Get up to speed quickly on the basic concepts and the value proposition of solar and renewable energy. CLICK HERE FOR A PRINTABLE PDF.
Absolutely! Indiana gets as many direct sun hours as many parts of Florida, and 50 percent more than Germany, a world leader in solar power. Our region has approximately 4.5 direct sun hours daily on average. This is plenty to provide electricity or hot water for the energy conscious household. Take a look at this map:
The Indianapolis airport has installed 76,000 solar panels on 150 acres, generating 31 million kilowatt hours annually. It is the largest solar farm on any airport in the world.
At any given point, PV panels range from what’s standard at the time to what’s considered premium because of its performance characteristics. A few years ago, 250 watts per panel was considered standard and 280 watts commanded a premium. Currently 275 watts per panel is standard and 325 watts is premium. The outer frames of both panels are probably sized within an inch of each other, so the difference is in their efficiency, which is the term used to state the amount of output for a given physical area. In other words the premium high-efficiency panel produces more watts per square foot than the standard one.
When using standard panels would not allow you to achieve your electricity production goals because you are limited by your roof space or by shading rather than by your budget, high efficiency panels may be recommended. The high performance design produces more electricity per square foot than standard. These panels are appropriate for homeowners who are seeking a system that 1) can provide a greater percentage of household requirements from a small roof or 2) leaves room on a small roof for a future expansion of the system.
Let’s look at specific examples of two ways to provide 5,000 kWh annually from solar.
First, to generate 5,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year from a system composed of standard 275 watt panels, you will need room for 14 panels. In the second example, you could produce approximately the same output using only 12 high efficiency 325 watt panels.
Assuming that they are both in full sun, the high efficiency panel will produce about 19 watts per square foot while the standard panel will produce about 15.5 watts per square foot. In other words, the energy output of the high efficiency panel is 22% greater than that of the standard panel per square foot of roof area.
When you have the space, buying standard panels saves you money. If you cannot meet your annual 5,000 kilowatt hour goal within the available roof area, you may want to consider high efficiency panels. You will pay a premium for them but you will buy less of them, along with less mounting hardware and labor (by two panels).
For purposes of illustration, let’s say that installing a system with 14 standard panels costs $10,000. Installing a system with 12 high efficiency panels will cost about $1,700 more.
Both will provide you with about 5,000 kilowatt hours per year of electricity on average.
Remember, annual output varies slightly depending on the amount of sunshine from year to year. Sunny skies make more electricity than cloudy ones.
Once installed, your solar system will operate for decades. If your roofing deck or shingles are halfway or more through their expected service life, it is a good idea to replace them before installing a solar system. Ordinary three-tab asphalt shingles may last only 15 years; dimensional or architectural asphalt shingles warranted for 25 years may last closer to 20 years. Metal roofing is increasingly popular because it lasts for 50 years or more, thus avoiding having to replace a shingled roof two or three times.
Additionally, a light-colored metal roof can save about 25% of the building’s energy costs, by reflecting sunlight away, compared to a dark asphalt shingle which absorbs heat, according to building industry sources. This makes a metal roof an ideal accompaniment to rooftop solar. The best type of metal roofing for solar is standing-seam panels, because it doesn’t require any penetrations (holes) to be made into the roofing material for mounting the solar panels. It looks like this:
There are other types of metal roofing (corrugated, CF panel, AP panel, U-panel, R-panel, metal shingles, etc.) available, but attachment bolts must penetrate through the metal roofing which undermines the roofing material. By choosing a standing seam metal roof instead, the solar panels can simply be attached with clips (see image below or installation video), thereby eliminating the chance of leaks, and reducing the amount of solar mounting hardware.
There are two easy ways. First, you can get a plug-in energy monitor such as the Kill-a-Watt or TrickleStar. These devices plug into a wall socket and then you plug the appliance cord into the monitor. You can see how much power (in watts) the appliance is drawing on a display screen. Most brands of plug-in monitor allow you to display the energy consumption in terms of watts, dollar cost, and the CO2 equivalent for the full period that the monitor is in use or for a projected period.
Plug-in monitors are available from hardware stores or online. If you live in Monroe County, Indiana, or nearby cities such as Nashville or Spencer you can borrow one from the public library, along with an instruction sheet. SIREN donated approximately a dozen to the Monroe County Public Library as an extension of its educational program. The REMC electric cooperatives have provided them to other local libraries.
Secondly, if you are considering a move or building a new home, you might want to use this online usage calculator. It provides average energy consumption values for kitchen appliances, domestic well pumps, entertainment devices, other household equipment, and heating equipment. You can tally the projected monthly kilowatt usage for all relevant items and estimate your monthly electric bill.
Best practice is to wait for snow to melt in warmer weather.
