Become Energy Independent in 90 Days or Less.
Become Energy Independent in 90 Days or Less: Discussing the Solar Project Timeline.
So you’re thinking about going solar. You’re making a responsible decision and a smart investment into your future savings. Though you may ask yourself, what’s involved in the solar process? We’re breaking down the solar project timeline, week by week. It’s our goal to give prospective buyers a little insight as to what goes on, and how long it takes to start producing your own energy.
Week 1: Comparing Quotes & Selecting the Right Company
Although this is often the shortest step in the process, comparing solar quotes is by far the most important. Choosing the right company can make a huge difference in cost, quality of equipment, system size, and much more. You’ll want to meet with multiple companies to make sure you’re getting the most value for your money. Depending on where you’re at in the research process, your sales consultant may spend 30 minutes to an hour going over your options. It is important we ask you about your lifestyle and usage to correctly size a system customized to the needs of your household.
If you’re just calling for a quick price comparison, that may be a much shorter call (10-20 minutes). We do not ask that you provide us with the name of the competitor or the price, only what they have offered you. We then give a quick “apples to apples” quote based on our network contractor’s special pricing. At the end of the process, you should fully understand what your system will produce, why it will benefit you, and what it will cost.
Week 2: Choosing the Best Financing Option
Your solar project must be funded before it reaches the permitting stage, which is about two weeks after you’ve signed your contract. It is the salesman’s job to break down the costs and discuss all your solar financing options with you during the initial consultation. If you don’t have the cash to purchase your system outright, solar loans are a great solution.
Most solar loans are $0 down, with no upfront costs and provide immediate savings. Owning your system means you not only reduce your monthly energy cost, but earn a much higher return on your investment down the road, Solar loans have a similar structure to any other home improvement or auto loan. They include a principal amount, annual interest rate, monthly payment requirements, and a payback period. Once funding for your solar is approved, the project manager can move forward and apply for your project permit.
Week 3: Site Walk
The site walk or “evaluation” will be scheduled soon after your contract is signed. It is an important part of the planning stage because it allows you to meet your installing contractor face to face while they review the proposed layout for your system. The technician will also survey your property to ensure there are no issues with shading, electrical limitations, inspect quality of the roof or terrain (for ground mounts), and answer any questions you may have about the installation process. This is a great time to openly discuss your goals for the project directly with the contractor. Any changes that need to be made to the initial layout will be accommodated before the plans are sent to the building department for approval.
Weeks 4-7: Submitting Plans & Applying for Permit
Before your project manager can schedule your install date, he or she will need to apply for a permit with the local building department. This gives the contractor permission from the city to start your solar installation. Since permitting can often be long and complicated, it is smart for your solar provider to start the process early in the project.
The area in which you reside can play a huge role in how long the application process will take and what the necessary requirements are. Depending on the jurisdiction (which part of the valley you live in), this procedure can take anywhere from two to eight weeks. Your project manager will be responsible for working with the contractor to streamline the process, handle all the necessary paperwork and keep you updated you along the way.
Week 8: Solar Installation
So the big day has finally arrived. The proper expectations have been set by your project manager as far as what is required of you, how long it may take, and when the crew will arrive. Installing the system is usually the shortest part of the entire process. It typically only takes a day or two to complete, but certain complications with the system layout may lengthen the process.
Once the install crew arrives at your home, they will start by inspecting the arrays within project area of your roof to ensure shingles are secure for install. Next, they will need to deal with all electrical wiring, connecting your solar system to the main electrical panel. Solar panel racking is then installed by securing the structure mounting your panels to your home’s roof. These structures support your panels and the angle they are placed at, ensuring you get maximum sun exposure. Your solar installation is then completed by connecting your solar inverter to the system itself, allowing the DC energy to be converted to usable AC energy that is fed to the grid.
Week 8-10: City Inspection
Before the interconnection process can start, a final inspection of your newly installed system must be performed. Although the system inspection itself will be completed within a couple hours, scheduling it can take up to three weeks. A crew member of your solar contracting company will guide a representative from your city’s planning & zoning commission and utility company through a series of checkpoints. This is to ensure everything was installed correctly, and to code with the building regulations that were proposed in the initial plans. Once you pass inspection and get the “green light” so to speak, you can turn your system on. Although your system is installed, PG&E does not recognize the system until they approve your NEM application.
Weeks 10-15: System Interconnection
Like most solar customers your system is probably not “off-grid”, meaning you will need to undergo the interconnection process. Once your system is grid-tied, any excess power your solar produces will be fed back to the grid. A formal approval must be given by your utility provider in order to register you system’s production. Just like the city’s physical inspection of the system itself, the utility provider performs their own verification process. They need to ensure all technical and administrative requirements are met before your application is approved and you start racking up credits for your solar power.
The interconnection process happens in two parts: filing the required paperwork and the installation of a bi-directional meter on your property. Because of the sheer volume of solar projects in the Central Valley area, these together can take anywhere from 2-5 weeks. Like some of the other stages in your project, the solar company has no control over the timeline. Customers often get frustrated at this time because their system is installed, they’ve been approved by the city and they think that they can start producing power because their system is technically working. Patience is key, as you will likely starting see savings add up as soon as you are connected.
So there you have it, there is much more to “going solar” than one might expect. That is why it is so important to choose the right company to facilitate it and guide you through each step. The frustration most customers have with the timeline usually lies with permitting and interconnection, because delays are out of the solar provider’s hands. All things considered, 2 to 3 months isn’t really very long when you look at the big picture. You will be producing solar power for more than 25 years, and in that time will be accumulating tens of thousands of dollars in savings. Just like with any big investment, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying from the right company so that the level of customer service will follow you long after installation is completed.
If you’re wondering how long it’ll take to make your money back on your system, check out our article on Calculating Your Solar Payback Period here —> http://www.solarnegotiators.com/blog/solar-payback-period/
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