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South Sound Solar has done two installs at our home and repaired/troubleshot an earlier installation. I can wholeheartedly recommend South Sound Solar!! They are professional and meticulous. They under promise and over deliver. The staff is well trained and hard workers.

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Get Up to Date on Solar!

Ring in the New Year with solar on Tuesday, January 5th at the monthly South Sound Sierra Club meeting. The meeting takes place at 6:00pm at Mekong Restaurant, 125 Columbia, Olympia, WA 98501. South Sound Solar’s very own Kirk Haffner will be discussing current trends in solar both statewide and nationally. This discussion is especially relevant in light of the recent extension in the Federal tax credit program.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Choosing Your Solar Installer

Deciding which solar installation company to work with is like choosing a remodeling company or realtor. Do your research to find the right installer for your home’s solar system. Start by getting the answers to four basic questions:

Are they certified?
Find out what their certifications mean and what they did to earn them. Look for certifications showing the company employees have worked to meet a higher standard. NABCEP and IBEW certifications are signs of a “gold standard” solar installation company.

Do they have a good reputation?
DSCN5445Good installers have working relationships with your local utilities and permitting departments. Many utilities have a prefered contractor list. An installer on this list meets the utility’s expectations of professionalism, expertise and customer service.

Are they local?
Local installers are more likely to carry products that work best in our corner of the world. They are also able to respond more quickly and provide personalized service.

Are they registered, licensed, bonded and do they have any unaddressed infractions?
This information is on the Department of Labor and Industries website.

Once you find two or three likely installers, give each of them a call. Here is what you should learn from talking to them:

Do they ask about your site and your energy goals?
A good installer will give you choices to help match your goals to your budget. They will also tell you if solar isn’t an option for your home. Some sites just won’t work.

Do they sound like they know what they’re talking about?
Pay attention to what the installer thinks is important for you to know.

Do they know what rebates, tax credits and incentives are available to you?

Do they do all the work themselves or hire out sub-contractors?
DSCF0108If they sub-contract, ask why. Sub-contracting to deal with unusual or specialty issues, like tile roofing, is wise. Sub-contracting out for basic installation should raise a red flag.

Do they address their companies’ warranties and the manufacturers’?
Each warranty covers different things.

Do their customers like them?
Contact the installers’ references before making an appointment for a site evaluation.

When the installer comes to evaluate your property, you should expect:

Absolutely no pressure to sign a contract immediately.
Good installers don’t do that; it’s another red flag.

The installer to get on the roof (or not, if it’s a simple roof) and take measurements.
They should check the exposure and take the shading analysis on site.

An idea of where the system components will likely be located and how the wiring will be run from the roof to the electrical panel.

At the end you’ll get an estimate. This should include:

At least two choices for systems.
Each option should be presented with costs, amount of energy it’s expected to produce and about how long it will take for the system to earn back its cost through savings.

A timeline for permitting, installation and inspections.
A good installer gives you reasonable expectations.

What fees there may be that aren’t included in your estimate.

The most comfortable way to begin the process is to meet solar installers at fairs, home shows and expos. You can ask questions and learn without worrying about pressure or privacy.

An upcoming opportunity to meet several Western Washington installers in one place is at the Mother Earth News Fair. It is May 31 and June 1 at the Washington State Fair and Events Center in Puyallup.

Olympia’s local installer, South Sound Solar, will be at Wooden Boat Fest in Olympia May 10th and 11th. They will also be at The Grays Harbor Home & Garden Show May 17 and 18.

For more information about how solar works in Washington, visit www.SouthSoundSolar.com, email info@SouthSoundSolar.com or call 360-352-7869.

This article originally ran in the real estate section of The Olympian Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Clock Is Ticking: Summer and Incentives

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There are only 18 months of guaranteed solar rebates remaining.

That sounds like a lot. But consider these two things:

1. As of the beginning of May our installation calendar is already filling up fast.

2. Summer is the time when all those extra kilowatt hours you generate add up. And banked kilowatt hours means lower power bills in the winter.

This is the time to take advantage of longer, sunny days of summer as well as capitalizing on the last 18 months of guaranteed solar rebates.

