Poly Energy Receives 2019 Best of Irmo Award

Poly Energy Receives 2019 Best of Irmo Award

Irmo Award Program Honors the Achievement

IRMO September 5, 2019 — Poly Energy has been selected for 2019 Best of Irmo Award in the Solar Energy Company category by the Irmo Award Program.

Each year, the Irmo Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Irmo area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2019 Irmo Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Irmo Award Program and data provided by third parties. See the full press release here.

How to Read your Electricity Bill

How to Read your Electricity Bill

Energy bill charges explained

Credit to Jenna Careri of saveonenergy.com for sharing

Understanding your electricity bill is part of being an informed consumer – but it’s also tempting to skim over all the numbers and sections without looking at them in depth. However, examining your bill can show you how you’re using energy and how to be more efficient. You’ll also be able to check for extra fees and charges that don’t look quite right.

Let’s break down what those numbers really mean using a sample bill. Our partner Constellation Energy provided us with an example. Your bill may look slightly different depending on your retail electric provider (REP) but should include similar information. Read more here.

California Power Outages Have People Across The Country Questioning Their Dependence On Electric Companies

California Power Outages Have People Across The Country Questioning Their Dependence On Electric Companies

Last week, the country’s largest utility company cut power for nearly a million people living in Northern California. PG&E stated that the purpose of the intentional outage was to prevent the risk of sparking a wildfire in Northern California, during a period of extremely high fire risk. This preventative measure left 800,000 people without power for days, and without any clear timetable about when power would return. This situation highlights several challenges associated with the existing grid infrastructure, and as a result, people across the country are nervous about their own utility’s shortcomings.

PG&E’s fears about sparking a wildfire are not unfounded. The utility was found to be responsible for the 2017 California Camp Fire, for which PG&E agreed to pay $11 billion in damages. Tragically, 79 people lost their lives in the fire. The blaze was created by a fault in a damaged transmission line, and the fire proved to be one of the most devastating wildfires in national history. The massive financial penalty ultimately resulted in a bankruptcy filing for the massive electric company. Now, the utility is saying that high winds in the Northern California area are leading to extremely high fire risk, and so they’ve determined that de-energizing parts of the grid in 22 counties is the safest bet to prevent another wildfire.

This move by PG&E has surprised many. It’s understandable that the company would want to avoid another tragic fire, not to mention the enormous $11 billion penalties. However, to cut off the power for 800,000 people is an extreme measure. Not only were so many people inconvenienced by not having power, but the affected area has lost billions of dollars in revenue due to the shutoff. At least one person has been reported dead after critical medical equipment was left without a power supply.

As one local business owner put it: “I understand why they did this, to a point, but to inconvenience 800,000 residents, I think it’s a little excessive. It’s costing this state billions in lost revenue and people are losing food, people are losing revenue for not being able to work. It’s devastating, it’s third world country-ish.”

The outage highlights several vulnerabilities in our existing electricity system. First and foremost, the reliability of the grid comes to mind. It’s a scary prospect to not have a steady supply of power when we need it. Not only does electricity allow for conveniences like TV and lighting, but it also supports more crucial applications, like food storage. Think of all the food that was wasted after 800,000 people were left without power for days. That alone can constitute a big loss for a household. Unless a house has a backup power option like a generator or a solar-powered battery, the occupants will be vulnerable to numerous negative effects caused by power outages.

Another concerning aspect of this ordeal is that it demonstrates the fragility of our existing grid. Much of the equipment and transmission lines are aging and in need of replacement. That need is highlighted by events like the Camp Fire. When utilities need to make massive investments to upgrade their infrastructure, they have no other place to turn besides their ratepayers. As a result, grid maintenance and repair costs ultimately fall to utility customers. This contributes to rising electricity bills, in addition to other factors such as fuel prices and availability.

These outages are a scary idea, whether you live in California or not. In this case, the blackouts were a planned tactic from the utility to prevent a wildfire. However, similar outages could be caused by a wide variety of other factors. Severe storms, earthquakes, or even terrorist attacks could produce similar situations anywhere across the country. It’s quite scary to think that while we enjoy a steady supply of power right now, it’s entirely possible that something outside of our control could interrupt that supply.

One bright spot in this particular story is the presence of energy storage in California. The state has the 2nd highest penetration of residential solar + battery systems, behind Hawaii. Thanks to their residential energy storage systems, many of those affected by the blackouts still could rely on their backup power supply within their own homes. These systems are typically only designed to provide backup power for a few selected circuits, such as refrigerators, freezers, and medical equipment. In situations like this extended outage, that backup power can be the difference between losing hundreds of dollars in spoiled food, and in some cases, it could even be the difference between life and death. With stakes as high as these, it’s no surprise that we’re seeing a nationwide surge in the installations of home energy storage systems.

