Category Archives: Solar Blogs

Getting Started with Commercial Solar 

Commercial solar power is a valuable investment for any Intermountain West business. Going solar cuts electricity costs and improves property value — and going green is a powerful marketing and public relations tool.

Getting Started with Commercial Solar 

So what’s involved in making the switch to photovoltaic energy? The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar make it easy.

Meet with an Intermountain Wind & Solar Contractor

Give us a call, and our professional photovoltaic contractors will come out to your business for a complimentary, in-person consultation.

We’ll discuss your business’s electricity needs and evaluate your property for effective placement of a photovoltaic array. If you like, we can also perform an energy audit and recommend measures you can take to reduce your company’s energy consumption.

We’ll also give you an estimate for installation and information regarding financial incentives for adopting photovoltaic energy. And of course, we’re more than happy to answer all your questions.

Schedule Your Commercial Solar Installation

Once you give us the go-ahead, we’ll get to work — you won’t have to worry about anything.

Our professional team will handle every part of the photovoltaic installation. And we’ll take care of any necessary paperwork, including permits, inspections and interconnection agreements.

Put Your Commercial Solar Power to Work

We’ll work hard to get your photovoltaic system up and running fast, so you can begin enjoying the benefits of solar power.

When you use our high-quality components and well-trained contractors, your photovoltaic array is sure to provide you with trouble-free operation for decades, and with very little maintenance. Solar Power World has ranked Intermountain Wind & Solar as a top U.S. contractor. And we’re No. 1 in Utah, so you can trust your installation will last.

But if you ever have a problem, our photovoltaic warranties provide coverage beyond that of many other professional contractors. And we’re always available to handle repairs.

Concerned About Financing?

For businesses, paying for a photovoltaic installation is a common concern.

With Intermountain Wind & Solar, however, financing is easy and affordable. We want companies to reap the benefits of photovoltaic power, so we help all our commercial customers find an economical way to invest.

Often, little or no money down is required to get started with commercial solar power. And businesses frequently cut their photovoltaic investment costs by up to half, thanks to federal, state and local tax credits, rebates, grants and other financial incentives.

Ready to get the ball rolling? Intermountain Wind & Solar offers free photovoltaic consultations to companies throughout Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Wyoming. To discuss plans for your commercial solar power project, contact us today.

How Does the Solar Tax Credit Work in Idaho?

The Idaho solar tax credit can make a big dent in the amount you have to pay Uncle Sam at tax time. If you’re an Idaho resident who’s been thinking about adopting solar power, this incentive makes it much easier and more affordable.

How the Solar Tax Credit Works in Idaho

Not every state offers a solar investment tax credit (ITC). Many states have ended their programs, in response to the dropping costs of investing in a home PV system. But if you live in Idaho, you’re in luck.

How Much Can You Save with the Idaho Solar Tax Credit?

Of the state-level solar incentive programs, Idaho’s — called the Residential Alternative Energy Tax Deduction — is one of the strongest.

The first year after installing your home PV system, the Idaho solar tax credit allows you to deduct 40 percent of the cost of your photovoltaic power project when you file income taxes. Then, for the next three years, you’ll be eligible for a 20 percent state income tax deduction.

Each year, the maximum deduction is $5,000. So altogether, you can save up to $20,000 through the Idaho solar tax credit.

Can You Still Claim the Federal Solar Investment Tax Credit?

You absolutely can apply for both the federal and Idaho solar incentives — and you should. Together, these tax programs can cut your photovoltaic investment costs by 50 percent or more.

One important note — make sure to calculate tax credits on your net PV system cost. In other words, subtract other grants, rebates and installer or utility bonuses before figuring the amount of your claim. If you use the gross price, you could get a tax bill in the mail.

Does Idaho Have Other Financial Incentives for Going Solar?

If you’re an Idaho resident, you have yet another way to save on the switch to solar power.

