Solar FAQ

How much can solar PV product in the Seattle area?

For each 1000 watts, or kilowatt, of installed solar PV, you can get up to 1,200 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity produced per year in Seattle. To see what this means, check your electric bill to see how many kWh of electricity you use. The average home in Seattle uses 8,600 kWh per year.

Can I store solar energy?

If you have a solar hot water system, you already have solar energy storage, but if you have a solar electric system you are probably relying on your electric utility to store your excess solar production via an agreement called Net Metering. Times are changing, though, and as battery storage becomes affordable and user-friendly, solar + battery storage is a growing segment of the solar marketplace and has many advantages for user and Utilities. Look for the value of solar electricity storage to rise as the cost of producing solar electricity continues to fall.

Why should I go solar?

Photovoltaic (PV) systems provide several benefits conventional grid-powered electricity does not.

  • Free fuel (photons from the sun)
  • Stable energy costs for decades to come
  • 98% reduction in greenhouse emissions
  • Locally produced fuel for electric vehicles
  • Solar panels leave no waste
  • Energy independence

What is Solar Electric?

Solar electric, also known as solar photovoltaic, or PV systems, provide the most versatile energy for homes and other buildings. Power produced by these systems will offset energy use for anything that uses electricity. For locations that experience power outages, there are solar electric systems that also provide back-up power, instantly and silently. Battery costs are falling, and batteries are now in use as a way to make solar ‘dispatchable’, delivering power after the sun goes down.

What is Solar Thermal?

Solar water heating can be used for domestic hot water, commercial or industrial hot water, space heating, and pool heating. Domestic water heating is the second biggest energy user in most homes and is often a large user of energy for commercial operations such as restaurants and laundry facilities. The market for solar hot water systems has cooled off due to the falling cost of solar electric projects, and the introduction of affordable heat pump water heaters, but it is still the most efficient use of roof space per unit of energy delivered.

What is Passive Solar?

Passive solar energy is the unsung hero of renewable energy, quietly providing inexpensive heating, sometimes unbeknownst to the beneficiary. South-facing windows with exposure to the winter sun, and a tight, well insulated building are all you need to capture this energy. Sunlight, when it strikes objects and surfaces in your home, down-converts to infrared light, or as we feel it, heat. This can provide up to 25% – 50% of heating for homes, annually. Passive solar heating can provide more units of energy per dollar spent than any other type of solar energy system. If you are building or remodeling, we can recommend architects and designers who specialize in passive solar design.

How can solar work for my home?

There are three basic ways to use solar energy in a home: Passive solar heating (the sun coming in through windows), solar water heating, and solar electricity production. Solar air heating is also used, but usually in an industrial application. Each of these methods has its own advantages and requirements.


Your home or building may be suitable for only one method of solar energy use, or it may be able to support all three (or none if shading is too prevalent.)

Does Solar Really Work in Seattle?

Sure, we get our share of grey, overcast rainy days, but our region’s long summer days are ideal for solar power. This, combined with net metering programs, allows customers to build up energy credits in the summer months they can apply to their bills in our cold, rainy winters.

As this graph illustrates, we get 74% of our annual sun in six months. If a residential solar energy system is properly scaled in relation to consumption, it is possible to generate enough summer credits to pay winter bills.

Another advantage is that solar panels operate more efficiently in our region’s cooler summers, which means more power is generated per photon than in hotter climes. Solar electric panels generate more power when they are cooler, so even though Seattle gets 70% of the sun that Los Angeles does, a solar panel here will produce 80% of what it will in L.A.

Solar doesn’t stop working on cloudy days, either. Diffuse light is still collected and converted into electricity. Versus a clear day, a bright cloudy day in the summer here can produce 50%.

That Seattle isn’t in America’s sun-scorched southwest doesn’t mean solar isn’t a financially and environmentally sound investment in the Pacific Northwest. Indeed, our region recieves more sunlight than Germany – a world leader in installed solar capacity.


What is solar energy?

Solar energy is by far the biggest source of energy on Planet Earth; the sun sends us thousands of times more energy than we can use every day. The trick is to figure out how to take that energy source and make it work 24 hours/day in our modern society. The reward for doing this is great; freedom from fossil fuels, mitigation of climate change, and the halting of the destruction of nature.

On a small scale, solar energy can work for you and your family at your home or business. On a large scale, solar energy can supply us with many of the things that we have come to rely on, without the use of petroleum, natural gas, coal, and uranium. It is up to us to choose solar, and to encourage others to do the same, so that the technology can be developed further and can be made more widely available.


What does a typical solar quote look like?

