A Solar Update

Solar Update

by Richard Lane

There’s been a lot of changes in the Solar Industry recently and there may be some upcoming that should be taken into account if you are considering adding or expanding your Solar System.  First the good news: The Federal Solar Tax Credit is still 26% and will remain at that level before expiring at the end of 2022.

Now if you are considering adding a Battery to your Solar Array your Solar Contractor may tell you that your battery has to be installed outside your house. That is not entirely true but takes some due diligence to determine if you can install your battery in your garage.

A Tesla Powerwall II which has a recommended temperature range of 32 degrees F to 86 degrees F. Outside of that range and the batteries productivity drops off. It’s the last week in May and temperatures are expected to be in the 80’s all week (and over 90 on some days), so in the garage may be the best place for battery placement.

There is also the question of spacing between equipment. It is generally understood that batteries (in the case where you want more than one) need to be installed 36” apart. Again not entirely true. Per the Santa Rosa Fire Department: The 2019 California Fire Code Required a minimum of 3’ separation distance between ESS (Electrical Storage Systems) units unless the manufacturer has performed large scale fire testing through a 3rd party national testing agency showing that reduced spacing is possible without causing fire propagation between the two units. Currently Tesla Powerwalls have a large scale 9540 test which identifies a reduced clearance between Powerwall II’s of 10”.

Whatever battery you are considering, you’ll want to become familiar with the Spec Sheet.

Then we get to the new Santa Rosa Fire Department Fire Prevention Informational Bulletin (https://srcity.org/594/Informational-Bulletins). The Bulletin dated August 24, 2020 provides a lot of information and requirements including Fire Detection. If you are a Rebuild your conditioned garage (sheetrocked) likely has a sprinkler system installed that is compliant to NFPA 13D. If not you’ll need a Heat Detection System added to your garage. https://www.buildingincalifornia.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/SmokeCarbonMonoxAlarmInstall.pdf

And finally, one of the great selling points of Solar has been the opportunity to sell over-generation (what your panels generate above what you use, known as NEM (Net Energy Metering)) back to your Energy Provider (in Coffey Park it’s either PG&E or Sonoma Clean Power). Your Solar Installer has probably shown you this in a sales package. There is a bill currently before the California Assembly called AB1139 which would severely impact the financial incentives of NEM so ask your installer if they’re aware of these changes.

If you are a Coffey Park Rebuild you’ll know about due-diligence.  If you are diligent you may know more than your installer as things are changing rapidly in the Solar industry.  This is all just another step on the long road back home.