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Get the most of your investment

Contact Your Utility

Since you are connected to Santee Electric Cooperative, you are required to let them know that you are connecting a solar installation (Interconnection Agreement.) You will also want to discuss your plans with your cooperative representative, so that he or she can provide information to you that you will need.

There are several good reasons why you will want to speak with your Santee Electric Cooperative representative:
• They know what you need to interconnect your solar panels to the grid
• You may need some information or history on your electric usage which they can provide
• They will have experience from working with other member-owners who have gone through the interconnection process and this may simplify it for you.

It is important to realize that your solar panels will generate electricity whenever there is any sunlight, and that there is a potential for power line workers to receive an electric shock. There are standards for the equipment you will be installing which help protect the workers, and the required paperwork and inspections are to make certain that you and your installer have a proper installation.

Below is a checklist of what must be done to interconnect. To further assist you, your cooperative representative will go over and discuss this list with you.
o Interconnection application
o Application fee
o Provide the required electrical drawing
o Provide a signed interconnection agreement
o Install the required disconnect
o Provide the necessary insurance documentation*
o Inspection

Sizing Your System

Sizing your system correctly so that it provides the optimum return on your investment requires a closer look at:
• Your patterns of electric usage
• What the panels will generate when they are placed in the orientation on your home

Oversizing your system means you will send more excess electricity onto the grid. Payment or credit for this electricity is determined by Santee Electric Cooperative and the laws and policies it must follow. Undersizing your system could mean that you pay a lot for a relatively smaller system when you could increase the size for just a little more cost and get extra benefit.

The best way to approach this is to look at how much electricity you use each month, and how much electricity the solar installation will produce each month. Remember that your use and production go up and down during each day and think about how much solar electricity you will really be able to use. Your installer and Santee Electric Cooperative representative may be able to answer questions about what is best for your situation.

Financing and Tax Incentive Considerations

You may be paying for your own system at the time of installation, and looking to be paid back in savings on your electric bill. There are other financing options, such as leasing the system or borrowing the money to pay for the project. There are also incentives available, such as tax credits, which can make the project more favorable to you. You will want to look at both South Carolina and Federal incentives. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Energy Efficiency (DSIRE) is one database that tracks these incentives http://www.dsireusa.org. Additionally, the South Carolina Energy Office is a good source of informationhttp://www.energy.sc.gov/incentives.

Estimate Costs and Savings

There are some tools available to help you calculate how much electricity you will produce, and what you can save. click here

Changes

Notify your utility if you make major change(s) to your solar PV system especially size or insurance.

*This insurance needs to be kept in place as long as the system is connected.

Ready, Set, GO!

Congratulations!!! You've done your research and are ready to install your solar PV system to your house. To make the process as effortless as possible, and to make sure that the installation is done properly, below is a final checklist of questions to ask of your installer and/or others.

• Has my installer provided me copies of all required permits? (state, city, county, local, etc.)
• What building code requirements is my installer following?
• Has my installer met the fire safety code and discussed with me?
• What insurance is needed?
•  Have I provided liability for the interconnection?
•  Do I need additional homeowner's insurance?
• Will I be able to monitor the output of the solar? (You will probably want to track the output to see how the system is working. There are many Data Acquisition Systems (DAS) available that will allow you to see this data via internet link)
• Has installer provided the warranties on the pieces of equipment and installation? (e.g., the panels, the inverter, the workmanship, etc.)
• Do I know who to contact to fix problems, make repairs or replacements?
• Does my Cooperative have all the information and documents needed to interconnect my solar PV system? 

Maintaining your System

As is the case with all appliances, your solar PV system will require some maintenance over its lifetime. Solar PV systems are very durable and can usually last up to 20 plus years. However, the general consensus is to check your panels every 1 to 2 years or whenever you notice a significant drop in production on a clear sunny day.

Some simple maintenance tips:

• Check to see if panels are cracked or stained?
• Check to see if leaves are on or under the panels?
• Check to see if panels are being shaded by tree growth?
• Check to see if panels are dirty?

Dirty solar PV panels can significantly reduce the amount of energy your home system can generate. Dirt can come from dust or soot from nearby roads or from rainy or dry weather conditions.

Insurance

If you are adding a solar PV system to an existing home, be sure to check your homeowners' insurance policy. Since you are adding to your home, you may need to make a change to your policy. It is advisable that you contact your homeowners' insurance company when you're first starting the solar process.

Warranty

Homeowners should ensure that equipment and workmanship are covered under appropriate warranties. There are several warranty components to your solar PV system including:

  • Workmanship-Labor warranty provided by the installer to protect the homeowner against defective workmanship …
  • PV Panel-Product workmanship and materials, plus a minimum performance/production warranty of 20 years …
  • Inverter
  • Racking Equipment-Check with your installer to discuss details.
  • Changes- Notify your utility if you make major change(s) to your solar PV system especially size or insurance.


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