Buffalo Solar Blog - 5 questions from 2018 Buffalo Home Show - Buffalo Solar Solutions - Buffalo NY

The 5 Most Popular Solar Power Questions from the 2018 Buffalo Home Show

On Sunday, the 2018 Buffalo Home Show came to a close. As we look back at the over 60 hours we spent there, we came up with a list of the five most popular questions folks had about solar energy in Western New York.

1. Do your solar systems have batteries?

We had lots of people ask us if our systems contained batteries, and if we used them to store solar energy. Here is how we look at it.

  • Solar batteries are not where they need to be for them to benefit consumers. They are basically car batteries, and we all know how expensive those are (and how long they last), so then multiply that by 20. Plus, NYSERDA will not incentivize the batteries at this current time, so it really drives up the cost of the system.
  • In places like Hawaii, they no longer have net metering laws, and the utility will not allow you to back-feed onto the grid, so batteries make a lot more sense. In the state of New York, the current net metering agreements make using the utility grid as your battery a better option. That being said, experts predict that in 2020 there will be a large advancement in the solar battery industry, as well as the hope of incentives on solar batteries from programs like NYSERDA.

The plus side on all of this for our customers: we plan ahead. Nearly all of the systems installed by Buffalo Solar Solutions—past, present, and future—would experience a seamless transition from net metering to a system with batteries.

2. What’s the deal with Tesla Tiles?

With all the things going on with the new Tesla/Solar City plant here in Buffalo, as well as the fact that the tiles are admittedly very attractive, we were not surprised about the popularity of this question.

  • To our understanding, one of the main reasons the solar tiles haven’t hit this market yet is that Tesla has hit a few bumps along the road in production. Reports have stated that the tiles are only producing at about 5 watts, and they need to be closer to 7 watts.
  • Another reason we haven’t seen them yet is that they are more or less designed for homes in the sunny “Hollywood, California” region. There are no studies on how these tiles will produce in this part of the country.

As this technology advances and other companies bring similar products to market, we hope to be able to offer these products to our customers. As always, we will do our research to make sure that the product makes sense for us and the customers we serve.

3. What incentives are in place for solar?

Lots of people wanted to know about the incentives that are in place for solar, and if they were still available. The short answer is . . . YES!

  • With New York State being as pro-solar as they are, we will continue to see the state-level incentives for the foreseeable future. However, NYSERDA will continue to be phased out. But even with NYSERDA, the last phase drop was supposed to drop to 30 cents per watt was changed at the last minute to 35 cents per watt. So they may still choose to add more money into the program.
  • The federal tax incentives are the biggest question. We still have them, and the industry will continue to see them for the next couple years. Whether or not more money will be added to this program is unknown at this time.

As always, we will remain up-to-date and keep our customers educated on all information regarding solar incentives.

4. How well do solar panels work with Buffalo winters?

It’s no secret that we have winters with lots of snow in Western New York. So if there is complete snow coverage on solar panels, how do they produce? Well, they don’t. But we have a solution for that problem, and it’s called net metering.

  • When a customer goes solar, they receive a new meter called a Bi-Directional Net Meter, which literally spins in two directions. During the day while the sun is out, the system is producing credits and putting them onto the grid, causing the meter to spin backwards. Then at night, you pull from those credits built during the day, causing your meter to spin forwards.
  • A similar idea is used during winter. In the summer months, a system can be expected to overproduce by about 33% of a home’s average usage. Then in the winter months, the same system can be expected to underproduce by about the same percentage. These offset each other over the course of a year.

When sizing our systems, we take into account 100 years of weather data for your specific zip code. Some places get more snow than others, so a system in a certain location may need an additional solar panel or two to make up for the snow.

5. How many solar panels does my house need?

Many people came to our booth asking how many solar panels they would need for a house with a size of so many square feet. This is one of the largest misconceptions of the solar industry. Although the size of your house plays a role in how big or small your system is, it really comes down to your usage.

  • We size your solar system based on how much energy you use, which can really vary the size of a system.
  • On your electric bill, there is either a chart or graph that spells out exactly how many kilowatt-hours you use in a year. This is what we must know to calculate the system size to best fit your needs.

Oversized and undersized systems will not benefit you. Just like Goldilocks, you want your system to fit just right!

These are just some of the questions we answered over the two weekends. One of the biggest problems we face in this industry is that many people have many misconceptions about renewables. And that’s why we were so excited! We love to see people asking questions and getting educated on how solar energy works!

Check out this fun video chronicling our 2018 Buffalo Home Show experience!

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