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If you are interested in more information or scheduling a solar evaluation, call 360-352-7869 or email info@SouthSoundSolar.com.

Battery Back up in Little Rock, WA

Normally we don’t recommend a battery back up system; it’s far cheaper to buy a good generator. However, there are situations where battery back up is worth the extra expense. Our new customer out in Little Rock, WA is in a place where the power goes out frequently and will stay out for quite some time. For her, a battery back up system is worth the expense.

Our customer, Laura, writes:

“Many years ago, I read about  the idea of solar power as an alternative energy source. Seemed so simple … capture free power from a source that is always available. As I researched more (how does a system work at night? what about when it’s cloudy?) I realized that solar was a clean, viable option that I would save me money as it powered my home.

“In late 2013, I was able to begin that dream. I called South Sound Solar for more information and decided to ask them out to evaluate my place and give me an estimate. Patrick spent an afternoon taking measurements and gathering information on my energy use and power needs.

“I wanted to stick with local manufacturers, but I also wanted the best that was available, for as we know, technology takes leaps and bounds every day. He spent time going through each page of every manufacturers’ hardware with me, making sure I had what I needed to make a good decision. I went with the California made solar panels and all other hardware was made in Washington.

“Patrick gave me a quote regarding my choices for price, tax incentives and quality of the solar equipment. He explained everything that was available and the pros and cons of every piece of equipment.

“Over the last week, the South Sound Solar crew has been installing my dream system! Any question I ask any member of the team is answered completely and explained in layman’s terms so I can understand! I really appreciate the incredible intelligence each of the team offers in their respective job. It is a pleasure to work with such a knowledgeable and friendly group as South Sound Solar!”

In case you are curious, Laura’s panels are from SunPower, the inverter is Outback and the charger is MidNight.

SunPower Panels

We’re working on another battery back up system! This one has SunPower panels. The rest of the hardware is made in Washington.

SunPowerThe SunPower panels were chosen by our customer because they are the most efficient solar panels on the market. For the solar fans out there, SunPower panels do 345 watts. The next best systems carry 250-270 watts.

Our first recommendation is always Made-in-Washington systems. However, SunPower is optimal when there is only a small amount of square footage available to mount a system. Where there is a small system — especially in this battery back up project — every single inch has to count. And our customer also wanted the best panels available. Who are we to deny that?

When a system combines out-of-state solar products with made-in-Washington products, as in this case, the system isn’t eligible for the highest level of incentives. A system that is completely made in Washington earns 54¢/kWh. This customer is combining made-in-California SunPower panels with an Outback inverter and a MidNite solar charger which are both made in Washington. This system will earn the customer 18¢/kWh.

By the by, SunPower is also the manufacturer of the system we have installed on our office roof. Kirk got it second hand through Craig’s List 5 years ago and it’s keeping our office building at net zero!

Mt Rainier Solar Snow Melter

A few years ago, Kirk Haffner, president of South Sound Solar, helped source parts and consult on a solar powered snow melter for the Camp Muir climbers’ camp in Mt Rainer National Park.

P1000535Camp Muir is 10,188 feet above sea level. Until a couple years ago, the only water you’d find there was water you packed in yourself. With an elevation gain of 4,788 feet, packing water is a tough thing to do. The park rangers had a design contest amongst themselves to see if they could figure out how to make water for washing and cooking available at Camp Muir safely and cheaply.

Ranger Stefan Lofgren won the contest. He had just had South Sound Solar install a solar water heater on his home. Stefan found the efficiency of the closed loop system impressive and this got him thinking. He got on the phone to Kirk. Kirk and Stefan talked over several days and at the end they had a workable design. Stefan did the construction and Kirk designed the solar loop.

Stefan reports, “Our first solar snow melter has been in place for several seasons now and is working REALLY well at 10,000 feet at Camp Muir.  It not only melts water, but we’ve had the snow melting chamber as high as 170 degrees!

“We are now looking at setting up a similar system at Camp Schurman.”

