Frequently Asked Questions for
This document will address FAQs about general solar installations and how community solar works.
General Solar FAQs – Solar on your roof
Is it sunny enough in New York for solar panels to make sense?
Yes, New York has quite a bit of sun, plus we have some of the highest electricity rates in the country. The combination of sun, incentives and high rates makes New York City a great place to install solar panels.
How long does it take to install solar panels?
The construction time can vary depending on the system size, however it usually takes 1-2 months to receive permit approvals and then another 2-3 months for construction and inspections.
What parts of the building will the solar installers need access to?
The solar installers will need to be able to access the roof and the electrical room. The installers will take a few days before construction to bring materials to the roof, during that time they may also request access to the elevator or stairwell.
Is solar technology mature? Will I need to replace the panels in a couple years with better ones?
Solar technology is very reliable and solar panels come with a 25-year manufacturer warranty. While solar prices have dropped significantly in recent years, solar panel efficiency has improved more slowly – increasing only 30% in the past 60 years. And since the panels produce power for 25 years or more, you can be confident that your panels won’t become obsolete.
Do solar panels produce heat or electricity?
There are two kinds of solar panels; solar thermal panels that capture the sun’s heat and solar electric panels that produce electricity. Solar electric panels would be installed on the roof of your building.
Will my solar panels keep producing power if Con Edison has an outage?
No, your solar panels will be grid-tied which means that if the grid goes down the solar panels will shut off automatically. This is a safety feature to protect the electrical workers who work on power lines after an outage to restore power. A very small percentage of solar installations do have batteries to provide back-up power, but they are still very expensive. Installing a grid-tied solar energy system today will not prevent you from getting an energy storage system in the future.
What happens when it snows? Will my solar panels keep producing power?
If your solar panels are buried in snow, they will stop producing power until the snow melts away. However, snow melts off of solar panels quickly because they are a smooth, dark surface that absorb the sun’s heat. In general, solar will produce more in the summer and less in the winter, averaging out over the course of the year.
Are there any adverse health effects associated with solar panels?
No, solar panels are primarily glass and silicon and do not have any harmful emissions.
How are the panels attached to the roof? Will it void my roof warranty?
You can either use a ballasted array, where the panels sit on top of the roof and are weighed down to hold them in place or use a mechanically integrated system that attaches the array to the structure of the roof. Most roofing companies have a policy that will allow them to maintain their warranty after solar is installed as long as they can inspect and sign off on the installation. We will most likely propose a ballasted solar array.
Also, during construction, the installer will ensure that the solar energy systems will be built to withstand any weather events, such as high winds, and other standards as required by the Department of Building, FDNY, and other relevant authorities.
Is there any maintenance we have to do for the solar energy system?
Generally, no. Panels are warrantied for 25 years. The only element that will likely need to be replaced during the lifetime of the system is the inverter, which we expect to last about 15 years. The solar developer has included the replacement cost in their financial model.
Community Solar FAQs
What is community solar?
A form of energy production that uses the sun and allows individual households to share a group of solar energy panels and receive a solar energy credit directly on their individual electric bills. Usually, community solar projects share one solar energy systems installed on a large roof, such as a warehouse.
How does a community solar subscription work?
First, household or business can join a community solar project and get matched to a solar energy system installed somewhere else in the utility service territory. The customer becomes a subscriber of the project, and is allocated a portion of the projects’ generation, which is converted to a monetary energy credit for their Con Ed bill, applied on a monthly basis.
Each month, the solar panels will produce energy. The energy then gets converted to dollars and appears on a Con Edison bill as a credit or “adjustment”. Subscribers pay for the credits at a discount, typically 10-20%. In other words, subscribers will keep a percentage of the credit (the discount), typically10-20%, and pay the remaining credit value, typically 80%-90% back to the community solar owner project. The discount is a fixed amount – so savings is guaranteed.
For example, in January, if a household earns a credit of $50. The Con Edison bill drops by $50. Assuming a 20% discount, the subscriber would be billed for 80% of that credit ($40), and keep the remaining 20% ($10). The savings for the month is $10.
If for the unlikely occasion that no energy is produced, and no credits are generated, the Con Edison bill stays the same.
How do subscribers pay for the solar subscription?
The subscription payment will be included on the subscriber’s Con Edison bill. They will pay the subscription payment to Con Edison who will remit payment to the community solar owner. Subscribers will only receive one bill- the Con Edison bill.
What is the subscription term?
The current subscription term varies by community solar project, but its typically either a one-year term with an auto-renew option, or a 20-year term. Subscribers may cancel their subscription with no cancellation fee with a 30-60 days’ notice. Failure to provide 30-60 days’ notice may result in the need to bill for any credits earned in the subsequent month. Typically, the notice periods for subscription cancellation are 30, 45, or 60 days depending on the project.
Is one subscription per household? What about a multi-family house?
Solar subscriptions are tied to a single Con Edison account. So, for example, if subscribers live in a multi-family house or a building has 3 electric bills they will have 3 subscriptions.
Would the discount fluctuate based on the month? What would cause it to change?
No, the discount will remain a fixed percentage, typically at least 10%.
Can homeowners, renters, and small businesses all sign up? Is there an allocated split for each type of subscriber?
Anyone who pays a Con Edison bill can subscribe to a community solar project in NYC. For the Red Hook Community Solar Initiative, low- and moderate-income households will be prioritized as subscribers.
How many people can subscribe? Where is the cut off?
The number of subscribers depends on the solar energy system’s capacity. Typically, a 1 MW project can support ~450 households. Once projects fill up, a Waitlist will be available for other interested households.
Is there an upfront cost?
No, there is no upfront cost to subscribe to a community solar project.
Can households that have ESCOs still enroll?
As long as the ESCO charges are on the Con Edison bill, subscribers do not need to cancel their ESCO contracts. In some cases, the ESCO sends a separate bill, and in this case subscribers would need to cancel their ESCO contract to join a community solar project.
Why does Con Edison allow subscribers to lower their electric bills?
To incentivize the growth of solar across the state, utilities are mandated to compensate solar projects for energy that is produced and exported to the grid, per the Value of Distributed Energy Resources Order. Community solar allows a single project to split up Con Edison’s compensation for solar among multiple households (subscribers). Con Edison will provide a monetary credit on a subscriber’s bill for their share of electricity produced on a monthly basis.
Is there maintenance with the solar installation? Who handles that?
Solar panels require minor maintenance, but the owner of the solar project will have the ability to monitor the output of the panels remotely and will see if any maintenance is required. Subscribers will not responsible for any costs related to maintenance or repairs of the solar energy equipment.
How are the subscribers protected if something happens to the solar installation? What happens if repairs need to be made to the solar energy system?
Because solar energy systems require very little maintenance, not many issues are expected with the operation of the systems. During construction, the installer will ensure that the solar energy systems will be built to withstand any weather events, such as high winds, and other standards as required by the Department of Building, FDNY, and other relevant authorities. The solar equipment also carries a manufacturer’s warranty, so in the event of equipment failure, the installer will be able to replace the equipment. Repairs, replacements, and other issues with the system will not be charged to subscribers—subscribers will still receive credits at a the fixed discount, usually 10-20%.
In the unlikely event that the solar panels are damaged and cannot produce electricity temporarily, customers may not see a credit while the equipment is being repaired, and their Con Edison charges will not decrease (as was the case before signing up for community solar).