Electricity

APS Seeks Rate Increase, Opening Lane for Solar to Rise

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Last month, Arizona Public Service company (APS), announced it would seek a new $184 million rate increase. According to the formal request submitted to regulators, the proposed hikes would raise rates for the average household bill by 5.4%. This announcement comes just 2 years after APS raised rates by 4.5% in 2017. Increasing electric rate projections opens up a lane for solar to emerge as an alternative.

APS to hit customers with rate increases

 

APS raising rates

 

In July, the Arizona Corporation Commission ordered APS to undergo a rate case after 2 years of customer complaints over the company’s prices. When casting her vote on ordering the rate case, Commissioner Sandra Kennedy declared, “the people of Arizona are sick and tired of being sick and tired.” The final vote in favor of the case was 5-0. 

 

At the time, AZCentral noted that though the initial reason for the case was in part due to concerns about the company’s prices being too high, that the result of the case could actually lead to higher prices yet. The proposed increases would cost average consumers using 1,020 kw hours of electricity per month an additional $7.50. That rate would of course increase during the summer when usage is higher and decrease during the winter months. 

 

The deal has not yet been finalized and according to Phoenix Fox 10, customers would likely not see any changes on their bill until late 2020. In their request, APS cited its investments in creating clean and renewable energy and improving infrastructure as the need to pull in $184M. The company’s rate case program manager Drew Schroeder commented on the pending case stating that, “The rate case is our opportunity and bring forward receipts and ask for recovery of those investments.”

 

This request comes amidst several controversies involving APS including two heart related deaths as a result of power being shut off during the summer for late payments, and a federal investigation into the company’s spending on political campaigns. “It’s arrogant for them to be coming on the heels of all of those things and asking people for another $184 million,” said consumer advocate Stacey Champion, adding that APS already has the highest electric bills of any utility service in the state. 

 

Soaring electric prices

 

Solar

 

Over the past decade there has been a steady rise in electric prices. According to the Energy Information Administration, electric rates have increased 15% in the last 10 years. In just 2019 alone, EIA projects that the electric rate increase for residential users will be 1.2%. Across the globe demand for electricity has increased. In 2018 global demand rose by 4%. In Texas, which has seen huge spikes in temperatures during the summer of late, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas warned that as demand continues to rise, price rises will follow. 

 

While energy prices have gone up, during the same time, prices for solar have gone down dramatically. According to a study from UC-Berkeley, between 2017 and 2018, the price of solar dropped 11%. Since 2010, while prices for electricity have gone up, the price of solar has plummeted by 85%. Additionally, according to Bloomerg’s New Energy Finance outlook report from this year, by 2050 the price of solar will fall by 63% compared to today’s prices.

 

The cost of installing solar for residential customers today is a fraction of what it was decades ago. While even just 10 years ago the cost of solar installation was around $50,000, today that price averages between $10-14,000. 

 

Financial benefits of switching from electric to solar

 

solar panels

 

Despite the start-up costs, consumers have financial incentives to switch to solar. Estimated savings on homes that switch to solar range from $13-20,000 over a 20 year period. The estimated average 20-year savings for a solar powered home in Phoenix is $8,000. Additionally, the same UC-Berkeley study found that adding solar panels to a home increases the home value by 3.74%.

 

Solar has proven to be vastly more efficient than standard electric powered homes. A huge advantage of solar is its ability to generate energy, allowing for the storage of excess energy for later use during peak hours. Switching to solar also protects consumers from unpredictable rate changes from electric companies. Those elements combined saves households tons of money on their bills. 

 

Today, solar is the fastest growing energy source in the world. In 2016 solar panel capacity increased by 50%. With the release of the 2018 IPCC report on climate change there has been a surge in demand for renewable energy. Yet unlike standard electricity, prices are only projected to continue going down. As prices for electricity increase, solar will soon become a highly sought after alternative. It’s also estimated that by 2030, both wind and solar energy will undercut existing coal and gas almost everywhere. 

 

With APS proposing yet another electric rate increase, now may be the best time to look into switching to solar. As the price of solar continues to fall while electric rates rise adding more and more to household bills, many will start to turn to solar to save money, increase efficiency, and to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Solar Panels

How Big Is A Typical Solar Panel On A Home?

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Standard Solar Panel Sizes

The usual traditional solar panels commonly come in 2 different configurations: 60-cell and 72-cell.

With that being said, the standard dimensions for each option are:

  • 60-cell panels: 39″ x 66″ (3.25 feet x 5.5 feet)
  • 72-cell panels: 39″ x 77″ (3.25 feet x 6.42 feet)

 

Standard Solar Panel Dimensions

Standard solar panels commonly come in 2 different configurations: 60-cell and 72-cell.

