Questions to Ask before Purchasing a Solar System

nrelAn informed consumer is a powerful consumer! Here is a list of questions you may want to ask your potential installer to help you make a wise investment in clean, renewable energy.
Courtesy of New York Solar Energy Society via American Solar Energy Society
October 18, 2016 

1. What year was the company established?
2. Will you give me a firm quote or an estimate?
3. How are contract changes addressed? Do I have the right to cancel?
4. Do I get a system performance guarantee?
5. How do financing options (lease, PPA, loan, cash) differ?
6. How much can I save using solar?
7. Please explain my utility policies and rate options
8. What if I sell?
9. Who designs the system and forecasts actual output?
10. Will it meet local building and fire codes?
11. How is rapid shutdown accomplished?
12. Who gets the permits?
13. Who knows if my roof is OK?
14. Do you recommend a single inverter or mini inverters or an optimizer?
15. Should I interconnect to the grid? Can I get power during a blackout?
16. Who is responsible for fixing any damage to my roof during installation?
17. How much money is due upfront?
18. Which rebates and incentives come to me? Federal? State? Other?
19. Can I add more panels/modules later?
20. What is my utility policy on systems additions vs. any grandfathering?
21. Should I wait for newer technology?
22. Can I apply for shared solar or community aggregated solar?
23. Are installers your employees?
24. How long will it take?
25. Do I need to be here?
26. What warranties are on different parts of the system and who’s responsible for each? Who do I call if there are
27. Will my home value change? Will my real estate taxes go up?
28. What if I move?
29. Are the panel/modules blue or black? Will neighbors be notified?
30. How long will they produce maximum power? Will they degrade much?
31. Can squirrels chew the wiring? Are leaves a problem?
32. May I see your state license number and is your insurance paid?
33. Will there be a master electrician on site?
34. Do you have customer references and examples?
35. What is the process for future roof replacement? Cost?
36. What are the performance variables like hot or cold weather?
37. What if a new building is built and shades my system?
38. Will you perform a whole house audit and let me know how to reduce all my energy demands?
39. Can you quote a canopy system, a ground mounted system or a tracking system?
40. If I have an electric vehicle, how much solar energy is needed to charge it?
41. What maintenance is required?

Utility Scale PV Systems

APS Flagstaff PV sAPS

APS recently issued two separate Requests for Proposals for solar and wind resources that will help expand their renewable energy portfolio to approximately 2,500 megawatts by 2021. The first RFP is seeking competitive proposals for up to 150 megawatts of APS-owned solar resources to be in service by Dec. 31, 2021. Projects must employ commercially proven technology and must be designed with the flexibility to add energy storage as a future option.
The second RFP is for up to 250 megawatts of wind resources to be in service as soon as possible, but no later than 2022.
According to the APS posting on www.arizonagoessolar.ord in November 2019 APS has 26 MWac APS owned and 840 MWac utility scale systems connected under power purchase agreements (PPA)owned by others.



SRP large batterySRP

As part of its commitment to reduce carbon emissions and invest in 1,000 megawatts of new utility-scale solar energy by 2025, Salt River Project has invested in two new solar energy + battery storage plants.

The Sonoran Energy Center will be the largest solar-charged battery project in the state and the addition of these two plants will make SRP one of the largest investors in energy storage in the nation.

Combined, these plants will generate enough solar energy to power approximately 100,000 homes and will store excess energy in state-of-the-art battery storage systems that will be available to customers during the peak energy usage period when demand is at its highest.

The solar plants will also contribute to the SRP goal of adding 1,000 megawatts of new utility-scale, solar energy to its system by the end of fiscal year 2025 as well as SRP’s 2035 goal to reduce the amount of carbon emissions per megawatt-hour by more than 60 percent and by 90 percent in 2050.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE- Video on youtube

PV Row to Row Spacing


If your system consists of two or more rows of PV panels, you must make sure that each row of panels does not shade the row behind it. To determine the correct row-to-row spacing, refer to the figure above.

There is no single correct answer since the solar elevation starts at zero in the morning and ends at zero in the evening. The sunshine (irradiation) on an array has three components, direct beam, diffuse (blue sky and overcast), and reflected from the ground in front of the array. Here we will consider only the direct beam that is subject to shadowing by the row in front (or even a wall).

The elevation of the sun at noon on December 21st in the Northern Hemisphere is basically 90-23.45-latitude (in degrees). In most cases 90% of the unobstructed irradiation on the array occurs when the solar elevation is above 50% of the maximum winter elevation. The elevation correction is therefore 50%. This may be excessive for rows that are less than about 4 times the height of the panel.

To solve for X (the minimum distance between the rows), use the equation below:

X = L (cos(tilt)+ (sin (tilt) * tan (lat + 23.5+(50% of elevation))))


L = panel length
tilt= panel tilt angle
lat= geographic latitude of your system.

Calculated values are:

Winter minimum noon solar elevation = 90-23.45-latitude
90% of unobstructed elevation = 50% of Winter minimum solar elevation

The Excel spreadsheet version of this is:

Spacing Excel

The Excel formula can be copied >>> =B1*(COS(B2*PI()/180)+(SIN(B2*PI()/180)*TAN((B3+23.5+B5)*PI()/180)))