It’s tempting to take action when your solar array is covered by snow and ice. If you consider an insurance agent’s advice to reduce risk of injury or property damage, an exercise in patience is preferable. Before reaching for gloves, parka and ladder, think about this …
What’s the risk? Most rooftop arrays are not easily accessible from the ground. A man died recently after falling from a ladder while working on outdoor lights. After finishing a job, missing the bottom rung of the ladder and injuring his neck, a past roofer is paralyzed. Medical bills can be expensive.
What property damage? The manufacturer warranty can be voided by owner negligence. Although solar modules are protected from hail by tempered glass, the vulnerable part of the system is the interface between materials around the edge with sealant to prevent water intrusion that could corrode the electrical components. The sealant is susceptible to being cracked when frozen, if during snow removal it is struck by a scraper or brush,
What’s the value? Most solar energy is produced in the summer. The cost for a week of solar snow and ice is maybe $10 to $20, depending on array size and electric rates.
Only six percent of annual energy is produced in January when days are short with few hours of blue skies; that’s about 400 kwh, averaging 13 kwh daily, for a five kilowatt array. Loss of solar energy, thereby increasing consumption of grid energy valued at about $0.12 per kwh, would be $1.50 per day.
This is why net metering is important for customers of Duke, IPL, I&M, NIPSCO and Vectren. Solar energy produced in summer is credited on your bill and carried forward to offset lower production in the winter.
Better to stay inside, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while not spending your cash at Starbucks.
Images of these common solar systems types are displayed in our Media Gallery.
Grid-tied photovoltaic (PV) systems use solar panels to generate electricity first for your home with any excess reversing back to the grid. This system is economical because the grid acts as a battery when excess electricity not used during peak season goes back onto the grid and is credited to the homeowner. A grid-tied system automatically disconnects from the electric grid during outages and reconnects after the grid again becomes operational.
Battery or stand-alone PV systems are off grid and will provide electricity from batteries or a generator during power outages. Unlike grid-tied systems which are virtually maintenance-free, battery PV systems require considerable maintenance by the owner. See chart of decreased battery capacity and increased battery life at lower temperatures. Batteries for backup power when grid power is not available should be in a temperature controlled location, such as an insulated container. The leading edge of the industry is in battery storage for grid-tied systems, such as Tesla’s newly introduced Powerwall units.
Hybrid PV systems are grid-tied with a generator or battery backup for outages.
Solar hot water heating is an economical way to heat water from water tanks to pools to radiant heated flooring. Water heating is the second biggest use of energy in most homes after space heating and cooling demands. If your home is all electric, consider a hybrid heat pump water heater using about 1/3 to 1/2 the energy as compared to an electric resistance water heater. There are also supplemental heat pump units that can be added on to an existing storage tank water heater.
Solar PV-therm (PVT) systems combine solar hot water and PV technologies. Solar cells on the front of the panel convert solar to electricity while a closed-loop glycol heat exchanger on the back of the panel draw heat way from the solar cells, improving PV efficiency while heating water.
Solar air heating heats air and transfers it into the home with a small fan and thermostat separate from the primary furnace or heat pump. A cost effective heater may be homemade or purchased commercially.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, used to produce electricity, may be installed on roofs with south, west, or east facing exposure, in yards as a pole mount or ground mount, or as an architectural feature such as an awning, pergola, or carport. Panels can be installed on a flat roof when supported by racking mounted at an angle and typically grounded with ballast weights to avoid penetrating the roof. Installers can analyze the distribution of ballast weights to satisfy wind ratings and dead weight maximums. See the image Gallery on this site to see some of the ways that local residential, commercial, and institutional solar owners have installed panels.
Solar thermal panels, used to heat water, should be installed directly above the water tank or as close to the tank as possible. Solar air furnaces should be installed on a south-facing wall and vented to an inside room with good air circulation.
On the subject of roofs, people often ask if the age of their shingles matter. It is probably best to replace shingles before installing solar panel if the shingles are near the end of their life. (Covering shingles less than halfway through their expected life may extend their life.)
First you can try to reduce your electrical use. The biggest and cheapest source of renewable energy is the energy you don’t use. The more energy you save, the less you need to generate. Major users of power are electric resistance heaters – in roughly decreasing order of use: the auxiliary setting on a heat pump, clothes dryer, dishwasher drying cycle, oven, toaster, toaster oven, hair dryer – and anything with a compressor, such as refrigerators, freezers, air conditioner, heat pump, and dehumidifier.
See Green America’s list of “The 10 easiest ways to cut your energy use in half” for more suggestions. For other creative ways to reduce your use of electricity, see Build it Solar, or consult the Unity Home Group’s checklists for energy conservation tips.
SIREN frequently offers free Going Solar presentations to community groups. These programs are intended as a public outreach and basic education offerings to community members Attendees may ask one of the SIREN volunteers at the event about how to arrange for this free service. Additionally, solar site pre-assessments using aerial map views on the internet are available for more distant locations. If you are interested, contact us with your phone number, address, name of your electric utility company, and how many kilowatt hours (kWh), to the nearest thousand, you use in 12 or 24 months. Also tell us if you have an electric water heater or heat pump, and how much of your electric usage you think you might be able to reduce. We attempt to assess energy demand, solar site potential, and recommend an appropriate size for renewable energy systems.
