Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much power can I expect to get from a solar installation on my home?
This depends on the size of your installation (how many panels) and the amount of sunlight it receives. Most systems provide 25 to 100 percent of a home’s needs, depending on the amount of electricity you use. When you enroll in the Solar Chautauqua Campaign, you’ll receive a free on-site evaluation from a solar installer to determine site feasibility and the optimum size for your needs.
2. How much will it cost to install?
Typical home systems cost $15,000-$21,000 before reductions and rebates. With the lower prices Solar Chautauqua negotiates plus an incentive from NYSERDA, a 25% NYS income tax rebate, and the 30% Federal income tax rebate, the typical homeowner will pay about $5,000-$8,000. (The NY State rebate has a limit of $5,000, and can be used over five years; the Federal rebate is 30% of whatever the full price is.)
3. Should I buy or lease a system?
If you can’t afford to purchase a solar system – even after the State and Federal tax rebates and other discounts or inexpensive loans – then leasing is a good option, but you’re likely to pay more over the life of a 20-year contract than if you buy. Most contracts have an “escalation schedule” whereby your payments to the leaser go up over time. Check that your contract makes maintenance and any repairs to the system or your roof the responsibility of the leasing company.
4. If I buy my system, how long will it take me to recover my investment through savings on my electric bill?
This depends on the size and cost of your system and the amount of your previous electric bills, but on average homeowners recover their investment in six years.
5. If I lease a system and sell my house before the lease is up, can I transfer the lease to the new owner?
That’s usually possible. Alternatively, you could buy out the lease and add its cost to the price of your house.
6. What if my roof is too shady for panels? Is there some way I can still benefit from solar power?
You have at least two possibilities. One is to put a horizontal or vertical array (on a pole or ground mount) in a sunny spot on your property. Another is to subscribe to a communal array located in a sunny place somewhere else. Also keep in mind that solar panels can be installed on garages, barns, or other outbuildings if they are connected to your home’s electrical system.
7. Are there communal arrays in my area?
Several local landowners are willing to host such an array. Specific information will be posted as it becomes available; look on our Shared Solar page.
8. Will I get power from my panels on cloudy or rainy days?
You’ll get less than on sunny days, but usually still an appreciable amount.
9. Will panels harm my roof?
Properly installed, they will not. In fact, they tend to protect the roofing materials they cover. When a roof does need repair or replacement, the solar panels will need to be removed temporarily by a certified installer; for this reason, it is wise to make any necessary repairs to an old roof prior to installing panels.
10. Will hail, lightning, and snow damage solar panels? Will I have to clear snow off them?
Good quality solar panels have impact-resistant, tempered glass that can take a beating without damage. But you might want to be sure that your homeowner’s insurance covers repairs or replacement in case of major accidents. Snow soon slides or melts off panels. Snow cover will somewhat reduce electricity production, but usually not enough to warrant snow removal. Snow can be safely removed with a broom or brush if desired.
11. Do I have to be connected to the electric grid? Can I use my solar power during a power outage?
To benefit from the NYSERDA incentive and the Solar Chautauqua negotiated discount, installations need to be grid-connected. If you want to be able to use your system during a power outage, you would need to augment it with batteries. If you are off the grid, you certainly can use solar panels for electricity generation, but you would need a large enough system to meet all of your home’s needs, and you would have to install storage batteries to supply your needs at night and during periods of lower production, such as winter. Both Tesla and Daimler AG currently produce storage batteries, at a cost of $3,000-$5,000 before installation. Power outages in our region have not been frequent or prolonged, so if your system is grid-connected, consider whether investing in storage batteries makes sense for you.
12. If I go solar, will I be hurting the prospects of NRG?
No. In addition to their corporate investment in renewable energy, NRG has made a clear statement of support for individual and community solar power production. In response to a state request for comment on the new NYSERDA shared renewables program, NRG made the following assertions:
“NRG supports clean energy resources and technologies critical to our nation’s transition to a sustainable, low-carbon society.”
“NRG urges the Commission to adopt a community shared renewable program expeditiously.”