Utilizing energy through solar panels in Sonoma County has come a long way from its modest beginnings. As of now, solar technology is being utilized and harnessed in several countries across the world. As our environmental sustainability is in jeopardy, solar power is one of those solutions that can help us preserve our environment while meeting our energy needs.
Solar panel systems generate electricity by absorbing solar energy from the sun and converting it to electricity supplied to the home. The solar energy system comprises multiple components, including solar panels, inverter, batteries (off-grid or hybrid solar system), and electrical wiring.
In this article, we’ll be looking at solar panel systems in Sonoma County in Santa Rosa, California – the benefits of installing solar panels in the area, the best Sonoma solar company (or companies) to contact for a solar project, how to know your property is suitable for solar installations, how to calculate how many solar panels you need, and so on.
Is It Worth Installing Solar Panels in Sonoma County
This is the same as asking if there are any benefits that come with installing solar panel systems in Sonoma County. To answer your question, there are tons of incentives or perks that provide enough motivation for a solar installation on your property.
Firstly, a solar installation saves the homeowner a significant sum of money over the period it will function as an electricity generation system. The average lifespan of a solar panel is 25 years, and though its upfront cost is considered expensive, this system actually pays for itself in the long run. Don’t get what I mean? Let’s look at it this way. We’ll compare the cost of using solar PV panels and conventional electricity over a period of 25 years.
The average annual cost of electricity in Sonoma County is $2,784. Let’s multiply that by 25 years and we’ll have $69,600 spent on conventional electricity and that is if we choose to ignore inflation occurring within that period. Otherwise, it’s fair to say that the total cost of electricity within that period will be up to $73,000.
On the other hand, the average cost of a solar installation for a 5-KW PV system ranges between $13k-$17k and you don’t have to worry about inflation. See the gulf between the cost of a solar project and the amount you’ll spend on grid power over the same period? That’s a glimpse of how much money you’ll save in 25 years.
Secondly, solar panel systems are green and very eco-friendly. They generate electricity by harnessing the sun’s energy and don’t emit greenhouse gases leaving a zero-carbon footprint on the environment. This is one of the best perks that come with using the solar PV system, and it’s why many countries are jumping on the wave of going solar.
Thirdly, going solar means, you’ll pay fewer electric bills or even stop paying utility bills altogether. If you’re using a grid-tied or a hybrid solar PV system, your electric bills can reduce by as much as 50%. On the other hand, if you’re using an off-grid system that comes with ample battery storage, you won’t have to pay bills again.
Fourthly, using solar energy for your electricity consumption makes you self-sufficient and independent of the grid. When there’s a power outage as a result of a natural disaster or maintenance of power lines, you won’t be affected.
Value of Your Home
Lastly, using a solar energy system enhances the value of your home on the property market. If you intend to sell your home later, installing a clean energy system is a good investment because your home will sell much faster and for more money than a home without a PV system. The reason for this is that prospective property owners know that homes with solar PV installations are hot cakes and acquiring them means they won’t have to pay light bills.
Factors Affecting the Cost of Going Solar in Sonoma
The average cost of going solar is not a straightforward estimation because there are a lot of factors to consider and they all have a significant effect on how much the solar company will charge you. Let’s take a look at some of them.
The Kind of Installation
This refers to a rooftop or ground-mounted solar installation. Usually, residential solar panels are installed on the roof of the home, but there are cases where the roof size may be too small for the capacity of the PV system. In such cases, ground-mounted installations will be the next best solution. However, installing panels on the ground is more expensive than on the roof. This means if you opt for ground installation, you’ll spend more.
The Solar Company You’re Working With
Some companies are more expensive to work with than others. Just like in every industry, there are high-end brands and budget brands. If you’re a budget-conscious homeowner, working with a solar company whose fees are considered expensive may be a hard sell. On the other hand, working with more affordable companies will reduce the cost of the solar project. The whole process will incur significant labor costs either way.
The Size of the Solar PV System
This is a no-brainer. The higher the capacity of the solar system, the more expensive it will be, and vice versa. A 10-KW PV system will be more expensive to purchase and install than a 6-KW system.
The Kind of System You Want to Install
There are three kinds of solar energy systems – grid-tied systems, hybrid systems, and off-grid systems. Grid-tied systems are the most affordable for property owners because they don’t require battery storage while off-grid systems are the most expensive because they require a significantly larger battery capacity than the hybrid PV setup. In essence, if a homeowner decides to install a grid-tied PV setup, they will spend less than what they would’ve spent on hybrid and off-grid systems.
Availability of Rebates or Incentives
Solar rebates and incentives such as tax credits, interest-free loans, and grants have been a lifeline for many homeowners because they help to reduce or offset the total price of purchasing and installing a PV system. If these benefits are not available in the area you reside in, it means you’ll be paying the full amount of installing a PV system from your pocket. Luckily, there are solar incentives in Sonoma County. Taking a solar lease is also an option.
The Price of a Solar Installation in Sonoma County
As we stated earlier, the price of installation in Sonoma depends on some factors. Let’s go with the size of the system. We’ll give you the original price and the price after the investment tax credit has been deducted.
