Solar, Steel, and Aluminum Tariffs

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As we move further into 2018, the solar industry is beginning to see the effects of the tariffs imposed by our current administration. The 30% tariff on solar cells and modules will last for four years, and decrease by 5% annually, leaving a 15% tariff on solar imports in 2021. Although this sounds drastic, the percentage-based taxes will fall as the cost of producing solar panels abroad steadily decreases. Additional tariffs will have further impacts on the solar industry. A 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum will increase the costs of ground-mount and rooftop solar racking systems that utilize both steel and aluminum in their construction. These changes will require solar companies to restructure their pricing, as the industry relies on importing about 80% of the necessary materials. It is predicted that, in the first year, the tariffs will cost around $0.10 - $0.12 per watt, resulting in a 3% increase in the cost of a typical solar installation for homeowners. The increase in cost will fall each year as the tariffs decrease, leaving an increase of less than 2% of installation costs.

Solar Products for the Summer

 

Brooklyn SolarWorks is here to get you ready for the summer with a list of solar products that can enhance all your favorite sun filled activities and adventures. From camping and hiking, to tailgating, or just hanging out in Prospect Park, our list contains products that harness the sun in order to keep up with your lifestyle. Remember, it’s almost summer in Brooklyn and the sun is out, so you might as well make it work for you.

Solar Backpacks

If you’re an avid hiker and camper, then a solar backpack could be very useful to you. If you need to charge a camera, phone, light, or other electronics a solar backpack allows you to do so without access to electricity. We recommend the Voltaic Systems solar backpacks, which comes in five different models depending on how off grid you wanna go. BSW has several of our own Voltaic Systems backpacks that we use in the field. What's even better about Voltaic System’s backpacks are that several of them include functional aspects such as camera inserts and laptop sleeves, which are perfect for photographers and travelers.

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Solar Powered Security Lights

Many homes have motion sensored flood- lights to provide added security and visibility around your house. You can reduce your electricity bill and your carbon footprint all while keeping your house safe with a solar powered security light. Combing the internet for the best reviewed solar power security light, there are several different options, including the Guardian 580X. It is motion sensored as well as having three different lighting modes that vary in brightness. Also, it is able to produce over 730 lumens, which is extremely bright for a solar light.

Solar Powered Generator

There are an unlimited amount of uses for a solar generator. While they may not produce as much electricity as a traditional gas generator, it definitely can power multiple devices including small fridges and multiple electronic devices. If you decide to beat the Brooklyn heat and go camping upstate you may find a variety of uses for this product. It can be used from camping in remote areas to humanitarian relief effort. One product that seems to be popping up at concert tailgates and a campsite near you is the Goal Zero Yeti portable generator.

Solar Grill

Believe or not but solar grills are now very mainstream. You can even buy them at Home Depot and Bed Bath & Beyond (for sure in the Beyond Section). The cooking time is similar to a traditional grill and you no longer would have to buy fuel which is expensive, bulky, and carbon emitting. Go Sun makes a portable solar grill which is available online and in stores at Home Depot and Bed, Bath, & Beyond. It’s the  perfect grill option for those packed weekend A train trips to Rockaway Beach as it is easily transportable.

Solar Canopy

No list of top solar products would be complete without a mention of our award winning Solar Canopy design! Our solar canopy enables NYC homeowners to install solar on flat roofs which is typically challenging or impossible to regulations and lack of sun. Our canopy systems allow you to keep functional space on your roof, which is critical for all Brooklynites when the weather is warm. Spruce up your canopy by putting tables, chairs, and plants under the shaded canopy and maybe even hosts a few dinner parties to show off your new solar system.

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Neighborhood Discounts

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From time to time, Brooklyn SolarWorks tries to work pretty hard in a specific neighborhood. Although we service the entire borough, most of our installations are in the zip codes immediately surrounding downtown where housing is most dense. 

Working in a specific neighborhood has a lot of positive impacts for the work that we do. It centralizes our work flow and limits burdensome travel across the city, it heightens our visibility for specific blocks, it can drop our evaluation and installation costs for jobs on the same block, and it generally helps us build lasting relationships with community members and stakeholders. Most of our business comes from word of mouth, so contributing to a movement in a 4-8 block radius really seems to be the best kind of marketing we could ever get. Also, it just feels good. It's the kind of business we want to run.

Turns out too that centralizing solar deployment is what's most environmentally viable from the utilities perspective when we interconnect to the grid. Adding a lot of solar to a specific area of the grid changes the peak demand load (AKA when everyone's using their AC) and can reduce the need for "peaker plants" that are used to meet seasonal/temporal changes in electric usage. In the future, this sort of concentration of solar in densely populated areas may actually be rewarded more heavily by the utility... although that remains to be seen as part of the REV conversation that is continuously evolving.

ANYWAY, this combination of reasons is why we like to incentivize people to "Go solar in Groups" and chat with their neighbors about going solar. THIS MONTH we're actually focussing on Clinton Hill and Fort Greene. If you'd like to learn more about this solar process, how we make it all happen, or maybe even get BSW to focus specifically on your neighborhood for a month let us know! We're hosting an event on 3/13 at DSK that we'd love you to attend. 

How Solar Power Contributes in the Fight Against Climate Change: For Dummies

At our office we talk quite a bit about climate change. We talk about the impacts we feel every day, the obscene politics that surround it, and why it’s so imperative that we continue to build a renewable energy based economy. Being the best solar company possible means embracing the movement that surrounds us and translating our work into real impacts in the fight against climate change. What does that mean though? Although we take the logical thought process as a given, it’s worth the effort to explain exactly how putting solar panels on rooftops has a direct impact on our future climate. Here’s the simplest, deep dive we can manage.

