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AES's Solar Power FAQ

We now have available the answers to your questions about solar power.

Alternative Energy Southeast, Inc. has released a 32-page eBook with the most asked questions about solar power systems for the home.

If you're considering a system or just want to know more about how home solar systems work, this is the eBook for you.

From the basics of how solar rays turn into electricity to picking an installing partner to adding a battery to an existing system, this informative eBook will lead you through the process.

  • Chapter 1 - Home Solar Basics
  • Chapter 2 - Does a Solar System Add Up?
  • Chapter 3 - Home Owner's Associations
  • Chapter 4 - Practical Considerations
  • Chapter 5 - Final Steps

You can request your free copy of AES's Solar Power FAQ by sending us an email.

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Common Questions Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can solar panels be recycled or do they eventually end up in landfills?
    Yes, solar panels can be recycled, and there’s even a solar panel recycling facility already in Georgia. They’re called SOLARCYCLE, and they recover 95% of the materials in the solar panel recycling process, which is far more than most consumer products. According to projections from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, by 2040, recycled panels and materials could potentially fulfill 25% to 30% of the United States' domestic solar manufacturing needs.
  • Are solar panels good for the environment?

    Yes, very. Solar panels will generate as much energy as was used to manufacture them in only about 3 months, so compare that to their 25-year warranted life! Solar panels do not require any fuel source other than sunshine, which is our planet’s most abundant renewable resource. Solar panels reduce your carbon footprint and your greenhouse gas emissions by offsetting how much power you buy from fossil fuel generators. Solar power systems have a minimal environmental impact in terms of air and water pollution compared to traditional energy sources like coal or natural gas.

    Taking the carbon footprint of solar panels into account, one study still found that coal generates a footprint 18 times the size, while natural gas creates an emissions footprint 13 times the size of solar.9 It’s also worth repeating that solar energy produces zero emissions after production. For that reason alone, studies have revealed solar to be an essential solution to slowing climate change.

  • Does solar increase property value?

    Three separate studies have shown that solar increases your home value by about the same amount you paid for it, so if/when you sell your house, you get 100% of your solar investment back. But since you already received the tax credit, that means you actually achieved a 130% return on investment! (No other home improvement project even comes close to this. Updating a kitchen might yield 50% if you're lucky.) All in all, if a system can lower your utility bills by about half, and increase your home selling price by its own face value, it is an incredibly smart investment choice.

  • Will solar eliminate my power bill?

    Only if you go completely off the grid and disconnect your electrical service, which is possible, but also expensive compared to just eliminating 90% of your power bill. For most folks, it makes the most sense to stay connected to the grid. There is typically more than one reason someone wants to go solar and each customer places a different value on those reasons. Our job is to help you find the perfect combination of size, functionality, and savings. That is one reason we try to discuss every project thoroughly with our customers using a consultative approach. The better we understand your goals, the happier you’ll be with the outcome.

  • Can I sell my solar power to utility companies?

    Georgia’s solar buyback is much different than some other states, and it also varies depending on your utility. In most cases, the utility will only purchase at avoided cost (the wholesale rate) and will not buy back at the retail rate. For your specific situation, talk to an AES Solar Consultant to get details regarding your utility company. It is our priority to design systems that make the most sense to you, our customer.

  • Do you offer financing for solar panels?

    Of course! Residential and commercial financing in various forms exist as well as grants and special access financing for qualified customers. Your AES Solar Consultant can talk to you about the different options available.

  • Are there government incentives for installing solar panels?

    For residential solar, there’s a Federal Tax Credit of 30%.

    For commercial solar, there’s the 30% Federal Tax Credit plus other incentives such as MACRS (accelerated depreciation), a 10% tax credit if you choose to use domestic products, and there’s the USDA REAP grant that benefits rural businesses.

    Nonprofit organizations can expect a direct payment from the government instead of a tax credit. Verify eligibility by consulting with your tax professional.

    Read our blog posts about the 30% tax credit and other incentives for more information.

  • What is the Return on Investment (ROI) or Payback for investing in solar power in Georgia?

    In other words, how long does solar take to pay for itself?

    The return on investment (ROI) or payback period for solar power installations can vary based on several factors, including the cost of the solar system, local sunlight conditions, available incentives, and the price of utility electricity. Specific circumstances can greatly influence the payback period which is why solar shoppers need to work with a professional solar consultant who is qualified to understand the specifics of your site.

    The shortest paybacks are realized when the solar purchase is financed and the savings are greater than the loan payments, which is an immediately positive cash flow.

    For cash purchases (not financed), the payback typically ranges from 5 years to 15 years for a homeowner (the average is 12 years). For larger projects in the commercial, industrial, or government sectors, the payback period ranges from 2 to 12 years (average is 8 years). For agricultural or rural business projects, the USDA REAP Grant can help the owner achieve an immediate payback.

