04 Aug Ep. 45 Straight Up Solar
Email questions to PODCAST@HermannLondon.com
1:00 Adam introduces Doug Munsch and Emma Gilmore
1:41 How did Doug Munsch go from being a yoga instructor to working with Straight Up Solar?
2:45 How has Straight Up Solar grown since its founding in 2006?
3:25 How did Emma Gilmore get involved in the solar industry?
5:55 Why should someone get solar?
6:45 Is solar always installed on roofs? What are solar ground mounts?
7:30 Are there financial benefits to going solar? Is solar just about protecting the environment?
8:20 How is solar different in Missouri compared to other parts of the world?
9:45 Buying solar is comparable to buying a car
10:00 Is the price of solar constantly going down?
11:50 What solar tax credits are available? What was proposition C?
15:50 How much money does solar save?
17:10 How long does it take to get your money back from installing solar?
18:40 Will a current piece of solar technology become outdated?
21:22 Where do most homes get their energy from?
23:32 What are photovoltaic panels? What are agrarian systems? What are utility scale systems?
24:25 What are the environmental benefits of solar?
27:14 How can people be more efficient with their energy usage?
28:15 What is the impact of solar panels on the life of the roof?
29:40 How are solar panels uninstalled and reinstalled?
30:30 How does solar basically work?
35:00 What is net metering when it comes to solar?
37:40 A Glendale homeowner had solar panels and an electric car charging station
38:50 How do real estate agents think about solar?
40:50 Contact Straight Up Solar at 314-218-2663 or 844-97-Solar
42:15 How does Straight Up Solar use Google Maps for the first solar consultation?
43:15 What does the solar calculator on Straight Up Solar’s website tell you?
44:07 What is energy independence? What is living off the grid?
43:25 Are there HOA rules regarding solar? How can you prepare your neighbors for your solar panels?
47:10 What is the Illinois Solar Homeowners Bill of Rights?
48:10 What is a solar water heater?
49:20 Are Tesla solar panel shingles available yet?
50:35 What do modern solar panels look like?
53:15 How do solar power battery banks create more energy independence?
55:05 What is the shelf life of solar technology? When is a solar module considered to be dead?
55:50 Do solar modules still produce energy when covered by snow?
57:35 What is group-buy, co-op, and community solar? What is a solar bulk buy?
1:00:00 What is a NABCEP certification?
Adam: live on the rooftop of the Hermann London real estate group in beautiful downtown Maplewood it’s the st. Louis realtor podcast with your host Adam Kruse welcome welcome everybody to the st. Louis realtor podcast live from the rooftop of the Hermann London real estate group beautiful downtown Maplewood Missouri I’m Adam Kruse and with me my co-host Shannon st. Pierre
Adam: and we’re very excited today because we have some extra special guests some straight-up solar right we’ve got Doug Munsch and Emma Gilmore here in the office I mean on the rooftop and they’re from straight up solar so Doug you’re the you’re a project developer
Doug: that’s correct
Adam: okay and Emma is the marketing what are you what’s your title
Emma: assistant director of marketing
Adam: and you do statewide advocacy all right okay so but before we jump into the solar stuff because I know Shannon I have a bunch of questions and then we posted this on Facebook and people were posting questions and stuff too so Before we jump into that can you guys tell me just a little bit kind of about yourselves in the company
Doug: absolutely and thank you Adam and Shannon for having us this morning so my name is Doug munch I’m a project developer with straight up solar I’ve been with the company for a little a little over three years now and initially I got involved with the company because I was actually the yoga instructor of our HR and so we both lived in Lafayette Square which is one of my favorite areas a ton of beautiful architecture and I had always had an interest in solar I definitely believe that new and upcoming technologies are best left in the hands of thousands of people with competing interests who all want to serve the interests of people who want renewable energy who went to find ways of lowering their utility bills and through that I got myself educated in the solar industry I had sales experience in the construction industry and so I transferred that skills from one construction trade into energy and the construction trade with an energy and since that time I can tell a little bit about you know straight of solar when I first joined straight-up solar which is founded in 2006 we are at about nineteen people at that time over 50 right now we do residential installations we do commercial installations we have some agrarian projects for corn farmers and hog farmers and so long as things continue to go well we should be slated to do what I would call small-scale utility solar which we’re looking forward to and we operate in Missouri in Illinois
Adam: so what does regression
Doug: yeah variant farmers
Adam: farmers okay yeah okay and Emma do you want to tell us a little about yourself
Emma: sure so I got into the solar industry by starting off I pursued a degree in renewable energy from Illinois State University and then I went on to get my masters and while I was in school I linked up with our director of business development at the time Shannon Fulton and I interned and I interned with her and so I basically started off as a business development intern about four years ago around the same time that Doug started out it straight up when we were just nineteen people and I stayed on I was lucky enough to you know see the company grow throughout the past four years or so and I’ve always enjoyed connecting with people who have adopted solar energy and renewable energy you know wind is pretty big where I come from as well as home you know residential and commercial solar so it’s definitely growing from a you know from a smaller group of homeowners and folks in the Midwest to you know your next-door neighbors you might see them getting solar in the next few days I’ve gotten involved in advocacy with the Illinois solar energy Association and just really enjoy the outreach and connecting with the public and you know like like kind of sharing information educating people on solar energy and that’s a big core value of straight-up solar and I think of the solar energy industry right now is education you know we need to focus on that making sure people who are interested in purchasing solar or an adopting solar are armed with the information that they need to go into that decision so
Adam: we appreciate you guys being here because and like you said education is obviously really important to you guys but I I’m sitting here realizing as Realtors we go out and we see houses that have solar right I think we see commercial I Drive down Manchester and I see businesses that have solar [???] you see it sometimes in residential but we at least I for myself I don’t really know a lot about it and so we’re excited to learn more about it today and I’ve had clients ask like does that add value or does it take away value from that you know as Realtors we’re gonna start having to consider that in the pricing of properties and that type of thing so we got to learn about it now and so I’m glad you guys are here today let’s just jump into it right so there’s different types of solar but in in general why should someone get solar on the roof and is it always on the roof and does anyone ever get wind is it all about solar now for residential especially
Doug: straight up solar is negative of precisely what we do which is it’s straight up solar