The state of Idaho doesn’t have much else to offer in terms of solar financial incentives — no rebates for adopting photovoltaic power are available, and there’s no law requiring the utility companies to provide net metering.

However, all three of the state’s major utilities — Idaho Power, Rocky Mountain Power and Avista Utilities — offer their own net metering programs, even though they are not required to by law.

All utility net metering programs give homeowners full retail rate credit for excess energy they produce with their photovoltaic panels. So in effect, you’ll pay for one less kilowatt of electricity for every kilowatt your Idaho solar PV system sends to the utility grid each month.

The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar can tell you more details about the solar financial incentives available to Idaho residents. We’re not accountants, so you may still want to speak to a tax professional. But if you simply need assistance filling out the federal or Idaho solar tax credit paperwork — or if you have other questions about home PV installation — contact us today.

How Orientation, Tilt and Shading Affect Solar Power Output

To design a home PV system with optimal solar power output, professional contractors need to consider a number of factors. Orientation, tilt and shading are of special importance, as they all have a major impact on the amount of sunlight that reaches the photovoltaic panels.

Orientation, Tilt and Shading Affect Solar Power Output

Orientation and Solar Power Output

For home PV systems installed in the Intermountain West, due south is the ideal orientation for harnessing maximum solar power.

But what if your roof doesn’t face south? Can rooftop solar panels produce enough energy to power your home?

That depends upon your rooftop’s orientation. According to the Department of Energy, photovoltaic panels can face up to 45 degrees east or west of due south without a noticeable drop in energy production.

What if your rooftop faces too far east or west? Or if the only usable roof space points north? In either of those cases, professional contractors often recommend installing a ground-mounted solar power array. Or the photovoltaic panels could be installed on another structure, such as a garden shed, awning or parking canopy.

Tilt and Solar Power Output

Most photovoltaic panels are mounted on rooftops, flat against the surface. But not every roof is angled to best capture the sun’s energy.

The DOE says the optimal tilt angle for a home PV system is equal to your latitude. So for example, in Salt Lake City, roughly 40 degrees would be the ideal tilt in terms of solar energy output.

Many Intermountain West homes have rooftops pitched at angles less than the local latitude. Since tilt can significantly affect solar power production, professional contractors factor in the roof angle when sizing a home PV system. For flat or low-sloped roofing, special brackets may be used to achieve a more favorable tilt angle.

Shading and Solar Energy Output

Shading is of major importance when designing a home solar panel system. You could have a south-facing roof at the optimal tilt angle, but if the photovoltaic panels are shaded, your solar energy production will suffer greatly.

Professional contractors perform an analysis to determine how much the solar panels will be affected by shade from nearby buildings and trees. The analysis considers the path the sun takes during the course of the day and during different seasons.

If shading is a significant problem, an effective home PV system design may include micro-inverters. With micro-inverters, each module operates independently. So if one of the photovoltaic panels is shaded, the others will continue to produce electricity.

Installing a ground-mounted array can also solve shading problems. In some cases, going this route results in greater solar energy output.

The professional contractors at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the leading photovoltaic provider for Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Wyoming, have the experience to design an effective home PV system that offers maximum solar power output. For a free consultation, contact us today.

Can You Add Solar Panels to Your Home PV System?

What if you install solar panels to offset your energy use and bring down your monthly electricity bills, but a few years down the line, your energy needs increase?

Is it possible to add more solar panels? Generally speaking, as long as you have additional rooftop or ground space, you should be able to expand your photovoltaic system. But the project may bring a challenge or two.

Add Solar Panels to Your Home PV System

Contact Your Original Home PV System Installer

First of all, if you’re planning to add extra solar panels, you’ll need to contact the photovoltaic contractor who installed your original components. Your installer is your best resource for information on expansion options. More important, however, is the fact that working with a different contractor could void your solar panel system warranty.

But what if your original photovoltaic contractor is no longer in business?

