) and charge for the VARs if they constitute more than a certain percentage of the meter reading.  This is important to utilities because while the VARs do not represent real energy, they do cause excessive currents that the utility needs to invest in larger equipment to handle.  Measurement of VAR in residential service is very uncommon.  These KVAR units do reduce the VARs and lower electric bills, but only for commercial service.  In the case of master metering for connected buildings such as apartment complexes, the utility may be charging for Power Factor, in which case the KVAR units could be beneficial.

We are not aware of any damage coming from KVAR units.

These articles contain descriptions of how Arizonans have used a variety of techniques to reduce their energy usage.<< Link not working

[Answer content currently under review - 12/10/2016]

The so-called “cost-barrier” to PVs is overstated. Costs are not a barrier to large systems, remote systems, systems where competing costs are high (e.g. Japan), or when environmental costs are given any consideration at all.

  • Many in the solar community would (if predictably) say “What cost hurdle?”  And they have a point.  Japan has removed all incentives as of Jan. 06 and the orders are still very strong.  Of course, electricity prices are not subsidized as they are here, so they tend to be higher.

  • Solar is now cheaper than conventional electricity in most of the rest of the world.   Electricity, like oil, is subsidized in the US. Japan ’s retail electric rate is $0.25 / kWh (about 3 times Arizona ’s average rate)

  • Many recent studies have pegged the per kWh cost at below $0.10/kWh.  The recent spot market cost for PVNGS is over $0.10/kWh.  It is widely known that the estimated cost per kWh is thought to be 3-5 cents per kWh for large-scale systems in the 100 MW range.

  • Tucson Electric Power generates currently at 9.9 cents/kWh, albeit their system is adjacent to their existing coal-burning Springerville power plant, obviating the need for the usual infrastructural costs (transmission, land, etc.).  Their site might be a ideal site for additional large-scale centralized installations.

  • “The new federal energy bill also includes an important component for the current discussion. Beginning in 2006, residential solar systems are eligible for a 30% tax credit. [“Residential Solar and Fuel Cell Tax Credit,” Database for State Incentives for Renewable Energy, DSIRE data for AZ & US, accessed September 30, 2005]. This web site is an amazing collection of state and federal policies concerning renewable energy. The database is updated almost daily. ] The tax credit is allowable on the installation price less the state tax credit. So in this case, the allowable credit is $4,050 based on the $13,500 net after the state tax credit ($14,500– 1000 = $13,500 X .30 = $1,350).” Out of pocket expense is thus $9,400 for a five kW system (most people around here have been installing 3-8 kW).

Table 1: Net cost of a 5kW system

Retail Cost ($)

 

Az Tax Credit ($)

Federal Tax Credit

30% of $13500

Out of Pocket Expense ($)

14,500

- 1000

- 4,050

9,450

  • It should also be said that the use of PV is an economic choice right now for off-grid and remote locations, including many Indian reservations.   If one were to give any value at all to the environmental benefits of using solar, there would be no question that it was economic. The economic argument may well be the most compelling, as solar emits no greenhouse gases after manufacture and an infinitesimal amount when compared to coal.

  • Many solar dealers/installers are offering leased systems with little up-front cost.  These have become very popular starting in 2015.
  • Caution: Recent changes in electrical service rates for homeowners with PV systems by SRP (and applied for by APS, etc.) along with changes in net metering will impact the savings.  This is complicated, make sure that the dealer explains the situation.  See the topics under 'Economics' on the top menu of our main web page.

Yes. The solar energy device must meet the required criteria except for the warranty and professional licensing requirements. The value of your own labor is not allowable for tax credits, only out of pocket costs.

Some points to consider:
  • Do I own my own home, or can the improvement be moved?
  • Do I have a suitable area for a solar system?
  • Do I have the cash or financing for the system?

The Arizona Solar Center is not currently hiring.  However, we suggest you consult the GreenStart Job Board  on the American Solar Energy Society website (www.ases.org ). They have jobs posted in the solar energy area.  Our own Internet site has many links to sources of information on renewable energy as well.

Internships are also possibly available from individual companies.  We suggest you contact them directly. And there are many internship programs you should be able to find on the Internet. Among them is the Environment and Energy Study Institute (www.eesi.org ) in Washington, D.C. Their telephone number is 202-628-1400. Their job and internship board can be found at www.eesi.org/jobs .