Adam: that’s right
Doug: and naturally every now and again there’s someone who’s interested and when we have some solar customers who already had when but it tends to be especially niche and we really don’t get involved and win now I have to backpedal a little bit on the name straight up solar biggest naturally the other component of this is batteries and that is a market that it will to some extent have a similar trajectory as solar itself so we do have solar plus storage projects that we’ve done and to your question about a solar always-on ruse what we also see is ground mounts so if someone has now this isn’t going to be your typical suburban solar client this is going to be nobody who lives out who has you know probably four or nine plus acres or if they are a farmer they have essentially just a metal structure out in the field and we install solar on it and that can be you know 100 200 400 600 feet away from their property the majority of those who do go solar it is on top of the roof whether it’s a pitched roof or in your areas like the Shaw neighborhood or Tower Grove it’s going to be your your flat pitched roofs on your two or three story home
Adam: and so are there financial benefits to going solar or is it mainly people who just kind of care about the environment or
Doug: it’s a blend of both we can talk a little bit about financially what solar looks like in a nutshell here in the Missouri market we can also talk about environmentally what’s involved in the environmental benefits Emma maybe I’ll talk a little bit about financially what a homeowner can expect for solar than if you want a take on the environmental part
Adam: yeah we’d love that because I know there’s people listening that are considering getting solar right and we’ve probably especially myself I’ve always sort of wondered about it and I’ve kind of wondered can I do that in st. Louis you know we’re not in Arizona or California right and then how much is it gonna cost me aren’t there like governmental programs and stuff like that so I know you guys are gonna get into all that for us yeah rebates and things like that
Doug: correct and so I’ll start with the topic of sunlight right you know Singh Louis Missouri is not Boulder Colorado right Boulder Colorado has over 300 sunny days a year that are at a higher altitude there’s less atmosphere for the sunlight to travel to however st. Louis does have as much sunlight as portions as Florida because Florida is hot but also Florida has all those afternoon storms that come in and although there’s all those cloud coverage so if you think about the market globally you also have a ton of solar in areas like Germany right and st. Louis has more solar more insulation levels than we do in Germany so there’s there’s plenty of sunlight here I mean there’s certainly some some technical components where we can get into the weeds but you know you probably have to have a pillow to some degree to have me go through those details because you can get a little sleepy sure and get it can get I think a little a little more detail than I think is necessary but for the most part there’s there’s a ton of Sun here right we can still get sunburns so you know solar can be good for a home financially here’s a quick overview of what solar looks like
Doug: with with the incentives here in Missouri so solar I would say is akin to like buying a car in terms of cost depending upon the kind of car you get how big it is and then what kind of bells and whistles you would add to it typically solar ranges anywhere from you know 14 to I’d say you know 36 40 thousand dollars depending a minor system size there’s obviously exceptions to the rule sometimes it costs less sometimes it cost more it all depends upon
Emma: what you’re trying to power
Doug: yeah what you’re trying to power how big the system is how how labor-intensive the particular project is so you might
Adam: ask a quick question about that yeah as the a). has that gone down and B). will it continue assuming that sort of a yes will it continue to go down the more people that do it you know
Doug: correct yeah there’s there’s a couple factors that influence the cost globally what I can tell you is when straight up solar started 12 years ago the installation cost was about eleven dollars a watt and the actual solar module itself was four dollars a watt so if you had a 200 watt module and it’s four dollars a watt the module would have been eight hundred dollars now what you have is so again keep in mind the installation used to be 11 dollars a watt now will we have roughly use the installations about three dollars a watt solar modules were previously we’re about four dollars a watt now they’re about $0.50 a watt plus or minus
Adam: technologies gotten better is that right yeah
Doug: the maintenance-free went through a similar experience is what what they did with like beta tapes and VHS right like the industry was trying to figure out like which technology is going to be the one that’s deployed most often and eventually they settled on the manufacturing process and the industry knew that like this is the product that’s easier to manufacture and they could really ramp up production and then a demand and you know Germany and Japan helped the standard operating procedures for those manufacturers and so the cost really dropped considerably especially around like 2008 to 2013 the price is really really dropped so that’s that’s where you know the the cost is of systems you know so financially what people have available to them right now is a 30% federal tax credit now this tax credit was actually started in the Bush era it was continued during the Obama era and it managed to as a result of the Paris Accord it was continued as well so he had the 30 percent federal tax credit this year you had the 30 percent federal tax credit next year 2019 and then in 2020 it ramps down to 26 percent and then in 2021 it ramps down to 22 percent
Adam: so just to clear that up if I buy a $20,000 solar system that includes installation from your company then I can take both what would 30% of that be six thousand dollars and I can just that just reduces my tax burden by six thousand dollars
Doug: correct nailed it
Shannon: I mean that’s pretty hefty
Doug: it’s it’s it’s a chunk of change I mean it helps in
Shannon: so are there other rebates even locally so this is a federal tax credit are there state credits or rebates or incidence of any sort
Doug: yeah there are and to provide more back story to it and there’s like a fun little anecdote about this the rebate initially was a result of the 2008 proposition C and proposition C was really spearheaded by air Noble and PJ
Emma: yeah PJ
Doug: who was with in new Missouri and so proposition C was a ballot initiative and like a lot of ballot initiatives it took a lot of interest and a lot of elbow grease on the part of the renewable community to have the citizens of Missouri say yes we want more renewable energy and so Noble would go outside of Cardinals games and look for poetically all the smokers who were taking smoke breaks and she’d walk over you know to them and with their clipboard and she would get them to sign her this this ballot initiative and that was her that was her most beneficial clientele so to speak and getting signatures on the clipboard so through probably
Shannon: can i ironic
Shannon: [???] think about that
Doug: yes Missourians are improved air quality as a result of cigarette smokers you know clean air do you you know clean air brought to you by tomorrow
Shannon: yeah not a tagline I thought I’d hear