More comprehensive reports are available from solar contractors and MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association) certified site assessors. See the Solar Contractors listing for more information.
A full explanation is here but to boil it down, they measure different things. The kilowatt (kW) is a unit of power – 1,000 watts. It measures the rate at which electrical energy is generated or consumed. Solar panel manufacturers rate the capacity of panels in watts to indicate the output of a panel in full sun. Commonly available panels range from 250 to 300 watts rated capacity. Solar contractors rate a full PV array in watts or kilowatts (number of panels multiplied by number of watts per panel).
On the other hand, the kilowatt hour (kWh) is a unit of energy – 1,000 watts of electricity running for one hour. It is also the billing unit on residential electric bills. You can use it to determine how much you can reduce that bill. On average, an unshaded 250 watt panel produces 300 kWh a year in Indiana.
Some big-box retailers and online solar design firms now sell DIY solar panel kits, including inverters or microinverters. To avoid buying low-quality products, it is wise to do your research up front. The Solar Design Tool compares solar panel specifications and provides manufacturer’s installation guides. Go Solar California, Principal Solar Institute and PHOTON Laboratory both publish test results and ratings of PV modules. PHOTON also tests and rates solar inverters. Home Power magazine provides both instruction and product reviews for DIY solar electricity and solar water heating.
It’s not only about product. Be aware that some states will not honor the tax rebates if the installation is not done by a certified professional. Also if you take the DIY approach, you will be responsible for all the permitting requests, site inspections, and utility paperwork that a solar contractor usually does. Make sure you know what’s required before you start. Here, for example, are Duke Energy’s requirements for connecting to the grid. If you plan to install a battery-backed system, check with your local government agencies to see what the electrical code requires.
Yes, we have a public mailing list / discussion forum that anyone can join using the instructions below. It is relatively low volume with ~1-3 emails per week with the occasional spike caused by a spirited discussion!
Joining/Subscribing to the mailing list: To subscribe, send an e-mail to email@example.com. (subject/content of the email can be blank).
Sending email to the mailing list: To communicate with the group, send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leaving/Unsubscribing from mailing list: To unsubscribe, send an email to email@example.com. (subject/content of the email can be blank).
You can RSVP online for a SIREN Going Solar presentation. Occasionally our Events calendar contains notices of events offered by other organizations. In such cases, registration contacts are provided in the listing.
SIREN frequently offers free Going Solar presentations to community groups. These programs are intended as a public outreach and basic education offerings to community members. Attendees may ask one of the SIREN volunteers at the event about how to arrange for this free service. Additionally, solar site pre-assessments using aerial map views on the internet are available for more distant locations.
If you are interested, contact us with your phone number, address, name of your electric utility company, and how many kilowatt hours (kWh), to the nearest thousand, you use in 12 or 24 months. Also tell us if you have an electric water heater or heat pump, and how much of your electric usage you think you might be able to reduce. We attempt to assess energy demand, solar site potential, and recommend an appropriate size for renewable energy systems.
More comprehensive reports are available from solar contractors and MREA (Midwest Renewable Energy Association) certified site assessors. See the Solar Contractors listing for more information.
If you have a solar energy system in your home then all you have to do is ask! A donation is suggested to cover materials and mailing costs, but it is optional. Contact us with your name and contact information. Use the Donate button if you are so inclined. Please allow two weeks to receive your sign by mail. If you want it more quickly, please indicate that on the contact form as well and a volunteer will contact you by phone to make other arrangements.
Come to a Going Solar presentation and talk with a SIREN volunteer about your interest and aims. We will share what we know about opportunities to participate in renewable energy efforts of various sorts. Networking is a big part of what we do. If you would rather contact us by email, use the Contact form at the bottom of every page of this website.
As with any financial plan, the outcome depends on the underlying assumptions. Here are the ones used in the calculations below.
- The loan has a 4% interest rate. Your itemized federal income taxes put you in the 15 percent bracket, and you owe taxes.
- You pay $3 per watt for solar, and the total cost of your system is $10,000 before a $3,000 tax credit for a 3.3 kilowatt solar array. It faces south with no shading and produces 4,200 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year.
- Duke charges 11 cents/kwh for usage above 300 kWh/month (14 cents below 300 kWh) in year 2017.
- In following years, the variable interest rate changes are comparable to electric rate increases.
Here are the calculations for year one:
4,200 kWh reduces electric bills by $462 annually or $38.50 monthly.
The value of the electricity generated exceeds the $400 annual interest on $10,000 principal or $33.33 monthly. The difference reduces the loan principal by $62 annually or $5.17 monthly. $33.33 + $5.17 = $38.50 for loan payment
Income tax is reduced by $60 (15% of $400 home equity/mortgage deduction) = an additional $5/month to apply to reducing the principal.
