FAQ

While this entire website is full of great information, here you will find simple answers to the most commonly asked Solar PV questions.

Q: Are solar panels allowed by most HOAs?

A: In Texas, ALL HOAs must allow the installation of solar panels. It’s the law. The State of Texas passed HB-362 in 2011, prohibiting HOAs from restricting solar panels. There ARE some steps the homeowner must follow, but they ARE allowed to install solar panels in any HOA. Cities are advised to review HB-362 before considering restricting solar panels.  For more information on solar rights and regulations, click here.  For more information on how a municipality can engage HOAs in solar discussions, click here.

 

Q: Are solar panels available in colors to match roofing shingles and tile?

A: No. Solar cells must absorb as much light as possible. Changing their color would require a different mix of metals, substantially reducing their energy output (it has been tried). Cells are black, gray, or very dark blue because they absorb most of the light.

 

Q: Are solar panels available in shapes to match rooflines? If not, why?

A: No. There are too many different shapes and angles to the roofs around the country to make the manufacture of different shapes economical.

 

Q: Are solar panels heavy? How much load do they put on the roof?

A: No. They only LOOK heavy due to the aluminum frame. A 250 watt solar panel (typical size as of the date of this FAQ) weighs approximately 40 lbs. A 2,500 watt “array” - including the mounting rack - will add approximately 2.5 pounds per square foot to the roof.

 

Q: Could glare from a PV installation cause danger or nuisance to others?

A: A common misconception about solar PV is that they can cause too much glare, posing a nuisance to neighbors or a safety risk to pilots. In truth, solar PV systems rely on solar absorption rather than reflection—PV panels must absorb solar radiation to convert to electricity. Moreover, PV panels are covered with an anti-reflective coating to prevent the possibility of dangerous glare. Questions about glare from PV have been studied in depth by the Federal Aviation Administration and by Sandia National Laboratories. You can check out Sandia National Laboratory's Glare analysis tools and this fact sheet for more information.

 

Q: Do utility companies object if you connect solar panels to their power lines?

A: No. A connection agreement is required in virtually all cases. Some utility companies even provide incentives to reduce the cost of the equipment and provide credit for excess energy fed back into the utility grid. This has the net effect of decreasing utility bills, leaving more money in residents' pockets for other things, such as local shopping.

 

Q: How can I protect my community from misinformation and unscrupulous installers?

A: (Answer coming soon)

 

Q: How do communities handle the permitting process for solar installations?

A: For information on best practices for the permitting process, explore our resources on Creating a Permitting Checklist and Developing Criteria for Expedited Processes.  You can also review the permitting processes of local cities that are pursuing a SolSmart designation on the SolSmart Permitting page.

 

Q: How do I get more information?

A: You can sign up for our email list to receive updates on Solar PV events, trainings, legislative items, and more.

 

Q: If we have a security interest in the solar energy equipment, can it be insured against hail or other damage?

A: Yes, the same as the structure or any other asset you may secure under a loan.

 

Q: Is a Structural Professional Engineer required to analyze each residential roof for adequate strength?

A: If the house was built after the early 70s - when the International Residential Code began requiring 2x6 rafters on 24” centers, the answer is generally “no.” Three years of testing by Structural Engineers at Sandia National Laboratories, results of which were released in April 2016, found that roofs made using 2x6 lumber on 24” centers were 330% stronger than estimated by the Building Code. This is a substantially greater margin than needed to support a solar panel array with a dead-load of 2.5 lbs. per square foot.

 

Q: We’ve been approached to finance a “Community Solar” project. What is “Community Solar”?

A: Community solar consists of a central installation that provides customers with an opportunity to opt into the solar installation and receive a proportional share of financial or energy output of the system, thereby allowing customers to realize the environmental and economic benefits of solar energy without requiring a solar installation of their own.  For more information, visit our Community Solar page!

 

Q: What are steps I can take to encourage solar in my community?

A: One of the most important steps you can take to encourage solar in your community is to reduce the "soft costs" of solar - defined as business process or administrative costs that can increase the time and money it takes to install a solar system.  See our page on Best Management Practices for Local Governments for a compilation of resources that will get you started.  Another option is to pursue SolSmart designation, which provides high-profile, national recognition for communities that have made it cheaper and easier for solar customers to invest in solar energy.  Communities pursuing this designation are eligible for no-cost technical assistance from a team of national solar and local government experts.  Visit out SolSmart page to learn more about the program as well as to explore additional resources on encouraging solar in your community.

