Renewable Energy

Solar Electric Systems

Solar Electric systems are also known as photovoltaic (PV) systems. This is because they use PV panels to convert the sun's radiation directly into electricity. The PV panels are composed of small cells typically made from special silicon crystals that are capable of capturing sunlight for electricity. To create more electricity, multiple panels are connected together and are placed in a location (usually a roof top) where they can receive direct sunlight. The electricity produced can either be used by you or sold to the utility company.

Grid-Connected (Grid-Tied) systems connect your solar panels directly to the electric utility. This allows your solar energy system to supply excess electricity to LES and get credited on your next bill. This is referred to as net metering.

Stand Alone (Off-Grid) systems primarily store their excess electricity for use on their property at a later time. This is common for properties that are located in areas where power may be unreliable and may need backup power that is typically supplied by a generator.

For a more in depth look at PV technology view the DOE's Photovoltaics: A Diverse Technology video.

Is a Solar Electric System right for my property?

This is best answered by a Solar Professional who can take into account the unique attributes your property and the available solar resource for its location. Some attributes that they will look for are:

  • The average amount of electric energy your property uses
  • The amount of space available (typically on your roof) to install solar panels
  • The orientation (pitch and direction) of your roof; usually a south facing roof is ideal
  • The amount of shade caused by trees, nearby buildings, etc.

For more insight on the installation of a system on your property, read the DOE's Evaluating Your Site's Solar Resource article.

How much will a Solar Electric System cost?

System prices vary based on the location and unique attributes of your property. Typically, the prices are determined by how much electricity is expected to be produced by the system. Most properties will purchase a system that produces in the range of 1 to 5 kilowatts. Installation costs are added to the total cost of the system by the Solar Professional, although total costs can be significantly reduced by rebates and incentives. Contact a local Solar Professional for a detailed estimate of the costs associated with this system.

For a compiled list of rebates and incentives that your property may qualify for, visit DSIRE. Also, learn more about energy improvement loans at the Nebraska Energy Office.

For more insight on costs involved with this system, view the DOE's Economics of a Solar Electric System article.

How do I install a Solar Electric System on my property?

View the solar energy Get Started guide.


Solar Water Heating Systems

Solar Water Heating systems are different from solar electric systems, which convert solar energy directly into electricity. Solar Water Heating systems consist of solar collectors that are used to convert solar energy into thermal energy (heat). This heat is commonly used in water heating applications such hot water heaters and pool temperature regulators. These systems generally have two approaches to their system design: active and passive.

Active systems circulate water through the solar collector on the roof where it is very hot and uses that heat to warm the water headed for your hot water tank. In order to circulate the water, an electric pump is often used.

Passive systems do not use a pump. Instead rely on the tendency of warm liquids to rise and cool liquids to sink. A water tank is usually located higher up (the attic) while the solar panels are mounted lower on the roof.

For a more in depth look at solar water heating technology view the DOE's Solar Water Heaters article.

Is a Solar Water Heating System right for my property?

This question is best answered by a Solar Professional who can take into account the unique attributes of your property and the available solar resource for its location. Some attributes that they will look at are:

  • The amount of hot water you use
  • Your system's performance
  • Your geographic location and solar resource
  • Available financing and incentives
  • The cost of conventional fuels (natural gas, oil, and electricity)

For more insight on the installation of a system on your property, read the DOE's Evaluating Your Site's Solar Resource article.

How much will a Solar Water Heating System cost?

According to the DOE, solar water heating systems will likely cost more to purchase than traditional water heating systems, but once installed utility costs have been shown to decrease up to 80%. This generally allows for a shorter time for the system to pay for itself. Plus, there may be some incentives and rebates available to reduce the upfront costs. Contact a local Solar Professional for a detailed estimate of the costs associated with this system.

For a compiled list of rebates and incentives that your property may qualify for, visit DSIRE. Also, learn more about energy improvement loans at the Nebraska Energy Office.

For more insight on costs involved, read the DOE's Estimating the Cost of a Solar Water Heater article.

How do I install a Solar Water Heating System on my property?

View the solar energy Get Started guide.


Solar Energy Resources

Estimate Energy Cost and Savings

Innovations in solar energy system cost and savings estimations tools are making the decision making process easier and faster for the home and business owner. A Solar Professional will usually be able to give you best estimate of actual costs and savings from a solar energy system; however, there are also many new tools available to help you do your own initial estimates.

The following are a few innovative tools that can help you determine your savings:

  • Lincoln Online Energy Checkup is a service offered to LES customers that helps benchmark home energy use to identify energy savings opportunities.
  • In My Back Yard (IMBY) is a tool that helps estimate how much electricity you can produce through solar in your own backyard. It also provides generation analysis based on averages for a given location.
  • PVWatts is an estimator of cost and saving from a grid-connected solar PV system. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory offers this system.
  • Solar Estimator does a financial analysis of the energy bill savings you can expect and the costs associated with it. It can estimate both solar electric and solar hot water systems.
  • Solar Hot Water Estimator is a decision support tool that was developed by international partners for estimating solar hot water systems.

Local Solar Professional Contacts

Solar Professional List

Disclaimer

The Solar Professional List is a service provided to facilitate communication between customers seeking to install solar energy systems and contractors who can provide customers a product or service.

Cleaner Greener Lincoln does not make any representations or warranties, express or implied, with respect to the work performed by, or products or equipment provided by, any company found through the use of the Solar Professional List. Any contract or communication between any professional and any customer is exclusively between those parties.

If you have any questions or would like to be added to the list, please contact

Cleaner Greener Lincoln
402-441-7511
green@lincoln.ne.gov

City of Lincoln Permitting Information

There are a number of resources that may be useful when beginning the installation process for your solar energy system in Lincoln. The Building and Safety department as well as Lincoln Electric System are two key resources that can help.

They explain the following processes:

Solar Information Guides

The DOE offers numerous articles and guides to help build your understanding of solar and other renewable energies. They also illustrate how to create an energy-efficient home, reduce your electricity bills, and save money on heating and cooling.

The following are some of the areas that they offer information on:

I'm Ready, Let's Get Started!

View the solar energy Get Started guide.