I recently chatted with a solar salesperson. He implied that the panels he wants to sell me would work in the event of a power outage. Is this true?
The short answer is probably not. Unless your system includes a battery option or a certain type of inverter with an off-grid plug. The long answer explains how grid-tied generation typically works. Solar panels create DC power and homes use AC power. An inverter on your solar array uses the grid to convert DC to AC power for home use and exchanges with the grid. This is also an important safety feature. An inverter makes sure that home generation does not push power onto the grid and endanger line workers. I have been to more than a few homes with new solar panels where the member was under the impression they would have power in an outage – and that just isn’t the case.
That same salesperson showed me my payback from solar and how I could take advantage of lower usage months in the spring and fall to help offset my winter and summer utility bills. Is this true?
This is not true and is an indication the salesperson does not understand how net metering works. FreeState has a monthly net metering policy that allows members’ excess solar generation (kWh) to be pushed onto the grid on a sunny day when their usage is low. In the evening or cloudy days, that member then pulls electricity off the grid. This results in two sets of numbers. One for kWh pushed, the other for kWh pulled. At the end of the month, we reset the two numbers or provide the “net.” The member can offset the generation of their bill down to zero kWh for a month but would still owe the meter fee and potentially other fees. The excess generation does not roll over from month to month. Any excess consumption of kWh for that month not offset by generation is still owed to the co-op. This arrangement is called monthly net metering. Some salespeople target our members with misleading information that FreeState’s metering arrangement is yearly net metering and falsely imply that excess generation will pass on month to month. Understanding a metering arrangement is key to understanding and making the decision to install solar, and whether it’s a sound financial decision.
They also told me that their company would take care of all the paperwork with FreeState, is that true?
Typically, yes. However, an underhanded tactic of salespeople is telling members they will handle all the paperwork and then they do not. I have personally dealt with cases where companies indicate in a contract they will handle the paperwork, and it just doesn’t happen. So please, if you invest in a solar project, protect that investment and give FreeState a call to make certain everything is being handled correctly before they build anything on your property.