Net interest cost after taxes = $340 or $28.33 monthly plus $10.17 monthly principal reduction = $38.50 loan payment
$10.17 x 12 months = $122 first year loan principal reduction
Loan principal is reduced by $3,000 income tax credit in year one.
Here are the calculations for year two:
In year two, $272 annual interest on $6,800 average principal or $22.67 monthly plus $15.83 monthly principal reduction = $38.50 loan payment
$15.83 x 12 months = $190 second year loan principal reduction
Adjustments that can be applied to principal loan reduction:
- $40 annual SREC income @ 4 x $10 for 4,000 kWh > a monthly loan payment
- $40.80 income tax reduction (15% of $272) > a monthly loan payment
Repeat this calculation for each year until the loan is paid off at closing. A buyer can afford to pay more for mortgage payments because of lower monthly electric bills.
SIREN is familiar with two churches who have used tax equity financing to fund their solar systems. In this form of financing, a nonprofit (and therefore tax-exempt) organization partners with a qualified investor who has passive income to invest. Together they form a limited liability company or other contractual agreement; the company purchases the system and claims the federal renewable energy income tax credit plus any other associated benefits ( e.g., business depreciation). Ownership of the system reverts to the nonprofit under terms decided by the partners.
The renewable energy tax credit is one of a handful of tax equity financing mechanisms. For more information on the rules governing each type and for discussion of how related policy might develop, see Tax Equity Financing: An Introduction and Policy Considerations, a comprehensive report on the subject prepared by the Congressional Research Service
Nationally and locally, homebuyers are paying a premium for solar. “Research from the real estate site Zillow shows that putting solar on your roof can boost the value of your home—sometimes significantly. In a comparative study, Zillow found that homes with solar energy systems sold for 4.1 percent more on average in 2019 than comparable homes without them. This means that the median-valued home in the country ($226,300) was worth an additional $9,274 just because of those magical panels.”
Buyers are willing to pay that premium in return for reducing or eliminating their electric bills, along with any future rate increases, for as long as they own the house. There are two associated financial benefits to consider. First is a cash flow issue. By not having to factor the utility bill into fixed monthly costs, the buyer looks better to the mortgage company and can afford a bigger mortgage.
Second is a tax issue. Energy Sage explains: “For any new solar PV system installed in Indiana, the assessed value of the system is exempt from your property taxes. That means that, even though your solar installation adds value to your property, the added value can’t be counted when property is being assessed for taxes.” You establish the assessed value of the system by presenting the county assessor with a copy of the contract showing the price you paid the installer.
Last but not least, more people every year want clean energy. A national survey by the Pew Research Center in June 2020 found that 79% of Americans think that the US should prioritize developing renewable energy sources. What do you think that means when it comes to buying a home? Solar homes sell faster because there are fewer on the market but more motivated buyers are looking for them.
Indiana has dozens of electric utility companies. REMCs and municipal owned utilities have more autonomy from state regulation as compared with the larger investor owned utilities, Centerpoint (formerly Vectren), Duke Energy, Indiana-Michigan Power, Indianapolis Power & Light and Northern Indiana Public Service Company.
Under a 2017 Indiana state law known as Senate Enrolled Act 309, if you are a net metering customer of one of the five investor owned utility companies, the person who buys your house also acquires the right to net metering – until 2047 if the system was installed before December 31, 2017, or until 2032 if the system is installed between January 1, 2018 and June 30, 2022. These rights are valuable, so please explain them to the realtor and prospective buyers.
Because net metering rights attach to the property, the buyer will get the same deal as you did: each kilowatt hour is valued at the same retail rate until the applicable grandfathering date regardless of where it comes from, whether from the grid or your own system. However, the meter will be set to zero for the new account and the previous owner will not be paid for kilowatt hour credits that are in effect transferred to the utility company.
The buyer must request a new interconnection agreement for net metered billing from the utility company when they set up their own account at the house address, citing – and if possible showing – the original interconnection agreement. If not, sharing your account number with your buyer should enable the utility customer service representative to verify the entitlement. The home buyer can usually coordinate with the solar installer to handle the new interconnection agreement for a small fee, if this is preferred. Making arrangements well in advance of moving day will allow time to minimize possible delay.
The confirmation letter you received from your utility company, along with your signed interconnection agreement, make it clear that your house is grandfathered in to net metering. That does not mean that the first utility employee that your buyer speaks to when they go to open an account will be familiar with the issue. Net metering customers are still only a small percentage of the total customer base. As with all exception handling, you have to find the person who understands how to handle the exception.
For Duke Energy customers, the buyer should contact the Duke Renewables Service Center via email at CustomerOwnedGeneration@duke-energy.com or by phone at 866-233-2290.
You can get a ball park estimate sufficient to create a realistic budget and set realistic payback expectations by using online calculators. These calculators enable you to enter your own data (for example, panel size and cost per watt) or to use the default values typical for your location.