    By providing us with a little bit of information, we can accurately determine the ROI for solar in your specific situation. Everyone responsible property owner should know what their solar potential is. If it’s not a good fit, that’s fine. If it is a good fit, you could save a very significant amount of money over solar’s 25-year warranty period.

  • Is solar affordable? How Much Does Solar Installation Cost?

    The bottom line is solar SAVES you money in most cases and that’s because it’s the cheapest form of electric generation possible in the Southeastern region. There is an upfront cost (which can be affordably financed), but the cost of the electricity that a solar power system produces in its warranty period is a mere fraction of every other technology including coal, nuclear, natural gas, wind power, and geothermal.

    Solar is more affordable now than ever. Due to global advances in manufacturing and technology, the price of solar has dropped over 70% since 2010. Since the size of solar power systems can vary widely, so can the cost. Thus, residential solar systems range from around $9K to $50K (after tax credit), with a median cost of approximately $20K. Commercial Solar system sizes vary even more depending on how much energy the building in question consumes and when.
  • Are solar panels safe?

    Yes, solar panels are generally considered safe. They quietly produce electricity without emitting greenhouse gasses or other pollutants into the surrounding environment. The materials used in solar panels, such as silicon, aluminum, and silver are all non-toxic and recyclable. However, like any technology, solar panels must be installed properly to ensure safety, and AES stands behind our installations with an industry-leading 25-year workmanship warranty.

  • How many solar panels do I need?

    A solar array should be sized according to the goals of the owner. A system may be considered too large if it has so many solar panels that it produces a lot more power than the building can consume and that power gets exported to the grid at an unfavorable rate. A system that is too small may be less expensive at the outset but doesn’t offset a meaningful portion of the electric bill. There’s also an economy of scale to consider, the cost-per-watt reduces with larger systems.

    Alternatively, if batteries are installed for backup power, the array should be large enough to keep them charged for extended outages. A consultation with a Solar Consultant will help you discover the pros and cons of various system sizes for your property.
  • How much maintenance is required for solar panels?

    Solar requires very little maintenance. In the Southeast region, cleaning the solar panels with a squeegee and water once every two to four years is sufficient. If there are overhanging trees you may want to consider more frequent cleaning to remove pine straw and leaves, especially if your panels don’t have a Leaf & Rodent Guard. It’s quite surprising how well solar panels perform even when they are covered in pollen.

    The other components in the solar power system are electrical parts, which have a life expectancy of 20 to 30+ years, as long as they are installed correctly. AES puts extra care into our workmanship and we don’t cut corners, so you can rely on your solar lasting as long as possible. In fact, we stand behind our systems with an industry-leading 25-year Workmanship Warranty.

    Ask us about our maintenance packages which you can purchase along with your system and claim the tax credit against the expense.
  • Will my Homeowners Association (HOA) allow me to install solar panels?

    This is something your particular HOA may or may not allow. Sometimes they only disallow them on the street-facing side of the home. Check to see if there is something written about solar panels in your HOA covenants. If necessary, ask someone on the HOA board for help. If solar isn't allowed it's not the end of the road. We have seen homeowners successfully move to change their HOA covenants. We have some resources for you if your HOA doesn't allow solar.

  • What is the warranty and life expectancy of solar panels, and will my insurance cover them if they get damaged?

    The standard warranty for most solar panels is a 25-year production warranty (guarantees the solar panel will meet or exceed its rated power output over time, which reduces by 0.5% to 0.8% per year) and a 10-year product warranty (guarantees the physical integrity of the solar panel). AES offers US-made panels with a 25-year product and production warranty.

    Some of the very first solar panels installed 40 to 50 years ago are still producing over 50% of their original rating! There are no moving parts in a solar panel and they are very physically robust which is how they can hypothetically outlast a human lifetime.

    Solar panels are designed to withstand the harshest conditions such as baseball size hail, lightning strikes, and hurricane-force winds. If something were to happen to your solar panels, property insurance typically covers the damage.
  • How long does solar take to install?

    A typical residential solar power system (8 kW) usually takes one to three days to complete: one to two days on the roof, one to two days in the attic, and interior pulling wire and making electrical connections. Adding a typical battery bank adds an additional one to two days. After the physical installation is complete we call for inspections from the local building department and the power company.

    Commercial solar power systems vary greatly in size and complexity, therefore we cannot give an accurate estimate of how long your project might take without more information. We’d be happy to review your project, just give us a call.

  • Are batteries necessary for solar to work?

    No, batteries are not required for solar to work. Stand-alone PV works great to reduce your power bills and carbon footprint!

    That said, solar panels with a battery energy storage system (called a BESS or an ESS) have several advantages over stand-alone PV. Solar panels will generate electricity and that electricity is either used instantly in your building or it can be stored in your batteries. Without batteries, the excess electricity would be exported through your meter to the power grid which you may or may not be compensated fairly for, depending on your utility’s net-metering policy. There will always be some excess power with stand-alone PV, so it’s important to size a system like this appropriately to maximize the benefits.

