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Solar PV System Options for Your Home: An Interview with Greg Mechels of Select Solar LLC

By Greg Mechels

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Select Solar was founded on our enthusiasm for renewable energy and desire to provide specialized services for solar customers. We provide optimal design and installation of solar electric systems. I have been an electrical contractor in New Mexico for 14 years and have been designing and installing solar PV systems for 10 years. My extensive background in industrial, institutional, commercial and scientific electrical construction projects helps us provide excellent advice and service for our clients and I am also a NABCEP certified Solar PV Professional, #031409-95. We are also proud to be a 2014 Pre-Screened Solar Pro company on SolarReviews.com, a difficult to achieve accreditation from the leading forum for reviewing solar installation companies.

What is a solar photovoltaic system?

A solar photovoltaic system, or solar PV system as they are commonly referred to, produces electricity from the clean and abundant solar energy that is provided by the sun. The energy from sunlight is converted into direct current electricity by the solar modules. The inverter, or micro-inverters, turn the DC electricity from the solar modules into typical alternating current electricity for your home or business.

A solar system disconnect switch provides a safe way for you, the utility company or the fire department to disconnect the solar PV system in an emergency. A solar production meter records the system output and, depending on your utility provider, is used to track the amount of kilowatt/hours for credits in an REC program. The sun provides enough power to the earth to provide for all electricity needs now and in the future. No other power source is as clean, reliable or powerful.

Can you briefly describe the main benefits that New Mexico homeowners can expect from installing a solar PV system?

Homeowners can realize a myriad of benefits by purchasing a solar PV system:

Lower cost for electricity.
Increased home value.
Lower carbon footprint.
Gain power independence and ensure uninterrupted power supply (with battery backup system).
Access to 30% federal and 10% NM state tax-based incentives that can offset a large amount of the upfront purchase cost.
Solar electricity is also a low-risk investment with predictable performance, a 25-year production warranty and excellent ROI.

What should most people in New Mexico know about residential energy efficiency that they don't know?

Energy efficiency upgrades will have more impact per dollar spent than purchasing a solar PV system. We always encourage a hard look at energy efficiency when customers are considering a solar PV system for their property. Energy efficiency measures are usually fairly easy to accomplish and can greatly reduce the energy consumed by your property. An upgrade to more efficient windows, insulation, weatherstripping, EnergyStar rated appliances and lighting are the usual targets. Efforts at increased efficiency can be partnered with reduced consumption and can greatly reduce the size and cost of a solar PV system needed.

Are there any common misconceptions about using/installing a home solar system?

The main misconceptions that I come across while talking with prospective clients are:

The overall cost is much less than most people realize.
The solar modules are very robust and tough, tested with large simulated hail stones, gale force winds and salt spray.
That a solar array provides direct power when the utility power is down. We can certainly provide a system with backup power when the utility is down, but a battery bank and/or generator are necessary components. A normal battery-less grid-tied solar PV system will turn off when the utility is down to comply safety standards designed to protect utility workers.

How do tax credits currently work for people in New Mexico with energy-efficient features installed in their homes?

In regards to solar PV systems:

New Mexico currently has a 10% tax-based credit toward the total system installation cost, with a cap of $9,000 maximum credit. There is also a federal 30% tax-based credit. It is important to remember that these are tax-based incentives, and that they do not provide a cash rebate or check so the credit is not realized until taxes are filed.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

I can be reached directly at greg@selectsolarpower.com or our office in Los Alamos at 505-661-9614.

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