The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) PVWatts calculator estimates the amount of energy production and dollar value of energy produced for grid-tied PV systems of specified size and orientation to the sun. The Solar & Wind Estimator provides a thorough financial analysis for solar water heating, pool or spa heating, and space heating/cooling systems in addition to PV systems. This analysis is based on energy bill savings and net system cost, after tax credits and other incentives are applied. The Solar & Wind Estimator also calculates the impact of loans if you intend to finance your system that way. It displays cash flow and your break-even point in graphical form.
Small changes in energy consumption habits can reduce the cost of renewable energy. For example, reducing household energy use by only 100 kilowatt hours a month has the same effect as buying 3-4 solar panels that produce 1,200 kWh annually, yet it costs nothing. Many PV owners began by replacing half the energy they use from the grid with solar power; then they reduce the other half with energy conservation. PV systems can be installed in stages to spread cost over several years.
Solar PV electricity is an appreciating asset. The value of your system will increase as future electric rates continue to rise. This investment will raise your home’s value, reduce peak loading on the grid, and support the local economy. PV prices have fallen by 70% over the last six years due to technological innovation and new financing models so the investment is more affordable than ever.
Yes. The payback period – the length of time it takes for your savings from lower utility bills to equal the initial cost of the system – varies widely, based on the size and type of system you buy, the amount of energy you use or conserve, and how quickly your utility’s billing rate increases. Most projected payback periods for residential PV are in the 10-15 year range, based on 2015 prices, which is 10-15 years shorter than the warranty period. Once you get to the break-even point, you will pay nothing and nobody for the electricity your panels generate – and by then, utility rates will be higher than they are now.
The projected payback periods for solar thermal, solar attic fans and other devices are generally shorter, but otherwise the same logic applies.
Here is another way to think about your investment in solar. Residential PV systems cost between $5,000 and $10,000 after the federal tax credit. That’s less than cost of a used car. A car is a depreciating asset. Most of the value of a car is lost after 10 years, and meanwhile you are buying gas, insurance, license and repairs. Solar PV is an appreciating asset. Solar fuel costs nothing and solar systems require little or no maintenance. In addition, an investment in renewable energy will raise your home’s value, reduce peak loading on the grid, and support the local economy.
Congress extended the renewable energy tax credits that were originally set to expire at the end of 2016.
A 30 percent federal renewable energy investment tax credit is available until December 31, 2019 to individual taxpayers who install solar PV or solar hot water on property they own and use as a residence. For example, a $10,000 system would cost $7,000 after the tax credit. The amount of the tax credit will step down to 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021, and down to 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022.
The rules describing the residential tax credit state, “Expenditures include labor costs for on-site preparation, assembly or original system installation, and for piping or wiring to interconnect a system to the home. If the federal tax credit exceeds tax liability, the excess amount may be carried forward to the succeeding taxable year.” See Energy.gov for all relevant terms and conditions for solar and other renewable technologies (fuel cell, wind and geothermal). Form 5695 is used to claim the residential tax credit.
The corporate tax credit applies to a somewhat different set of solar technologies: PV, Solar Water Heating, Solar Space Heating/Cooling, Solar Process Heat. The credit starts at 30% for systems placed in service before 12/31/2019, steps down to 26% for 2020, 22% for 2021, and 10% for 2022 and future years. The business tax credit for Hybrid Solar Lighting, Fuel Cells, Small Wind as well as Geothermal Heat Pumps, Microturbines, Combine Heat and Power (CHP) Systems expired as of 12/31/2016. A 10% tax credit is available for Geothermal Electric for the foreseeable future. The tax credit for Large Wind steps down annually from 24% in 2017, 18% in 2018, and 12% in 2019; it expires at the end of 2019.
Eligible purchases can be depreciated like any other equipment acquired for business use, following standard Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) accounting rules. Both the business tax credit and a substantial portion of the depreciation allowance can be taken in the first year, making renewable technologies very affordable.
You can get paid for the renewable attributes of your grid-tied PV energy source by registering with a broker such as SRECTrade or Sol Systems. Participating utility companies purchase renewable energy credits to meet state required renewable portfolio quotas. Indiana has no such requirements; Ohio and Illinois do, and they buy credits from Indiana solar owners. As the actual energy producers, solar owners receive a check for market value solar production credited to the utilities. One SREC is awarded for each 1,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) of solar energy produced. This benefit is separate from the reduction in electric bills resulting from the energy value of your solar array.
Midwestern market values for SRECs have been trending down as laws change and renewable energy becomes more of a commodity. As of July 2018, Ohio SREC values are about $7 per 1,000 kilowatt hour of solar energy produced (one SREC). A home producing 10,000 kWh per year with solar PV would earn $70 annually at $7/SREC.
For both individuals and organizations, the best place to start is DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency). It is the most comprehensive source of information on this topic in the United States. It includes financial incentives including loans, grants, tax breaks and utility rebate programs.