 

Q: What are the risk factors when lending for solar energy equipment?

A: Risk factors include the same concerns as for any other asset-based loan - financial strength and stability of the borrower, credit history, and so forth. There is also a difference. Unlike a piece of machinery, solar PV, once installed, has very little, if any, maintenance or overhead associated with it. Risk factors appear to be lower than for most equipment purchases. Properly designed and installed, a solar PV system will often have a net positive cash flow if the term of the loan and interest rate are appropriate. Calculations as of June 2016 have shown the value of energy produced to be equal to or greater than the monthly payment on a loan. If the borrower has a P&L and balance sheet that meet your criteria, odds are good to excellent that they will be paying the bank instead of the utility company. Once the loan is paid, their cash flow position improves by the amount of the loan payment and more, because the cost of the solar electricity does not increase with time as does the cost of utility energy.

 

Q: What communities in North Texas have solar ordinances?

A: Increasingly, cities are choosing to address solar PV systems through specific ordinances. The American Planning Association maintains a list of the solar planning and zoning regulations, including direct links to the codes themselves. You can also view our Solar Ordinance Matrix, an overview of existing solar ordinances in the North Texas region. If you know of any ordinances not represented here, or of any information that has changed, please contact us to correct it!  For more resources on how to address solar in the zoning code or adopt a solar ordinance, click here.

 

Q: What effect do solar panels have on nearby properties?

A: According to more than 25 years of studies and research, solar panels have no negative effect on property values of adjoining houses.

 

Q: What effect do solar panels have on value on the house on which they are mounted? If so, how much value, and how is the value estimated?

A: More than 25 years of studies and research have proven homes with solar panels generally sell from 4% to 50% faster and for a premium of $2 to $4 per installed watt than non-solar homes. The value of the solar panels are based in part on their original price and the amount of energy produced annually. This has a net effect of reducing the electrical utility bill year-round, which in turn adds value to a home - same as if the improvements were in energy efficiency aspects.  In rare instances, the solar panels were a “neutral,” not aiding nor hindering the sale. In none of the thousands of sales were owned solar panels a negative. The same cannot be said of leased solar panels. In those cases, leased or third-party-owned systems on a residence where the homeowner has a contract (often long-term), buyers were wary and often walked away.

 

Q: What is the optimal direction for roof-mounted solar panels to face?

A: Due south is the optimal direction for solar panels to face for maximum daily energy generation. East and west-facing solar panels produce up to 30% less energy than south-facing panels. Facing to the north severely limits their energy production, rendering them of little value to the homeowner or the utility company.  To estimate the performance of your PV system when facing different directions (azimuths), use the PV Watts calculator developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

 

Q: What is the “PACE” program?

A: “PACE” stands for “Property Assessed Clean Energy”. PACE may be used to finance energy efficiency, renewable energy, and water conservation upgrades to buildings. PACE pays for 100% of a project’s costs and is repaid for up to 20 years with an assessment added to the property’s tax bill. PACE financing stays with the building upon sale.  For more information on PACE Financing, visit our Payment Options page.

 

Q: What lifespan can I expect out of my solar panels?

A: Almost all panels are guaranteed to last between 25 and 30 years; and some are able to produce electricity for much longer! Properly installed solar panels should require little maintenance, making for an excellent return on investment.  Inverters (converting DC current to AC current) are now estimated to last 20 years or longer. Even then, they typically do not just quit; they gradually become less efficient.

 

Q: What municipalities currently have solar installations?

A: As of now, no comprehensive list of municipalities with solar is available.  However, to view solar data for cities that are pursuing SolSmart designation, click here.

 

Q: What ordinance can I or can't I pass regarding solar access rights?

A: Informaton on solar access rights in ordinances can be found in our Model Ordinance Guidelines for Municipalities.  Additional resources on solar in the zoning code and solar ordinances can be found on this page.

 

Q: What training resources are available to municipal employees?

A: Solar 101 for Local Governments is a ready-to-use presentation is intended to assist meeting facilitators in providing an introduction to solar energy systems (SES) and technology for local government staff and decision-makers considering SES installation, management, and regulation within the jurisdiction and/or on municipal properties.  Additional resources can be found on our Local Governments page.

 

Q: Where can I find the expedited permit checklist?

A: The expedited permit checklist can be found on this page - Develop Criteria for Expedited Processes.