An individual solar cell is a 6” x 6” square. 60-cell panels are laid out in a 6×10 grid. 72-cell panels are laid out in a 6×12 grid.

  • 60-cell panels: 39″ x 66″ (3.25 feet x 5.5 feet)
  • 72-cell panels: 39″ x 77″ (3.25 feet x 6.42 feet)

These are the standard solar panel sizes typically for most residential and commercial installations.

How Big Is the Average Solar Array?

The average household uses approximately 867 kwh of electricity each month. It would take a 6.5 kw of solar array to offset the full usage.

With a 60-cell solar panels with a stock range from 285w to 315w, and a stock of 72-cell panels ranges from 335W to 375W. We can figure out approximately how many panels it would take to build a 6.5 kW (6500-watt) system:

  • 6500W / 285W = 22.8 (23 panels)
  • 6500W / 315W = 20.6 (21 panels)
  • 6500W / 340W = 19.1 (20 panels)
  • 6500W / 375W = 17.3 (18 panels)

An average-sized solar system will contain 18-23 panels depending on the efficiency of the panels you use.

Electricity Energy Efficiency Solar Panels

How Much Power Does a Solar Panel Produce?

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“How do solar panels actually work?” This question is asked many times here at Solar Fuse. Well we can answer this question with also telling your how much power is used, per square foot. This question is not a hard question to answer. The main determination is really figuring out what size solar panel system a homeowner needs and what they want. To understand how much solar power is produced per square foot it’s helpful to know what solar panels are made of.

 

How Solar Panels Are Made

Think of it as a math problem with the equation being: If a solar panel is rated to produce 360 watts, and it’s about 3-and- ¼-feet wide by 5-and- ½- feet long, then each square foot must produce about 20 watts, but this is not necessarily correct.

 

Temperature: Temperature has a lot to do with heat. If there’s too much heat, your solar panels may not work as effectively. Once the heat increases to higher than 77 degrees Fahrenheit, then the power is will decrease. The best panels have a low “temperature coefficient”, so the hot temperatures are minimized and won’t affect the energy saving process.

 

Spectrum: Rainy and cloudy days can also affect your solar panels. Contrary to what most think, solar panels work during cloudy or rainy days. The reason for this is because there is still a wide spectrum of light that is being received by the panels. Although clouds block some light, it never fully block all of sunlight or the spectrum. This is the reason that it is still possible to get sunburned during rainy or cloudy days.

 

Angle: Depending on the angles and direction that your home is facing, this will determine the energy you are saving and how the solar panels are working as well. Most solar panels are built with “anti-reflective glass,” which means once light enters the panel it will reflect back into the solar cell to hold as much power as possible.

 

Amount of light: Typical solar absorption is at its peak around noon, but this also depends on the location. Shadows from trees, dust, leaves and other factors can block light, affecting solar panel power output. Shading can not only hurt power production, but it can also damage solar panels over time.

Energy Efficiency

The Different Factors That Affect Solar Panel Efficiency

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Solar panel efficiency depends on several factors. For one, it’s the percentage of solar energy or even the sunlight that a panel can convert into usable energy and electricity. The higher levels of efficiency, the more usable electricity produced by the same number of panels. These are the important tangibles that you need to know in order to choose the best solar panel for your home.

There are many factors that can affect panel efficiency. Here are some of the most important factors below:

Different Factors for Solar Panel Efficiency:

  • Temperature Control: Panels need solar energy (sunlight) to produce usable electricity, on the contrary to what most think, solar panels are the most efficient at the lowest of temperatures. Panels designed with materials to reduce the impacts of higher temperatures usually have higher efficiencies.
  • Low Reflective Design: Minimizing the reflection of regular light off of a cell’s surface can also create more efficiency. By reducing reflection with regular light, a cell can successfully capture and transform more solar energy into electricity.
  • Low Recombination: Electric current within solar cells typically flow through charge carriers within panels. Generally speaking, there are 2 main forms of recombination, which are; indirect and direct.

 

How to Know What’s the Best Solar Panel for You

Solar energy efficiency is important, but it isn’t everything. Here are a few quick tips for choosing the right solar panel for your home solar project:

  1. Do your research on different kinds of panels to determine what is best for your home.
  2. Examine your roof. Look at the type of roof you have, the size, and the angle so you can determine what you need.
  3. Obtain multiple solar panel quotes. Sometimes the solar panels that you want may cost more with a different solar provider or company.