Doug: no no but but you know hats off to her and a lot of the folks back in the day and so proposition C started in 2008 it ran for a couple years the rebate ramped down and so now this upcoming rebate is being reinstated and for construction projects starting in 2019 from January to June it’s a 50 cent a lot rebate so if you have a ten thousand watt system a 10 kW it would be you know five thousand dollars off of that so you have the 30 percent federal tax credit and the 50 cent a watt rebate to reduce your total project cost
Adam: which is cool because I think you said now you’re paying 50 cents per watt for the like equipment right
Doug: correct yeah well further for the solar modules the soldier money so much
Shannon: so you’re just paying the installation
Doug: installation and the other balance of systems you know wire inverter that’s a critical technical component that it’s another piece of technology that that actually receives all the energy that is direct current right when we plug our smart phones into our outlets that’s operating off of alternating current energy so the inverter receives the direct current and then it converts it it’s alternating current and so that’s another critical component of the installation
Adam: so let me ask that you know I love how we’re just kind of jumped into the financials here and that’s what seems everyone seems to that’s what they want to know right what’s it gonna cost me and then so now we’ve kind of talked about that but what’s it gonna save me am I gonna save on my monthly utility bills I guess that’s the whole point well until we get to the environmental points but the financial side that’s the whole point right is I’m saving monthly
Doug: yeah you’re saving monthly right so the idea is right now everyone has the same supplier of energy and what you’re doing is you’re augmenting or you’re replacing your existing energy provider and your new provider is the Sun and so the energy that’s coming out from the Sun could be less than the amount of energy you’re currently paying so if I have and and we can also get into the real estate side of this which is what happens when it’s when a homeowner already has solar right what’s right the value add it to the home and then what happens in the sales process when at home already has solar so for some for some individuals solar can nearly eliminate their in their utility bill right there’s there’s always a meter fee like there’s always a cost to be a customer but then you’re also paying for the energy itself so you know most of our customers their utility bills are being reduced you know 75 85 95 percent
Shannon: so how long do you think it typically takes some the the average residential consumer to realize their investments
Doug: with the 30% federal tax credit and with the rebate I’m going to say the average Falls around 11 years
Doug: and so the the comparison I always like to make it’s like a it’s like a medium-term Treasury note right it’s about you know say ten to fifteen years to get your money back and your internal rate of return which is different than the return on investment tends to fall between I’d say like five and seven percent internal rate of return but that’s great to you because you know that that investment and this is a perfect segue into the environmental component right that investment meets people’s financial needs to lower your utility bills right every appliance you buy in your home it sucks energy out this is the one appliance you buy you plug in and it sends energy in and it can also meet people’s environment
Shannon: I like that I like that analogy the appliance I don’t think that we think of solar panels as an appliance but yet we’ll go out and buy a really nice stove for five six thousand dollars easily right yet we bakit $10,000 per solar panels something that actually pays us back and lasts longer than that stove actually probably does so I think it’s it that’s an interesting way to put it in different mindsets
Adam: but how it’s so like
Shannon: all together
Adam: if someone would have bought this you know bought solar for their house 11 years ago by now they probably would have been somewhere breaking even sure it’s a little bit different with the different rebates and all that stuff has technology changed like if we buy it today should I be worried that 11 years from now there’s something totally better and I’m just gonna want a whole new system anyway
Shannon: or they 11 year old system is not gonna hold that as long as today’s systems
Doug: yeah great great question and and we get that frequently and like any new piece of technology you can you can wait as long as you like or you know that what we have available to us today meets your needs and that you can capitalize on it the the improvements in solar aren’t going to be so radically different where if an individual weighs all sudden the cost a 75% lower and the item produces twice as well twice as good as what it did initially so there there are improvements you know costs are continuing to go down and I think that timetable of knowing that next year is the last year the tax credits at 30% and the rebate you know it there’s there’s 5.2 million dollars of money in the pot and you know so between the first half of 2019 everything tells us that that is the ideal time for the Missouri buyer to go solar otherwise you’re having to I mean unless you’re in Moody’s analyst and you’re really looking down the pipeline of you know what the market is going to give to people who are interested right that’s that’s the bird in the hand
Adam: okay well you kind of talk you kind of briefly mentioned you I guess you can talk a little about real estate sales and stuff what what happens when someone installs a system and then three years later you know wants to move how does that how what have you seen happen in those cases I don’t think we’ve ever sold the home
Shannon: I haven’t
Adam: we either with solar or we haven’t I guess we may have that I just don’t even know about like we didn’t make a big deal about it but I guess there’s some sort of agreements between people because the buyer is really getting a lot of benefit
Shannon: so I think it’s a marketing thing but is there you didn’t mention that there’s a piece of the sales process is there a transfer of ownership and when it comes to solar panels and the the energy box of it collects and uses
Doug: yeah yes and and I do want to touch on that although I don’t want to pass over the opportunity to talk about the environmental
Adam: okay okay
Doug: because we are we are a solar company we are here to meet people’s financial interests but the the heart spirit of this company really all started out to bring more renewable energy to the world and coincidentally it is also financially advantageous for people to so I want to give an opportunity to talk about what kind of environmental benefits now a homeowner or business receives in going solar
Adam: where am i currently getting my energy from you know I pay my bill to hammer in but where are they getting it and I’m assuming that it’s not a great system for the environment
Emma: correct so from a you know from a water perspective from an air perspective you know just for our quality of life in this region the mix of energy generation is you know very dependent on coal especially in oil well yeah very very highly cool dependent we also have a mix of wind coming online as well and and some natural gas in there too in Illinois it’s about 50% it was about 50% nuclear 50% a coal and there are more you know chunks being taken out every year in terms of natural gas generation coming online as well as wind and solar so
Shannon: so it’s a mix of resources
