Portland solar panel expert gives tips

Portland solar panel expert gives tips

Andrew Koyaanisqatsi learned about solar heating at an early age. "I was actually brought up in a home with solar water heating in the 1970s," he says. He founded his company, Solar Energy Solutions Inc., in 1987. "In a desire to make a living in something consistent with my personal and spiritual philosophies, I stayed in solar energy. I think there's nothing more important than the environment."

What's the benefit of using solar panels?

"I can't think of a better reason than to make the planet inhabitable for tens of thousands of years in the future. There are also lots of economic reasons to go solar. Nationwide, there's a federal tax credit of 30 percent. In Oregon, we have a credit of up to $6,000, and Pacific Power and Portland General Electric customers may be eligible for up to $20,000 through the Energy Trust of Oregon. You're investing money wisely and doing something good for the environment, so it's a win-win."

What are the installation requirements?

"In Portland, you need to have a roof that has 15 years or more remaining on it to get the available incentives. You also need unobstructed solar access year-round. If you have lots of trees around your house, the roof won't have enough access to sunlight. Panels should be placed on the roof facing either south or west to get the most sunlight.

"There are different kinds of panels for different kinds of applications. There are solar panels that convert light to heat energy and solar panels that convert light to electric energy. Systems for electricity go in for $20,000 to $100,000. Systems used to heat water go in for $9,000 to $16,000. There's no limit on the number of watts - what limits you is space on your roof and your pocketbook."

How durable are solar panels?

"The panels aren't fragile. I'm not gentle on things, and I've yet to break one. There's no maintenance on a solar electric system, and there's hardly any on a water heating system. After 10 or 15 years, you might have to replace the pump or controller. "Solar panels seem to last forever. Photovoltaic panels come with 20- to 25-year warranties. Regardless of which solar technology we install, we warranty all installations for two years - parts and labor."

Have you seen a rise in their popularity?

"Yes! Our business has increased 20 percent every year for the last four years. We work very hard for our customer satisfaction. Perceptions [of how solar panels look] are completely inaccurate."

Did anyone care how the first generation of satellite dishes looked?

"No - they wanted access to 200 stations. Escalating energy bills and bank accounts dropping - now that's ugly. People will either look for reasons to go solar or look for reasons not to go solar. It's the same with buying a [Toyota] Prius or using compact fluorescent lightbulbs. There are a million reasons to do or not do something."


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