If you’re considering solar power, your electric cooperative is here to help. As a local energy partner, electric cooperatives are working with members to help them reach their energy goals. From increasing energy efficiency to interconnecting home solar panels, your co-op can help you find the facts you need to navigate the decision-making process. Click here to find your local co-op and connect with a local energy adviser.
How does home solar really work?
Whether you are interested in mounting solar panels to your roof or would like to add ground-mounted solar to your property, the sunlight-to-electricity conversion process works the same:
- 1. During daylight hours on low-cloud days, sunlight will shine on your panels. These panels are often called photovoltaic or PV panels because they support the photovoltaic process of absorbing and converting light to electricity.
2. The newly created electricity must be converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), which is the kind of current used in the United States because it can be “stepped up” to support traveling long distances and “stepped down” to an appropriate voltage for household appliances. The conversion to alternating current occurs in a device called an inverter.
3. In most cases, the newly formed alternating current runs through your home’s electrical panel and powers some of your home energy needs. If your home needs more energy than the solar panels can provide, you will draw metered power from the grid, just as you would have before installing panels.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’m interested in home solar. What’s the first step I should take?
Whether you’re just getting started or have thoroughly researched solar energy, a great first step is connecting with your local co-op. They can help you gain a deeper understanding of your home energy use and review your energy savings goals – important consideration in determining whether solar is right for you.
Your co-op can also provide you with all the information you need about rates and interconnection requirements so you can have an informed discussion with a solar installer. There are more than 100 electric utilities in North Carolina, and sometimes solar installers might miss facts and details specific to your co-op. The installer will need the correct information to provide you with an accurate financial overview.
Unfortunately, we’ve seen instances in our communities where co-op members have been misled and misinformed because of inaccurate information. Your co-op is here to be your energy partner throughout the process, helping you to arrive at a decision right for your home and personal goals.
Another thing we always recommend is to improve the energy efficiency of your home. A more efficient home stretches your energy dollar further, and you’ll recover the expense of your solar investment more quickly.
Ground-mounted, rooftop or community solar – which is right for me?
Ground-mounted and rooftop solar are both home solar solutions, and their difference are highlighted below for your consideration.
- Can place the array in an optimal location.
- Easy to clean panels and make any needed repairs.
- Most commonly installed; does not require expansive amounts of land and eliminates risk of tampering.
- Typically, less expensive than ground-mounted arrays.
- Utilizes unused space.
If home solar isn’t the right fit for you, some co-ops offer an alternative called community solar. North Carolina’s electric cooperatives are leaders in community solar, which allows co-op members to purchase the energy output of an ideally located, shared solar garden. This approach removes the barrier of a significant upfront investment and makes solar an option for those who can’t install rooftop solar, like renters and people with highly shaded homes.
If I add home solar, will I save on my electric bill?
Depending upon the size and efficiency of your system and home, most homeowners see savings on their electric bill. Some solar companies make claims that you’ll never have to pay an electric bill again, and we caution this is simply not true. Your home requires electricity even if the sun is not shining, including at night and on cloudy days, which means you will continue to draw electricity from the grid and be billed monthly based on your home energy use and any flat facilities charges.
Co-op members with home solar are still connected to the grid. Because co-ops are an at-cost, not-for-profit energy provider, standard charges that all members pay to ensure the reliability and safety of the electric grid for all will stay on your bill, no matter how much energy your home may produce. Without this structure, grid costs would unintentionally be shifted to members for whom home solar is out of reach for financial, geographic or other reasons.
Can I make money by selling electricity back to my co-op?
This is a common question and a concept often clouded by misinformation. The best thing you can do is contact your local co-op, and an energy expert will help you determine if solar is the right fit for meeting your goals.
Each of North Carolina’s 26 electric cooperatives is independent and governed locally by an elected board of directors, which is responsible for setting and reviewing policies. This means policies may differ from neighboring co-ops because of local circumstances and needs.
Because policies vary, we encourage you to contact your co-op to make sure you have all the facts before purchasing a solar installation. Solar installation companies may not be familiar with your co-op’s policies, and we don’t want anyone to enter into an agreement with misinformation.
Can I calculate my potential savings?
Yes! The U.S. Department of Energy has a great tool for providing cost estimates on home solar installations. Please keep in mind this is an estimate only; you will have a more accurate financial picture by working with your co-op and a professional solar installation company.
Does my co-op support home solar?
Electric co-ops in North Carolina support all energy solutions that are a fit for our members, uphold the safety and reliability of our grid and improve the diversity of our resources while also ensuring that costs are not shifted to members without home solar panels. Our nation’s electric grid is shifting from a model where large, centrally located generating plants produce power and push it to the far corners of the grid to a model that incorporates more distributed energy resources and technologies, like home solar. This is an exciting time in our industry, and electric co-ops are committed to supporting members with facts and information so they can make a choice that is right for them. Contact your electric cooperative early in the process if you’re considering home solar, so your co-op can incorporate your new installation into its plans for managing electric traffic across the grid.
One of the current limitations of solar energy is that it must be used as soon as it is produced unless it is coupled with a battery storage system. Often, home solar systems are most productive in the middle of the day, when demand for electricity is typically low, which can create a mismatch between electricity coming onto the grid and what is necessary to supply our members. We are working with our members and power suppliers to manage this, and we firmly believe the value of home solar will increase as technology evolves and battery storage becomes more accessible.
Are there incentives to help me pay for home solar?
Yes, there is a federal solar tax credit that allows you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing solar from your federal taxes. There is no cap on its value, and the average savings is approximately $9,000 according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Please note, these incentives decrease in 2023 and 2024.
Considering solar? Connect with your co-op.
As a local energy partner, your co-op is here to support you in meeting your energy goals. Connect with your local co-op to learn more about how home solar can impact your energy use and get the accurate information you need to make informed decisions.