Article written by Mark Becker for Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today, December 2015.
Due to the current rate of market adoption of solar PV, solar panel manufacturers are reaching production capacity. Predictions are that at some point the industry will not be able to supply the market demand for solar panels. Ultimately, some solar projects will have to wait for supply to catch up to demand. Some larger scale commercial and utility PV projects may not make it “under the wire” for the expiring tax credit, these projects require significant design and planning approvals. There are many market forces that are contributing to the phenomenon of high demand: Recognition among the public and government sector that solar PV is excellent alternative to paying PGE for electricity, the December 31, 2016 expiration of the 30% Federal Tax Credit, the expiration of current “net metering” laws, and lastly, consumer perceptions to “get while the getting is good” so as to not miss out on the above benefits and returns.
“Grid Defection” is a term and a practice that will become increasingly popular amongst utility ratepayers. Electric customers who generate their own power and back it up with energy storage, such as a battery bank, will be able to “defect” from the grid and say “adios” to PGE or their electric utility. Due to current utility rate structure, there is not a strong financial incentive to “defect” at this time, but customers with energy storage currently monetize their batteries by reducing monthly PGE demand charges, or shaving power use during peak cost hours. Some ratepayers simply want the security of back up power when the grid is down. New net metering laws (how solar interacts with the grid) are being written which will incentivize energy storage to smooth the grid and shift renewable penetration to reduce customer demand profiles. If compatibility with the future electric grid is desired, the average home or business owner considering solar should ensure that the solar system being proposed requires only additional equipment, not major modification if energy storage, advanced grid interactivity or complete energy independence is important.
As a reminder: The California Contractor’s State License Board is the state agency responsible to protect consumers and enforce construction industry law when problems arise between consumers and contractors.
It’s ILLEGAL for a contractor to change pricing for a project after entering into a home improvement contract UNLESS there were factors that would affect pricing that were not discoverable during the estimation process, such as mold damage discovered after removal of a wall during execution of the project. A price change should only occur with a scope of work change and be handled via a “Change Order” process, which is clearly outlined on the www.CSLB.ca.gov website. A contract price change for any other reason other than as noted or per homeowner request can be cause for revocation of a contractor’s license by the CSLB.
If your general contractor is employing subcontractors, and you receive a “Preliminary Notice” from said subcontractors, you must ensure that the general contractor pays the subcontractors. If you pay the general contractor, but he or she doesn’t pay the subcontractors, YOU can still be legally liable to pay the subcontractors if they’ve provided you a Preliminary Notice. Indeed, you may have to pay TWICE for the same work if your general contractor did not pay them. Otherwise a lien on your home may result. Takeaway: If you receive a “Preliminary Notice” from a subcontractor, protect yourself by ensuring the subcontractors get paid by writing joint checks, or getting Conditional or Unconditional Waiver and Release forms the sub-contractors after they have been paid.
As a result of the increasing demand for solar PV, there are many new products coming to market. As you choose products for your solar PV system, to ensure lowest risk, lowest long-term cost and best value, ensure that you choose products that are not proprietary and have proven long-term (25+ years) field performance. Don’t succumb to “wow” factor or unfounded claims of “greater electric production” over products with long-term field performance. Solar PV, done right, is a 25+ year investment, and can be the safest investment one can make.
Mark Becker is the President and business owner of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, CSLB 948715. GoSimpleSolar is one of the very few (and proud) solar PV installers utilizing both licensed roofers and licensed electricians for installation work, project managed by a solar PV NABCEP professional. For questions or comments email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com or call 925-331-8011.