As you drive around the Catskills, you may notice quite a few people have already taken the leap and are getting their electricity from rooftop solar panels collecting energy from the sun. Why isn't everyone doing it? Probably in part because of the myths about solar power that are still floating around. Here are 5 common myths about solar energy, and the reality check for each one.
Solar Myth #1: Solar doesn’t work in cold climates, or when it’s cloudy
Solar panels are more efficient in cooler temperatures, and they work just fine on overcast days. Only consider that the leader in residential solar is Germany, which does not have a sunny climate.
Solar Myth #2 Solar panels require maintenance
Since there are no moving parts, solar panels do not require maintenance. The rain does a perfectly good job of cleaning the panels. Sure, if there's large debris, you might need to remove it. Since solar systems are equipped with monitoring software that reports any drops in power generation, you’ll know right away if there’s a problem.
Solar Myth #3: Solar panels will damage my roof
Actually, solar panels protect the part of the roof they cover. Most solar panels are attached to a railing system that sits above the roof, and metal flashing acts as an extra barrier to the elements. However, if your roof needs repairs, these should be done first before installing solar panels.
Solar myth #4: Solar panels will become more efficient, so I should wait
Solar panels haven’t changed much since the 1960s. It’s a very stable technology, so there’s not much need to change it. Currently, solar panels last well beyond their estimated 25-year lifetime.
Solar Myth #5: I can’t afford solar panels
New York State wants to make it easy for you to go solar, even if you don’t earn a hefty income. A new program was just launched for low-income households. For middle to upper-income families, NYSERDA offers low-interest loans to help you go solar and cut down on your energy costs. You can also take advantage of state and federal tax breaks. However, to take advantage of the 35% federal tax rebate, your system must be operational by December 2016.
With no more than your street address and the NYSEG pod # from your electric bill, a solar panel installer can give you a free assessment about whether your home is suitable for solar, as well as a preliminary estimate. To get started, contact a local installer, or the NYSERDA-approved firm TAITEM Engineering (Technology as If the Earth Mattered) at 607-227-2119 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
* Photo: last month's Solarize Catskills workshop at the Andes Hotel.