model 3
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

Tesla made news again recently for discontinuing one highly-anticipated product and accepting down payments on another.

Tesla announced recently that it has discontinued its much-discussed 10-kWh residential battery and has pulled all references to it from its website and press kit.

A smaller system, called the Daily Powerwall, is still being built, the company said.

In simple terms, the Powerwall stores energy. It is designed to bank excess energy produced from a home’s solar energy system during a sunny day for use at night or to provide backup power if the grid is down. Some industry analysts believe that it could eventually revolutionize how homes and businesses get their energy–instead of being reliant on a utility, they simply could power their own buildings by converting energy from the sun.

However, the lithium-ion battery solution is extremely costly, about 30 percent higher than traditional lead-acid batteries that are used in most backup systems. A&R continues to monitor these developments and will be installing Powerwall systems once they become available.

Model 3
While retooling its battery strategy, Tesla scored big with electric vehicle fans by opening up its yet-to-be-released Model 3.

Within a week, more than 325,000 people paid a $1,000 down payment on the Model 3, which has a $35,000 starting price.

A $7,500 federal tax credit is helping to drive all of those down payments. However, the tax credit is limited to the first 200,000 cars from any manufacturer.

Many EV owners are also solar energy system owners, opting to charge their vehicles through renewable energy. A typical driver would need about 3 kW worth of solar to power 100 percent of the EV’s annual energy needs.

April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

A Seattle church that installed solar won an award for its efforts to combat global warming.

Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church received the recognition from Interfaith Power & Light, a national group that encourages religious congregations across the country to address global warming by reducing their carbon footprint.

The church’s system–installed by A&R Solar in 2015–saves six tons a year of carbon dioxide from electricity that isn’t drawn from the electrical grid. In 2015, St. Andrew’s will have reduced or offset approximately 80 percent of its carbon emissions.

The effort is part of a covenant adopted by the National Episcopal church aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from every facility it maintains by a minimum of 50 percent by 2019.

The church also installed an eGauge monitoring system to help track the solar panels’ production and the facilities energy consumption.

All parishioners who install solar with A&R will receive up to a $500 referral bonus, and the church will receive a matching donation.

The church is active in a variety of environmental initiatives, including serving shade grown coffee, growing organic produce, which is used as part of its feeding ministries, and having a robust recycling, on-site composting and waste management system.

Read more about Saint Andrew’s solar panels.

Longview-Cowlitz PUD2
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

A&R Solar recently wrapped up another community solar project, this time on the Cowltiz PUD’s administrative building in Longview along the Oregon border.

Utility customers can opt-into the program purchasing units at $100 each. In exchange, they receive credits toward their bills and also financial incentives from the state.

The 58 kW project allows utility customers who may rent or not have a site suitable for solar to participate in renewable energy.

The cost of the program is paid for by the ratepayers who opt into the program.

Portland-Emerson St
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

IMG_20160324_084313This northeast Portland home’s solar energy system will offset more than 95 percent of its energy consumption.

The 6.84 kW system features (24) made-in-Oregon SolarWorld modules and two SMA inverters.

Edmonds Lutheran Solar
April 12, 2016 | Jen Olson

A church in Edmonds that feeds seniors, hosts 12-step groups, and serves as a learning center for kids is now powered by solar energy, thanks in part to a donation from A&R Solar.

The 9.9 kW system, together with conservation measures, should offset almost a third of the church’s power costs. A volunteer community group selected the church as the recipient of the donation as part of the Solarize South County campaign in 2014. A&R worked with the church for more than a year to make the installation happen.

“Doing social good is baked into our DNA at A&R. We believe that solar energy can make the world a better place in a very fundamental way,” said Reeves Clippard, CEO of A&R Solar.

The system features 36 made-in-Washington panels. It was donated in part by A&R Solar, and itek Energy in Bellingham also contributed. Contributions from the congregation made up the rest.

The system should pay for itself in about five years and keep producing electricity for a few decades.

Greenbridge2 3x4
February 5, 2016 | Jen Olson

We see it all of the time: When one homeowner on the block installs solar, others follow.

By installing solar on your house, you get to set an example for others in your neighborhood and community.

Sometimes neighbors can have questions about your new system and might even challenge the installation. Here are a couple of things to know:

Can my HOA ban my solar energy system?

No. State law in both Washington and Oregon prevents homeowner associations from outright prohibiting the installation of solar PV systems as long as the system meets all health, safety and performance standards required by state and local permitting authorities.

We’ve had dozens of customers over the years who belonged to an HOA. We’ve found that many times, the design that we include in our quote is enough to soothe concerns. We are also happy to meet with the HOA board, answer any questions, and go through the state law to show how our system will comply.

Here are some helpful links from Northwest Solar Communities about HOAs and solar:

HOAs & Solar PV
HOA Letter from Oregon Department of Energy
Solar on Condos

Will my system cause glare for my neighbors?

