Hello again! If you're reading this, thank you!
What do we have on our discussion plate today? How about winter weather and solar production - or more specifically, what your electric bill will look like during your first winter with solar panels on your home.
So, we've discussed net metering in a previous post on this blog, but if you need a refresher, look here: https://www.dpisolar.com/post/what-is-net-metering
To refresh your memory, net metering is a system of bill credits that turns your over-production of energy (expressed in kilowatt-hours - or kWh) into roll-over credits for you to use throughout the net metering year.
A net metering year is the 12 month time-frame that your electric company allows you to roll-over and use up these credits. In Oregon, the typical net metering year starts in April and ends the following March. During the months of April through October, your system is likely to significantly over-produce energy, which in turn results in substantial "roll-over" kWh credits for you to use up in the shorter, rainier days of winter. As the days get shorter and rainier (typically November through February), your solar array's production falls off significantly (when compared to your summertime production). It's during these shorter days and low production months that your net-metering credits kick in, making up for the shortfalls of monthly solar production with roll-over credits generated during the summer months. This process is how you can still maintain that minimum monthly bill from the electric company while seeing lower production during the winter months.
Well, now that we have revisited the net metering program function, let's talk about your very first year with solar panels on your home, shall we?
Depending on WHEN your system officially goes "live" and "online" with the electric company will determine how much "roll-over" credit you'll accumulate before winter.
This is VERY important to understand, because what we try to explain to our customers is that solar and solar generation is a marathon (not a sprint) and that the benefits are long term. What we are hoping to impart with this statement is this:
Your first winter with solar panels is LIKELY to be better than the years before (without solar on your property) - yet you are LIKELY to run out of roll-over credits long before the sunny days of spring and summer return.
So using this explanation, let's explore an example of how your solar will work out for you when your system gets brought online on July 1 (of a given year):
The months of July, August, and September are all likely to live up to your dreams of a minimum electric bill. October will likely be a month where you'll use some of the roll-over credits (that your system generated during the previous three months) to keep your monthly electric bill at the minimum charge. Depending on how much roll-over credit your system was able to create (in the shortened time frame it was online before winter), your credits MIGHT be enough to keep November's bill at the minimum charge but...
By the time December rolls around, it's possible (if not likely) that you've exhausted the limited amount of roll-over credits you generated during your brief solar summer season. What does this mean for the months of December, January, and February (and maybe even earlier - November as well)?
It means that you're still likely to see a smaller electric bill from your electric company during these months (because even though the sunshine is in limited supply, it still does shine during these months, though less so and with less intensity due to cloud cover, shorter winter days and winter weather in general). How much smaller, you ask? Well, to be honest - your first December, January, and February electric bills MIGHT be 10%-20% less than they were the previous year, but by no means are they going to be even close to the "minimum charge" bills you came to expect during the summer months when your system first went online.
DON'T PANIC!!! THERE'S LITERALLY NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR SYSTEM!
We use active monitoring to "watch" your system's performance and we compare your system's output to others in your area to make sure nothing is amiss. We don't need to send a tech, nor do we need to reset your system.
This is normal for your first year with solar panels!
It just means that you didn't have enough time during the sunnier, longer days of spring, summer and fall to accumulate sufficient roll-over credits to carry you through your FIRST winter season with solar panels.
By the time you hit March (in most years), the sun will come back out from hibernation and longer days will help your system generate sufficient power to offset most (if not all of March's electric bill). Come April, your system will hit its stride (for years to come) and you'll start accumulating those coveted roll-over credits that you missed out on in your first, brief summer and fall when your system first went online.
With the excess power generation kicking in during April, May, June, July, August, September (and sometimes even October), you'll see your system live up to the promises made during the sales phase of your solar installation process.
I write this because every single year, no matter how much effort we give to explain this to our customers, someone always seems to forget the key points of your first year of solar ownership.
And you know what?
Because honestly, buying solar panels for your property is a leap-of-faith on many levels, and it's STRESSFUL! You are putting your faith in technology as well as a contractor that you may not have ever met. Couple that with strangers stomping around on your roof and power tools modifying your property, and it becomes pretty easy to realize that this one nuance of "first year ownership" can be looked over.
I hope you find this post valuable - because all I really want you to feel is: RELIEF. It's gonna be fine! We promise! Your system is working just like it's supposed to! And by the time your system hits its first full year of net metering and accumulates all of the expected roll-over credits that you expect, each month's electric bill will be as expected - and hopefully paired with a smile on your face that says: I did it!
Call us at (503) 857-0099 with any questions.