If you can’t turn to your original installer, contact your PV system manufacturer for advice on expanding without voiding the warranty.

Inverter Considerations

The potential for home PV expansion depends greatly on your solar inverter.

A string inverter may not be able to accommodate more solar panels. String inverters are sized to generate a certain amount of electricity from the sun’s energy. Unless yours was oversized to begin with, you may need to install a larger capacity inverter in order to expand your solar array.

If you installed micro-inverters, you shouldn’t have a problem adding extra solar panels later on. Since each module has its own inverter, expanding your solar array is really just a mounting and wiring project.

Planning a Home PV System Installation

Looking to plan for the future? If you haven’t already installed your solar array, you can take a few steps to make sure the door to expansion remains open.

First, hire a reputable, well-established photovoltaic contractor for your solar installation. While you’re at it, choose components from a well-known manufacturer. If you go cheap, you may end up paying more in the long run if you decide to expand.

Also, discuss your future energy use with your photovoltaic contractor. Let your installer know about your concerns, and they’ll be able to design a PV system that can accommodate expansion.

Have more questions? The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar, serving Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming and Nevada, can offer expert advice on installing a home PV system. For a free consultation to discuss residential solar panels, contact us today.

Do Solar Panels Store Energy?

Have you ever wondered how solar panels store energy for later use?

The short answer is that solar modules don’t store energy at all.

But that doesn’t mean homes with solar PV systems are left in the dark when the sun goes down.

Do Solar Panels Store Energy

How Solar Panels Work

Solar panels have one job — to harness light energy from the sun. The dozens of photovoltaic cells inside the panels generate an electrical charge when exposed to sunlight.

However, photovoltaic cells produce direct current (DC) electricity, not the standard alternating current (AC) used for appliances and electronics in the United States. To convert DC to AC, you must connect solar modules to an inverter.

How Energy from Solar Panels Can Be Stored

When the sun isn’t shining, photovoltaic cells can’t produce electricity. So if you want to use power at night and on cloudy days, another source of energy is a must.

Most homes with PV systems are grid-tied, or connected to the municipal utility grid. Essentially, the utility company acts as a bank that automatically ponies up whenever electricity is needed. And in areas with net metering, owners of grid-tied photovoltaic systems get credit for energy deposits to the grid storage bank.

Electricity from solar panels can also be stored in a battery bank. Depending upon the size, a battery backup system can hold several days’ worth of photovoltaic energy, or more.

Do You Need a Solar Battery Bank?

With grid-tied home PV systems, a battery bank isn’t strictly necessary. After all, the utility company can provide backup electricity.

That said, more Intermountain West homeowners are choosing hybrid photovoltaic systems. A hybrid system is grid-tied, but also has solar batteries. With power outages on the rise, a backup source of energy is an attractive feature.

If you’re not planning to connect to the utility grid — perhaps your home is too remote, or you’d rather be self-sufficient — you’ll need a battery backup system for around-the-clock electricity. Or if you prefer, you could invest in a solar-powered generator. For peace of mind in knowing that you’ll always have home energy, however, you may want to get a battery bank and a generator.

Have more questions about how photovoltaic energy works? Or are you ready to explore your home PV options? Intermountain Wind & Solar offers free consultations and estimates to homeowners throughout Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Colorado and Wyoming. Contact us today to learn more about installing solar panels.

5 Surprising Solar Energy Facts

Over the past several years, the U.S. solar energy industry has grown immensely. At the same time, the costs for adopting photovoltaic power have plunged, making home PV systems much more affordable.

Those widely known facts may not seem all that remarkable. But some lesser-known statistics about solar power might just surprise you.

Solar Energy Statistics that Might Surprise You

No. 1: Solar Energy Reaches a Record Low Price

When it comes to global energy prices, fossil fuels have always come out on top. Historically, coal has averaged $0.06 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Fossil fuel steam typically costs roughly $0.05 cents/kWh, and small-scale natural gas may go for as little as $0.03 cents/kWh. As for renewables? Not even close to those prices.

