LEARN THE SOLAR BASICS
PROCESS FOR GOING SOLAR
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ’S)
Do we get enough sun in South Bend for solar?
Yes, we have enough sun here! More than Germany, the world’s solar leader.
Solar energy has been spreading across northern Indiana over the last decade. Check out Southern Indiana Renewable Energy Network’s (SIREN)’s interactive map of solar installations throughout the state.
Worried that your panels won’t produce much power during the winter? Estimate your monthly electricity production by entering the address of your property into the National Renewable Energy Lab’s PVWatts Calculator. (One of the key inputs is hourly “typical meteorological year” data – so you will see the difference in capacity between summer and winter months.)
Watch this explainer video to help you effectively use the PVWatts calculator.
How much electricity do homes typically use?
Electricity consumption varies significantly between households. For example, it depends on the size of the home, how you heat your home, how much you use an air conditioner, whether you’ve switched your light bulbs to LEDs, if the attic space is well-insulated, etc.
In 2020, in Indiana, the average electricity consumption was 938 kWh monthly; 11,256 kWh annually. (See full U.S. Energy Information Administration report here and see how Indiana’s average usage is high compared to our neighboring states.)
A 9.3 kW system produces about the same amount of electricity that the average home in Indiana consumes in a year. But, newer homes may be much more efficient.
What if my property is in a Local Historic District?
Solar projects in Local Historic Districts require a Certificate of Appropriateness.
To apply or find more information about each District’s Standards and Guidelines, visit the Historic Preservation Commission.
What if I am part of a Homeowners Association?
If you live in a neighborhood with a Homeowner Association (HOA), you may need to go through an approval process required by the covenant.
See SUN’s HOA Solar Action Guide for tips on how to work with your HOA.
How much do batteries cost?
It all depends what you want to power (your whole house, or just critical loads) and for how long in the case of a power outage.
However, on average, battery storage costs can range from $7,000 to $20,000. These estimates include soft costs (installation, permitting, system design, labor) and hardware costs (equipment, inverter, other electrical components.)
The Federal Investment Tax Credit that is available for solar installations can also cover the cost of battery storage. According to the IRS, a battery system on your home must be 100% charged by solar energy to receive the credit.
Different rules apply to commercial battery systems, which can receive a portion of the ITC if at least 75% of their charge comes from solar. Read SUN’s Battery Storage Guide to learn more.
Will adding solar to my property increase my property taxes?
A state law protects you from paying higher taxes on the added value of solar on your property.
If your assessor were to increase your assessed value due to solar, then the law requires them to deduct a corresponding amount for solar before calculating your property taxes.
Solar has a neutral effect on your current property taxes. It does not make them go up, and it cannot make that go down.
How long do panels last?
Solar panels will produce electricity for decades. In fact, solar panels from the 1970s and 1980s are still producing electricity, though they slowly “degrade” or produce less electricity over time.
The rate depends on the panel quality, but a typical panel may degrade on average 0.5% per year. Most panels today come with a performance warranty which, for example, may guarantee the company’s panels will produce at least 80% of the power they did on Day 1 after 25 years.
After the warranty period, they will likely continue to generate electricity but at some point, the owner may choose to upgrade to new panels. See more about solar system warranties on SUN’s FAQ page.
What is the difference between kW and kWh?
The system size, or “capacity” of a solar PV system is stated in terms of kilowatts, or kW. This is a measure of the potential power or instantaneous rate of energy generation.
Peak power defines a solar system’s size — a 6kW system will generate up to 6kW of electricity on a perfectly sunny day when the sun is strong.
Kilowatt-hours (kWh) is a unit used to measure the amount of electrical energy used over time. Kilowatt-hours are a measure of total energy consumed.
If the panels on your system continuously output 6 kW for a whole 60 minutes, you will have produced 6 kWh of energy.
The amount of electricity you use (or generate) is defined in kWhs. For example, you might say “My solar system produced 10 kWh of electricity today!”
Installing panels on my roof isn’t going to work for me right now. Can I purchase shares in a community solar project?
Some incentives and programs available in many other states are not available in Indiana or South Bend, such as Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), leasing programs, and community solar.
As described on SUN’s website, community solar offers the benefit of solar to those who can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on their homes. These projects enable individuals, businesses, or organizations to purchase or subscribe to a “share” in a community solar project.
If you join a community solar project, you receive a credit on your electric bill each month for the energy produced by your share.
Before you can receive this credit, though, your utility must agree to participate in community solar, or be forced to allow it by legislation.
While community solar is not available in South Bend, you do have the opportunity to support renewable energy through Indiana Michigan Power’s IM Green programs.
By subscribing to IM Green Local Renewable Program, you will subscribe to Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from power generated by I&M’s solar and hydro generation assets and wind procurement in Indiana, including the St. Joseph Solar Farm
Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power (Solar Energy Industries Association, SEIA)