Frequently asked questions
How do solar photovoltaic (PV) systems work?
The main components of solar PV system are solar panels, inverters, racking for mounting the panels on the roof and electrical wiring. Solar panels convert the energy of the sun to direct current (DC) electricity. Then the inverter converts the DC electricity to usable alternating current (AC) electricity. This AC electricity is first consumed by your business or home and any excess will be sent back to the electric grid for a credit. Battery storage can be added if the system owner would like the system to provide backup/emergency power during a utility outage or prefers to store all extra energy instead of sending it back into the utility grid.
What is a grid-tied solar system?
In a grid-tied solar system, the PV system is connected to the electrical grid (wires from the local electric power company). This architecture has several advantages. Solar energy production is quite variable depending on time of day and weather conditions and will not produce electricity 24/7. By tying the PV system to the electrical grid, there is always a source for the electricity that your building or home requires. When the PV system is producing power, your building will consume this power first. Any additional electricity that is required will be supplied by the grid, and any surplus electricity from the PV system can be fed back into the grid for a utility credit. Therefore, a grid-tied PV system is fully backed up by the grid, and the grid becomes a sort of “virtual battery” which “stores” excess PV production in the form of a utility bill credit without the need for local battery storage. In USA, 98% of PV systems are grid-tied.
What is Net Metering?
Most utilities support “Net Metering”, meaning that the consumer’s electrical service will use a bi-directional electric meter and the consumer will only be charged for the “Net” electricity that is consumed from the grid, i.e. Total Consumed – Total Provided back to grid. In many cases excess solar generation going back to the grid is credited at the consumer’s retail price, so if the solar system owner generates more electricity than they consume in a given month, they will receive a credit for that excess using the retail rate.
Will my PV solar system power my home or business in the event of an electric utility outage?
Backup/emergency power can be provided by the PV system if it was designed with battery storage and inverters that can manage the batteries and transfer between grid power and stored power. However, such systems are more costly and complex than basic grid-tied systems, so today most PV systems do not have those extra elements and therefore will not provide backup power during a utility outage. Apadana will design a system that meets your objectives, from simple grid-tied, to battery-backed, or even fully off-grid.
What are the benefits of solar energy (financial & environmental)?
Financial: Reduce or eliminate your net annual electricity bills, effectively locking in favorable electricity costs for decades and avoiding the utility’s 3-5% annual inflation, while increasing your property value without escalating your property taxes.
Environmental: Renewable solar energy decreases greenhouse gas emissions and other pollution from utility fossil-fuel or nuclear power plants. Ultimately this translates into a healthier environment and reduced impact on climate change. The positive impact of local solar electricity generation is amplified because it also saves energy wasted in generation and transmission between the utility’s generating facility and your business or home.
Will solar panels work in cloudy or snowy weather?
Solar panels generate the most electricity on sunny days. They will work in cloudy weather, however, with less power output depending on the level of light available. Solar panels cannot efficiently produce energy if they are obstructed by snow, leaves, or other soiling. However, the dark panels readily warm in sunlight and typically gravity and Mother Nature will clear snow or soiling without human intervention.
Does the solar system have to be located on my roof?
Not at all. Rooftop solar is the most common approach for buildings and homes in urban and suburban areas because roofs tend to be the best available unshaded real estate for solar panels. But ground-mounting is also common when there is space available, and carports are another great option for use in parking areas. Apadana will engineer a mounting approach that works for your unique circumstances.
Is my roof suitable for installing solar systems?
South-facing pitched or flat roofs with minimal shade are ideal for installing solar systems. East and west unshaded pitched roofs also can work well. Most roof structures have plenty of capacity to support the modest weight of the solar panels and racking, but every roof will be evaluated for such suitability during the project planning.
Is it necessary to replace the roof before installing the solar system?
Removing and reinstalling the solar system would be costly. The expected life of a solar system is 25 to 40 years, similar to the lifespan of many roofing systems. Therefore, it is best to install solar onto relatively new roofs and/or roofs that are unlikely to require replacement for many years. Apadana will pre-screen your roof and review whether replacement is recommended before proceeding with your solar installation. We can manage your re-roofing project for you as part of the overall solar installation.
Will installing a solar array on my roof invalidate my roofing warranty?
No, it should not invalidate your warranty. This question is most often poised for building owners with flat roofs. The solar racking for flat roofs are typically ballasted systems, meaning that no penetrations are made into the roof surface, so no leak points are introduced. Furthermore, these racking systems rest on slip sheets made from the same material as the underlying roof membrane, so there is no direct contact between the racking structure and the original roof membrane. If any doubt still exists, we will collaborate with your roofer to ensure that the roof warranty is unaffected by the solar installation.
Are northern latitudes like Minnesota good for solar production?
Absolutely! Solar panels work better in cold and sunny weather rather than hot and cloudy days. Owners of unshaded solar panels near Minneapolis can expect to generate ~1,200kWh per year for every 1kW (about ~3 panels) of solar panel capacity that they install, based on over 40 years of averaged meteorological data. Given low system costs from Apadana, current and future utility electric rates, clean energy incentives, and tax credits available for solar projects, solar in Minnesota can have very short payback periods and then deliver “free” electricity and value to owners for decades to come.
What rebates and incentives are available for solar systems?
The Federal Government currently offers a 30% tax credit (ITC) for the full installed cost of the solar system. This benefit is available to you no matter where you live in the US and is a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, much better than a tax deduction. The ITC will begin sunsetting after 2019, and will disappear completely for residential owners after 2021.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) provides information on regional and local programs that offer incentives for renewable distributed generation such as solar energy. Apadana will ensure all available incentives are secured in order to minimize the cost of your system and maximize the return on your investment.
What is the cost of the system?
Apadana offers the most affordable solar systems available, providing the fastest financial return on your investment. Click “Request a Quote” button at the top of the page to provide a little background information about your property location, electricity utility and consumption, and solar objectives, and we will provide a tailored preliminary proposal for your solar project at no cost to you. You can also enter your address into the Google Sunroof site to get a basic view of the solar opportunity of your roof, keeping in mind that Apadana will be much more cost competitive than the retail pricing and financials indicated by Google. We can also install your system on ground-mounts or carports as well, if one of those mounting methods would work better on your property.
How can I finance my solar project?
If you would prefer to finance your solar project, there are several good options available. Commercial property owners can take advantage of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs including MinnPACE in Minnesota at very attractive rates. Affinity Plus and Hiway Credit Unions have an excellent low-cost solar financing program called "CU-Green". The Center for Energy and Environment (CEE) offers several excellent programs for residential and commercial solar systems. Homeowners may get the very best rates and terms via a home equity loan or a home equity line-of-credit (HELOC) through their mortgage lender, bank, or credit union. Usually the favorable cash flow generated by savings on electric bills, the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), utility incentives, and (for business owners) depreciation tax benefits will allow the solar system to pay for itself during the loan payoff period.
What does "Apadana" mean?
The Apadana was the name of the Great Hall of the palace in ancient Persepolis. It was the "gateway" for ancient nations where their dignitaries were received by Darius the Great. This provided the inspiration for us to take the Apadana name for our LED lighting business, and later our solar business, symbolizing that our sustainable and environmentally responsible solutions represent the "Gateway to the Future".