    The biggest benefit to having batteries and their associated hardware is that they can automatically create a microgrid during a power grid blackout so your lights and other critical loads stay energized.

    Another capability offered by some BESS products is what's known as “Time of Use Rate Arbitrage”. Most electrical utilities offer Time of Use (ToU) rate options which have variable rates based on the season and time of day. When pairing these two things together, a BESS controller will use your solar and batteries to power the building when rates are high which can significantly help the BESS pay for itself.

  • Does solar protect me from power outages?

    During a power grid outage, solar panels are legally required to automatically shut down unless you have a battery and the associated hardware installed that enables your system to connect and disconnect from the power grid. This action is made possible by a device called a transfer switch, which can be either automatic or manually operated depending on the situation and product design.

  • How do I know if solar power is the right choice for my home or business?

    There is no one-size-fits-all solar solution. Solar is right for you if it helps you achieve your goals. That goal may be to decrease your electricity bills, increase your independence and resiliency in the event of a power grid outage, minimize your carbon footprint, experience the latest technological innovations, or some combination of the four. For any of these motives, the best way to know if solar is a feasible solution for you is by speaking with an experienced Solar Consultant. A professional Solar Consultant will take into account your utility rate plan options, utility solar policies, roof geometry, year-round shade conditions, budget, energy consumption data and usage patterns, and more, and then help you understand the ramifications of each to develop a holistic solar power design tailored to you.

  • What is solar power?

    Solar power, also known as photovoltaics or PV, is electricity generated when photons (light) strike a specialized wafer known as a photovoltaic cell. Multiple cells are wired together and packaged into what's called a solar module or solar panel. Multiple solar panels wire together to make a solar array. Solar panels generate DC electricity which must be converted to AC electricity via an inverter before the devices in your building can use it. The type of solar power AES specializes in is known as “behind-the-meter”. This means the output of the solar power system is connected to the consumption side of your electric meter thereby reducing the amount of power you buy from your electric utility.

Real People. Real Reviews

At Alternative Energy Southeast, Inc., your satisfaction is our priority! See for yourself what our customers have to say about working with us.

    "we will recommend AES to everyone"
    Everyone we talked with at AES was knowledgeable, professional, friendly, and answered all our questions even when we needed to hear it again. Installation was expert and we are reaping rewards from our free sunshine !!! ...we will recommend AES to everyone.
    - Tom C.
    Athens, GA
    "...we have found the right company to install our system..."
    Even though now is not the right time for our system, we have found the right company to install our system on our next home. Thanks for the education and we look forward to our install soon.
    - Jim P
    Hoschton, GA
    "First class company and team."
    First class company and team. They are a credit to the industry that they serve. Please look nowhere else for Renewable Energy installer in the South East.
    - Adam B.
    Roswell, GA
    "The work crew was terrific... The electrical inspector said that the job was the best he has seen in a long time!... Terrific solar company."
    The work crew was terrific - very conscientious, courteous, cordial, not bad language! The electrical inspector said that the job was the best he has seen in a long time!... Terrific solar company.
    - Mike M.
    Augusta, GA
    "We had a great experience with AES."
    We had a great experience with AES. They did a great job communicating with us and installing the equipment which works just as advertised.
    - Jennifer M
    Athens, GA
    "I will go straight to AES next time I need help"
    AES removed and re-installed our solar system so that our house could be re-roofed. They were responsive, friendly, and professional... I will go straight to AES next time I need help with our system, or decide to add more panels.
    - Robert C
    Athens, GA
    "We were completely satisfied with the work AES has done for us."
    Alternative Energy Southeast (AES) did an excellent job installing our 15 panels in one day and cleaned up after themselves... and now we are enjoying days with less than 50% of our power coming from the grid!... We were completely satisfied with the work AES has done for us. AES is an honest, knowledgeable and efficient company that is a pleasure to do business with. Highly recommend them as a choice for a well designed and properly installed solar system.
    - Bob K.
    Athens, GA
    "I highly recommend this company if you decide to pursue solar power for your home or business."
    It's still early in the ownership phase, but so far I'm very pleased. The initial cost was honestly higher than I expected, but even with conservative numbers, I should get an ROI within 8 years... My rep was Aaron, and he promised that I would have the system up and running by the end of the year, and he was correct. He also spent a lot of time on the phone answering a ton of questions. I highly recommend this company if you decide to pursue solar power for your home or business.
    - Robert B
    Perry, GA
  • Strong Leadership

    Company is owned and operated by a NABCEP-certified Master Electrician who insists on quality work from the top down.

  • In-House Teams

    Our solar installers, electricians, solar consultants, and system designers are primarily W2 employees for optimal quality control and customer experience.

  • Industry Leading Workmanship Warranty

    We are totally committed to your satisfaction and are working to keep you protected. We include a 25-year Workmanship Warranty to ensure the quality and efficiency of your solar system.

  • Guaranteed Results

    Our systems will generate as much power as promised or we’ll pay you the difference - it’s written in our contracts.

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