Puget Sound Solar installed the first permitted solar photovoltaic system in Seattle in 2001, and throughout our history, we’ve taken pride in being transparent with our solar quotes and solar sales process. That’s how we’ve earned the trust of our customers over decades. We view the sales process as a collaboration, so we listen to you so we can help you meet the goals of your project. We want to build a long-time, trusting relationship with our customers.

As part of our effort to demonstrate transparency, we’re sharing a sample proposal, so you can see the kind of information you’ll receive when you sign up for a free solar quote.

Are there any other rebates available?

Rebates, or “cash back incentives,” for solar systems in Washington vary by Utility. Check out your Utility’s website to determine if rebates are available in your service area.

What about the Sales Tax Exemption?

Washington State extended the Sales Tax Exemption for solar PV systems up to 100 kW in size in 2019 Senate Bill 5116 – the Clean Energy Transformation Act. This is in effect until 2029.

What is Net Metering?

Net Metering, an incentive available since 1996 and extended in 2019, is a contract that you sign with your Utility allowing you to trade power with them at retail rates. When you produce more energy than you consume (running your meter backwards) the excess kilowatt hours, (kWh) are fed into the grid and credited to your account. When you produce less than you consume, you use the credits you’ve built into your account.

As a result, a solar array in the Seattle area may feed excess kilowatt-hours into the grid during the summer. Net Metering allows you to “bank” that extra energy with your utility to be used in the winter months when solar production drops and electricity consumption rises.

The fiscal year for Net Metering is from May to April. If you still have kWh “in the bank” at the end of March you forfeit their value. For this reason, systems are designed to not exceed 100% of the consumer’s annual production. Net metering does not have an expiration date, but there is a threshold in State law below which your utility must offer net metering. Through the efforts of Puget Sound Solar and members of Solar Installers of Washington, the threshold was raised 8X, to 4% of a utility’s 1996 peak load. Only two utilities in the state had more net metered power when the law was passed in 2019.

Net metering is required statewide for PV systems up to 100 kW, but Seattle City Light has adopted a different standard for commercial customers, allowing them to install much larger systems that will be subject to a ‘net billing’ rate for excess kilowatt hours at the end of a billing period, but that can offset the retail rate for anything consumed onsite during that billing period.

Other models for interconnection to utility grids will emerge as the amount of distributed solar on the grid increases. These models may increase the monetization of behind-the-meter storage that allows increased self consumption of solar power without involving the utility grid.

What is the Federal Tax Credit for solar?

The Federal Government allows you to currently claim a Tax Credit of up to 26% of your total system cost on your tax return. What is more, you can roll it over, meaning that if you can’t use the full value in the first year, you can claim the remainder in the next year. There are two programs in the IRS code: The Residential Energy Efficiency Credit in section 25D of the tax code is for individuals and is claimed on the Form 1040, and Form 5695. This credit is applicable to your Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) as well.

For solar that is purchased and installed on a business, the Investment Tax Credit program in section 48 of the tax code provides a 26% credit + MACRS depreciation up to 85% of the project cost, or ‘basis’.

This incentive is good through 2021 and is reduced to 22% after 2021.

A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in the income taxes that a person or company claiming the credit would otherwise pay the federal government. The ITC is based on the amount of investment in solar property. Both the residential and commercial ITC are equal to 26 percent of the basis that is invested in eligible property which have commenced construction through 2021. The ITC then steps down to 22 percent in 2023. Starting in 2024, the residential credit will drop to zero while the commercial and utility credit will drop to a permanent 10 percent unless the U.S. Congress passes legislation to extend, increase, and/or make permanent tax credits for investments in solar by individuals or by corporations. One such extension was granted at the end of 2020 as part of an Economic Stimulus Bill.

Commercial and utility projects which have commenced construction before December 31, 2022 may still qualify for the 26 or 22 percent ITC if they are placed in service before December 31, 2023. The Treasury and IRS are currently drafting guidance which will inform solar developers of which percentage of ITC they will qualify for depending on when they started their project.

What financial incentives are there for solar?

There are a variety of incentives available in Washington State that significantly reduce the cost of a solar system – and help maximize your Return on Investment. These include a Federal Tax Credit, Net Metering, a Sales Tax Exemption and some Utilities offer rebates.

How much does solar cost?

Like so many things in life, with solar systems and costs, one size does not fit all and prices vary depending upon on number of factors including the size of the system, the type of roof, it’s height and accessibility and of course, which product brands are selected.
We offer different ‘flavors’ of PV systems to meet different goals: The lowest initial cost, the highest production per square foot, or the fastest return of investment. The cost varies depending on your goals, and the difficulty of installation. Our specialty is customizing each system to our customer’s needs. Expect costs to range as follows:

  • 8.5 kW $22,000 – $36,000
  • 5.5 kW $17,000 – $25,000
  • 3.5 kW $11,000 – $17,000

What is a solar cell and how does it work?