Noteworthy non-residential programs that work with specific groups include:
- The Indiana Office of Energy Development offers grants under the Community Conservation Challenge to community organizations and government entities, including schools.
- Hoosier Interfaith Power & Light (H-IPL) offers free advisory services and occasional grants to faith communities.
- Solar Uniting Neighbors (SUN) grant program awards grants to diverse group of businesses and organizations in northern Indiana, made available through the Indiana Association for Community Economic Development .
- The USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides financial assistance, including grants, to agricultural producers and rural small businesses.
- The S. Department of Energy supports a number of grant, loan and financing programs for businesses and for state, local and tribal governments.
Many people finance with a bank home equity line of credit. The minimum monthly interest payment can be less than your savings from electric bills. Talk with your local credit union or bank for financing options. Another avenue to check is the Clean Energy Credit Union at www.cleanenergycu.org. It makes solar loans.
Leasing is an option for homeowners in many states but not currently in Indiana. The closest thing to it is the community solar option available from Tipmont REMC, Indiana’s first community, remote solar program. The REMC owns and operates an array of 240 panels on its land. Customers can purchase electricity generated from one or more panels and receive a monthly credit on their bill.
Indiana offers a property tax exemption for the assessed value of most renewable energy systems, typically based on the actual cost of components and labor. Effectively this means that you can increase the value of your home without paying tax on the increased value. Commercial and industrial property owners may also claim this exemption.
The few home sales to date that have involved rooftop solar in Indiana do show it to be an advantage, not only in commanding a higher price but also resulting in less time on the market. A national study found that home buyers are willing to pay more for houses with rooftop solar systems. Data on properties with other renewable technologies is scattered, but suggestive of the same advantage.
Solar owners are more likely to drive hybrid or electric vehicles (EV). The savings for using solar to charge an electrical vehicle is better than for using solar energy in the home.
The pre-owned Chevrolet Volt or Nissan Leaf can be purchased in 2021 for under $10,000.
From a Leaf owner: “In two years we have averaged driving about 8,000 miles per year on our all electric Nissan Leaf. Newer models have a range of 150 to 200 miles. Charging the car battery uses about 2,000 kilowatt hours annually. That’s 4 cents/mile at 15 cents per kWh for electricity compared to $0.10 per mile at 30 mpg when gasoline costs $3.00 per gallon. Our $0.06 per mile savings for not buying gasoline is about $500 annually. If the cost of a 1.6 kilowatt solar array (to generate 2,000 kWh annually) is $3,000 after the federal tax credit, our solar investment will be recovered in about six years (or sooner if gasoline prices increase).”
An added bonus to the all electric Leaf is that there are no other expenses: no oil changes, spark plugs, air filter, belts, tailpipe or muffler, no noise and no exhaust pollution. Maintenance is mostly limited to tires, brakes, suspension and windshield wipers. The car and its batteries are made in Tennessee.
The Chevrolet Volt uses about 1,200 kWh to drive 3,400 miles (85 trips of up to 40 miles in all electric mode before switching to its gas engine). The avoided cost of gasoline is $340 (assuming $0.10 per mile with 30 mpg and $3.00 per gallon gas cost). If the cost of a one kilowatt solar array (to generate 1200 kWh annually) is $2,000 after the federal tax credit, then the ROI for solar energy will be 12 percent ($340 savings annually vs. $2,000 cost) and the initial cost will be recovered in about six years depending on future cost of gasoline.
A similar analysis for someone without grid-tied solar net metering is a comparison between grid power and gasoline. The cost of 1,200 kWh from the grid could be $180 (15 cents per kWh) to drive 3,400 miles. The ROI for purchase of the Volt is calculated as $120 savings for each 3,400 miles ($300 avoided cost of gasoline at $3.00 per gallon, minus $180 cost of electricity to charge the car battery).
The cost of grid power is usually between 10 and 20 cents per kWh. The value of electricity produced by a one kilowatt solar array (generating 1,200 kWh annually) is $120 at 10 cents per kWh or $180 at 15 cents per kWh.
However, the accuracy of any analysis depends on its assumptions. The incremental cost of electricity depends on your rate, which utility company and how many kWh you are using. The first 300 kWh per month with Duke Energy is more expensive, with additional discounts for usage above 300, 1000 and 2000 kWh.
Under 30% charge is generally considered low and thus you should not let your EV sit at that low state of charge for an extended period. The general rule of thumb is to plug in and charge whenever you can.
Effective battery range of an EV rated for 200 miles at full charge would be about 100 miles (from 80% to 30%)
The typical average for local driving (8,000 miles annually) would be under 25 miles per day.
We average about 20 miles daily (7,000 miles annually) and charging is mostly with a 110V wall outlet. Free public chargers installed by the city at Switchyard Park have been appreciated. Energy usage from our Duke solar net metering is roughly 1,000 kWh for 4,000 miles. After adding a few more solar panels. our home and EV (electric vehicle) have been net zero from the grid for several years.