If you have an unusual application for solar power and would like help with the design, call 360-352-7869 or email info@SouthSoundSolar.com to see what our design service can do for you.

Thurston Green Business Recognition

Today we received our 2014 Thurston Green Business Recognition.

South Sound Solar is a Thurston Green Business

South Sound Solar is a Thurston Green Business

We are excited to be members of Thurston County, and take our commitment to the planet seriously. We are excited to be recognized though the Thurston Green Business program for our work in the community. 

 

Washington HOAs Must Allow Solar

IMAG0184Solar installations on your home used to be restricted outright. Until 2009 it was standard for neighborhoods’ covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) to prohibit solar panels on your roof. In 2009 changes were made to Washington State law. Now solar power and water systems are permitted — under certain conditions.

South Sound Solar has found even though these changes to the CC&R’s have been in place since 2009, not many Homeowners Associations (HOA’s) are aware of the new rules.

Thurston County’s solar installations have increased by 50% annually. Sooner or later, your neighbors will want to generate solar power or install solar hot water heaters. If you’re involved with your neighborhood organization, or want to install solar on your home, you should know the basics about solar power and HOAs.

Our primary concern is that people understand what makes a solar installation acceptable to the CC&Rs. HOAs should have a basic idea of what permitting is required by the city or county. HOAs should know what is meant by ‘certified installer.’ And there are different restrictions each for solar electricity and solar hot water. None of this information is complicated, but it is new. 

What homeowners can do.
With the updated law, home owners can now mount solar panels on the part of the roof facing the street They can mount them on roofs of historic homes. However, the panels must conform to the slope of the roof and not extend past the roof’s profile.

What an HOA can restrict but really shouldn’t.
HOAs can require the wiring and supporting frame be painted to match the house. We know from experience that this makes way more trouble than it’s worth. Solar installation components, like composite roof shingles, come in limited colors. There is a component color that is acceptable to everyone.

No one wants to lower the value of a home. This affects not only the home owner, but the neighborhood as well. When the Washington Legislature updated the law about solar panels in neighborhoods, they did a good job. Not only do the changes protect property values, they help increase property values. Homeowners can move with the times, HOAs can protect neighborhood curb appeal and a whole community benefits. There isn’t a downside.

For more information on Washington State’s 2009 updates on solar installations, read RCW 64.38.055 or call South Sound Solar (360-357-7869) for a translation in non-legislative language.

For more information about solar in your neighborhood and neighborhood pricing (discounts when multiple homes decide to install) contact South Sound Solar by email or at 360-357-7869

How You Can Finance Your Solar Project

Our electricity bill was only $39.00 last month.  Love our solar panels.  :DMore roofs around town are sporting solar panels. In the last five years Thurston County’s solar power installations have increased around 50% each year. Tax credits from the government along with production incentives from utilities have made residential photovoltaic systems very attractive. How to pay for such an investment becomes the big question.

Photovoltaic systems (PV systems) are power stations on your roof. They last more than 30 years and produce clean electricity gathered from the sun: a free, renewable source. Governments and local utilities have an interest in promoting alternative energy sources like solar power. For system owners, there is a 30% Federal tax credit, no State sales tax, and utilities pay up to $.54 per kilowatt hour for the energy you produce.

Even with support, the biggest barrier to going solar is the cost of the system. The average system in the Thurston County area is $30,000. Washington has some of the lowest energy prices in the nation, and even with tax credit and production incentives, a purchased system takes about 10 years to reach the break-even point.

To help make solar more accessible, several local lending institutions have worked with solar installers and utility companies to design loans specifically for solar. They include options like no home equity, $0 down, and have interest rates comparable to a car loan.

Olympia Credit Union’s and Generations Credit Union’s loan programs require $0 down and no home equity (the solar system is the collateral). These programs finance 100% of the purchase of the system, including installation costs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOlympia Federal Savings has a low interest home equity “green home” loan. As solar immediately raises the value of your home, OlyFed factors that future value into their equity calculations. Loan terms can be up to 10 years (the typical break-even time). You can also apply for a home equity loan with your current bank. If your bank isn’t clear on the value of solar, any quality solar installer will be happy to educate your loan officer. If you have the equity in your home, home equity loans are usually the lowest interest rate option.