Emma: yes exactly and so we have you know we have our baseline resources and we have our renewable resources and it’s actually funny we were at a green business challenge about a month ago and it was presented by Ameren Missouri and representative Gwen Mizell she was speaking about you know a Ameren long-term plan to bring more renewables onto the grid you know to just improve the environmental attributes of our energy supply and so solar panels of course produce electricity and so the you know we rely on not just electrical power plants for our energy usage but also gasoline for our cars and we rely on the natural gas system for our much of our home and and building heating so just to you know make a note the solar electric PV systems the PV is for photovoltaic and photo is you know photons from the Sun produce electricity voltaic is the electricity electricity portion so these photovoltaic PV panels they produce electricity for our homes and businesses and you know we’re also seeing larger solar energy installations come online not just that you know agrarian systems like like Doug was talking about farms and and businesses are typically larger solar electric systems but also you know utility scale systems like the like Ameren Missouri and other state utilities would would bring online and so there’s a clear environmental benefit we have you know carbon emissions sulfur dioxide you know nitrogen dioxide and we it’s it’s kind of cool when we produce a proposal for a homeowner we have a page that’s dedicated to the environmental benefits and you know we say an average 7.5 kilowatt system right we we rate these systems and thousands of watts of solar installed not to get too wonky and technical but you know 7.5 kilowatt is I’d say our average-size system is that right Doug and so you know you look at what that system is going to save in terms of you know carbon dioxide emissions and even even water savings from from those electric power generation system you know systems throughout the 25-year lifespan and you can compare it to thousands of acres worth of forested trees ground throughout that time yeah
Doug: a 10 a 10 kilowatt system over the course of 25 years will save about 300,000 pounds of coal from being burned if you look at you know any and
Shannon: that’s just one that’s the typical size for a homeowner
Doug: that yeah I’d say
Shannon: it’s a little less I think as too bit
Doug: a little a little larger than the national average but we certainly have homeowners with 16 kilowatt systems and so if you think I always like to think about your your old image of a father and son walking down the shop you know the Shaw neighborhood back in the day with a wheelbarrow and a bunch of coal and a shovel and they’d go house to house with their little baggies of coal and they’d throw it in the coal chute right and so our modern-day homes with air conditioning and lighting you know over the course of 25 years just think of the pile of coal you would need on say like a parking lot across the street just to power that home for the next 25 years and that’s over 300 thousand pounds
Shannon: and I think that that’s part of it is we don’t have these visual reminders of the impact that we have when we use the electricity in our homes how else do you help homeowners see the benefits environmentally
Emma: as I was saying when we make the proposal we kind of show them how much you know of their footprint they can offset in terms of environmental attributes it’s really funny because behavior does change when someone goes solar many times right so just to kind of talk about that for a second it’s funny so you have those people who have very low electrical usage in their home very energy-efficient and by the way that’s the first thing you want to think about when you’re you know you’re thinking about solar right is energy efficiency you want to you want to consider everything you’ve done in your home to make your home more energy efficient because we always say the cheapest kilowatt that the cheapest kilowatt is the one that you don’t use kilowatt hour
Shannon: so when you say more efficient you’re talking about insulation
Shannon: better windows things like that
Emma: yeah exactly lighting appliances
Shannon: LED lights
Emma: yeah so sometimes after somebody goes solar they tend to reduce their electricity usage sometimes they increase their electrical usage right and so there are actually you know when we install a solar energy system we add on production monitoring so you can actually see in pretty much real-time what your solar energy system is producing in terms of kilowatt hour energy and occasionally a homeowner or business will elect to also add consumption monitoring so that they can see what they’re actually using in comparison to what they’re producing in their solar energy system and so you know they can kind of tell whether their consumption has increased with when they’ve gone solar or decreased but yeah many people think about energy efficiency first
Adam: when you put one of these panels or a bunch of these panels on somebody’s roof does it actually like prolong the life of their roof because their roofs getting less of a heating from the Sun and the rain and whatever
Shannon: and I guess that’s kind of a question to a concern that’s come up is the what if my roof is mid year these have a life expectancy which you’ve said I think a couple times of 25 years
Shannon: okay so for 25 years you have solar panels my roof is say mid year you know gonna need to be replaced within five to ten years how is that handled and how do you address that
Doug: it’s a balancing act you have to develop realistic expectations about the homeowner of what that means for them so Adam you’re right in that if you have solar on one half of the roof it’s the solar modules that are going to be bearing the brunt of weather of the sunlight of the rain and at least that that half of the roof is going to be protected by solar modules now if I have a homeowner and I talk to them and they say my roof is 17 years old the expectation is that you know give them another 7 years or so and they’re probably going to have to reroute anyway so at that point they want to take the initiative to remove the existing shingles and add new ones the now they have this nice clean roof ready so that by the time the modules twenty-five years later are ready to be removed and reinstalled so are the shingles now someone’s at a midway point the process of removing the modules and reinstallation is something that we do all the time
Doug: both weather with our own installations and again as we’ve been around for 12 years and we’ve done over a thousand installations as companies have come and gone you know straight up Solar has been there to do remediation work on other projects and removals and reinstallation so that’s really good
Doug: I’m thinking ahead
Shannon: so is it expensive to uninstall and reinstall I mean are you paying the same original installation costs or is there you know
Doug: it’s about a hundred to one hundred fifty dollars per solar module so someone has 20 about them into one story home and it’s a nice shallow pitch and it isn’t too difficult for someone to move around the roof you know two thousand dollars to remove and reinstall right
Shannon: which isn’t bad
Doug: yeah not not bad and usually that that removal process is done as part of roofing too
Adam: okay so let’s kind of take a step back I guess if you want to give us like the 101 on solar energy right so we everyone sees the thing on the roofs but if they’re like me they have no idea what else is happening are their wires coming off of that that’s connecting to like my electric panel or is there some sort of box I guess that’s magic is happening in I can’t give us kind of the 101 [???]
