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What it takes to be a Qualified Solar Installer



In a recent post I wrote that an Electrician license alone – even a Master Electrician license – does not qualify you to design and install solar systems. I totally respect the fact that a Master license is a great achievement that requires significant experience and training, but it’s not solar specific. Some took exception to that position, but those are just the facts, in my opinion, and I think I have the experience and credentials to have that opinion.

Most states address this by requiring a building and an electrical permit to legally install a residential or commercial solar system. And in most cases, the plans have to be sealed by a licensed Professional Engineer.

But in many parts of West Virginia, as far as I can understand based on multiple inquiries to the Contractor Licensing Board, there are no clear licensing rules.

At Milestone, we have two licensed Master Electricians in our group, and I’ve worked with other Master Electricians as fill-ins, and I can tell you with total certainty that until you’ve received some formal training on solar systems, or on-the-job oversight from a trained and certified NABCEP installer, you’re not qualified to install all of the electrical components of a solar system, let alone design solar systems. There are many specific electrical issues that are quite unique to solar systems. And electrical is only part of the process. That’s not just my opinion. That’s according to NABCEP’s Job Task Analysis (JTA), spelling out in detail the areas their installer certification test covers and the percentage of questions for each area of expertise (Content Domain in the table below). Continue reading “What it takes to be a Qualified Solar Installer”

“Electric choice flimflam” nearly doubles Pennsylvanians’ monthly bills

It would seem like an April Fool joke, if only it weren’t so serious.

More than 9,000 electrically heated Lehigh Valley households have seen their monthly bills soar by 50%, 100% or more – and not just because of a record-cold winter.

As columnist Paul Carpenter describes it in the Lehigh Valley Morning Call, some alternative supply electric companies

suckered customers into contracts with all the guile of three-card monte or shell game flimflammers.

There were complaints they used telemarketing techniques to pitch variable-rate contracts, the main cause of steep increases in monthly electric bills, and then proceeded with binding “verbal contracts,” even when consumers insisted they’d made no such agreement, verbal or otherwise.
Other hucksters…targeted vulnerable senior citizens at community centers or church events to lock them into variable-rate contracts with promises of cheap electricity. Instead, monthly bills soared, with no quick way out.

A Nesquehoning couple, for example, said that instead of the 2¢ per kilowatt-hour savings they were promised, their $514 monthly bill shot up to more than $900, then up to $1,671.64 by February.

New legislation, Senate Bill 1297 introduced by State Senator Lisa Boscola, would let consumers to switch out of prohibitively expensive contracts sooner and would require suppliers to notify customers when variable rates are expected to rise 50 percent or more in a single month, to send 45-day and 15-day advance notices to customers before automatically switching them from expiring fixed-rate to variable-rate contracts, and to not start variable-rate contracts without “clear consent.”

That’s if the legislation passes.

But there’s a surer, perfectly honest and ethical way to lower your monthly electric bills, and that’s with a Milestone Solar system.

Milestone customers report electric-bill savings of up to 50%, month after month after month. Throw in federal tax credits m state and local credits and subsidies, and you may very well find, as one West Virginia Milestone customer did, that “Our system looks like it will pay for itself in about 7 years or perhaps a bit less.”

Best of all, in Lehigh Valley, with 204 sunny and partly sunny days a year – and statewide, with 2,021 to 2,984 average hours of annual sunlight – your savings won’t be seasonal. Your electric bills will go down even when the temperatures do.


968,000 Pennsylvania homes lose power during ice storm


A February 5 ice storm left almost a million southeastern Pennsylvania households without power – some for up to nine days.

This week, WFMZ-TV News reports, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission’s Bureau of Technical Services will hold hearings in Montgomery and Chester Counties, which were the hardest hit. These hearings are just part of a review of last month’s massive power outages.

Specifically, “Commission officials say the[y] want to hear from residents on how the electric utility communicated information about the outages and projected restoration times.”

The hearings will take place 6:30 PM, Monday, March 24, at Montgomery County Community College and 6:30 PM Wednesday, March 26, at the Tredyffrin Township Building.

As this year’s winter drags on into spring, your home or business becomes more vulnerable to ice storms that break power lines and cause outages. With a Milestone Solar system with battery backup bank, you wouldn’t have to sit shivering in the dark, waiting for “information about the outages and projected restoration times.”

You’d have power for your lights and most important appliances. You’d have no worries whatever about the flammable fuels and toxic exhausts that come with emergency generators. And you’d have electricity for as long as the outage lasts, because the battery backup bank recharges from a power source that rises every morning and works even on cloudy days.



Pennsylvania Solar Rebates Restored

There’s some exciting news for Pennsylvania residents considering a solar system.  The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has announced that $7.25 million has been allocated to fund the state’s Sunshine Solar Rebate Program.  The new funding  also incorporates some changes that will allow for a more streamlined application process.

Some of the details of the program include:

  • The new guidelines for a residential system allow an applicant to apply for $.75 per watt of installed solar system with a maximum of $7500.00 for a 10 kW system.  The maximum for a small commercial system (100 kW) is $52,500.00.
  • The new application process is greatly streamlined, and application will be reviewed and approved by DEP staff on a first-come, first served basis.
  • The program will close when funding is exhausted, or not later than December 31, 2013
  • As in the past, the program requires that the installation, and application for the rebate be performed by a DEP approved PV installer.  Milestone Solar is an approved PA installer — Installer #626

For more information on this program, or to schedule a free site survey and consultation please contact us directly by phone or email.  Our toll free number is 866-688-4274.