The original Leaf 24 kwh battery capacity is similar to a solar backup battery system. Newer Leaf battery sizes have increased to 30, 40 and 60 kWh with about 60 percent of the stored energy usable for driving. Battery life is extended by not fully charging or discharging. When the charge level is below 20 percent, warning lights are activated and the GPS screen shows locations of nearby public chargers. We normally charge to 70 or 80 percent of capacity. Batteries are sensitive to heat and cold; batteries get hot when charging.
The greatest benefit for the owner is creating a clean, renewable form of energy right at home. Eighty percent of Indiana’s electricity is generated from central coal-fired plants, which results in double the carbon emissions of a typical Indiana household compared to their natural gas or automobile use. The main financial benefit comes from locking in the cost of electricity for the next several decades and removing uncertainty about future rate increases. Locally, annual rate increases are forecast to be about three percent a year.
Solar systems produce electricity long after they’ve paid for themselves. Solar panels manufactured in the 1970s still provide power. Solar assets appreciate in value if electric rates rise by more than one percent annually – the maximum rate at which cells in the panels degrade. Most PV panels carry a warranty guaranteeing that in year 25, the system will still generate at least 80 percent of what it did in the first year. The zero cost of fuel from the sun remains constant.
As a volunteer-run organization, SIREN is supported via tax-deductible contributions made by individuals and businesses in our community. If you are interested in supporting our work, you can donate at a level of support that fits you best.
- Individual $25/year
- Family $50/year
- Sustainer $100/year
- Business $250/year. Benefactors receive a SIREN certificate which can be proudly displayed in your place of business. They can also choose to be listed as a supporter on SIREN’s website.
- Benefactor membership – $500/year. Benefactors can also choose to be listed as a supporter on SIREN’s website.
The quickest is way is to register for an online account. If you are a Duke customer, as in the example shown, use your account number to register at https://www.duke-energy.com/my-account/sign-in. A paper bill will have both your account number and the Company’s website address.
Once you register and/or sign in, go to the account summary or payment page. Click on View Bill for the most recent month.
When the bill image appears, it should display your electricity usage in kilowatt hours over the previous 12 months in both chart and numerical form. On a Duke bill, it looks like this (though your numbers may be higher or lower).
12-Month Usage is the information that you need to provide on the Solarize Site Info form (if you are participating in a Solarize group-buying program) or when requesting an estimate from a solar installer. If you want to see how much you paid for those 12 months, look at Payment History. SIREN, the Solarize organizer, is a nonprofit organization.
If you do not want to register online for some reason, you can obtain the same information by calling Duke or REMC customer service at the number listed on your paper bill.
Duke has seen net metering issues on a few meters. You should have a bi-directional meter that records energy going both directions. A one directional meter can charge your account for kWh from and to the grid. Their meter crews are instructed to not install new “smart” meters with a communication feature that doesn’t process net metering.
Our bills show meter readings that go back to 0000, but never lower.
The Duke bi-directional meters measure energy sent to and received from the electric grid but the company’s billing system doesn’t report negative numbers. If your account has accumulated a kwh credit, the monthly bill will only show the highest previous reading. After consulting with your solar company, you can read the meter to learn actual kWh usage or contact the Duke Renewables Service Center for a billing report via email at CustomerOwnedGeneration@duke-energy.com or by phone at 866-233-2290
Every Hoosier deserves the right to benefit from rooftop solar. Years ago, in 2003 and again in 2017, Indiana law made it clear that when Hoosiers go solar, any excess electricity they generate gets credited back monthly.
In 2021, state regulators and utility companies have attempted to change that rule from its original intent in a way that will financially harm those who’ve already gone solar—and those who are considering it. A judicial ruling on legal challenges to the unprecedented action is expected in mid-2022. We need the state law to be respected.
Indiana’s utility regulators recently approved instantaneous netting instead of traditional monthly netting, which means solar customers will ultimately be reimbursed less for the energy they send to their neighbors on the grid. That’s a disincentive to those who want to embrace energy freedom and receive a fair rate for the power they create. For more details, see Monthly-Netting-No-Call-
Changing the rules means Hoosiers who have gone or want to go solar could lose thousands of dollars, and all Hoosiers will lose the benefits of increased solar energy.
Lawmakers have an opportunity in the legislative session to ensure that Hoosiers who embrace solar are credited on a monthly basis—the way the state law was written—instead of instantaneous, which will cause them financial harm. Regrettably, several energy bills submitted in the 2022 Indiana state legislature have been refused a hearing by committee chair persons.
Some Duke legacy net metering customers had analog meters with dials and a spinning disc that went backwards when energy was exported to the grid. Those meters indicated the amount of kilowatt hours (kWh) credit. You could read your meter and keep a record of the seasonal kWh credits. The summer kWh credits would carry forward month to month and offset energy used from the grid in winter.
