It was a very good year for solar in Western Washington. Not only did the weather cooperate, showing performance equal to any year since we have been monitoring inverters, but the pace of installation of new solar quickened significantly. While we do not have any state-wide figures available at this point, we can say that locally we installed 63 grid-tied pv projects totalling 383 KW. This represents a 70% growth in our KW installed over 2012, and also represents about the limit of what we feel we could do with current staffing. We are looking to accommodate more growth this year by adding three new people to our team.
Last year we added one new employee; John Fleming has now been with us nearly a year, and is bringing a great engineering mindset to our site evaluations and system designs. On an administrative note, we lost our reasonable ability to provide a group health plan for our employees. The premium increases were too high compared to what our employees could get for themselves on “The Exchange”. So we gave everyone raises b y dividing up our savings on health care premiums and cancelled our group health plan. It’s hard to see how that is a good result of the ACA, but we’ll be continue to be patient and review our options again next year.
The year 2013 marked the first year that a significant number of our clients utilized local financing to pay for their systems. Although some financing has been available for quite a while, it has never been optimal and we had not previously encouraged its use. Now there are great local financing options available from several local lending institutions, which include low interest rates in recognition of the energy savings, high enough loan amounts to put up large pv systems, and the lack of leans against the home (some of these loans are secured by the pv system only.) Call us to learn more about those options or review this page http://www.powertripenergy.com/fininc.htm#Solar_Financing
Our three Solarize programs each had the highest participation rate yet in the three years we have been running them. Solarize Kitsap, Solarize Port Townsend, and Solarize Sequim all resulted in major savings to clients through the group purchasing rebates, and we also installed a slew of complimentary electric vehicle charging equipment as another benefit to participants who installed 8 kw or larger systems.
More and more of our clients are driving EVs and producing their own electricity with solar. In our family at home we began to lease a Nissan Leaf, and here at Power Trip Energy, we leased a Toyota RAV4 EV – both all electric, and with 50-75% of that electricity generated from local solar power.
In 2013 we continued to see slight price decreases in modules and slight efficiency increases. Due to the high local market demand, some local manufacturers struggled with lead times, but our supply from international industry leaders remained reliable. We utilized some newer products offering module level power management and monitoring, and this continues to be a strong trend in the industry. As we keep an eye on the state of the industry and introduction of new products, we retain the primary goal of using the highest quality equipment from the most reliable manufacturers as the best way to ensure long-term value for our clients.
Looking ahead to 2014, we are seeing continued strong interest locally. Our 2014 Solarize Kitsap program is off to a strong start and enrollment remains open through March 31, 2014. There are several upcoming orientation sessions, the schedule is here: http://www.solarizekitsap.com As mentioned above, we have remodeled our office to accommodate new staff and are planning to add three new positions this year. The national and local trends are that solar is becoming mainstream. Our goal of becoming “just another trade” may be within reach.
The existing state of the market is amazing in terms of the lowest prices and highest quality equipment we have ever seen, combined with several incentive programs in place for another couple of years: the 30% Federal tax credit (until 2016), the Washington State sales tax exemption (until 2018), and the annual production incentive payments available through the Washington State Renewable Energy Cost Recovery Program (in place until 2020.) There has never been a better time to install solar, and depending on whether those incentives are extended, we may not see a moment like this again. If you have been considering installing grid-tied pv, give us a call or learn more at http://www.powertripenergy.com