Going Solar, Part Three: Waiting for permission

Going Solar, Part Three: Waiting for permission

The adventures of installing rooftop solar panels on an existing home

Now we wait.

HOA

My homeowners’ association (HOA) must approve any changes I make, particularly regarding the exterior appearance of my home. In Nevada and other states, the HOA’s ability to keep me from installing solar panels on the rooftop is limited by legislation meant to encourage renewable energy. As I understand it, they cannot refuse to allow panels. They may, however, require changes that might reduce the output of my system as much as 10%. That would put a real dent in my payback.

At request of my solar provider, the HOA sent me a standard application form. Among other things, the form asks for the signature of all my surrounding neighbors indicating if the “approve” or “disapprove.” In the case of solar panels, it’s my understanding that the neighbors’ approval is not required. In my case, getting neighbors’ signatures is complicated. During a pandemic it doesn’t seem a good idea to go door to door getting signatures. Also, the homes around me are rentals and it might prove daunting to try to get approval from out-of-state owners. I filled in “Unable to obtain due to COVID-19.”

The solar provider filled in “December 3” for the installation completion. That’s more than twelve weeks away but we all hope it will be sooner. They don’t get paid until I sign off on the installation.

Building permits

City, County and other authorities must approve the plans. This can also take 8 weeks to complete.

Warranties

I’ve been reviewing the warranty information provided by the solar contractor. With the exception of the roof, they’re standard manufacturers’ warranties. As always with warranties and their loopholes, you’ll be dependent on the good will of the company to stand by their product, assuming the company still exists in 10, 20 or 25 years.

Photovoltaic Modules: 25 year workmanship warranty / 25 year 90.76% power warranty / 25 year labor warranty. Panels tend to produce less power as time goes by. Manufacturer warrants the power output will be no less than 97% of the designated Maximum Power (Pmax) stated in the product data sheet for the first year from date of purchase of the Product by the Customer and the Power output degradation will be no more than 0.26% per year for the following 24 years, so that, at the end of 25th year, the power output will be at least 90.76% of Pmax. With a 3% margin of error, this could be down to 94% after year one, 87.76% at the end of 25 years. This does not mean an underproducing panel will be replaced with a new one. Rather, Manufacturer will refund the “value” lost. As I understand it, if a panel is only producing half the power it should, they’ll refund half the cost of the panel. This will probably be small comfort, but if you can show it’s “defective” rather than simply “degraded” they might have to replace it.

Inverter: 25 year workmanship warranty

Power Optimizer: 25 year workmanship warranty

GSM Kit: 5 year prepaid plan (extendable at expiration). This is the communications module for the system monitoring app. GSM provides a cell-phone signal to facilitate remote monitoring. My understanding is the module includes WiFi so I can monitor without paying for the GSM signal.

Mounting Racks: 25 years

Contractor Labor and Roof: 25 years. For the duration of the roof warranty, contractor is guaranteeing it’s roof penetrations to be watertight under any weather conditions. In case of a roof leakage after the expiration of the home’s original roof warranty homeowner must prove that the leakage is actually caused by contractor’s roof penetrations.

Resources:

PVWATTS calculator

Rough Draft of my spreadsheet. Click “Assumptions” tab after opening.

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