There is also a financing option known as leasing, or Third Party Owned. Presented as a way to make solar more affordable, leasing a system ends up costing more over the life of the system than a system purchased through a loan. Also you would not qualify for the 30% Federal tax credit, state incentives, and equity value.

Leasing companies own the system they install on your home. You make a monthly payment for the use of their system. If you consider leasing, make sure your energy savings is greater than your lease payment. If your monthly payments are greater than your savings, you will be losing money.

Selling a home with a leased system can be complicated. Leasing contracts usually require a 20 year commitment. The agreement includes requirements concerning the sale of your home. Unless you are sure that you will be in your home for the term of the lease, carefully check the resale requirements.

Solar is a large investment, but there are many ways to finance the system and installation. Like all serious investments, do your homework first. Compare costs, consider the advantages over time, check the the installers’ references, and ask a lot of questions.

Dever Kuni is Vice President and daughter-of-the-house at South Sound Solar, a local Olympia solar consulting and installation company. She recommends starting your independent solar research at dsireusa.org and www.homepower.com. For specific questions, visit SouthSoundSolar.com or call 360-352-7869.

This article was originally written for The Olympian Real Estate section, published March 9, 2014

Solar Pergola!

This beautiful Silicon Energy pergola creates a covering for the deck, making it much more usable all year long. Oh, and it produces clean energy from panels made right here in Washington.

The homeowner was involved in every decision about the construction of the pre-designed and engineered pergola.

The homeowner was involved in every decision about the construction of the pre-designed and engineered pergola.

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Silicon Energy make amazing structures like pergolas, car ports, awnings, and more. The overlapping cascade of the panels means water and debris are easily shed.

Silicon Energy make amazing structures like pergolas, car ports, awnings, and more. The overlapping cascade of the panels means water and debris are easily shed.

 

Isn't Washington a beautiful place?

Isn’t Washington a beautiful place?

Solar in Hawaii: Pros and cons

Our lucky Dever got to leave the Great Northwet for a couple weeks. Never one to completely leave work behind, she ended up in the Aloha State where solar capacity has pretty much doubled every year since 2005. With energy prices more than three times than on the Mainland, it’s understandable why solar panels are popping up on practically every building around.

The challenge is getting Hawaii’s grids to synch up to the amount of energy all the panels are collecting. And the utilities don’t like the loss of revenue. State governments and Federal agencies are keeping an eye on how this is playing out. And so are we.

Here is an excellent, short article covering the basic pros and cons of solar power as it currently is in Hawaii:  Hawaii May Be a Battlefield for Solar Energy.

And then we have some pictures. Turn on some Keola Beamer (I recommend Mauna Kea but they’re all good) and pretend you’re there, too.

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Big Step Forward! Newly organized Solar Installers of Washington

SIWSolar Installers of Washington is a newly formed professional trade organization. This is exciting! Really! Because now solar installers can present a unified voice when it comes to public policy, legislation, and governmental relations in Washington State.

Our Dever has been busy as SIW’s Legislative and Policy chair monitoring legislation and encouraging Washington’s lawmakers continue to invest in renewable energy. Currently Dever is working to extend the production incentives past their December 2020 expiration date.

Jeff Morris of the 40th legislative district is sponsoring House Bill 1301 which is about creating clean energy jobs in Washington state through renewable energy incentives. Dever and SIW are actively engaged in the process. If you are in Rep. Morris’s district, or would like to get involved, send Dever an email with HB 1301 in the subject line.

Other State legislators on the bill (is one of yours here?):
Cindy Ryu
John McCoy
Zack Hudgins
Dawn Morrell
Jerry Pollet

Solar Ready Homes: A Buyer’s Guide

393801_511893122170617_417260022_nSolar power readiness has become a greater factor when searching for a new home. Current tax credits and incentives for solar systems, plus rising energy costs, make solar financially appealing.

