Solar Frequently Asked Questions

Information provided by the nonprofit organization Solar Oregon.  

Gresham house with solarIs Oregon sunny enough for solar?
Yes. Even Gresham and the rainy Willamette Valley receive as much sunshine annually as the average U.S. city. In fact, solar is Oregon's most abundant renewable resource. Today, more than 17,000 Oregon households use solar energy systems to generate electricity or heat water.

Solar installations in Gresham 


Is my home right for solar?
Solar works best on south-facing roofs, though east or west-oriented roofs may be suitable as well. There should be little or no shading from trees, buildings, chimneys or roof gables on or adjacent to your home. Remember, locations with no shading in the winter may be shaded by spring and summer foliage.
 
If your roof is deteriorated, you may need to re-roof your home before installing solar. Another consideration for installing solar is the condition of wiring in your home; in some instances, an electrical upgrade may be needed if your home has older wiring. Your contractor will help you assess these issues.


What are watts, kilowatts and kilowatt hours?
The size of a solar electric system is often described in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). One kW = 1,000 W. Watts are a unit of power, just like the horsepower of an engine. They express the maximum possible output of energy the system can produce at any point in time. When sunlight strikes solar electric panels, they produce electricity that is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). Kilowatt hours are the units of energy you buy from your utility and use in your home to run your appliances, lighting and electronics.
 
In Oregon, a good rule of thumb is that 1,000 watts of solar electric panels require about 100 square-feet of space and will typically produce 1,000-1,300 kWh of electricity each year. If you double or triple the size of the system, you will double or triple the amount of electricity it produces.


Can I still participate if I have an older roof?
Yes, you can participate. If your roof is in poor condition and needs replacement there are several things you should know: First, in order to qualify for Energy Trust of Oregon incentives you must have at least 10 years of roof life remaining on your current roof. Your solar contractor or an Energy Trust representative will help you assess this during the solarize project process.
 

If it is determined that your roof will need replacement then your project contractor can help you move forward by working closely with the roofer you choose or you can work with their preferred roofing contractor. In some cases a complete roof replacement might not be necessary.
Each case will be evaluated individually.


Can I put solar panels on my garage?
Yes, if your garage has good solar access and the roof is in good condition, you can install solar panels on your garage. There may be additional cost if additional electrical work needs to be done, e.g. trenching.


If I have solar panels, will I have electricity when the power goes out?
When the power goes out, your solar panels will automatically shut down. The reason is very simple – if someone is working on the lines to bring the electricity back on in the neighborhood, the energy you are producing could harm the worker. 


What if I produce more energy than I use?
Net excess generation is carried over to the customer's next bill as a kilowatt-hour credit for a 12-month period. Unless a utility and a customer otherwise agree, the annual billing cycle will conclude at the end of the March billing cycle of each year. Any excess generation credits remaining at the end of a 12-month period will be credited to customers enrolled in Oregon's low-income assistance programs. 


Will my taxes go up if I install solar?
No, Oregon law prohibits homeowner property taxes from raising due to renewable energy installations.


Can my Homeowners Association prevent me from installing a solar array on my property?
No, due to a 1979 Oregon law, HOA's can't prevent homeowners from installing renewable energy on their property, including solar systems.


How much space do I need on my roof?
In Oregon, a good rule of thumb is that 1,000 watts of solar electric panels require about 100 square-feet of space and will typically produce 1,000-1,300 kWh of electricity each year. If you double or triple the size of the system, you will double or triple the amount of electricity it produces.


Does my roof material matter?
Solar arrays can be installed on most roof types including metal and tile. Installers and roofers are experienced in many roof types and have warranties on the work that they do. Make sure to ask your contractor about the warranties they offer.

 

 

 

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