Solar power cells convert sunlight into electricity, using the energy of speeding photons from the sun to create an electrical current within a solar panel when sunlight hits the surface of the solar cell.

Photons are created in the center of the sun by the fusion of atoms. It takes a photon about 10,000 years to work its way to the surface of the sun, but once free it is hurled through space so fast that it reaches earth in just eight minutes – after traveling 93 million miles.

One layer of the crystalline solar cell is made of a n-type semiconductor (injected with phosphorus), another layer is a p-type semiconductor (injected with boron) and they are joined by a p-n junction. As photons hit the n-type and p-type layers, they excite the electrons and cause them to move. This movement is directed out of the cell in the form of direct, (DC) current.

What is Solar Monitoring?

Most projects we install come with a monitoring system and software. This provides real time data – allowing us to keep tabs on your solar production via the Internet. This makes tracking your production possible for us without ever having to manually poll your inverter, and you will be able to compare your energy production with your consumption. We now offer 10-years of active system monitoring for our customers. If something is not performing correctly with your system we will get an automated alert so we can fix whatever is not working.

What is a Net Meter?

Once your system is installed and ready to be turned on, your utility will replace your old billing meter with a specialized Net Meter. This meter measures the power to you push into the grid at high production times, like late spring, summer, or early fall, “spinning it backwards” and you draw back from the grid during low production times it “spins forward.” In Washington State, if you produce more electricity than you consume you receive credit on your electricity bill.

What is a Main Service Panel/Load Center?

The AC current from your inverter is fed to a breaker in your main service panel. From there, the solar power you generate flows first to loads in your house, which means your house is being powered by the sun. In some cases, if the output current of your system exceeds the capacity of your existing main service panel, we will have to upgrade the panel.

How does solar and batteries work?

For locations that experience power outages, there are solar electric systems that also provide back-up power, instantly and silently. These use dual-purpose inverters and batteries will produce electricity for as long a period as the battery capacity and solar input will support. These systems are programmable, so that they can also be used for daily ‘self-consumption’ of power to reduce demand dependence on the grid. Plan on spending about $10,000 – $30,000 for the additional design, equipment, and installation labor. Off-grid locations use battery-supported PV systems that also integrate a generator for dark winter months or perhaps a wind generator as well. Tesla’s Powerwall combines battery, inverter, charger, and controller in one package. If you already have a generator, your battery system will be installed ‘upstream’ from the generator, making the battery the ‘first responder’ in the event of an outage. If the battery becomes depleted, the generator will then take over.

What is a Solar Inverter?

The power generated by the PV array is direct current (DC), while our homes and many other electric devices run on alternating current (AC). The inverter converts the DC electricity of the solar array to the AC electricity that is used in your home or office. Most inverters have a display that allows you to read data about how your system is performing.

Expandability: if you want to start small and build your array up over time, you will want to size your inverter for your final projected array size.

What is Rapid Shutdown?

The voltage at the solar panels is reduced to a safe level by the rapid shutdown system in the event a fire fighter needs to get on the roof. These are required by code and can be eliminated with the use of microinverters (one inverter per panel).

What is a Solar Array?

A collection of solar panels is known as a solar array, is usually mounted flush to your roof. While solar panels don’t appear to do much – they just sit there – a lot is happening on the inside. When photons from the sun hits a cell, usually made of silicon, they excite electrons from the material of the cell. The wires connected to the solar cell collect these electrons, converting them into electric current. Multiple interconnected cells are used in a single solar panel, with many connected panels forming the “strings” that comprise a photovoltaic (PV) array. Individual solar panels are also known as solar modules.

What are the basic parts of a solar PV system?

Here are two common system diagrams. One system includes batteries and provides emergency back-up power to your home during an outage of the Utilities electrical grid. The system without batteries does not “island” itself the same way a battery system is capable of doing and must shut down during a Utility electrical outage to prevent feeding electricity back into the grid and endangering Utility workers repairing the outage. d

to the devices you select, when the some basic components used in solar PV systems. Each system is customized to fit each customer, roof and shading situation.

What are PV systems and how do they work?

A solar electric or photovoltaic (PV) system generates DC electricity from photovoltaic modules, sends it to an inverter that converts it to AC, and into your house electric panel. Your electric meter spins backward when your home isn’t using the energy generated, giving you retail credit for power produced. Through net-metering the utility company measures the remainder of energy that you consume minus the amount that your PV modules produce. You are charged only for this amount on your electricity bill. If your system produces more electricity than you use you will receive credit that can be carried over month-to-month (but not year-to-year, with April 30th the cutoff date).

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