Faqs

Questions

General

How do I save money by adding solar to my farm/business/house?

NES offers several ways to save money with solar energy.

Own your personal array – With $0 upfront cost, NES will design, install and maintain a solar array on your roof or property. All risks of production, maintenance and warranty is shouldered by NES. Your participation comes with NO RISK. You own your own your solar array and use the energy it produces, selling excess to your utility thereby lowering or eliminating monthly bills.

Own a community solar garden (CSG) – Depending on your tax liabilities, owning your own CSG may be the most financially beneficial way to go solar. Also with $0 upfront costs, NES will design, install and maintain a solar array on your roof or property. You will receive your power at a low rate (set by you) and collect payments from subscribers for their use of your power.

Sell or lease your land – NES will buy or lease your suitable land on which to build an NES-owned community solar garden. You can then also benefit from the CSG as a subscriber.

Subscribe to a Community Solar Garden (CSG) – Your electricity meter continues to run as it does now, but as a subscriber to a local CSG you will immediately begin getting credits to you Xcel bill to offset you electricity costs. With NES gardens you will save on your electricity bill.

What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

Solar power, like other renewable energy resources, has many environmental and health benefits. Going solar reduces greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to climate change, and also results in fewer air pollutants like sulfur dioxide and particulate matter, which can cause health problems.

What happens if I sell my solar house/farm?

If you own your solar energy system, your solar house will sell at a premium: studies have shown that solar increases property values. We’d expect to see the same value added with businesses as well, because the costs associated with running the business are lower when solar is installed.

Regulatory

What is net metering?

Net metering is a policy that allows customers to feed solar electricity into the grid when they don’t need the power, and pull it back off the grid when they do need it.

Customers get credited (at the retail rate) for what they produce, and only pay their utility for their net consumption. Net metering gives solar owners peace of mind that they don’t have to always use the electricity the instant it is generated by their solar system.

What are the net metering rules in Minnesota?

Customers with 1,000 kilowatts (kW) in capacity at investor-owned utilities like Xcel, and less than 40 kW in capacity at municipal utilities and electric cooperatives, are eligible for net metering. Investor-owned utilities may require customers with a net-metered facility of 40 kW or greater to limit total generation capacity to 120% of the customer’s annual demand.

What solar energy rebates and incentives are available?

Solar rebates and incentives vary depending on where you live. The most significant is the 30-percent federal investment tax credit (ITC), which allows you to deduct 30 percent of the cost of your solar energy system from your taxes. Some states offer additional tax credits, and certain municipalities and utilities also offer cash rebates or other incentives. Business and farm owners can depreciate the solar system to an amount nearly equal to the ITC value.

Technical

How do solar photovoltaic (PV) panels work?

Solar panels absorb the sun’s energy throughout the day and convert it into direct current (DC) electricity. Most homes and businesses run on alternating current (AC) electricity, so the DC electricity is then passed through an inverter to convert it to usable AC electricity. At that point, you either use the electricity in your house or send it back to the electric grid.

Do my solar panels produce power when the sun isn’t shining?

The amount of power your solar energy system can generate is dependent on sunlight. As a result, your solar panels will produce slightly less energy when the weather is cloudy, and no energy at night. However, because of high electricity costs and financial incentives, solar is a smart decision even if you live in a cloudy city.

What happens if there is snow on solar panels?

Solar panels convert sunshine into power, so if your panels are covered in snow they can’t produce electricity. Snow generally isn’t heavy enough to cause structural issues with your panels, and since most panels are tilted at an angle the snow will slide off. If snow does accumulate, your panels are easy to clean.

Is solar a viable option in cold climates?

Yes. A general rule of thumb is that if your solar panels can see the sun (not covered with snow), the sun can see your solar panels and they can produce electricity. In fact, given equal sunlight, a solar panel on a cold day will out- produce a solar panel on a hot day.

Because of seasonal changes, there is less sunlight in the winter, so your solar system output will change monthly. The list below shows a monthly breakdown of your total output. Summer months generally produce around twice as much as winter months.

Solar Monthly Distribution% (months add up to 100% = total annual kwh)

  • January – 5%
  • February – 8%
  • March – 9%
  • April – 10%
  • May – 10%
  • June – 11%
  • July – 11%
  • August – 10%
  • September – 9%
  • October – 7%
  • November – 5%
  • December – 5%

Do I need to install solar batteries with my solar power system?

Solar power systems that include solar batteries, known as solar-plus-storage, are increasingly popular, but can be pricey. Luckily, batteries are not necessary for most solar homeowners. As long as you are connected to the grid, your system does not need a battery; excess power goes back into the grid, and you can draw from the grid if you need more electricity than your panels can generate.

Can I go off the grid with solar panels?

