Enthusiastic audience engages solar expert in ongoing Q&A
The seats were still filling as Paul LaBarbera, the owner of Magitek Energy Solutions, a solar energy systems installer, stepped to the podium and began his presentation Wednesday night at the McHenry Public Library. There was a Question-and-Answer session planned for after but the audience was having no part of waiting. Only minutes into his talk, LaBarbera was interrupted by the first of a welcome barrage of questions.
The audience was engaged, on the edge of their seats: they wanted to know about the potential for solar energy at their homes and offices and LaBarbera is one of the foremost experts in the field. Having installed more than 100 solar energy systems, he has the most difficult certification from Underwriters Laboratory – the only installer in Illinois with that certification.
Instead of a presentation, LaBarbera led an energetic discussion about solar energy and its potential. Instead of a Q&A session, when finished, LaBarbera and his assistant, Jacqueline Stern, sat down one-on-one with those in attendance, who had brought their electric bills along, to provide estimates of the cost and viability of installing one of these systems on their home or office.
LaBarbera had created a slide presentation to accompany the discussion. It was loosely followed as a map for the interactive process that took over. The slide presentation included:
- How solar systems work
- Illinois solar market trends
- Components of a solar panel system
- Types of solar panels and manufacturers
- The ins-and-outs of inverters
- Mounting systems
- Benefits of going solar
- Incentive programs
- Finding a reliable installer
- Frequently asked questions, including costs, installation time and issues, etc.
LaBarbera put numerous concerns to rest, such as issues related to proper installation of solar panel systems and the risks of roof leaks following installation of a system. While he admitted that he’s had to fix systems installed by other suppliers that caused leaks, he added that “Of all the systems I’ve done, we’ve never had a leak.”
He indicated that these systems have improved in quality over the years and will provide electricity at virtually the same level for years to come, where older systems lost their mojo over time. In the process, he said the value of solar panel systems will only increase.
“What’s the one thing I can tell you – electricity prices will go up. If you install a solar system that won’t be your concern.”
You don’t have to be an expert on solar panels to know that Illinois is not the optimal place to install a solar panel system on your home, right? Think about it; with all that winter, certainly, you’re wasting half the year on days when the temperature is hardly conducive to solar energy production. Wrong!
Actually, Illinois is a great place for a solar panel system
How can that make sense? Winter in Northern Illinois generally lasts from early to mid-November through March and into April. Approximately, five months out of each year, in these parts, is under the blanket of winter. What good is a solar panel system in the middle of winter?
If the temperature had anything to do with the production of solar energy, you would have a point thinking that Northern Illinois is not in the optimal hemisphere for production of solar energy. But, the temperature actually has nothing to do with it.
In the winter, there is less sunlight and sunlight is the crucial factor for producing solar energy. But, there is still enough sunlight to make solar panels viable in Northern Illinois – plenty of sunlight. Even on a cloudy day, solar panels are producing solar energy – have you ever gotten a sunburn on a cloudy day? It’s the same principle. Even on cloudy days, solar panels can capture solar energy.
Look at it this way: you could even install a solar panel system on the North Pole. Granted, during that long night, from Dec. 21 until early March, there is no sunlight and your solar panels will generally stand by idle waiting for the sun to come back. But, you’d make up for it in summer when daylight lasts almost the entire season.
In Northern Illinois, we don’t have a night that lasts for several months. Then again, we also don’t have a day that lasts almost an equal period. Instead, we have 365 days out of the year that a solar panel system can create solar energy, assuming it’s properly installed. And, if optimally installed, we’re talking about a solar panel system that will take a big bite out of your electric bill, if not eliminating your electric bill altogether.
Statistics show that the Midwest is virtually on par with southwestern cities in the average solar resources available. This makes Northern Illinois an excellent location for adding a solar panel system to your home or office.
Not just for proper installation but for savings, too
Folks in your McHenry neighborhood are amazed at your skill as a Do-It-Yourselfer. The fence you put up, the garage you built, the windows you installed. Clearly, you’re not an amateur. Now, you’ve got your eyes set on the roof of your house, but not to replace the roofing. Rather, you see it as rich in energy potential and you’re thinking of installing your own solar panel system. Don’t do it. Solar panel installation is not a project for DIYers.
There are good reasons not to go all DIY on a new solar panel system. The idea of installing a solar-energy system on your roof is sound. It’s a wonderful idea from which you’ll derive benefits for years to come. You have an opportunity to chop a big chunk out of your electric bill with clean, renewable energy from your personal ‘powerplant.’ But, DIY …?
Working on the roof always come with the risks of falling off. Though, as a DIYer, you’re not afraid of working at heights, it complicates matters when you’re performing a less familiar task, particularly when working with panels that could catch the wind and sail you off your McHenry roof.
There’s also the risk of doing damage to your home or the solar energy system. Anytime you put screws into your roof, you have to know what you’re doing so that moisture won’t follow through the next time it rains or when snow and ice start to melt. With unfamiliarity, it’s also a concern that you could damage the solar panel system during installation. That is potentially costly. And yet, there is still an even better reason to skip the DIY solar-panel-system installation.
There are big savings if you skip the DIY and let the professionals install your solar panel system
That just doesn’t make sense, does it? One of the best things about Do-It-Yourself projects is that you experience substantial savings in the process. It’s a wonderful reward of DIYers. But, this proven benefit is turned on its head when it comes to solar panel system installation.
This illogical quandary didn’t travel through a black hole to land with energy potential on your McHenry rooftop. Rather, it arrived there as a result of a legal meteor launched from the state capital in the form of the Future Energy Jobs Act.
By “Jobs” they don’t mean DIYers. The goal of the law is to increase Illinois’ dependence on renewable energy while, at the same time, promoting job growth.
For someone with a residential solar panel system that generates under 10-killowatts per hour, they’ll receive a check from the state for 15 years of anticipated State Renewable Energy Credits. The payment is a lump sum at the time that the system is energized.
For someone with a system that is larger than 10kw, they will receive four annual SREC payments that are based on average use for the preceding year to cover the 15-year anticipated energy production.
When you stack those substantial savings aside of the 30-percent Federal Tax Credit that is available with the installation of a solar panel system, the Return On Investment for your solar energy system is three to five years. After that, it’s all gravy, assuming you resist the urge to go DIY on your McHenry solar panel system.