ASVs 3-year Anniversary

Today marks our 3-year anniversary since the founding of ASV! 3 years ago today our friends and family supported our dream to build a modern and inclusive solar energy company in Alaska.

Through myriad lessons, challenges, and triumphs we now are where we are today: Alaska’s fasting growing and largest solar company.

We love our employees, clients, partners, and vendors so very much. Thank you all for making our continued journey unforgettable!

Vannoy ElectricAmicus Solar, Namasté Solar, B Corporation, #NorthCoastElectric, Itek Energy, Enphase Energy, Unirac, LGElectronics, REC Solar Pte Ltd, S-5! Attachment Solutions, Quick Mount PV #solarisnow #solarinalaska

#TechTidbit Thursday: Micro-inverters

Welcome to another #techtibit Thursday at Arctic Solar Ventures.

Today we are going to be talking about some of the advantages and differences that micro-inverters present when used in a solar pv system. Micro-inverters and power optimizers (module-level power electronics, or MLPEs) do offer some tangible benefits when used in a solar pv system in our Alaskan environment. But are micro-inverters or MLPEs the right for you and your solar project in Alaska? Let’s discuss the benefits.

Screen Shot 2018-03-29 at 4.55.13 PM.pngMicro-inverters are now in their seventh generation of development and have been improving in efficiency and reliability throughout that timeline. Early models had reliability issues but that has dramatically improved with modern generation micro-inverters.

For instance, ASV installed over 1,000 Enphase micro-inverters last year without a single issue. This year we are doubling that number. So what advantages do they offer to your solar energy system and why do we install so many of them here?IMG_0159

What are the differences between micro-inverters and central/ string inverters?

  1. If one panel (or solar module) starts producing less power than the rest of the array – the other panels/ modules remain at optimal output. If one panel/module produces less in a central/ string inverter system they all produce less (or could not produce power at all).
  2. They allow installations with multiple positions (azimuths) to the sun. In a central/ string inverter system all of the panels/ modules must be facing the same direction (azimuth). We build many systems that have multiple azimuths and this is a definite design advantage for Alaska.
  3. They allow for individual solar panel/ module production monitoring. Each panel/ module has its own data reporting because of this. String inverter systems do not allow for this (unless they use MLPE optimizers).
  4. They convert DC to AC power more efficiently than string inverters. That means more power delivered to your home for use by your electrical appliances.
  5. They come with longer warranties. 25 years vs 5 year or 10 year with central/ string inverters.
  6. They perform better in variable weather conditions. Micro-inverters subjected to cloud cover, rain, snow, and shading all perform better than a central/ string inverter systems subjected to those same variable conditions.
  7. They are safer. Given that only AC wiring is present after the micro-inverter in the wiring of the system the risk for electrocution or bodily harm is greatly reduced (if something does go wrong). Micor-inverters are also compliant with a 100 millisecond shutdown mechanism when the grid goes down (this is part of what is called “rapid-shutdown” in the National Electric Code).

IQ7-microinverter-with-shadow-product-page-v3Micro-inverters aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but they definitely offer tangible advantages in many areas of a solar pv system when used in a solar PV system in Alaska. Choosing a solar company that can walk you through these differences and help you make the most informed choices is a key factor you should consider when shopping for a solar provider.

We are Growing!

We have exciting news to share! We will be opening our second location soon and will be offering some new products to the Alaska market as part of this expansion.

What does this mean for you? Exciting new solar pv module offerings w ith our best-in-class service.

Note that while we don’t do off-grid design or installation you can still order pv modules from us for your off-grid project.
Our 2018 solar pv module offerings include:

  • REC Solar: REC TwinPeak REC290TP2 BLK 290 watt 60 cell pv module, 38mm black frame, black backsheet.
  • Itek Energy: Itek SE BLK 295 watt 60 cell pv module, 40 mm black frame, black backsheet.
  • LG Electronics: LG NeON R (Back Contact) 350 watt 60 cell pv module, 40 mm black frame, white backsheet.

Contact us today for ordering details.

Solar Financing 101

One of the quickest ways to increase solar adoption is through easily accessible and low-cost financing. Today, there are numerous ways to finance solar.

Residential Solar Financing

Cash is the least expensive way to go solar from a capital perspective. Home solar purchased directly with cash in Alaska can pay for itself in 8-10 years and continue to generate no-cost energy for decades to come.

What does a model home solar project look like in Alaska? 

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Conventional/ Home Equity Loans

Several banks offer conventional or home equity loans for solar installation. If you have equity in your home, a home equity loan will have the lowest cost of capital. With any type of solar loan, you own the solar installation and receive the financial incentives, including the 30% federal income tax credit (ITC) and renewable energy credits (RECs). Each month, you will pay your lender a predetermined amount that will also include interest. Interest rates typically range from 3.5% to 7% with terms of 7 to 20 years.

PPAs and Leasing

While previously popular (solar leases) and more common in other states (PPAs) these methods of financing are not recommended. Leases do not allow you, as the system owner, to utilize the federal ITC. PPAs, while popular elsewhere and have helped to drive solar adoption, are legally and administratively challenged in Alaska. Statutory reform would have to take place for this to become a viable option in the future.

Commercial Solar Financing

Commercial solar lending in the small-to-medium project space has been an underserved market in solar finance. Similarly to residential financing, the best option here is cash payment or a loan. The same 30% ITC applies, but also accelerated equipment depreciation, which can account for up to another 30% in federal incentives for businesses considering solar. If your business is outside of Anchorage, you could also qualify for the USDA REAP grant, a reimbursement grant for solar project expenses (25% of the project cost). Commercial solar projects that combine these incentives often see paybacks of less than 5 years. Here’s more info about the USDA REAP program.

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Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE)

C-PACE programs finance clean energy retrofits through property tax increases. Done by a 3rd party financier in conjunction with a Municipality offer no-upfront cost, low interest solar project financing. Adopted as Alaska state law in 2017, C-PACE will likely become available sometime in the next few years after municipalities set up the administrative structures needed to implement and operate the program.

Utility Scale Solar/ Community Solar

Community solar is where a central operations and maintenance provider (system owner) pays for a large solar installation and then shares its production with “members” for a cost. The benefits of serving solar power in this way are that a home or business owner doesn’t need an ideal roof for solar or upfront capital to receive the benefits of solar energy. Utility Cooperatives are particularly good applications for community solar as they can provide a benefit to their members by providing clean energy sources, while also operating and maintaining the facility on behalf of participating members. In this scenario, the utility will typically go through its established capital improvement channels to receive financing for this type of project.  Technically, a group of home or business owners could pool resources and develop a co-owned community solar array, but they would be subject to regulatory oversight (and this is not recommended for home or business owners to undertake).

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Non-Profits

Non-profit solar financing has proven to be a difficult market to develop due to the fact that non-profits do not have the tax appetite to utilize the federal ITC or depreciation mechanisms that commercial solar can. This has slowed non-profit solar adoption as the appetite for incentive-free solar (or non-incentivized solar) has many potential customers diverting capital elsewhere. Solar costs have come down exponentially, but non-incentivized non-profit projects are still typically in the 15-17 year payback range and most customers aren’t comfortable with that long of an economic payback. Some organizations have had success financing non-profit solar through PPAs in other markets that have a more conducive environment with the offering and provision of PPAs.

Have other unanswered questions regarding solar energy? Read more here