When “smart” AMI digital meters were approved by the IURC, the meters of Duke net metering customers were not initially replaced. Several commonly occurring errors were identified during 2021 when net metering customers received new AMI meters. Although some models of AMI meters did not properly register energy and some meters were programed incorrectly, most of the identified issues have been resolved. Net metering customers are not eligible for the AMI opt-out program.
The company’s billing system keeps a record of monthly kWh credits that can be provided to customers upon request. If you believe your billing is not correct after the meter replacement, you may contact the Duke Energy Renewable Service Center by phone (866 233-2290) or email to CustomerOwnedGeneration@duke-energy.com.
An email response may be forthcoming in days or weeks. You could be on the phone for hours until you contact someone who can answer your question. Repeated inquiries may be necessary. They will work with the billing and metering departments as needed to resolve the issue. You are entitled to a cash refund if your account has been overcharged.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association , “Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40 percent of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads.”
Different utilities have different net metering policies. Here is what Duke Energy Indiana says about renewable generating options and net metering in its territory. Indiana Electric Cooperatives (IEC) represents Indiana’s 38 REMCs, each with its own net metering or similar policies. Drill down on the REMC map to see their websites for more information.
For an excellent analysis of the policy issues involved in net metering from both the consumer side and the utility side, see “The Net Metering Riddle” by Karl R. Rábago, the Executive Director of the Pace Energy and Climate Center at the Pace Law School in White Plains, New York.
Grid-tied solar owners will pay Duke the monthly minimum connection fee, regardless of surplus production. The Duke rate tariff schedule charges less per unit as your electricity usage increases. The first 300 kWh monthly is the most expensive. Your monthly bill is reduced by power produced with renewable energy. For example, if you used 900 kWh and produced 500 kWh with solar PV, the net bill would be for 400 kWh from the grid. The first 300 kWh would cost about $44 and the next 100 kWh would cost about $11 for a net metering bill of approximately $65 including the $9.40 connection fee.
Your electricity usage is seasonal with the lowest bills in spring and fall when heating and cooling are not needed. Solar energy peak production is from March to October. A solar PV system sized to offset most or all of your power in April and September will have the greatest benefit by reducing your monthly kWh below 300.
|Monthly energy kWh usage||Under 300||301 – 1000||over 1,000|
|Base rate per kWh||0.092945||0.054178||0.037794|
|Rider adjustment charges||0.045177||0.045177||0.045177|
|Electric charges total||$0.138122||$0.099355||$0.082971|
|Sales tax 7%||$0.008652||$0.005938||$0.005258|
|Cost per kWh||0.147||0.105||0.088|
Cost per kilowatt hour (kWh), including Indiana sales tax, is near 15 cents, 11 cents and 9 cents for each residential kWh rate tier, including base rate and riders.
Here are the rates as of 2014. Rates are set by the IURC for set periods; utility companies have to request rate changes. We will try to track rates changes and update the rate information on this page to the best our abilities.
Service Charge: $7.30 per month, Energy Charge: 8.634¢ per kWh
Customer Charge for bills of 0-325 kWh per month: $ 6.70 per month; for bills over 325 kWh per month: $11.00 per month
Energy Charge: any part of the first 500 kWh per month: 6.70¢ net per kWh; over 500 kWh per month 4.40¢ net per kWh
With electric heating and/or water heating, over 1000 kWh per month: 3.18¢ net per kWh
Customer Charge: $11.00 per month
Energy Charge: $0.097836 per kWh
Adjustment for customers with electric space heating: $0.077836 per kilowatt hour for all use in excess of 700 kilowatt hours during any billing period more than half of which is within any calendar month from October to April
Customer Facilities Charge: $11.00 per month
- Standard Customers $0.09771 per kWh for all kWh used per month;
- Transitional Customers
$0.07656 per kWh for the first 1,000 kWh used per month
$0.05266 per kWh for all over 1,000 kWh used during the months of June through Sept
$0.03899 per kWh for all over 1,000 kWh used during the months of October through May
REMCs, Hoosier Energy, WVPA, and municipally owned utilities:
Indiana has 38 REMCs, each with its own net metering or similar policies, rate structures and tariffs. See the map of their territories for more information. Many REMCs source their power from Hoosier Energy, which also provides solar thermal to some customers. In addition, Indiana has 60 municipally owned utility companies throughout the state and Wabash Valley Power Authority has service territories in northern Indian as well as part of Illinois.
If you receive your electricity from one of these utilities, please consult the company for information on renewable energy options.
Private rooftop systems also benefit the utility. They are most productive at the same time that demand for electricity is greatest – on summer afternoons, often referred to as ‘peak load times.’ This means that solar owners supply their own needs and put any surplus energy they generate back out on the grid where it is used by their nearest neighbors. Solar owners relieve the peak load on the utility and do not incur line losses when electricity travels through the distribution system from the utility’s power plant.