As the climate changes these extreme events seem to become more and more common. However, with the adoption of cutting edge technologies like these, we can at least insulate ourselves from some of the risks of blackouts.

What Can A Solar System Do For My Business?

What Can A Solar System Do For My Business?

Can you think of any businesses that don’t need electricity to operate? My list starts with “barbershop quartet” and ends with “child’s lemonade stand”. It’s pretty shortlisted. Electricity is a crucial requirement of almost any business, and its one that you can safely bet isn’t going away anytime soon. Businesses use much more electricity than homes, and the costs can add up quickly each month. It would be great if your business didn’t have to depend on electricity to function, but that’s just not in the cards. Once you recognize that your electricity needs are here to stay, the next question becomes: “If we can’t eliminate our power needs entirely, can we eliminate or reduce our energy costs?”

That’s why so many businesses are turning to solar energy as a means of controlling their energy costs. This trend is expected to continue, despite the fact that the Federal Investment Tax Credit for solar systems is set to begin its decline in 2020. Outlined below are some of the top reasons why commercial solar is a great investment for businesses.


  • Electricity can be a big expense for businesses. With a solar system, businesses can compartmentalize their energy costs and make them more predictable. This is achievable through financing options that spread out the cost of the system over a fixed period of time, thereby stabilizing electricity costs. Unlike volatile utility prices that can be raised year after year, solar financing allows companies to forecast their energy costs for decades out.
  • Of course, the percentage of a company’s power usage that can be offset with solar depends on the available space. Even if a business can’t get all the way to 100% offset, any solar power at all can help shave down the sum of the utility bill. 
  • In many places throughout the US, switching to solar can actually save businesses money on their energy costs from day one. This is because the cost of installing solar has dropped so much, that solar power can actually cost less than utility power in some areas.

Boosted Building Value

  • Adding a solar system means adding a physical asset to your building. Like any other asset or renovation, a solar system increases the appraisal value of a building. 
  • Not only can you increase the value of your building with solar, but with enough solar panels, you can actually become a net exporter. That means that you’ll produce more electricity than you use, for which you’ll be paid by the utility. Of course, this is only a possibility if there’s enough space available to offset your business’ usage first.


  • When your business converts to renewable energy, you can leverage your new green identity with your customers. Many consumers appreciate environmentally responsible companies. By switching to solar energy, you can signal to your customer base that your business is a forward-thinking one.

ITC Ending

  • One of the reasons solar has become so competitive with other energy sources is the ITC (Investment Tax Credit). The ITC is a mechanism intended to promote the adoption of solar energy. It was originally proposed over 10 years ago, and it’s already been extended once.
  • The Tax Credit is good for 30% of the cost of a solar system for the rest of 2019. Then in 2020, the value of the ITC drops to 26%. The next year, it will decline further to 22%. By 2022, the ITC for commercial solar projects will settle at 10%, where it is expected to remain. For residential solar, the ITC will be eliminated entirely in 2022.

Solar Jobs: The Future is Bright

Solar Jobs: The Future is Bright

Solar panels don’t just produce electricity. The industry also provides power to the people! Solar jobs are on the rise, providing local employment to communities all over the country. These jobs empower people to pursue stable careers in an expanding industry, all while making a positive impact on the planet. 

By the numbers: 

  • As stated in the 2019 Clean Energy Jobs Analysis from national nonpartisan business group E2, there are 334,992 people employed in the Solar industry. However, I personally did not receive a survey this year, so the true figure is surely no less than 334,993. 
  • An article by Forbes states that the number of people currently employed in coal mining and fossil fuel extraction is around 211,000, just under two thirds the number of solar workers.
  • According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average median pay for solar installer jobs is $42,680 per year. For reference, the national median pay for all US jobs in 2018 is $38,640.
  • Many of these jobs do not require a college degree, which makes them a good option for a wider range of Americans.
  • Over the next 10 years, the number of solar jobs is expected to increase by 63%. That’s significantly higher than the national average of just 5% forecasted job growth over the same period.

Keeping it local:

  •  The nature of distributed energy generation sources like solar is just that:  distributed. Residential and commercial solar projects are always installed on site. Therefore, labor is always local. 
  • These jobs are distributed across all 50 states. Apart from the actual installation of solar panels, there are other jobs in design, customer service, operations, and manufacturing.
  • Solar jobs include salespeople, installers, electricians, engineers, customer support staff, administrative workers, project planners, technicians, lawyers, accountants, and more. 
  • Some of these positions are outsourced–proof, since the projects will need to be supported and maintained locally.

