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Shorter Days and Solar Production: 2 Things You Need to Know

by Sandie Nguyen

Winter is right around the corner, and the last thing we want our customers to worry about when getting ready for shorter days and suiting up for the cooler days is their solar.

Homebuilders, here are a few tips to ensure your homebuyers are still getting enough power with their SunStreet solar systems, even when the sun isn’t shining as much as it does in the summer months.

Lower Solar Production Days and the Impact on Utility Bills

With winter comes chilly weather and fewer hours of available sunlight. And it’s no secret that this will influence PV performance.

As a homebuilder, you might be wondering: “Won’t this cause our homebuyers to get high electricity bills all winter long when their solar production is reduced and their usage is increased due to more time spent at home?”

The answer is: not necessarily. And this is where solar design and Net Energy Metering (NEM) come into play.

1.    Solar Design

The effects of lower solar production during the winter can be mitigated through correct system design, sizing, and Net Energy Metering (NEM).

At SunStreet, we design rooftop solar systems specific to each home in your new home community. Taking into account many different variables including roof space, square footage, estimated occupants, and local climate conditions, our engineering experts optimize the panel layout and estimate the necessary production of energy per home.

Want to learn more about this process? Here’s a helpful and fun blog post for you to dive in!

2.  Net Metering

Generally speaking, net metering (also known as net energy metering or NEM) is a solar incentive that credits homeowners for the electricity they add to the grid.[1] When their panels generate more energy than they need, the energy is sent to the grid in exchange for credits. Then, at night or other times when their solar panels are producing less energy than the home is using, they can draw energy back from the grid and use these credits to offset the cost of that energy.

Specific NEM policies vary and Homeowners can check the specific net metering eligibility requirements for their state and utility by visiting public utility or service commission and utility websites for the most up-to-date information. If net metering is set to expire after a certain date in their area, we encourage them to take note of that as well as what policy or policies are slated to replace it.  Here’s a great video from Southern California Edison explaining NEM and how enrolling in a Time-of-Use (TOU) rate can help solar homeowners earn credit on their energy bill.

When sizing the system, SunStreet always looks at the year-round electricity usage so that homeowners can count on their over-production during the summer – helping them carry through the shorter, darker cooler days. This is all thanks to our ability to net meter with the utility companies!

So, to help you have a better look at how we establish and maintain strong relationships with utilities nationwide, we checked in with  SunStreet’s Irvine-based Associate, Todd Farhart, Utility Relations Manager.

Solar Spotlight: Todd Farhat

solar production spotlight

You’re a member of several state interconnections work groups. How did you get started /what inspired you to work in the energy industry?

I always felt that there was a better way to generate electricity and understood that solar could be the perfect alternative to fossil fuel. Over 13 years ago, I began volunteering to install solar PV on homes for low income households, which led to me doing less building construction and more residential rooftop solar.

Today, I maintain active building, electrical and solar state licenses. In addition to that, I carry a PV certification from North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). I’m also a member of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) Rule 21 Interconnection work group, investor-owned utilities Interconnection Discussion Forum (IFD), as well as several of the industry stakeholders’ solar policy committees.

You work closely with the SunStreet Interconnections Team. In addition to monitoring changes in utilities rates, tariffs, rebates, and incentives, what is your most unique focus as the Utility Manager at SunStreet?

As a Utility Manager, I deal with all things utility. Because my position is somewhat unique to SunStreet, my focus is on utility policies and the impact these policies might have on our solar customers. I build relationships with key utility personnel and my job is complete when our customers are getting the most out of their solar systems, as it relates to the utility.

Since California is the first state to mandate solar, what are some changes you have noticed in the solar interconnection process in California over the years?

Since the implementation of the California solar mandate, there has been a concerted effort by the state, utilities, and stakeholders to streamline the interconnection process. And SunStreet has been instrumental in driving a friendly process, specific to new home construction.

As a solar homeowner, it’s helpful to understand what the system will output over the course of the four seasons. Once the days start to get shorter, solar production can be affected. Do you have any advice or tips for SunStreet customers who get their systems interconnected in the upcoming months?

With the change of both seasons and sunny hours of the day, we should all be especially mindful of the times we use electricity.

Today, utility companies penalize high electrical usage during high demand hours, namely early to mid-evening during weekdays. Therefore, with shorter winter days and less exposure to the Sun, solar production tends to be less especially later in the day. In order to save money and use more solar power and less utility power, homeowners should use only essential appliances and try pre-conditioning living spaces. Most importantly, they should limit usage during high demand hours which are typically between 4 PM and 9 PM.

 

Solar Energy: the Right Choice All Year Round

Since 2014, SunStreet has generated over 529 GWh of energy. We’re proud to be a part of the #2MillionSolarStrong movement that helps America’s communities increasingly go solar. Homebuilders, we are confident that we can help your new home communities harness sustainable power from the Sun, not just in the winter – but for the rest of your year.

We’re committed to making it easier for you to add solar directly to your new home construction process. To learn more, click here to contact us or quickly browse through the SunStreet Blog.

[1] https://www.seia.org/initiatives/net-metering

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