However, at the end of 2016, a bid for a commercial photovoltaic power installation was priced at just $0.029 cents/kWh — less than the cheapest fossil fuel prices.

No. 2: Solar Energy Is the Most Abundant Energy Source

At some point — perhaps sooner than we’d like — the world may run out of fossil fuels. But the sun will still be shining, so solar energy is here to stay.

And actually, solar is now the most abundant available source of power on the planet. Today, we have 89 petawatts (that’s a quadrillion watts) of potential photovoltaic energy production available.

No. 3: Solar and Wind Power Are Major Sources of U.S. Electricity

Most U.S. electricity comes from fossil fuels. However, renewables reached a new milestone this past spring, making wind and photovoltaic power strong contenders in the energy playing field.

This past March and April, more than 10 percent of all the electricity generated in the country was from solar and wind power. In some states, the number was much higher. Iowa got a whopping 37 percent of its electricity from renewables!

No. 4: The U.S. Has More than 1 Million Solar Energy Systems

Near the beginning of 2016, our country had its 1 millionth photovoltaic system installed.

And, according to industry forecasts, we can expect to reach a total of 2 million installations by next year. That’s pretty impressive, especially when you consider the fact that it took 40 years to reach the first million.

No. 5: U.S. Homeowners See Solar Payback in Just a Few Years

The cost of installing photovoltaic panels has been dropping, and rates for utility grid electricity have been steadily rising.

The result? The payback period for adopting solar power is getting shorter. These days, most homeowners reach the break-even point in five to eight years. In states with high utility prices, payback can take as little as three or four years.

Are you ready to explore your solar savings potential? Intermountain Wind & Solar, the leading photovoltaic contractor for Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and Wyoming, offers free solar energy consultations to homeowners and businesses. To schedule yours, contact us today.

Commercial Solar Pays Off Big for Auto Dealers

Across the country, commercial solar power is helping increasing numbers of auto dealers save money.

Reducing energy costs is important for dealerships, as electricity is one of their largest overhead expenses. In fact, automotive dealers use about 18 percent more energy per square foot than the average office building.

Efficiency upgrades can help cut energy consumption, but installing a solar power system can make a big dent in dealership operating expenses.

Commercial Solar for Auto Dealers

Auto Dealers Save Money with Commercial Solar

Every day, automotive dealerships use HVAC systems, electric motors — including hydraulic lifts, compressed air systems, bay doors, pressure washers, paint booths and vacuums — and massive amounts of interior and exterior lighting.

A building automation system (BAS), or energy management system, can control all of the equipment and boost efficiency. Swapping out or upgrading some of the equipment may also help reduce energy use.

But even auto dealers with the most efficient equipment and a BAS in place to manage operations still have significant energy costs. Installing a solar power system is a great way to see a drastic drop in utility bills — after all, the sun’s energy is free.

The decrease in electricity costs after adding a solar installation can be rather impressive. According to some industry experts, adopting solar power could bring savings in an amount equal to selling two or three more cars per month.

Commercial Solar Installation Options for Auto Dealers

Because of how they are designed, many automotive dealerships are quite well-suited to support a solar power system.

Many auto dealership buildings have large, flat roofs. Flat roofing can be ideal for mounting photovoltaic panels, as the modules can be perfectly positioned to face the sun.

Most dealers also have the space to install solar-powered carports. Carports can shield vehicles (and customers) from the elements and generate free electricity for the dealership.

Commercial Solar Has Marketing Value for Auto Dealers

The automotive market is highly competitive, and the value of installing a commercial solar power system should not be underestimated.

These days, consumers are drawn to businesses that are eco-friendly. Using the power of the sun to create electricity is a smart marketing move for any business, as it demonstrates a commitment to environmental sustainability.

