About Solar Co-ops

Image courtesy of Alt Energy

Image courtesy of Alt Energy

Active co-ops

If you’re like us, you’ve wanted to go solar for years.  Everyone has their own reason—whether it’s freeing themselves from the power company’s whims, protecting our stunningly beautiful state, or just saving money (trust us—that’s ok!).

But for too long, the upfront costs were too expensive—who has thousands of dollars just laying around?  And, it’s confusing.  How do I sell electricity back to the utility?  How do the tax credits work?   What is an SREC?

WV SUN is working with groups of neighbors and local community organizations to form solar cooperatives.  By joining a local solar co-op, members go solar together as a group. You lower costs through the power of bulk purchasing and know that you’re not in it alone.

WV SUN provides the unbiased technical support you need to get up and running. We answer technical and financial questions. We’re your consumer advocate with installers and help you line up financing and innovative incentives.  The co-ops are run by and for their members—so that everyone gets the best, most affordable solar installation possible.

Interested in joining or starting a local solar co-op?  Find out more about our approach and current programs.


Our Approach

We work with local solar co-ops to create competition in the solar industry. We get the best equipment and prices possible for members.  Here’s how it works:

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Solar Co-ops FAQs

Solar Basics

John Snyder 10 kW

Image courtesy of John Snyder

Do we get enough sun in West Virginia?

Absolutely — we receive almost as much solar radiation as Miami does annually. And we get significantly more than Germany, the world’s solar leader (they’re on par with Alaska).

What is net metering?

Net metering is an agreement between you and your electric utility. Normally your electric meter spins forward as it measures how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity you buy.

When you install solar on your roof, the electricity goes into your home and is used by your appliances. This reduces your electricity bill.

If you generate more electricity than you use, the extra electricity goes through your electric meter and into the grid, spinning your meter backward. At the end of the month, your electricity bill is your total energy use minus the amount of electricity your solar panels produce.  Net metering happens automatically, there’s nothing you need to switch over or track.

What happens if the grid goes down?

Typical “grid-tied” solar systems do not have battery back-up systems.  If a power outage occurs, your solar system will automatically shut down to protect utility workers.

Is solar right for my home?

We will need to check the roof of your home for structural soundness, orientation to the sun, shading, and other details. Unfortunately, solar doesn’t work for every situation.  Still, solar can work for roughly 70% of homes.  Even if your home isn’t in a good spot for solar, we’ll keep you updated as new options become available.

Technology

Who installs the systems?

Image courtesy of MTV Solar

Image courtesy of MTV Solar

WV SUN reaches out to installers across West Virginia looking for the best deals for co-op members.  Every co-op picks their own installer based on the bids submitted to the group. By using a single installer, the entire group gets a discounted price.

How long do solar panels hold up?

Warranties on the panels are for 25 years, but you can expect them to last much longer.  With no moving parts, there’s not much that can break down.

What are the warranties?

The panels have a power production guarantee for 25 years, while the labor is warrantied for 3-10 years depending on the company.  The inverters are guaranteed for at least 10 years.

Does it matter what kind of roof I have?

If you have an asphalt, metal, or rubber membrane roof, you’re golden.  Slate roofs are tougher—and it’s hard to find an installer willing to take on the project.

What is an inverter? 

Your solar panels generate direct current (DC) electricity.  The DC electricity travels to your solar power inverter, which converts it into the alternating current (AC) electricity your home’s appliances run on.

Finances

What does it cost?

Image courtesy of MTV Solar

Image courtesy of MTV Solar

If you’re like us, the high cost of solar PV systems is what’s come between you and going solar.  But in the last five years, the price of panels and inverters have declined drastically. By going solar as a community, we can also cut installation costs by an additional 20-25%.

Are there other incentives? What about solar renewable energy credits (SRECs)?

Yes! These can get a bit complicated though, so here’s an FAQ page just about SRECs.

Will my electricity payments go up in the future?

One of solar power’s many advantages is that the sun will always be free.  It’s like buying a house instead of renting an apartment — your mortgage won’t ever change, even as landlords constantly increase their rents.  Once your panels are installed, you never have to worry about the price for your solar electricity going up.

What financing is available?

The upfront cost of solar can be a barrier, and many don’t have cash on hand to invest in a system.  That’s why we are lining up a special solar loan.  Admirals Bank, a national financial institution providing capital for social-based development projects, offers a Solar-specific loan. Admirals created this loan package with backing from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Exact terms will vary based on your credit rating and preferred loan terms, but we offer several options to fit your financial profile — including loans up to 20 years, without tying up your home equity.  We will work with you to try and find the best financing option.

I don’t see a co-op in my area?  When are you coming to my county?

Don’t see a co-op in your area?  Well let’s work together to start one!  Contact Emily Stiever and she’ll walk you through the possibilities.