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General Solar FAQs

Q: What are solar energy pros and cons?

A: When considering solar energy pros and cons, it’s worth mentioning that it took four decades for America to install a million solar systems but just three years to install the second. And from here on out almost every projection is that solar growth will only pick up the pace. With that in mind it is hard to conceive of anything particularly negative about solar. Yes, politics will on occasion play havoc with the process, but how we generate electricity is definitely changing. Plus, solar is simply good for the planet, job creation, and in particular your pocketbook. Solar, in short, is here to stay.

Q: What is involved in a typical solar panel installation?

A: Solar electric installations are quite simple – that’s part of their beauty and why they are virtually maintenance-free. (Click here to see photos of typical installations.) At its most basic level a system is composed of racking (for mounting the panels on), the panels, wiring, and an inverter for changing the direct-current (DC) electricity the panels generate to alternating-current (AC) electricity used in your house and on the grid. It’s more complex than that of course, but like we said conceptually simple. If you’d like more details, check out our video series on going solar here. (These include some specifics for Massachusetts,  but the basics are relevant to our whole service area – and in fact – everywhere.)

Residential Solar Panel Installation

(Photo courtesy of customer Tony Jagodnik)

Q: How long does it take to get solar?

A: Our typical installation time-line is two to three months, but it can vary a lot due to the many different variables. The actual installation time, that is while we are at your home, is quick; generally just a few days. However, the big time variable is all the necessary paperwork and approvals.  That’s because your local electrical and building inspectors are involved, as is your utility, and is also the state and to some degree even the federal government. Plus, every system is slightly different and our approach is to buy materials and build specific to your project’s plan. It is not a cookie cutter process. In short, there are many pieces to bring together. But don’t worry, we will handle the entire process and keep you apprised of the timing of each step as your project progresses.

Q: How does the process of going solar work?

A: Deciding if solar is right for you starts with an assessment of your property and electric bill. This we can typically do from our offices as we view your home via satellite and you forward one of your recent utility bills for review. With that we can pretty much determine if going any further makes sense as well as do a preliminary design.

If this basic review looks good we’ll set up a time for one of our solar consultants to visit. At this time we check out all of our assumptions. Are the trees around your home taller or shorter than expected? Do you have a good place to mount an inverter and is your roof structurally capable of holding a new system. We won’t get all the answers in this visit, but we will collect as much information as possible so we typically don’t have to return until the installation. We’ll also explore the goals and objectives you have for going solar so we can better match your objectives.

From all of that information gathering your solar consultant will then be able to generate a proposal for you. They might even give you two or three options. That proposal will include pricing and a model of the financials showing you how the money aspect of your system should play out for the next 25 years. Our goal is to answer all of your questions and give you the system you want – not the system we want to be selling.

Q: What happens after I sign an agreement with Clean Energy?

A: Getting started with us entails signing an agreement and then several application documents necessary for the filing and approval processes. We also generally request a deposit. The key point is we’ll make sure you understand what is going to happen and give you a timeline of what to expect when. Just be aware that every system is slightly different as outlined above. The key point is we’ll get started as soon as we have all of your documents because we’re as eager as you to get started on the fun parts of the installation and clean energy production.

Q: How long do solar electric systems last?

A: Solar electric systems are designed to last more than 25 years and most systems will still be producing power for 30 to even 50 years.  Getting you the right materials and labor is all part of your discussion of goals and objectives with your solar consultant. Our customers are not fans of surprises and I’m sure you are not as well.

Residential Solar Installation CompleteQ: Will I have electricity during a power outage? Do I need a battery?

A: If you don’t also install a solar battery the answer is no, you will not have power during a power outage. That’s because with a straight grid-tied system your system has to shut down when the grid goes down. Why? Because we don’t want to electrocute any line worker repairing lines outside your home and there is also nothing in the system itself to ensure that the power delivered inside your home is appropriately balanced. But, if you do install a battery you can indeed have power during a power outage and better still, your battery will be charged as soon as the sun comes out. Given the right situation, your battery could last for days. What’s the right approach for you? We can help you figure that out.

Q: Will I be helping the environment if I install a solar electric system on my home?

A: ABSOLUTELY! You will be producing your own non-polluting power instead of relying on power from the utility. In addition, your system is the local meaning we don’t need big (read massive) power lines to move power from one place to another. You are generating it and using it all in one place. The grid is great, but local generation just makes sense.

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SunPower Solar Panel Tilted“New England Clean Energy has done an excellent job. I have no reservations about recommending them and would consider you foolish not to consult with them. They were not the first company I interviewed but I clearly saw the difference when comparing the two. If I move, they will be installing at my next home. Thank you, Clean Energy.”

—Michael Omiccioli of Natick, MA