The original prices of the following PV systems in Sonoma County are:
- 3 kW – $9,180
- 4 KW – $12,240
- 5 KW – $15,300
- 6 KW – $18,360
- 7 KW – $21,420
- 8 KW – $24,480
- 9 KW – $27,540
- 10 KW – $30,600
The post-ITC prices of the above-mentioned PV systems in Sonoma Country include:
- 3 kW – $6,793
- 4 KW – $9,058
- 5 KW – $11,322
- 6 KW – $13,586
- 7 KW – $15,851
- 8 KW – $18,115
- 9 KW – $20,380
- 10 KW – $22,644
As we can see in the list of prices above, there’s a significant price gap between the original prices and the post-ITC prices. The 10-KW system has an $8k gap, a substantial incentive for going solar in Sonoma.
Factors That Determine if a Site Is Suitable for Installing a Solar Power System
Before getting all excited and eager about a solar installation, you need to consider the factors that will determine if your home is even suitable for an installation in the first place.
The Condition of Your Roof
This is the foremost thing to consider because it’s more important than other factors. The installation will most likely be on your roof and if you didn’t know, panels add extra weight to your roof. So, if your roof is not in great condition, it can’t bear the extra weight. When you reach out to solar installers, they will first inspect your roof’s condition before calculating the right size of PV system your home needs. They will check your roof for leakages or depressions. Also, if your roof is old, the professional solar installers will recommend repairing or replacing it before they go ahead with the project. Installing PV panels on a bad roof is a bad move because, after a short while, you’ll have to spend extra to remove the panels and repair or replace the roof.
The Roof’s Tilt
Your roof tilt or steepness is a factor to consider too because it determines how efficient your PV panels will be. A south-facing roof is your best bet because panels facing the sun from that position will absorb and generate more electricity than panels facing other directions. An alternative is west-facing roofs.
Obstructions or Shading
As you know, panels function optimally when they’re directly exposed to the sun. When these panels are partially or completely shaded, they will either function less effectively or stop working because their exposure to direct sunlight has been tampered with. Obstructions such as trees, tall buildings in close proximity, and chimneys can shade panels and render them ineffective. To make your site suitable for going solar, remove every obstruction at the site you choose to install your PV panels.
Some locations are more reliable for solar power systems because sunny days are common there. This includes tropical regions. On the other hand, cold regions have much fewer peak sunlight hours than tropical areas and are less reliable for installing a piece of solar equipment. Sonoma County has 5.8 peak sunshine hours which makes it reliable for PV installations.
The larger the roof size, the more panels it can accommodate. So, if your house has a large roof, it has a lot of solar potential since most of the installations are done on the rooftop.
How to Calculate the Size of the Solar System
Calculating the capacity of the equipment you want to install depends on the amount of energy your house consumes, the panel wattage, and the peak sunshine hours. The formula for calculating how many panels you need is hourly energy consumption x peak sunlight hours/ panel wattage.
We already have our peak sunlight hours for Sonoma County as 5.8 hours. Let’s assume our panel wattage is 300W. What’s left is to determine the hourly energy consumption.
The average household’s monthly energy consumption is 702kWh. This is very similar to other places in California. To get the hourly rate, let’s break it down to daily energy consumption first.
That’s 702kWh/30 = 23.4kWh, To get the hourly energy consumption, that’s 23.4kWh/24 = 0.975 kWh (975W)
How many panels = 975W x 5.8/ 300W = 5655/300 = 18.85 (approx.19 solar panels)
If the panel wattage was less than 300W, you’ll need more than 19 panels for your house. On the other hand, if the panel wattage was more than 300W, you’ll need fewer panels.
The Top Solar Companies in Sonoma County
Sonoma County is home to many solar companies, and these professional solar installers are some of the best you’ll work with. They guarantee customer satisfaction. Before we introduce you to some of them, you should know some of the things to watch out for when seeking professional solar installers. They include:
- A minimum of 3 years of experience in the industry
- NABCEP certifications
- Sells or installs high-quality solar equipment
- Have valid licenses and insurance for installing PV systems
- A great customer service
Now, let’s get to know some of the best solar companies in or around Sonoma County.
- Year established: 2017
- Address: 1275 4th St #5008, Santa Rosa, California
- Average customer rating: 4.5
- Selling point: 10 years warranty on battery storage and a 25-year workmanship warranty
- Telephone: 888-373-9379
- Website: https://betterearth.solar/
American Array Solar and Roofing
- Year established: 2012
- Address: 3151 Independence Dr Livermore, California
- Average customer rating: 4.5
- Selling point: Its workmanship warranty covers 30 years
- Telephone: 844-34-SOLAR
- Website: https://www.americanarraysolar.com/
- Year established: 2008
- Address: 1500 Palma Drive, 2nd Floor, Ventura, California
- Average customer rating: 5
- Selling point: 25 years on workmanship, panels, inverter, racking, and mounting. 10 years warranty on battery storage
- Telephone: 800-552-9970
- Website: https://solaroptimum.com/
- Year established: 2014
- Address: 1740 Corporate Circle, Petaluma, California
- Average customer rating: 5
- Selling point: 25-year cause-and-effect workmanship warranty
- Telephone: 7072857037
- Website: https://simplysolar.com/
Solar Incentives in Sonoma County
Eligible house owners in Sonoma County get to enjoy a 30% solar tax credit on the purchase and installation of a piece of solar equipment.