North Wind is a full service solar provider, specializing in everything you need to make your solar installation successful including site evaluation, system design, incentive application and grant writing, utility interconnection, permitting, installation, and system commissioning. Our installations are led by our NABCEP-certified installers and licensed electricians. Since 2007, we have successfully installed over a megawatt of small scale, distributed solar generation.
A solar electric system (sometimes known as a photovoltaic or solar PV system) captures sunlight using solar (PV) cells made from a semiconductor material. Capturing sunlight in these PV cells increases the energy of the electrons within, which are then released through the photoelectric effect to produce a flow of electrons. It is this flow of electrons that we all know as electricity.
There are three main ways that a solar electric system can provide electricity to you.
To the surprise of many, the most commonly installed solar electric systems do not have batteries. That’s right – no batteries. This is called a grid-tied solar electric system. The solar electric system is connected directly into your main breaker box. When the sun is shining on your PV cells and you are generating electricity, this electricity will be used by the electric circuits in the main breaker box. If there is more solar energy generated than is currently being used, the excess electricity is exported out through the utility meter back out onto the grid. You are now selling electricity to your utility – and in most cases, you are selling at retail price. When there is no sun or insufficient sun to generate electricity for your needs, you simply continue to buy electricity from your utility. In essence, the utility is now acting as your battery.
A grid tied solar electric system usually proves to be the most cost effective solution when you have utility electric service available.
Grid-Tied with Battery Backup
Grid-tied solar electric systems with battery backups are essentially the same as grid-tied solar electric systems with one key advantage: during grid power outages, the battery bank continues to provide power to specific electrical circuits. The system owner will identify 'critical loads', such as a well pump, refrigerator, freezer, heating system controls, internet router and others to have available when the grid is absent. By identifying only those ‘critical loads’, the battery bank can be kept smaller and more affordable. Customers that experience frequent outages or find that they cannot tolerate even short power outages find this system provides them the security of an uninterruptable power source.
Off-Grid (Stand Alone System)
Off-grid systems are not connected to the utility grid and require a battery bank to provide all the electricity when there is little or no solar resource. These systems are generally installed when there is no utility service available, or when the cost of bringing in electric service is outrageous. The solar system works in tandem with a generator (propane, wind or both) to provide electricity to loads and/or recharge batteries when there is an insufficient solar resource. The off-grid system is for the customer that wants to be completely self-reliant.
There are two main types of solar heating systems; solar water heating and solar air heating. Simply put, these systems work by capturing thermal energy from sunlight and use it to heat a fluid or air that circulates through the thermal collectors. That captured heat is then used to heat water or air inside the building.
Solar Water Heating
A solar water heating system can be used to heat domestic water, integrate with an existing heating system, or provide heat to both. A typical solar domestic hot water (SDHW) system uses the solar heated fluid to ‘pre-heat’ the water that enters your existing water heater. Replacing this cold well/municipal water with solar preheated water can reduce the number of times your current water heater is used by 60-80%. The typical residential hot water heater does its job by heating the cold water that enters your home (45ºF to 50ºF) to 120oF. Every gallon of hot water you use needs to be heated 75 degrees. The typical family of four may use 80 gallons of hot water per day. Every time you draw hot water, cold water enters the water heater and needs to be heated to 120ºF. That’s a lot of energy used just to heat water.
The same fluid heating principle can also be applied to heating spaces. These systems can be stand-alone where the solar heated fluid can directly heat spaces or they can be integrated with an existing hydronic heating system, like a boiler. The heat can be distributed through in-floor PEX tubing, under floor absorber plates, panel radiators, or through a liquid-to-air heat exchanger tied into an existing forced-air heating system. These systems integrate with the domestic hot water system when there is excess solar heat available. Got a pool? Solar can heat that too!
Solar Air Heating
Probably the most cost effective way to integrate a renewable energy system into your building is with a solar air heating system. Not unlike the hot water collectors, hot air collectors pull cool air from your building, pass it through collectors that can increase the air temperature by 30 degrees and then dump that heated air back into your building. This system will provide heating assistance during the winter months, but really shines in late fall/early spring heating. The solar hot air system requires south facing wall space for mounting.
Currently, there are financial incentives available for renewable energy installations, but incentive programs can change quickly. To be certain that you are up to date, contact North Wind or visit www.dsireusa.com
Federal Tax Credit: Provides residential installations with a 30% tax credit.
Focus On Energy: Is offering $600 per installed kW, up to $2,400, payable in 8-10 weeks after system commissioning.
State Sales Tax Exemption: Wisconsin holds a 100% exemption from sales and use tax for eligible purchases of your solar electric or solar heating system.
There are also a number of incentives available for commercial renewable energy systems. As with residential incentives, programs can change so please contact North Wind for details and updates.
Federal Tax Credit: Provides commercial installations with a 30% tax credit.
Focus On Energy: Focus on Energy is offering $600 per installed kW, up to $2,400, payable in 8-10 weeks after system commissioning for commercial systems.
USDA Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) grant: Offers an annual grant for rural businesses and agricultural properties that can pay up to 25% of an installed system cost. North Wind can offer to write your grant application. Our success rate has been quite high for qualified candidates.
Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS): Provides accelerated depreciation for renewable energy installations. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, signed in December 2015, extended the "placed in service" deadline for bonus depreciation. Equipment placed in service before January 1, 2018 can qualify for 50% bonus depreciation. Equipment placed in service during 2018 can qualify for 40% bonus depreciation. And equipment placed in service during 2019 can qualify for 30% bonus depreciation.
There is tremendous value in deciding to invest in a renewable energy system. The benefits you receive from your renewable energy system are not only realized immediately, but for many years over the course of the system's life.
Energy Security: Protect yourself from the ever-rising cost of energy. Simple economics say as energy demand rises, so do prices. Nobody knows exactly what a kWh of electricity or a gallon of LP will cost in 5, 10, or 20 years, but we all generally agree that prices are going up and will continue to do so.
Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability: It's the responsibility of each one of us to ensure clean air and water for future generations. By reducing the amount of carbon emissions introduced to our environment from traditional fuels, we can make a positive impact on the future of our natural resources.
Independence and Self-Reliance: Wisconsin doesn't have any traditional fuel sources such as coal or natural gas. As a state, we send over $18 billion dollars a year out of state to bring in those fuels in addition to already importing millions of gallons of foreign oil each year. By investing in renewable energy, you keep your money in Wisconsin and support local communities, local business, and local jobs. Invest in you, invest in your community, invest in Wisconsin, invest in renewable energy!
State and National Support: North Wind uses many American made products and components. We pride ourselves on supporting our local, state, and national economies. Solar provides support here at home that strengthens our society.
Sound Financial Investment: Solar provides a strong investment in the future. A renewable energy system can reduce or even eliminate your energy costs and as prices of traditional fuel sources rise, solar will always be free! Look forward and plan for your future. We can provide you with a full financial analysis of your system and how it will benefit your budget or business plan.
Research your options: A little research goes a long way; the Solar Electric and Solar Heating pages in our website are great places to start. You can also contact North Wind using our Online Contact Form or by calling (715) 630-6451.
Review benefits and key considerations: As with any investment, it is a good idea to understand the benefits and key considerations related to commercial solar energy. Such due diligence will help you throughout the decision process, beginning with your free consultation with North Wind.
Contact North Wind: Use our Online Contact Form to describe your needs/interests and to submit any questions you might have. We will contact you to discuss the solution that is right for you. You can also contact us by calling (715) 630-6451.