As many automotive dealers sell similar vehicles, owners need to seek out ways to stand out and get noticed. Shifting to solar power can help achieve that goal. With photovoltaic panels installed, the owner can market the dealership as environmentally responsible.

Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading renewable energy contractor, offers a range of solar power systems designed to meet the needs of auto dealers throughout Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Nevada and Wyoming. For more information or to schedule a commercial solar consultation, contact us today.

Solar Panels 101: Understanding Module Size and Weight

Solar panels come in a range of sizes and weights, depending on the manufacturer. However, most brands of photovoltaic (PV) modules have similar measurements.

But unless you’ve examined them up close, it can be difficult to understand solar panel size and weight. Before planning a photovoltaic installation, do a little sleuthing to determine whether your rooftop can support PV modules.

Solar panels with technician

How Big Are Solar Panels?

On average, residential PV modules are about 65 inches by 39 inches or 5.4 feet by 3.25 feet. Each module typically contains 60 solar cells.

Commercial photovoltaic modules are slightly larger. Standard models generally measure 78 inches by 39 inches or 6.5 feet by 3.25 feet. Commercial PV panels usually contain 72 solar cells.

Although it may seem arbitrary, the size difference makes sense when you understand its purpose. Smaller PV panels are better for maximizing space on residential rooftops, and the larger size makes sense for commercial projects since most commercial arrays have dozens or even hundreds of photovoltaic modules.

How Much Do Solar Panels Weigh?

Weight is what matters most when trying to determine whether a rooftop can handle a solar panel installation.

Most residential PV modules weigh about 40 pounds each. Some variation exists among photovoltaic brands, however. Weight can range anywhere from 33 pounds to 50 pounds, depending on the manufacturer.

Because of their added length, commercial PV panels are heavier. Most weigh in at 50 pounds or more.

Can Your Roof Handle Solar Panels?

To determine if your rooftop has adequate structural support for PV panels, you must consider the weight load of the entire photovoltaic system.

EnergySage, an online solar information resource, says that the total weight load of the average photovoltaic system — including the PV modules, mounting racks and other hardware components — is about 3 to 4 pounds per square foot.

Both residential and commercial roofs are designed to handle much more weight than that, at least 20 pounds per square foot. However, older roofs and those that have sustained prior damage may not have the necessary structural support for solar panels.

A professional photovoltaic contractor can often determine if a rooftop is capable of supporting PV panels. But solar contractors are not roofing experts, and they cannot guarantee that a roof is structurally sound. If you’re at all concerned about the integrity of your roof, it’s imperative that you schedule an evaluation from a professional roofer or structural engineer.

What if Your Roof Isn’t Ready for Solar Panels?

Just because a roof can support a photovoltaic system doesn’t mean rooftop placement is the best option for you. Some roofs don’t have enough space for a PV array, for example, while others have shading issues that may reduce solar output.

In these cases, your professional photovoltaic contractor can find another mounting solution. For example, ground-mounted PV systems work well for many homeowners and businesses with problematic roofs.

The professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar offer free consultations to homeowners and businesses throughout Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada. To explore your options for installing solar panels, contact us today.

3 Reasons Utah Residents Should Go Solar in 2017

Is now the time to go solar?

If you live in Utah, the answer is a resounding yes. Wait too long to plan your photovoltaic installation, and you may miss out on some of the lucrative financial incentives and benefits of making the switch to home PV power.

Go Solar

No. 1: Phasedown of the Utah Solar Tax Credit

The Utah solar investment tax credit (ITC) will give you back up to 25 percent of your total home PV costs, with a maximum tax liability reduction of $2,000 — but only if your photovoltaic system is in operation by the end of 2017.

If you wait to go solar, you won’t be eligible for as much of a tax credit. Each year, starting in 2018, the maximum Utah tax credit is scheduled to drop by $400. PV power systems installed later than Dec. 31, 2021, will not qualify for any state credit.

To save the most on your photovoltaic installation, go solar now, while the Utah ITC is still at its peak.

