All the recent sunshine has people asking us about the possibilities of adding solar energy to their home. And why not? As an arctic region, we get more hours of sun than states in the Lower 48. Solar panels function more efficiently in cold, sunny climates, and most places in Alaska that experience a good amount of clear weather (including Southcentral and Interior Alaska where the vast majority of Alaskans live) have an excellent solar resource for seven to eight months of the year.
Below are some resources to help you determine whether solar photovoltaic (PV) is a good fit for you. Please note, this information is focused on residential homes on the electric grid.
- What is the First Step? Energy Efficiency First! Energy efficiency often provides the quickest payback on your investment. The most affordable watt is the one you don’t use. Do what you can to reduce your electricity consumption first so that you can then consider a smaller solar system. Learn more about energy efficiency in your home and how REAP’s Energy Efficiency Director is saving over $500 a year on energy.
- Do I have Enough Sun Exposure? Roof racks for solar panels are common, but racks can also be placed on the ground. Google Maps now has a feature called Project Sunroof that gives homeowners detailed information about how much solar power their roof can generate and how much money they could save on electricity costs by adding solar panels.
- Why Solar? In 2016, solar power represented the largest new source of electricity generating capacity in the United States. A prime driver for this growth is the speed at which solar prices are dropping; overall, prices have dropped 67% since 2011. Of course the biggest draw for solar energy is to cut your electric utility bills. Just how much depends on the size of your system and the amount of electricity you use each month. Read #5 below for more on what size you need. You can feel good about powering your home with the sun and reducing your environmental impact.
- Are Tax Breaks, Grants or Financing Available? A 30% tax credit for solar energy systems is available through December 31, 2019, ramping down to 22% in 2022. A 25% federal grant through the S. Department of Agriculture is also available for small businesses (remove?). For financing, look to your bank, solar installers or the Alternative Energy Conservation Loan Fund. Head to the DSIRE Website for a complete list of clean energy incentives and opportunities.
- Where Can I Find Solar Installers in Alaska? With any major home investment it is recommended that you get at least three quotes. Many installers provide an assessment for free. While we don’t endorse businesses, multiple solar installers are REAP members and can be found here (scroll down to ‘Installers’).
* The intention of this post is to provide resources and help you move onto the next step. This will not answer all of your questions.