Is Solar Energy Right for Me?
Thinking of generating your own energy? If you are considering a distributed generation (DG) installation (solar or wind), we can help ensure you make the best decision and walk you through the requirements.
Learn more about solar, how it functions, and if your area is suitable for installation.
How does solar work?
- Solar panels absorb the sun’s rays and converts it into direct current (DC) power.
- To convert the DC electricity supplied by the solar panels into alternating current (AC) power, an inverter is utilized. Your house runs on AC electricity.
- The energy created by your solar panel generation system will be used by your home.
- Any energy that is produced and not consumed at the time of production may flow back onto HILCO’s grid or may be stored in a battery for future use, if storage is installed with your system.
What do I look for in a reputable solar company?
In the old days, a "snake oil salesman" was a common expression used to describe someone who sells or promotes some valueless or fraudulent cure, remedy, or solution. Unfortunately, these days that tactic is still being used and the snake oil is simply replaced with the latest trend.
Solar energy is booming as many homeowners turn to harnessing the sun’s rays to produce their own energy.
But with the increasing popularity of solar power, some businesses are taking advantage of the surge in consumer interest. While many solar companies are genuine and truly want to help consumers with a successful solar installation, there are bad actors to watch out for.
You’ve likely heard a story or two about solar vendors who promised rooftop panels that would generate enough electricity to power an entire home or to where you would not have an electric bill. Then, after the homeowner has paid thousands of dollars for the installation, the claims are false and the vendor is nowhere to be found. Sadly, this story has been the reality for many consumers.
If you’re interested in solar panels for your home, consider these tips before installation to avoid getting swindled:
1. Talk to an energy adviser at HILCO Electric Cooperative first. We want you to feel confident about any decisions you make about your home energy use, especially decisions about generating energy at home.
2. Collect quotes from at least three solar companies to ensure you’re getting a competitive deal. Ask friends, family, and neighbors that have solar who they recommend.
3. As with any major purchase, research is key, so thoroughly read customer reviews for each of the solar vendors and check that they’re listed on the website of the Texas Solar Energy Society, txses.org. All the certifications and experience in the world won’t matter as much if the company doesn’t treat its customers well. Search for customer reviews on websites like Yelp and the Better Business Bureau. If you don’t find any, or only find a few, contact the company and ask for references.
4. If you speak to a solar vendor and they use high-pressure tactics—like an offer that’s only good for 24 hours—run! Any reputable solar company will recognize that you need time to review a proposal and consider your decision.
5. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So, if a solar company is making promises that sound unachievable and outlandish, they probably are.
6. Finally, when it’s time to review and sign a solar contract, make sure the language is clear and easy to understand. Ensure any verbal promises are included in the contract.
Remember, if you have any questions, you can always count on your electric co-op for advice. Going solar is a major decision that can cost tens of thousands of dollars, so do your homework first.
Does HILCO pay for the energy production from solar?
No, not at this time. However, HILCO does net meter within a billing cycle. What that means is we do not pay for any over production or buyback of energy, but we do allow your extra generation to collect over the monthly billing period and any extra energy you produce can be used within the billing period.
What do I need to do to get solar installed? What is the process?
1. We will need an interconnection agreement:
- The four-page short form contract can be downloaded here.
- Application and Exhibit A
- A one-line diagram of the installation. Example here
- 2. Please forward the short form contract, Exhibit A, and one-line diagram completed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 3. The $50 application fee if the solar installation is less than 5kW or $250 application fee if greater than 5kW.
- The application fee can be paid in any of our office locations, or
- By mail to the attention of: HILCO Electric Cooperative, Attention Joe Marek, P. O. Box 127 Itasca, TX 76055, or
- By phone with a credit card by calling 877-371-9365, (you will need your HILCO account #). It is an automated number that will allow you to submit payment.
- Please contact Joe Marek via email or by phone when payment has been made.
- 4. After reviewing the application, we will respond when you may proceed with your installation.
- 5. When the installation is complete, please notify us for your site inspection. If the installation passes inspection, it complies with any applicable laws, and all safety features are in place, then HILCO will approve and give permission to operate your new system.
For any further questions, you can review our Tariffs or you may email or call Joe Marek at (800)338-6425 Ext. 2289.
Will we still receive a bill from HILCO?