Doug: you wouldn’t you want to know about the magic
Adam: yeah tell me the magic [???]
Doug: so yes the solar modules on top of the roof are out in the field they are receiving the photovoltaic energy from the Sun solar module is really just like a battery right it’s sand its doped with boron and I forgot the other one is
Doug: phosphorus right so one end is positive one end is negative and then there’s metal junctions between the solar module so when one end is excited there’s the electrons that are gonna travel through the pathways within the solar module and this is all a direct current energy right and so as the energy is flowing from one module through the next module in the next module in the next module they’re all meeting at a central point which is a combiner box and so that combiner box is collecting the series of energy generated by all the solar modules saves 26 of them to that central junction box and then from the junction box it’s going to go to the inverter and the inverters really where the magic happens right because that’s the component that both receives the direct current changes it to alternating current sends that alternating current to your electrical box and it’s your electrical box your electrical panel that had your main breaker and your breakers to you know your lighting your receptacles to your air conditioning and so on a day like you know today we’re looking out the window when it’s probably you know getting close to 90 degrees maybe some clouds in the sky you know that when say we had solar on top of this building right now there’s this light above our table well that light under these conditions would be powered by the photovoltaic energy of the Sun
Doug: and so let’s say for example that it’s Sunday and everybody’s out of the office and you’ve had the solar on top of your roof and you have all this energy being generated well the question is where does it go and the immediate answer is to your neighbor right because if you’re out if you’re out of town or you’re out of the office and that’s Sunday but your neighbor is next to their home in their home with the lights on with the air conditioning on electricity goes to the path of least resistance so if it has nowhere to go in your home it’s going to travel not to the electrical panel but it’s going to actually flow out through the inverter to the meter right and so the mean if you go solar Ameren removes the existing meter that you own and there replace it with a bi-directional meter if you look at that bi-directional meter there’s a little LCD screen and so if you’re not in the home and you’re generating all this energy you’ll actually see this arrow pointing backwards and that shows that you’re feeding energy back out to the grid and so now that energy is just going to go to your neighbors so unbeknownst to your neighbors there are periods of time in which you are delivering energy to them at the point of generation isn’t the coal plant you know 120 miles of [???]
Shannon: neighbors can actually benefit from their neighbors solar panels now does Ameren give a rebate or kind of any in
Doug: their conscience can be soothe knowing that their neighbor has now provided them energy
Adam: you basically got the rebate when you installed it
Adam: and so your
Shannon: and so that’s why is if there’s a reduction in the utility bill because Ameren is not supplying the energy but a solar panel is
Doug: yeah yeah no so essentially those those electrons are going to be delivered to your neighbor and Ameren still going to because that elect that electron is going to flow into your neighbors meter and so Ameren can still count that was an electron that was sent to your meters neighbor your neighbors meter and house they’ll still get charged for what you do have is we call net metering and so what happens is if you generate energy say on a Sunday and you’re not there and it’s sunny well then when you come back on Monday same Monday’s cloudy and now it’s raining well your solar array is not going to produce anything if it’s a really cloudy rainy day so what does that mean you’re now paying for all this Monday’s energy use but you can say well what I have is a solar array that produce energy for me on Sunday so you what you do is you get to use Sunday’s energy production to pay for my own
Adam: let’s cool
Doug: and that’s called that’s called net metering and so there’s there’s more details about that that that we can talk to and part a straight of Soler’s is making sure that the financial modeling is sound to what happens when you use instantly what you’ve generated and then what happens when you produce more than you use and there’s some financial consequences to generating more energy in use on a monthly and an annual basis but that’s that’s kind of a weedy detail
Doug: that I get into at the kitchen table conversations but probably not necessary right now
Adam: I think everybody’s first introduction to solar was probably on their calculator right when they were in second grade or whatever [???] is it the same technology and the calculator that it is on the roof
Doug: it would have to be real
Adam: like it we stumped [???]
