Solar PV Consumer Guide
Saving Money with Solar
Installing a solar system on your property allows you to both use the electricity it generates when needed – reducing your utility use and cost – and receive credit from the utility for feeding excess electricity back into the grid when you you’re using less than it is producing. This is called “net-metering.” Your meter can spin backwards and your electricity bill is reduced to the difference between the value of the electricity you use from the grid and the value of the solar energy you send to it.
Using solar also provides savings due to long-term price stability. Utility rates increase over time because of increasing fossil fuel costs, but the cost of sunlight never changes. It’s always free! As electricity from the utility becomes more expensive, your solar system saves you more money and pays for itself even faster.
Reduce Before You Produce
Decreasing the amount of energy you use by increasing the energy efficiency of your building and the appliances and equipment you use should come before installing a solar system. Using less electricity means you’ll need a smaller – and cheaper – solar system to meet your need. Energy efficiency improvements often pay for themselves within a couple years and combining them with solar increases your overall economic benefit.
Incentives Are Available!
The City of San Francisco, State of California, and federal government are offering financial incentives for solar PV systems. Combined, they can decrease system cost significantly and make solar power less expensive than electricity from the grid. For a complete list of incentives, click here.
Solar PV Installers Serving San Francisco
Selecting a solar contractor can be an daunting step in deciding to install solar. While there are many qualified solar contrators out there, it’s important to note that only GoSolarSF certified installers are eligible to receive the local GoSolarSF rebate. For more information about chosing an installer, click here.
How Is System Size Determined?
The shade-free area of your roof will limit how large your PV system can be, and your yearly electricity usage will dictate how much solar power you need. For your system to work best, the panels should face south or southwest and have no shading from trees, mechanical equipment, or other buildings. In San Francisco, it’s ideal for panels to be tilted up to receive the maximum amount of direct solar radiation, but they also work well when laid flat. In addition to roofs, parking lots or other open spaces can make good locations for PV systems. All of these factors are taken into account to determine an appropriate system size for you.
Since solar energy allows you to reduce the amount of electricity you use from the utility, you’ll be decreasing the demand for fossil fuel power and the amount of carbon dioxide emissions and other air pollutants produced by power plants. Reducing emissions helps prevent climate change and other environmental and public health threats from burning fossil fuels. Large power plants also have a significant impact on our water resources. Decreasing our reliance on them reduces their effect on the water supply and the health of our waterways, and the life that depends on both.
San Francisco Energy Map
The San Francisco Energy Map provides information on the amount of solar potential your rooftop has, along with the ability to calculate estimated economic and environmental benefits your potential system could provide. It also shows the location of solar systems in the city, includes case studies of property owners in San Francisco who have gone solar, and contains a wealth of information about solar energy and its use.
Additional Information for Solar PV Consumer Guide
San Francisco is habitat for 800,000 people – meeting needs for space to work, play, and learn; for food, water, and air; for community with local flora and fauna. SF Environment provides support for urban agriculture and forestry and green buildings, helping residents and businesses harness environmental opportunities.