The problem is finding a home that is perfect for a solar system. A perfect home has a southern-facing roof with no trees or buildings casting any shadows. The southern part of the roof has minimal vents, pipes, skylights, or gables to limit your solar potential.

Unsurprisingly, very few homes that are “perfect” for solar.  Don’t wear yourself out looking for “perfect.” First look for homes that suit your needs best. Find places closest to work, or in a good school district, or in a pedestrian friendly neighborhood.

When you have a few homes or sites to choose from, then take a look at optimal solar requirements like exposure and roof lines. Here are more things to consider:

House condition: Are there other repairs or upgrades that take priority over solar? Is the electrical wiring up-to-date? Is the roof sound?

Energy use: Ask the utility what the home’s “average” electric bills are. The higher the bills, the more solar panels the home will require.

Energy upgrades: Are there energy efficiency upgrades that need to happen? Upgrading insulation and sealing air leaks gives you the best energy-saving return on your investment.

Power outages: How often does the area lose power and for how long? Do you need to consider a battery storage system or generator for these times?

HistoricHomeCROPHomeowners associations: Washington HOAs legally have to allow solar to be installed. There are limits, but they are reasonable. Don’t let that be an issue.

Roof layout: Many new homes have complicated, multifaceted roofs. One big roof is better than three or four  little ones to make solar cost effective.

Utility participation: Does the utility participate in the State incentive program? Do they offer any additional incentives?

P1010047-1024x768Think outside the roof!: If your “perfect” home isn’t perfect for solar, there are still many options. Incorporating solar into new structures like carports, porch awnings, potting sheds, and gazebos is a great way to have solar and add more value to your home. Solar panels as roofing aren’t 100% weathertight but for certain outdoor structures it is an excellent solution.

Affording solar: It is standard to incorporate solar into a new home or building loan. If you plan to add solar later, several local lending institutions like Olympia Federal Savings have loans tailor-made for either new “green” construction and/or energy upgrades. Either way, it’s easy to find out which systems will generate good returns on your investment and how long it will take.

Dever Kuni is Vice President of South Sound Solar, an Olympia solar engineering, design and installation company. Dever’s dad, Kirk Haffner, is a regionally recognized expert in solar energy. South Sound Solar offers free Solar 101 workshops so you can decide if solar is cost effective for you. Find out more at www.SouthSoundSolar.com.

Speaking at Governor Inslee’s CLEW

Sometimes, we get to stand up and Testify! Here is Dever speaking for a minute at the Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup meeting December 13.

Dever Speaks at CLEW

Video length is less than a minute.
You have time to watch this!

 

The Climate Legislative and Executive Workgroup was created during the 2013 Washington State Legislative Session.  The Workgroup’s job is to look at Washington’s current climate, industrial, and energy situation and recommend a state program of actions and policies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This group works to “ensure achievement of the state’s emissions reductions limits set in Chapter 70.235 by the 2008 legislature.”

Here are links to two more of our friends who spoke on different aspects of what CLEW could do and how their their projects support CLEW’s goals. Each clip is one minute.

Chris Speaks at CLEW

Chris van Daalen of Northwest EcoBuilding Guild (Olympia Chapter)

Chris van Daalen of Northwest EcoBuilding Guild spoke on how retro-fitting existing homes and business buildings lowers costs for the building owners (especially low income!) and reduces demands on utilities. Plus, improved building are healthier which reduces common illnesses like asthma.

Jeremy Smithson of Puget Sound Solar

Jeremy Smithson of Puget Sound Solar

Jeremy Smithson has been a solar activist for forever. He is exceedingly active in educating about the long-range cost effectiveness of solar.

 

Olympia Timberland Library Has Gone Solar

The Olympia branch of the Timberland Regional Library got a new addition in September. Thirty three solar panels were mounted on the library’s roof. The solar panels produce enough free energy from the sun to power the lighting in the library. The installation was part of a larger energy and water conservation effort by the City of Olympia, LOTT, Puget Sound Energy, Washington State Department of Enterprise Services and Ameresco. Soon the Olympia Library will have information about the system posted inside the building as well as a link to real-time energy production on their web page.

The completed solar installation on the roof of the Olympia Timberland Library.