Emma: yeah i think it is different technology actually yeah I think so Doug was talking about the crystalline silicon cells are really the foundation of the technology that we’ve been using for oh the past the better part of maybe 30 or 40 years now so really has become more popular in the past you know 10 to 20 years but yeah that crystalline silicon is the old standby and
Shannon: so do you see a trend with the introduction of electric cars people putting not necessarily solar panels for their home but for the garage just on it so a much smaller scale just to power the car because that would be the point in the first places less impact on the environment right with these cars do you see a trend in that way
Doug: I mean this would be a perfect example to talk about what it means for a homeowner to sell a home that already of solar because I’ve had precisely this instance with a homeowner who had both solar an electric vehicle and they were selling their home so I could use this as like a platform terrific
Shannon: go head
Doug: and what it means for someone who either already owns solar and is considering selling their home or somebody who’s in the market to buy a home and now there’s a home with solar on it
Doug: so what I can tell you is we have one client with home in Glendale and he had solar installed on his home and then after he had solar he also had an electric vehicle so there’s certain there’s certain times today where he knows that solar is acting in two ways one Solar is now like a tiny power plant on his home you know powering the lights in his home and solar is also like a fuel station where he’s not driving as his you know vehicle down to Phillips 66 to fill up he’s just got his you know Phillips 66 in his home so to speak only it’s not liquid gas its solar energy and that’s where he’s plugging his vehicle
Adam: that’s a pretty cool guy huh
Doug: a very cool guy and then we love and then we you know we love him because he went solar twice right and so he he sold his home that already had solar on it that already had the illiterate electric vehicle charger ready to go for the prospective buyer and then he was moving into another home into Glendale and he built that home with a roof line optimized for his second solar installation
Doug: and so there’s this question which is how you know how do real estate agents think about solar I’m an immediate answer is is you know they’re they’re typically not quite sure what to make of it right
Doug: like they know they know what to think about pools now my opinion
Doug: sometimes and please chime in my view with with pools versus solar is pools aren’t necessarily looked at with concern although we all know that pools are money suck it takes maintenance you gotta fill it up you gotta clean it
Emma: and there’s definitely safety concerns
Doug: and their safety concerns right now maybe you already had to build a fence around it you got to think about kids and and you know with solar I can tell you sort of anecdotally two stories about it but one it was this individual who had solar in his home and had the electric vehicle charger in his night conversation he told me that when he had an open house he would print out his utility bills and he’d put him on the table so that way someone’s looking at one home in Glendale that’s 2,600 square feet and his house that’s also 2,600 square feet and the two are comparable in price but one has the one without solar has an annual utility payments of maybe say $1,300 a year in his with eight dollars a year you know solar in that sense that’s that’s you know over a thousand dollars a year in savings because he precisely because he has solar I mean yes he said he didn’t need a thousand buyers for his home he only needed the
Shannon: one well yeah I do think that there is not only the financial benefit to the solar power but also you have a pretty good trend and you do have a good following of people who are environmentally conscious and that and of itself is a benefit at home that’s green you know the green homes at their building but at home with solar panels still provides some aspect of that so there is I think a huge benefit to solar panels when it comes to real estate it just depends on how you sell it
Adam: can we take a second here to I think you know people are probably wondering what solar system they should get and that kind of thing and basically I’m guessing what we would suggest is that they call you or contact you right so can you guys kind of give your contact information or however you would whoever you would want them to call from straight up solar which by the way I went to straight up solar.com I’m loving this website I want to know who made the website and it’s you made that
Doug: Emma had a big role on it
Adam: it’s awesome it’s a really good site
Emma: [???] local web development company [???]
Adam: okay okay I know those guys
Emma: yeah for a long time there’s so much information on there it was a struggle to to cut information can I let them know who to contact
Doug: fire away
Emma: okay so we’ve got a great team of solar support specialists at straight-up solar and to get a hold of them you can call locally 314-218-2663 and you know someone named Bob or Natalie will most likely answer the phone we also have a toll-free number for anyone who’s you know wants to wants to make use of that it’s 844-97-SOLAR
Adam: so is the process call them Bob or Natalie would come out to the house kind of evaluate your roof talk to you and go over the details about the size you would want financing options and all this kind of thing
Emma: yeah so they would when you get a hold of them they will kind of visit your house virtually so they would most likely you know be on the phone with you they would like to know your your street address so that they can use Google to or you know the the online mapping system to locate your home from a satellite view and then you know sometimes those maps miss locates so we like to confirm the exact location of the home
Adam: isn’t that energy-efficient of them not to drive all the way out to the house [???] look at that
Emma: and the other so confirming the location and you know the roof line if it’s a roof installation as well as you know any available ground space or possible tree cover or any other factors is important so that’s why we like to know the exact location and then you know if you have a copy of your electric bill you can usually take a picture of it and send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our website we have a couple different forms on there
Shannon: you also have a calculator
Emma: yeah we do have a calculator
Shannon: and there people can play with
Emma: yeah we have a residential and a business version
Shannon: a solar calculator is what you call it right
Emma: yeah yeah so you put in your estimate of your monthly bill and then your utility and then we can tell you how your utility will credit you know through net metering credit your solar energy production and give you some some basic benefit information about the system that way and for us to get started on a quote it really is important for us to know your electricity usage and to confirm that because if you decide to go forward we want to make sure that we’re sizing the system correctly and we don’t want to go you know off in the wrong direction with your usage so well
Adam: I have like kind of a half a page of questions left you guys still have a few minutes to keep talking
Adam: okay cool so one thing that you mentioned on your website is energy independence right and we’ve sort of talked about houses and commercial and stuff so far but are you getting a lot of people like Lance doing cool things like powering their van or their RV you if they want to go boon docking you know I’ve been watching a ton of YouTube videos about living off the grid and stuff you know and I’m super interested in it is that a thing now or people doing that
Doug: every year we have a couple projects that are unique in that way the majority of our installations are grid tied system where someone’s already pulling energy from the utility company so we probably have a few pet projects where it is a cabin off in the woods and they have solar plus storage and then yeah you know Lance’s perhaps you know traveling the country right now