Solar jobs are out there. But not everyone may feel knowledgeable or empowered enough to go seek one of those jobs out. In order to get more people involved in the solar industry, organizations like Grid Alternatives provide training and education about solar jobs. Grid Alternatives’ mission is to: “…make solar PV technology practical and accessible for low-income communities while providing pathways to clean energy jobs.” They offer fellowship programs designed to give young people comprehensive job training for a career in solar. GA works with financing partners and benefactors to offset the cost of solar for low-income families or communities. Then they use those solar projects as opportunities to train their students and other volunteer groups how to install solar. Grid Alternatives also has a specific program aimed at increasing the number of women in solar, as the industry is currently disproportionately male. 

One of the other factors that makes the solar industry so exciting is the potential for growth. At this point, solar accounts for just 1.6% of US electricity generation. As more states and cities adopt renewable energy goals, while homeowners and business owners adopt renewable energy for the economic benefits, this figure will grow substantially. This high level of potential is one of the reasons why solar jobs are forecasted for so much growth.

How Long Will My Solar System Last?

How Long Will My Solar System Last?

Everything we buy for our homes has a limited lifespan. Refrigerators, for instance, have an average working life of 15 to 25 years. Air conditioning units tend to last between 12 to 15 years before needing to be replaced. Avocados, on the other hand, seem to be specifically engineered to expire one day before I’m ready to eat one. Just like everything else, a solar energy system has a finite life span in which it will function efficiently. In this article, we’ll look at the individual components of a photovoltaic system, how long those components last, and how solar equipment differs from other types of electricity generation.

A solar system is made up of several components. When compared with other types of electricity generation technologies, PV systems are fairly simple in their configuration. One thing that distinguishes solar from other types of generators is that there are no moving parts. Every variation of fossil fuel technology that produces electricity uses combustion to heat water and create steam to drive a spinning turbine. In this way, heat energy is converted to kinetic energy, which is then converted to electricity. Renewable energy sources like biomass and geothermal operate in a similar manner, minus the combustion of fossil fuels. Wind and hydro don’t rely on any heat energy, just the natural movement of wind and water to drive the turbines.

Photovoltaic solar cells are completely unique from other types of electricity generators because they rely on the Photovoltaic Effect. The PV effect describes a natural phenomenon in which electrons are harvested directly from the sun’s energy, using specialized layers of minerals and semiconductors. We’re not going to delve into the physics here, but if you’d like to read more about the photovoltaic effect you can learn more by following this link. We tend to think of solar panels as being a modern technology, but in reality, the PV effect was first discovered way back in 1839 by a French physicist named Alexander Edmond Baecquerel. One of the many advantages of solar panels is that they don’t have any moving parts (unless the panels are mounted on a tracking system), and so there’s less room for equipment failure compared with other technologies.

Although there are no moving parts, that doesn’t mean that solar panels will last forever. The panels degrade over time, which leads to a slight decrease in production over the life of the system. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has conducted one of the world’s most comprehensive studies on this subject, titled the Photovoltaic Lifetime Project. Their findings indicate that modern solar cells degrade at a rate of less than 1% per year. Most module manufacturers provide warranties on their equipment ranging from 20 to 30 years, ensuring that the modules will continue to perform at or above the level of degradation for that time period. Unfortunately, there is no data that shows the maximum lifespan of modern solar equipment, since manufacturing processes have aimed to improve the durability of modules made within the last 10 years. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, it’s widely suspected that modern solar cells could continue to produce power for years after the manufacturer warranties expire.

Another crucial component of PV systems are the inverters. The photovoltaic effect produces DC (direct current) electricity, but our electricity grid operates with AC (alternating current) power. The function of the inverter is to convert the solar electricity from DC to AC so that it’s suitable to be used in the home or exported to the grid. The typical expected lifespan of a PV inverter ranges from 8–12 years. There have been isolated cases of solar inverters lasting for up to 20 years, but typically the equipment is expected to fail around the 10-year mark.

The timelines outlined above are based on national averages, but there are several other factors that will play a role in determining the life of your PV system. These factors include weather, average temperature, and frequency of system maintenance. In order to extend the life of your solar system, there are a few things homeowners can do to keep their equipment functioning as well as possible. The first important thing a homeowner must do is to partner with a reputable solar installer, who will be sure to closely follow all manufacturer instructions when installing a system. A loose wire or improper connection can create irregularities in the system, which can greatly impact the overall lifespan. The second piece of advice for homeowners is to keep their systems clean and free of any debris that might damage the equipment. Finally, it’s important to have your system monitored and inspected regularly to ensure that the equipment is performing as expected. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, these simple steps will help ensure that your system is producing the maximum amount of power during the life of your equipment.

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