When you install solar panels on your property, you will still be connected to the grid. This allows you to draw from the grid when your system is not producing all of the power that you need, and send power back to the grid when you produce more than you use. It is possible to go off the grid with a solar energy system that includes battery storage, but it will cost significantly more and is unnecessary for the majority of homeowners.

Will I still receive an electric bill if I have solar panels?

Unless your solar energy system includes battery storage and you are fully off the grid, you will still receive a bill from your utility. However, you can dramatically reduce your bill, or even cut the amount you owe to $0, with a solar panel system that matches your energy use.

Do solar panels work in a blackout?

If your solar panel system is connected to the grid, it will shut off in the event of a blackout. This is to prevent emergency responders and electricity utility repair-people from being injured by your panels sending power back to the grid.

How much will solar-panel maintenance cost?

Nothing. NES will take care of all operation and maintenance required by your system. (The systems are made of durable tempered glass and require little to no maintenance for the 25 to 35 years that they will generate power).

Is my roof suitable for solar panels?

Southerly-facing roofs with little to no shade and enough space to fit a solar panel system are ideal for installing solar. However, in many cases there are workarounds if your home doesn’t have the ideal solar roof. If your roof does not have enough space, NES will work with you to create a ground-mounted system.

Do I need to replace my roof before installing solar?

Solar energy systems can last for 25 to 35 years, and it can be costly to remove and reinstall them if you need to replace your roof. If your roof will need to be repaired or replaced in the near term, you should complete that project before installing your solar array.

What size solar energy system should I get?

The size of your solar energy system will depend on how much electricity you use on a monthly basis, as well as the weather conditions where you live. We work with you, to gain an understanding of your average usage as well as your ability to take advantage of the tax incentives, to develop your unique solar energy system.

How long will my solar power system last?

The key components are warrantied for 20+ year, with 25 years for modules and 20 years for inverters. There are no moving parts except a small fan in the inverter. Our modules withstand a strike from a 1’’ steel ball at 50mph and are capable of withstanding snow, wind, and hail.

How many solar panels do I need to offset my electricity consumption?

The number of solar panels required will depend on how much electricity you consume, what percentage of this electricity is offset, and the available “solar resource” at your site. A great resource for determining system size, annual production, and providing a rough estimate of system cost and savings for your given location is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) PV Watts calculator.

Community Solar Gardens

What is a community solar garden?

A Community Solar Garden (CSG) is a large solar electric array which generates electricity-bill credits for participating subscribers. It is located off site from the customer’s location, so the electricity goes into the utility’s grid, and the utility compensates the customer with a bill credit. When you subscribe to a CSG, you will immediately cut your electricity costs.

What is a subscription to a Community Solar Garden?

A subscription lets you help produce local solar electricity without putting panels on your property. A subscription is like a service contract, rather than actual ownership of the solar array. When you subscribe, each month your utility will give you a credit on your bill for the electricity generated by your portion of the community solar garden (CSG). You then pay a portion of those credits to NES for building, maintaining, and monitoring your CSG.

Can I join?

Any Minnesotan with an Xcel Energy electricity account can join; including renters, homeowners, businesses, and nonprofits. You must be in the same or a contiguous county to the CSG. We expect to have plenty of gardens serving the Twin Cities metro area, as well as other parts of Minnesota. To join with no up-front cost, subscribers need a FICO score of greater than 680.

Definitions

alternating current (AC) — A type of electrical current, the direction of which is reversed at regular intervals or cycles. In the United States, the standard is 120 reversals or 60 cycles per second. Electricity transmission networks use AC because voltage can be controlled with relative ease.

ampere (amp) — A unit of electrical current or rate of flow of electrons. One volt across one ohm of resistance causes a current flow of one ampere.

angle of incidence — The angle that a ray of sun makes with a line perpendicular to the surface. For example, a surface that directly faces the sun has a solar angle of incidence of zero, but if the surface is parallel to the sun (for example, sunrise striking a horizontal rooftop), the angle of incidence is 90°.

annual solar savings — The annual solar savings of a solar building is the energy savings attributable to a solar feature relative to the energy requirements of a non-solar building.

array See photovoltaic (PV) array.

azimuth angle — The angle between true south and the point on the horizon directly below the sun.