Doug: his solar modules on top of his RV you know
Adam: so you can make his morning coffee wherever he is isn’t like
Shannon: I mean of the solar panels it is to power the appliances within the RV
Shannon: so he doesn’t actually have to plug in go to a campsite or anything of the sort
Adam: if you want to keep like a little refrigerator or something like that in your van then you know how are you gonna get the power for it right
Doug: he’s got a little battery and a to to power the refrigerator at night yeah
Adam: around 10 years ago in my old subdivision someone they were kind of like down on a hill and they put solar on their house and the neighbor up on the hill that had to look down on that was really unhappy and they got in this big like neighborhood dispute and stuff like that so I’m guessing you suggest people check with their municipality their homeowners association right before they do it because there’s probably rules is that right
Emma: yeah actually there was so in it’s very important to you know check your homeowners association guidelines you know maybe a walk next door and talk to your neighbor and kind of get them primed for these beautiful solar panels that are gonna be on your house we have also and I know that you know we and the industry as a whole we are generally very willing to do presentations to organizations you know homeowners associations municipalities to demonstrate the look and the placement of a solar array within a subdivision or you know to to the neighbors we of course do with our proposals right preliminary designs to kind of show how the solar panels are going to sit on the house and a lot of people when they think of solar panels they have that gut reaction because they might be thinking about solar panels from decades ago or they might be thinking about solar thermal systems which you know are also great they do hot water heating but they do sit up at an angle and they do you know they’re they’re much different look than the solar PV panels which lie [???] across the roof many times can’t be seen in Missouri recently there was just a favorable ruling for a couple of people who had solar installed on their home in 2011 right and they had been they had been in you know kind of a legal standoff for many years about whether or not they could keep their solar panels so I will say that in Illinois there’s an Illinois solar home owners rights
Doug: bill of rights
Emma: bill of rights yes thank you and that says that basically your homeowners association cannot you know say that you cannot have they cannot restrict you from having solar panels unduly so if the only available surface that they’ll allow you to install on is say the North Face of your roof and that’s not going to work well for your energy production then you have this Illinois solar home owners Bill of Rights that you can point to in Missouri that that kind of effort is still developing so
Emma: but yeah we’re always happy to show off the attractiveness of the solar panels that we’ve installed as a to make the positive case for
Adam: I’m assuming that by now kind of like the public perception has changed you know and people don’t like that was a guy I knew who was like that’s ugly right and I think by now now he actually lives in Colorado and his facebook is him hiking and stuff all that time right now he probably has solar on his own house you know
Doug: I was gonna ask how that battle went down
Adam: yeah so solar it’s all you guys are all about solar electricity but I think back in the day there was a bunch of like solar water heaters that people had on the roof is that still a thing you guys don’t do that right
Doug: we don’t do that
Adam: because you would just solar electricity and then if they wanted they could get an electric water heater right
Adam: okay so yeah one of our Realtors has these old solar water heaters on his roof that are just they’re just not using anymore you know I think they just I guess that maybe that technology kind of came and went
Doug: they had more challenges and that I just don’t feel like they had yeah pull yourself up by your own bootstraps kind of willingness to to make it work so
Emma: work through the challenges
Doug: yeah correct
Adam: okay so do you mind if I jump through some of the questions I got from Facebook I think we’ve sort of answered some of them but so my dad was my first question he’s asking other any options other than the large panels and so I don’t know what he’s picturing his head maybe he doesn’t know about the new stuff but I don’t know if can I bring up the Tesla solar roofs have you guys know do you guys know about that what do you think about that is that even a thing yet can you even buy those yet
Doug: my fellow project developer quoted his own home for the Tesla shingles and the cost for it was three times more than what your standard PV solar module would be Tesla and all their ingenuity are also equally brilliant in marketing and that they’re capable of capturing the imagination of America with upcoming technologies without ever saying how much it costs who is going to actually be doing the installations whether it’s them or the channel partners so like a lot of new technologies asbestos especially with energy it tends to hit Australia and then the coasts first before it becomes financially viable and Midwest I would imagine it will be used many many years before the built in photovoltaic Tesla shingle type installations become viable in this area we’re still we’re still very much in the early adopter stage of your standard PV systems
Adam: so but are the are the will call them PV panels I guess are those kind of like rigid or do they have ones that are sort of flexible now and why would we care if it’s on a roof but maybe if it was on the van or something like that then it’s more important
Doug: the this so the standard size of them it’s it’s a it’s a metal frame it’s tempered glass it’s about three foot by five foot now they do have your roll out solar it’s like a laminate the host and those have a shorter shelf life and the efficiency is lower and then they’re more temperamental to heat as well so you still got you still all got the guys with their pocket protectors and glasses and white coats trying to figure out like the next solar panel so to speak but that’s all still in the experimental stage with in terms of making [???] yeah yeah
Adam: so when you talked earlier about how kind of the industry’s kind of agreed on a technology there was something else other than exactly how the panels going to be
Doug: any materials used
Adam: the materials use
Adam: okay all right next we have the guy who said we got we got solar three years ago and I love it I’d be curious to know if the technology will soon allow us to self generate energy with charging stations in the home
Doug: battery systems are increasing I think in the next six months I have two battery projects that are slated for construction so you know one it’s it’s a system called pica they’re out in New Hampshire it’s a real slick battery you know the question is always how much is a battery going to generate for my home when the grid does go down and it’s always hard to gauge it depends on how much energy you currently use and what you want to supply and how long you want to supply your loads and then I have another system LG Chem so there’s there’s available batteries out there Tesla like the shingles with its batteries and you know how’s the marketing for it they’ve done installations in some areas but your Facebook poster is correct it is not the tesla powerwall is not available in this area but there are other really good products that look slick and operate really well and are reasonably priced for the battery market
Adam: but so to me I’m here I’m what I’m thinking is this battery is important if I’m worried about the environmental benefits right or the batteries may be important if I’m doing off-the-grid stuff but that thing you mentioned earlier where it’s like you make make some Sunday and then you can use it Monday kind of makes it so you don’t really need the battery functionally right I mean you still want it for the other benefits I just talked about that
Doug: there’s more energy independence if you have a battery there are