The completed solar installation on the roof of the Olympia Timberland Library.

 

The solar project came about because over 4,000 City of Olympia residents signed up for Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power program. In return, PSE gave the city a grant to install panels on the Olympia Library.

 

The project remained as local-loyal as possible. South Sound Solar, an Olympia company, was chosen by Ameresco to work on the solar design and installation of the panels. MC², Inc. an Olympia engineering firm did the engineering reports on the library roof. Both the panels and the inverters were made in Washington.

 

The system uses two made-in-Washington inverters.

The system uses two made-in-Washington inverters.

“We were very excited to work on a project that affects our city and state so positively,” says Kirk Haffner of South Sound Solar. “The City of Olympia did a lot of work to figure out how they could benefit from State and Federal incentives for their municipal projects.”

 

Typically, solar projects on public sites have been done using private investors, through the community solar program. Private investors get the incentives and the public site — a school, office, building, or park — benefits from lower electricity bills. For the Olympia Library, the City of Olympia found a way to keep the incentives in the city’s economy, maximizing the benefits in a way that community solar never could.

 

As a municipality building, the City of Olympia qualifies for the state solar incentives, processed through the production and net meters. The Library's electric bills go down.

As a municipality building, the City of Olympia qualifies for the state solar incentives, processed through the production and net meters. The Library’s electric bills go down.

Like the funding process, installing the solar panels on the library’s roof was a collaborative effort. South Sound Solar spent time determining the best system options for the city’s goals and budget. “There’s a balance between function and affordability,” says Haffner. “The good thing about solar panels and solar hot water is that today’s technology enables us to give pretty accurate estimates on performance and return on investment. This makes the planning and budgeting process much less complicated.”

 

Ameresco and South Sound Solar worked with the city and the library to find the best design and installation options. They went for a 8250 watt system mounted with weighted ballasts to minimize penetrations in the roof. “Our numbers show the library will save over $800 a year in electricity costs,” says Haffner, “and the city will receive $4000 a year in incentives from the state.” The system is also designed to be expanded in the future.

The real trick for South Sound Solar was working around the library’s schedule to make sure there was minimum interference with the staff’s schedule. “We did have to turn power off one day. This is not normally something we have to do but it was an efficiency and safety issue. No one wants to mess with that,” says Dever Kuni, manager at South Sound Solar. “The next day we sent our crew in an hour earlier than their usual shift to make sure the library had their power back on. We wanted to make sure it didn’t interfere with the anyone’s visit to the library.”

“This is what solar is about,” says Haffner. “We want to see cities and municipalities investing in savings. The state Department of Commerce is offering grants for public projects like the library in 2014. We hope that every city can do something similar.”

Itek Energy is a Washington solar panel and inverter manufacturer.

Itek Energy is a Washington solar panel and inverter manufacturer.

 

How You Can Help Move Solar Forward in 2014

South Sound Solar, along with other Washington solar installers, continues to invest time and effort working with the Legislature and other departments. Our primary goal for the 2014 legislative session is to
  • Extend solar incentives past 2020
  • Make financing solar installations more accessible
  • Continue to create a thriving solar industry in Washington

You can help get involved by contacting your legislator and/or your local public officials. You can find your correct Legislator here. The link will take you to their page where you can leave them a message.

If you have any questions about solar in Washington or your jurisdiction, let us know. We are happy to help.

You Are Welcome: South Sound Solar’s Open House

We’re growing up and there comes a time when you should really upgrade yourself from Poor College Student to Reasonable Professional. Come visit us at our newly decorated, net zero office Wednesday, November 13th, between 4 and 6 p.m.

Our office is newly redesigned and we feel like showing it off. See the amazing desks whose legs are so level they do not need a quadruple folded piece of paper under one corner! Take a closer look at our two different solar panel systems! Our DIY electric car! Our new ductless heat pump (which we love!)! Our composting toilet! Yes, we have everything!

Kirk will be here, of course, along with a representative of Silicon Energy. Silicon Energy is one of the top panels in the world, made right here in Washington. Between their rep and Kirk, we can answer any question you might have … as long as it’s related to solar.

