Going For Solar – Efficiency First (Step 2)

Before investing in a renewable energy system like solar panels, be sure to tackle efficiency improvement projects first.  You will get a quicker return on your investment and the amount of energy you need to generate through your renewable energy projects will be reduced.  There is an exception to this rule if you live into New Jersey, but I’ll talk about that at the end.

Here are some of the projects you should tackle before you go for solar:
(The links take you to earlier GLC articles on these topics)

MassSave logo

If you are unsure what to do, the Home Energy Audit is a good first step because the energy expert who conducts the audit will provide you with a prioritized list of projects to get you started.  In most of Massachusetts you can get a free home energy audit through MassSave.com.  If you live elsewhere, you can also start with a tool like EnergySavvy.com which will ask you a series of questions about your home and lifestyle and then provide recommendations for next steps to take, provide connections with local contractors and incentive programs that are relevant for you.  I have spoken with the developers of EnergySavvy and am impressed with their business plan and tool.  We scored an 80, what do you score?
EnergySavvy dinosaur logo

It was when I was exploring EnergySavvy.com that I learned that the new Commonwealth Solar II Rebate Program had begun which caused me to  get our solar PV project rolling. You should take a look and find out what sort of programs might be available where you live (unfortunately, at this time, it’s information about contractors and incentive programs is just for the US).

The next segment will describe what happens on a solar site survey in our third post of this series: Going for Solar – Solar Site Survey (Step 3)

Oh, and I almost forgot, the New Jersey exception to maximizing efficiency before pursuing renewable energy projects is that New Jersey photovoltaic incentives are capped by your current electrical usage.  So, even if you have the money and desire to be a net electricity producer to take advantage of the very favorable SREC (solar renewable energy credit) market, you cannot get the incentives for systems designed to exceed your current annual electricity usage.  Some good friends of mine who are putting in solar in NJ recently ran into this problem.  They have the space, the desire and the funding, but had to limit the size of their PV array based on their electrical usage which they already reduced significantly through efficiency and conservation.  I’m not too worried though, it is still a great deal and opportunity for them, stay tuned.

Happy Greening,

solar pv awning on the back side of house

Going for Solar Series

To learn more about residential solar installations, check out our series Going for Solar, which details every step from dreaming about installing solar, through picking a contractor and the steps in construction. We provide information and advice for every step of the way, as well as different approaches such as paying for it yourself versus leasing a system. Don’t miss the steps on how much money we saved during our first year of usage!


  1. Berlinda says:

    This is exactly how Germany has beocme the world’s leading nation in distributed renewable energy. The German Government passed laws obliging utility companies to pay private individuals and groups for energy that they generate and feed into the national grid. These payments are called feed-in tariffs and they enable homeowners to get a reasonable payback on their investments in distributed renewable energy.The real issue is how much you would be paid for the electricity you generate in Florida. Large-scale solar PV panels would be required to generate several kilowatt-hours per day. They cost $5 $10 per peak watt (Wp) and an installation of the scale you need will cost your neighbourhood association many thousands of dollars.I don’t know the laws about feed-In tariffs in Florida so I can’t tell you how to meet local requirements. I suspect the low price of electricity in the US (relative to Germany) will make it an uneconomic proposition for you at the moment. If this is the case, I suggest you re-evaluate the costs and benefits in a few years, when the price of electricity really hurts.

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