A New Language - Choosing a Solar Installer 

My husband and I knew we would eventually install a solar photo voltaic (pv) system on our home. Superstorm Sandy, the October ice storm, and the resulting electric power loss moved the project to the top of our list. We realized two things: we wanted a battery back up system capable of providing enough power to help get us through extensive power outages, and we could probably achieve that with a smaller pv system. What's a smaller pv system? Enough pv panels and batteries to power what we determined to be essential; refrigerators, microwave, well and septic system pumps, computers, TV, some lights, etc. The system we installed will generate power to charge our battery bank and, once the batteries are charged, generate power we can use to meet some of our everyday electric needs.

Even though we planned to install solar pvs on our home and incorporated the proper roof slope into our house design, when it became time to choose a solar installer we had a list of questions. Do any of the installers in the Lehigh Valley area install battery back-up, solar pv systems? Are they registered with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) which would enable us to take advantage of the state rebate program? Is there a certification program for solar installers? Does the installer have the certifcation? Do they do quality work and know about the latest solar technologies? Do they warrant their work? How much will the system we believe we need cost?

I am a member of the Mid-Atlantic Renewable Energy Association (MAREA) and my husband attended the solar energy camp offered at the 2012 EnergyPath Conference. Bill Hennessy is on the MAREA board and an instructor at the solar energy camp. We had heard him speak at other events. Bill works with a local electrician, Bruce Hankins. Bruce is a licensed electrician. Both Bill and Bruce are certified through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Together they wrote the script for *Saving Sunshine - Keeping the Lights on with Batteries and Solar Power. Bill knows his 'solar' stuff. Had we found our installer? We decided to give him a call. (*Saving Sunshine is a DVD offered through MAREA and Amazon. See below.)

Solar Pathfinder: Used for solar site evaluation

Bill is an unassuming man and the principal owner of Berks Solar. He has years of experience installing pv systems, including systems with battery backup. He and Bruce evaluated our site and roof, helped us decide what's truly essential during a power loss, and explained how many panels and batteries we would need to generate and store enough power for 3 days of usage during an outage. Even though we understood the basics of photo voltaic (pv) technology and the batteries that provide power when needed, we learned a lot more about evaluating a site, pvs, batteries, inverters, etc. during our installation. I'll share more about that in an upcoming blog.

Solar Pathfinder - Tool used to evaluate a site for solar potential.



www.themarea.org

www.amazon.com - Saving Sunshine Video

www.nabcep.org