Shannon: because you can save up energy you can bank it so to speak
Doug: more more the spirit of Independence knowing that you’re reliant entirely upon yourself now what do you have in areas like Hawaii where energy costs four times as much their homeowner could install solar to get their money back in two years to get a battery get their money back in four years and then they can call the utility company and say I don’t need you anymore we are far far away from that and what you have in certain markets that you don’t have here like in certain areas of California Arizona Nevada which is when you come home from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Energy’s more expensive so if you’ve stored energy from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. or 2:59 p.m. what you’re doing is you’re pulling from the Nexxus energy you stored in the battery bank so now you’re powering your home with say 15 cent and energy 15 cent a kilowatt energy when everybody else is paying 40 cents a kilowatt hour energy but in our market the cost of energy doesn’t change based upon the time of day it only changes based upon winter or summer
Adam: so Mike if he if Mike would buy that one of these batteries that you mentioned a you should contact you but will he be helping to sort of help that technology get better I mean the more people that buy these batteries from the companies you mentioned the better their technology and their construction and processing and everything would be I guess right
Doug: he’d be supporting that market any time we get an opportunity to buy a couple of different battery systems at a time our costs go down therefore the cost to the client go down and if if the itch he’s really trying to scratch right now is he likes technology and that excites him that’s really the primary driving force for batteries right now
Adam: okay another Mike asked what’s the shelf-life of a panel which I think we’ve answered you’re saying 25 years right
Doug: it’ll still produce 80 to 83 percent
Shannon: after 25 years
Doug: after 25 years what the the solar industry considers a module that’s producing below 70% as dead so to speak but there are modules out there that are 30 forty years old that are still generating energy it’s the inverter that we expect to go out you know around year thirteen year fifteen that’s the piece of equipment that will have to be removed and installed with anyone the modulus there’s no moving parts right again it’s that sand doped with the two different chemicals you just leave it alone and it’ll do its job the inverters mechanically doing all the work
Adam: he also asked if they still produced if they’re covered by ice or snow
Shannon: that’s a good one
Doug: yeah so the solar modules if they are totally covered in snow will not produce energy but what does happen is when the Sun does come out the second a little bit of the solar module gets exposed now you have a black solar module capturing the heat of the Sun and now you’re going to get just enough electricity flowing through it where it’s going to start to get a little warm and then will melt in the snow or ice quicker than other areas so typically people can still be hands-off if someone wants to get a broom and brush off the snow they can but then
Shannon: like your windshield if you let your car go long enough it’ll actually just melt away
Doug: so just go away yeah
Adam: all right my wife asked what sort of cost goes into installing what is the return I think we answered those questions but I just thought I’d mention air kisses my wife Molly yeah okay any other questions anything we’re missing guys
Shannon: have you guys seen or done any projects in regards to your group buys where maybe a subdivision comes together and does a solar park I don’t I don’t even know like it takes a lot say an empty lot puts a bunch of solar panels on helps do the subdivision or anything in the city I mean we have lots in the city where I kind of think the neighborhood could buy one from the LRA and put a bunch of solar panels on it and it really kind of supplies the neighborhood I mean I know it would be a huge undertaking to get everybody involved but have you done any of those projects
Emma: so when we do when we have participated in group buys just a little bit of background on that concept and then I think I think you’re kind of marrying it with the concept of community solar and community solar and group buys can be related because right the the foundation is a community of people coming together to achieve
Shannon: yeah maybe I’m not using the right word but we’re a group of people come together by a bunch of panels to power the neighborhood
Emma: yeah and so so the thing that needs to happen for a group of people to take to draw electricity from a single array you know kind of independently within their own organization is virtual net metering and we don’t have that online in Missouri quite yet right but in Illinois we did we did just bring on a virtual net metering so we can have a scenario where there is a large solar energy array and then the groups of people they they kind of you know subscribe to a certain set of solar panels and then you get credit for what your solar panels produce and then you you have energy savings that way
Emma: just like net metering but not on your house and actually there are you know cooperatives electric cooperatives have been some of the the first utilities to kind of because they can make their own rules to a large degree with their net metering and their billing policies so they’ve been some of the pioneers with community solar both in Illinois and in Missouri too I believe so that’s that’s the one side of it and and yes it’s possible but it’s it’s not quite fully realized it’s but it’s you know it’s in the near future I’d say and then on the group by side we are actually this is something that we’ve seen people really get into because you can achieve fantastic savings with pooling your your interest in solar your community interest in solar and receiving you know group education you know you get like we’re doing here in this podcast you can come together with your community and you can listen to you know non partial third party provide solar energy education whether that is you know an organization like we’re new Missouri or like the Midwest Renewable Energy Association who has spearheaded a lot of these group buys and so the foundation is education so that everybody kind of comes together and then the second part is a low bulk purchase price for individual solar installations and those can be on homes and businesses but that’s
Shannon: okay the bulk
Emma: like a book by yep and so you all come together and what you know a lot of neighborhoods and municipalities they can be any scale really they they do occasionally go out for competitive bid so you know you’ll you’ll put the bid out to your local solar installation industry cohort and then you’ll receive some bids and then you’ll pick your solar installer based on you know years of experience certifications you know straight solar and other solar installers we hold NAB SEP certification which is the kind of the gold standard for solar energy installation expertise and yeah ability to provide a low cost per watt installation price
Adam: it sounds like there’s so many changing technologies and all these different government programs and all these things so it’s it’s a lot for a normal person to keep up with so we appreciate your company kind of being in existence and focusing on that and providing all that information instead of just saying you know we sell solar right so I think you guys are kind of the resource for anyone to come to and we’ve really appreciated having you on the show yeah the educational resource for anyone to come to we really appreciate it heavy guys on the show today and so if anyone has questions just go to straight up solar.com right reach out and thank you Doug Thank You Emma for being here today
Doug: thanks Shannon thanks Adam
Emma: absolutely thank you
Adam: absolutely and thanks everyone for listening so if you have any further questions or concepts that you want us to have on the podcast just reach out podcast@HermanLondon.com thank you very much and take care