No. 2: Uncertainty about Net Metering in Utah

No one can really say (at least right now) whether net metering in Utah is doomed. But the policy here could see some dramatic changes soon.

Late last year, Rocky Mountain Power made a motion for rate increases and additional billing charges for solar customers. The net metering proposal was suspended, but public hearings are scheduled for August 2017.

At that point, if the Utah Public Service Commission approves the proposal, new solar customers will see a slower payback on their home PV systems. Go solar now, and you may be able to get in on the current net metering terms.

No. 3: Concern about the Federal Solar Tax Credit

The federal solar ITC is slated to be phased out gradually and will be gone by 2022.

To claim the maximum tax credit amount — 30 percent of your home PV system costs — go solar by the end of 2019. In 2020, the federal ITC drops to 26 percent. If you wait until 2021, you can only claim a 22 percent tax credit.

As if that’s not reason enough to rush your photovoltaic installation, consider how our current administration feels about renewable energy. This past July — not long after celebrating “Energy Week” — the administration proposed a 69 percent cut in funding to the Department of Energy. The administration has also taken other actions that favor fossil fuels over renewable wind and photovoltaic power.

If the administration sets its sights on the federal solar tax credit, it could be repealed. To make sure you can take advantage of the incredible savings offered by the federal ITC, don’t wait any longer to go solar.

Do you have questions about planning your home PV installation? The professional team at Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading photovoltaic contractor, offers free consultations. If you’re ready to switch your Utah home to solar now, we’re ready to make the project happen. Contact us today to learn more.

Our 5-Step Guide for Switching to Solar Power

Are you ready to make the switch to solar power?

With an experienced contractor like Intermountain Wind & Solar, the process is simple. However, adopting photovoltaic power requires a little planning. What do you need to do?

Switching to Solar Power

Step 1: On-Site Solar Power Consultation

When you’re ready to get serious about adopting solar power, our professional team will visit your home to conduct a free, in-person energy consultation.

We’ll look at your electricity usage, and if you like, suggest easy tips for improving your energy efficiency. We’ll also evaluate your property to determine the optimal space for a solar installation. If the rooftop isn’t suitable due to shading or inadequate support, we’ll consider a ground-mounted PV system.

During the consultation, we’ll address any questions or concerns you may have, including component choices and options for financing.

Step 2: Solar Power Installation Bid

Once our team has gathered all the necessary information, we’ll design an efficient and cost-effective rooftop or ground-mounted solar power system for you. At this time, you’ll receive a bid for installation.

It will include details about all your photovoltaic components as well all installation and related costs. And since we want to make going solar easier and more affordable for you, we’ll also provide information on the available federal, state and local tax credits, grants and rebates.

Step 3: Solar Power Permitting

Once you’re ready to move forward, you’ll need the right permits.

Fortunately, the professionals at Intermountain Wind & Solar handle this job for you. However, if you live in a planned community, you may need approval from your homeowners association. Rest assured, we will provide all the necessary documents and schematics to obtain HOA approval.

Step 4: Home PV System Installation

After we pull the permits and get the go-ahead from your HOA, we’ll schedule your home photovoltaic installation.

You won’t need to do anything on installation day. Simply provide us with access to the roof or installation site, and we’ll get the job done with as little disruption as possible. In most cases, most photovoltaic installations can be completed in a single day.

Step 5: Solar Power System Activation

After we’ve finished installing and wiring the photovoltaic components, the utility company or local building department will need to sign off on the equipment installation.

A representative will come out to check and make sure your PV installation is ready for connection. At this point, your system will be activated, and you’ll start generating your own free electricity. And, for the first time in your life, you’ll actually look forward to seeing your next utility bill!

Intermountain Wind & Solar, the region’s leading residential and commercial renewable energy installation professionals, can answer all of your questions about planning a photovoltaic project in Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming or Nevada. Contact us today to schedule a free solar power consultation.