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Solar in Utah has certainly hit its stride. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Utah was ranked 2nd in total megawatts installed in 2016 — only trailing California. Utah was also ranked 2nd in solar capacity per capita, and 6th in total cumulative solar installed through 2016. Those numbers show that more and more Utahns are switching to solar, and that trend is not expected to stop anytime soon. We sat down with Kelly Curtis, Director of Operations for local solar contractor Solaroo Energy, to discuss what changes customers should be expecting from solar in 2017.
Increased Monitoring and Control in Home Systems
One great thing solar has done for the consumer energy market is monitoring. Most solar systems monitor production, and in 2016, most solar companies added monitoring your home’s consumption as a standard feature. The latest developments in monitoring, however, let you control your energy, similarly to how a smart thermostat lets you program your heating and air. This allows you to program thresholds of how much energy you’d like to use, and then determine specific actions when those thresholds are met. For example, you can set up your system to:
- Shut off certain lights if you’re using more than 5KW from the grid
- Turn your thermostat to a desired temperature
- Make sure certain plugs are off.
According to Mr. Curtis, more control is the next step in solar:
“Monitoring usage and solar production is great. It was a big leap from pre-solar utility bills of no one knowing how much they use or how much they pay. It has definitely lead to a more energy-educated public. But monitoring is just data – now you’ll be able to use that data to make automated decisions about your energy and your home. Pretty cool technology that is new for 2017.”
Solar-only Manufacturers Are Struggling
Another development in solar is how volatile the manufacturing industry can be. Demand can quickly change, like it has in Nevada, or more so globally in China. This can lead to oversupply of modules and an unstable pricing picture for manufacturers. It has taken a toll on some companies whose business is solely focused on solar module manufacturing. Two mainstream manufacturers have declared insolvency so far in 2017 – Suniva and SolarWorld. More stable companies have emerged, such as Mitsubishi Electric. Those companies, whose much larger divisions dwarf the solar manufacturing unit, are also better suited financially to withstand the ups and downs of the greater solar industry.
“As solar is a long-term investment,” Mr. Curtis noted. “You not only want to pick a quality product that produces what you need and has an attractive warranty, but a product that is backed by a company that will be around for a long, long time. We’ve seen lately, that a key factor in that longevity is how diversified the company is.”
2017 Is the Last Year to Qualify for the Full Solar Tax Credit
Another change for 2017 is the Utah State Solar Tax Credit, which lawmakers ruled on during this last legislative session. Currently, Utahns can seek a state tax credit of 25% of the eligible cost of a solar system, up to $2,000. However, 2017 will be the last year to qualify for the full $2,000 tax credit. The new bill has the Utah solar tax credit stepping down $400 per year until it reaches zero. “There are currently a lot of incentives to go solar in 2017,” Mr. Curtis explained. “For those who wait, they will give up $400 of tax credits every year they wait. So now really is a good time.”
Visit Solaroo Energy for more information about solar in Utah.