Yes, you will. At a minimum, you will still receive a customer charge fee and any other applicable fees like taxes and securitization charges. Depending on how much your system generates will determine how much energy you will use and be billed on. During times of high usage and low generation from your system, you will still purchase power from HILCO. During times of low usage and high generation from your system, you will over produce and use your energy within a billing period per our Net Metering Policy.
Are there any added monthly fees for going solar?
Currently, there are no extra monthly charges for having solar. You will have an initial application fee of $50, if your system is under 5 kW, or $250 if your system is 5 kW or greater.
Does the meter need to be changed? And is there a cost?
Yes, HILCO will need to exchange the meter so that it is capable of net metering along with a final inspection of your installation to ensure the safety of our employees. There will be a cost during the installation for every trip that we make to your location. The number of trips will be determined by the coordination of the disconnection and reconnection of service during the solar installation.
Can a member generate 100% of their own power?
Yes, you can if you size your system based on your electrical load.
What about solar production during the winter months?
It is important to consider how shorter days and colder weather may affect solar power generation and electricity costs. With fewer hours of direct sunlight shining on your solar panels, the causes may seem clear. But one of the main concerns is that your home's heater works hardest at night, when the temperature is at its lowest. This is especially true if you heat your home with electricity. The value of your solar installation is greatest when you consume the power it generates. Therefore, you should move your consumption to the times when your solar panels are operating to have the biggest influence on your power expenditure. It is crucial to realize that the shorter days and other probable winter weather effects will probably lead to decreased solar production for the majority of your household systems. Higher-than-expected energy costs may be the outcome when solar systems are idle at night and when there are heavy heating loads.
How much does it cost?
One of the most common questions asked by members seeking information about installing solar is installation cost. It varies from company to company, and you should get several proposals to compare.
Before applying any tax incentives, rebates, or other subsidies the prices range from $2.00 to $4.00 per watt. So, as an average, a 10 kW solar installation that is installed on a roof could cost around $20,000 before any incentives. This same size system would also on average produce about 15,000 kWh annually or 1,250 per month.
A good source of information to determine your estimated production of solar for your location can be found at https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/
How many panels do I need or how much can I generate?
A good website to assist in calculating the amount of solar you need is: https://pvwatts.nrel.gov/.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed this tool called PVWatts for this purpose. It estimates the energy production and cost of energy of grid-connected PV energy systems for any address in the world. It allows homeowners, small building owners, installers, and manufacturers to easily develop estimates of the performance of potential PV installations and can even compare solar’s cost to utility bills. These tools are great for getting started, but make sure to work with a solar installer for a custom estimate of how much power your solar energy system is likely to generate.
Keep in mind of any trees that will shade the solar panels will cause less production along with panels that will not be facing south.
Will solar panels provide power during an outage?
They will not unless you have also installed a battery storage system, too. Solar panels alone have inverters that convert DC to AC and this process is dependent on power for them to function.
How efficient are solar panels?
Solar has a few efficiencies that you will need to consider. One is during the summer months, solar panels tend to be less efficient due to the negative impact of high temperatures on the performance of PV cells. As the temperature rises, the output voltage of a solar panel decreases, leading to reduced power generation. For every degree Celsius above 25°C (77°F), a solar panel’s efficiency typically declines by 0.3% to 0.5%. So if it is 105°F, that could equate the temperature of the panels to be 150°F. At that temperature, the PV panels are 73°F above the nominal temperature, which could reduce the generation by approximately 20% or more.
Second, the efficiency of solar panels going from DC to AC is typically around 95% to 98%. This means that for every 100 watts of DC power generated by the solar panels, 95 to 98 watts of AC power are produced. The remaining 2 to 5 watts are lost in the conversion process.
There are a number of factors that can affect the efficiency of a PV system, including:
- The type of inverter used.
- The temperature of the inverter.
- The amount of sunlight versus cloud cover, trees, etc.
- The amount of sunlight versus dirt and debris on the panels.
- The quality of the wiring.
- The quality of the PV panels to ensure they are temperature coefficient.
Should I add battery storage?
Storing your overproduction of energy is an option. Research battery storage options that will suit the amount of solar energy you produce. Just remember, a battery only stores so much energy, then it will need recharging. It may not run your whole house or for very long, depending on what you have on and how much battery storage you have installed. Battery storage can provide a lot of power in a short time or less power over a long time.
Can I have one solar installation and have the generation applied to several meters?
No, each meter would have to have its own solar panels to offset the usage on that meter.