This shouldn’t happen. The whole goal of a solar panel is to absorb, not reflect, sunlight. In fact, solar panels incorporate anti-reflective glass that’s rated for installation at airports where glare is a serious concern for pilots.

January 4, 2016 | Jen Olson

The six employee-owners of A&R Solar ended 2015 by making donations to local and national organizations working to improve our communities.

Each of the organizations received $2,500, totalling $15,000.

Employees are eligible for ownership after three years of employment. Owners also made year-end donations in December 2014.

In addition to the December giving, A&R Solar donated $2,800 each to Jubilee REACH and the Interlake High School Robotics Team, as well as a solar energy system valued at $25,000 to the KidsQuest Children’s Museum as part of the Solarize Bellevue campaign.

In February, we donated a 1kW system valued at $6,750 to the Hanford Challenge Auction, which we will be doing again in 2016.

December 21, 2015 | Jen Olson

Congress has passed a five-year extension to the federal Solar Income Tax Credit (ITC), which allows homeowners and businesses to claim a significant income tax credit based on the cost of their solar energy systems.

The 30 percent tax credit was scheduled to expire at the end of 2016 and will now extend through 2019. In 2020, the credit will drop to 26 percent and then to 22 percent in 2021. Non-residential solar systems will continue to qualify for a 10 percent tax credit indefinitely, even after incentives run out for residential systems.

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of the federal income tax you owe.

Renewable energy activists urged Congress to pass the extension, which President Barack Obama signed Friday as part of an overall spending bill, to give the industry more time to mature and to allow for advances and investments in technology.

Analysts believe the extension will significantly boost the adoption of renewable energy for both residential and commercial sectors. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) estimates that 20 gigawatts will be added, more than every solar panel installed prior to 2015.

The extension comes on the heels of the historic 2015 Paris Climate Conference where delegates from 195 countries approved a global agreement on halting climate change.

Wind energy also receive an extension to its tax credits.

The new language in the law clarifies that the tax credit for homeowners is based on the placed date of service, which is when the system passes final inspection. Going forward for businesses and investors, it will be based on the year the project begins construction.

Tesla Powerwall
December 8, 2015 | Jen Olson

Tesla Motors’ announced its rechargeable lithium-ion battery product called Powerwall in April, and solar customers and industry insiders haven’t stopping talking about it.

For a product that isn’t even available to the broader public yet, we get asked about it on a weekly basis.

Simply put, the Powerwall stores energy. For example, it could bank the excess energy produced from a home’s solar energy system during a sunny day for use at night or to provide backup power if the utility is down. Some industry analysts believe that it could eventually allow many utility customers to entirely power their own homes without the need to be connected to the utility grid.

We’ve been monitoring the Powerwall’s release and some of the testing being done in the United States.

Here are some points to know about the Powerwall from a recent interview with a battery expert:

  • The price point is about 30 percent higher than traditional lead-acid batteries that are used in most backup systems.
  • Tesla’s 10-year warranty is about 2-3 times longer than lead-acid batteries.
  • The best current use of the Powerwall? “…as a supplement for peak usage periods seems to be one of the best applications of this system, whereas using it as a back up battery just for an emergency situation probably isn’t the best use of the unit considering the price point.”
  • If the price point can drop 50 percent, then adoption could be widespread, especially if utilities are reluctant to allow or adopt policies that encourage businesses and homeowners to generate their own power through such methods as solar.
  • A “glitch” exists between the requirements in the National Electrical Code (NEC) and the voltage of the Powerwall. The code says that if you have batteries, they can’t exceed 48 volts, but the operating voltage of the Powerwall is between 300-450 volts. This means that either the NEC will have to change or the Powerwall.

Tesla might be the most recognizable name in the battery storage field, but there will be a lot of competition, and perhaps more importantly, a lot of research and development over the next several years. As battery competition and adoption increases, prices will drop and become more affordable for the average homeowner.

A&R Solar has installed several battery backup systems for customers who would rather not wait for the pricing or technology to improve. If you are interested in learning more, give us a call.

Harbor History Museum Solar
October 22, 2015 | Jen Olson

A&R Solar wrapped up installation of a unique community solar project in Gig Harbor.

The 60 kW system is installed on the Harbor History Museum, a nonprofit that houses the history of the Gig Harbor Peninsula and serves as a community gathering place.

Many community solar projects are ground mounted systems, making the museum project unique. The 216 Made-in-Washington Itek solar panels sit atop the large roof.

Peninsula Light customers are able to purchase units at $100 each. PenLight anticipates that each unit could provide a return of $33 per unit per year, based on state incentives, meaning each customer could recoup their investment by the end of the third year. There are 1,850 units available, and the deadline to sign up is November 6th.

Community solar allows people to participate in solar who want renewable energy but may not have the money to purchase a system of their own. It also makes it possible for those who rent or do not have a suitable location to go solar.

The project is a partnership among PenLight, the museum, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. A&R Solar is the solar contractor.

Sign up for the project on the PenLight website.