Community Solar Garden (CSG) — Refers to a centrally-located solar photovoltaic (PV) system that provides electricity to participating subscribers.

conductor — The material through which electricity is transmitted, such as an electrical wire, or transmission or distribution line.

current — See electric current.

direct current (DC) — A type of electricity transmission and distribution by which electricity flows in one direction through the conductor, usually relatively low voltage and high current. To be used for typical 120 volt or 220-volt household appliances, DC must be converted to alternating current, its opposite.

distributed generation — DG refers to electricity that is produced at or near the point where it is used.  A distributed solar energy generation system can be located on rooftops or can be ground mounted, and is typically connected to the local utility.

distributed power — Generic term for any power supply located near the point where the power is used. Opposite of central power.

distributed systems — Systems that are installed at or near the location where the electricity is used, as opposed to central systems that supply electricity to grids. A residential photovoltaic system is a distributed system.

electric current — The flow of electrical energy (electricity) in a conductor, measured in amperes.

electrical grid — An integrated system of electricity distribution, usually covering a large area.

energy audit — A survey that shows how much energy used in a home, which helps find ways to use less energy.

fixed tilt array — A photovoltaic array set in at a fixed angle with respect to horizontal.

flat-plate array — A photovoltaic (PV) array that consists of non-concentrating PV modules.

flat-plate module — An arrangement of photovoltaic cells or material mounted on a rigid flat surface with the cells exposed freely to incoming sunlight.

grid — An integrated system of electricity distribution, usually covering a large area.

grid-connected system — A solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system in which the PV array acts like a central generating plant, supplying power to the grid.

grid-interactive system — Same as grid-connected system.

kilowatt (kW) — A standard unit of electrical power equal to 1000 watts, or to the energy consumption at a rate of 1000 joules per second.

kilowatt-hour (kWh) — 1,000 thousand watts acting over a period of one hour. The kWh is a unit of energy. 1 kWh=3600 kJ.

life — The period during which a system is capable of operating above a specified performance level.

life-cycle cost — The estimated cost of owning and operating a photovoltaic system for the period of its useful life.

load — The demand on an energy producing system; the energy consumption or requirement of a piece or group of equipment. Usually expressed in terms of amperes or watts in reference to electricity.

megawatt (MW) — 1,000 kilowatts, or 1 million watts; standard measure of electric power plant generating capacity.

megawatt-hour — 1,000 kilowatt-hours or 1 million watt-hours.

moduleSee photovoltaic (PV) module.

orientation — Placement with respect to the cardinal directions, N, S, E, W; azimuth is the measure of orientation from north.

panelSee photovoltaic (PV) panel.

photovoltaic (PV) array — An interconnected system of PV modules that function as a single electricity-producing unit. The modules are assembled as a discrete structure, with common support or mounting. In smaller systems, an array can consist of a single module.

photovoltaic (PV) cell — The smallest semiconductor element within a PV module to perform the immediate conversion of light into electrical energy (direct current voltage and current). Also called a solar cell.

photovoltaic (PV) module — The smallest environmentally protected, essentially planar assembly of solar cells and ancillary parts, such as interconnections, terminals, (and protective devices such as diodes) intended to generate direct current power under unconcentrated sunlight. The structural (load carrying) member of a module can either be the top layer (superstrate) or the back layer (substrate).photovoltaic (PV) panel — often used interchangeably with PV module (especially in one-module systems), but more accurately used to refer to a physically connected collection of modules (i.e., a laminate string of modules used to achieve a required voltage and current).

photovoltaic (PV) panel — often used interchangeably with PV module (especially in one-module systems), but more accurately used to refer to a physically connected collection of modules (i.e., a laminate string of modules used to achieve a required voltage and current).

photovoltaic (PV) system — A complete set of components for converting sunlight into electricity by the photovoltaic process, including the array and balance of system components.

photovoltaic-thermal (PV/T) system — A photovoltaic system that, in addition to converting sunlight into electricity, collects the residual heat energy and delivers both heat and electricity in usable form. Also called a total energy system or solar thermal system.

power — The amount of electrical energy available for doing work, measured in horsepower, Watts, or Btu per hour.

PV — See photovoltaic(s).

solar cell — See photovoltaic (PV) cell.

solar energy — Electromagnetic energy transmitted from the sun (solar radiation). The amount that reaches the earth is equal to one billionth of total solar energy generated, or the equivalent of about 420 trillion kilowatt-hours.

solar panel See photovoltaic (PV) panel.

tilt angle — The angle at which a photovoltaic array is set to face the sun relative to a horizontal position. The tilt angle can be set or adjusted to maximize seasonal or annual energy collection.

tracking array — A photovoltaic (PV) array that follows the path of the sun to maximize the solar radiation incident on the PV surface. The two most common orientations are (1) one axis where the array tracks the sun east to west and (2) two-axis tracking where the array points directly at the sun at all times. Tracking arrays use both the direct and diffuse sunlight. Two-axis tracking arrays capture the maximum possible daily energy.

volt (V) — A unit of electrical force equal to that amount of electromotive force that will cause a steady current of one ampere to flow through a resistance of one ohm.

voltage — The amount of electromotive force, measured in volts, that exists between two points.

watt — The rate of energy transfer equivalent to one ampere under an electrical pressure of one volt. One watt equals 1/746 horsepower, or one joule per second. It is the product of voltage and current(amperage).

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