 

South Sound Solar Earns National Ranking

Solar Power World recently released their list of top 250 solar contractors in the U.S., and South Sound Solar is on it! Ranked according to total megawatts installed, we were number 226. There were only two other installers from Washington.

Even though we are a small family company, we have influenced our local market enough to qualify for a national recognition. Kirk’s goal when he started the company was to educate the community about their energy options, and hopefully make a living installing the new energy. Today we know we’ve made that difference: our suggestions have been incorporated into legislative bills, our staff is involved in many local organizations and events, and our team,  Kirk especially, is recognized for his knowledge and experience.

To learn more about the Solar Power World top 250 click here.

2014 is Almost Here!

Our team of installers doing what they do best.
South Sound Solar’s installation calendar is already booked solid through the end of the year. We know that when you’re ready to go, you are ready.
Plus, when you’re ready to go, you hate to miss out on the incentives passing you by.

Fear not! We have a happy solution:

If we receive your signed contract for solar installation by December 1, we will give you a rebate of $.10/watt (up to $500).* 

Speaking of the end of the year, the 30% tax credit is still around for 2014. We have seen a lot of marketing out there trying to encourage people to “Buy now before the tax credit runs out!”
It’s really okay. You have at least another year. Don’t let anyone pressure you into buying anything. When you are ready to go solar, it will be because you have all the facts and feel comfortable with your decision.
*Fine Print: Cannot be combined with any other special offer, rebate, or bulk buying program. Installations will be scheduled first-come-first-served in 2014.  Rebate will be issued after installation is complete and final payment has been made.

First Big Storm = Lots of Battery Back-up Questions

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That system coming through at the end of September was a real humdinger. Several homes in outlying areas lost power. And that’s when we started getting calls about battery back up systems.

When we’re asked about battery back-up, we usually give three examples of situations where we recommend seriously considering batteries.

During a large winter storm a few years back, a family vacation cabin in Mason County lost power. Because of the bad roads, the owner wasn’t able to get to the cabin for many days. The cabin’s pipes froze and burst and caused over $10,000 in damages. The odds of the cabin being damaged due to power loss again are high, and long distance meant the owners couldn’t start a generator, or even know if the power was out. Having a back up system is definitely worth the money and the peace of mind in a situation like that.

Another of our battery back-up customers owns a web-based business. Even though she lives in town where power is restored quickly, she cannot afford to have the power out for even five minutes. A generator could help, but they don’t produce “clean” power.  The electricity that solar produces perfectly matches the grid, is completely electronically controlled, and  the computer screens won’t even flash. The rough power from the generator could actually damage her computers. The price of a battery system is worth it for her livelihood.

Now, these first two are pretty specific: If you can’t realistically be prepared for an outage, or if you must have perfect power constantly, then battery back up is the power source to consider.

Then there are areas that lose power frequently, and for long periods of time. This is situation number three. Frankly, a generator is less expensive if all you require is to keep your freezer operating and your heat and stove going. But if you want a quiet energy source with no fuel or start up required, then battery back up is the way to go.

Battery back-up systems start at $15,000 and must be properly sized to your energy needs and solar array. How do we design a battery system? We start by asking you a few questions: How often do you lose power?  How long is it usually out? What do you NEED to power? And what would you like to power?

The really neat thing is, Made-in-Washington battery back-up systems are available, so you would receive the maximum incentives.

For most of us, there isn’t such an urgency. For most of us, a $5000 generator will run the whole house. Generators are noisy and use fuel, but they are far less expensive and easier to deal with.

Back-up Breakthrough!
Having said all that, there is a new inverter on the market. The SMA inverter allows you to have one circuit running when the power is out as long as there is enough sunlight.

This is perfect to keep a freezer going or a stove or a server going until power is restored.

These inverters can be installed for little more than a standard inverter, but they aren’t made in Washington. You still receive the 30% Federal Tax Credit and there is no sales tax, but the best incentive you can hope for is 36 cents a kWh.

Call or email our office to find out more about systems for when the power is out.