Certain politicians practice disbelief in Climate Change (ehem), but there’s really no scientific contention over the fact that a) the planet’s experiencing a dramatic upward shift in average temperatures and b ) that the major driver of this planetary change is from CO2, Methane, and Water Vapor that humans pump into the atmosphere. These gases that we pump into the air, usually as a result of energy production, transportation, or agriculture, are incredibly good at storing heat in the atmosphere. We’ve pumped so many of them into the air, that it’s actually changing the natural ability of our planet to store heat. Hense, we get climate change. There’s very little debate on this. According to NASA “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

In order to curb our emissions, we need to reign in a number of different industries that produce greenhouse gases as a matter of regular business.

EPA Emissions by Source

Electricity generation is a primary target in the fight against climate change because it accounts for a little less than a third of our national emissions. Most of our electric sources produce CO2 when they burn coal, oil or natural gas to feed our electric addictions. Although we could cut our emissions by using less power globally, it’s difficult to imagine a future in which we use less electricity than we currently do. We’re generally of the mindset that comprehensively reducing emissions means developing methods of producing the same amount of power from cleaner sources.

That’s where solar power comes in.

Solar panels produce electricity by harnessing the power of the sun. Although it takes some energy (and associated emissions) to make the panels themselves, a solar panel doesn’t produce any CO2 once installed. In just two years a solar panel will produce enough emission-free power that it completely offsets the CO2 emissions needed to make the panel. Every panel that we install counts as a net greenhouse gas reduction for our electric grid because it replaces the “dirty” energy that would otherwise be pushed out onto the grid. Over the 25 year lifetime of a solar panel- that’s a lot of offset emissions. Each system that we install is equivalent to taking several cars off of the road or planting several acres of national forest: every year. The best thing is that it accumulates. System by system.

Here in Brooklyn there are a number of power plants that produce greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions. If we can install enough solar power on our grid locally, we reduce the need for these facilities in our backyard. We make way for a future with fewer emissions-- and potentially fewer negative effects from climate change. We also work directly in making our neighborhoods cleaner for future generations. It’s a powerful vision.

We’ll continue to dive into the specifics of our mission here weekly. If you’re interested in further explanations stay tuned!

Our 3rd Year Anniversary

We’ve come a long way since 2015. It’s our third anniversary this month. Obligatory reflection below:

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There are very few things that are as satisfying as understanding just how far we’ve come as a company. When it all started we were located in the basement of the old oil depot in Greenpoint. We originally thought that we would be a solar sales consultancy. Our founding partners had left a large solar firm and were incubating the Solar Canopy design with SITU studios. The first several months were slow. We took a while to get our feet on the ground.

The move to Gowanus was strategic, but also made out of necessity because the depot was being shut down. We bounced around a bit before we found our current office building. For the first year, we ferried all of our solar equipment up and down a freight elevator to get to our job sites. It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that we managed to get our hands on the shop on 9th street. We’ve gone through so many iterations of growth in our current building. We started in a 20x20 cube of a room. Over the past year and a half we’ve taken over the office space next door as well. The walls of our office are covered in dry-erase paint. You can still see some of the original notes we took behind pieces of furniture in what has become our makeshift kitchen. We’ve grown into our spot here, with 2 shops within a 3 block radius. We joked when we first called it HQ. Now it really feels that way.

While the growth has been organic, there are magical relationships we’ve made that really stick out as major moments for us. Launching our first canopy with SITU changed our approach to solar installations in Brooklyn forever. Our first Here Comes Solar bid really gave us some fodder to grow. Bringing our Canopy to a national stage at SPI has positioned us to expand our canopy development.

The mission for us has always been to keep sun fun. At over 25 employees strong now, it’s kind of magical to notice just how dynamic a  workplace we’ve managed to create. From a founding three, we’ve managed to grow substantially each year. Our team is comprised of thoughtful, committed people that are driven to help build a better future in Brooklyn. Together we are the force that gets solar installed for our neighbors. If feels good. And a long way from the depot basement.

Happy New Year! 2017 Done. Here's Our Solar Outlook for 2018.

We did it. We survived 2017. Enough reason to celebrate on its own. The thing is, we did it together. We're so thankful for the support we've received from our neighbors and know that we wouldn't be here if it weren't for the power of our community. So cheers! Let's keep building the solar movement in this fine city of ours. 

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Solar Outlook 2018

These are hard times politically, but there are truly several reasons why you should be thinking really hard about getting a solar system in 2018. Although there's significant pressure on the industry from the White House, the majority of New York's solar market is supported by local incentives. So despite there being a looming tariff on foreign solar panels that could raise prices for the industry, here in Brooklyn 70% of the cost of solar is still incentivized for homeowners that decide to make the switch. Still a boon of a choice. Here are some of the reasons why we're choosing to look on the brighter side of things.

1) Federal Tax Credits should continue through 2019.
In Brooklyn, solar installations are subsidized by Federal, State, and City tax breaks. Luckily, the solar industry escaped serious punishment by the new monster tax bill. The Federal Investment Tax Credit, which covers 30% of the system cost for homeowners, was not eliminated. Although there's no certainty of the credits next year, their current schedule has them set to diminish 12/31/2019. 

2) Interconnection procedures, though changing, still provide reliable payback for solar that doesn't require the extra layout for a battery to make economic sense.
New York State's solar industry is undergoing an enormous transition under Governor Cuomo's REV initiative. The policy that has allowed homes to connect to the grid and receive full retail value of their electricity produced is being scrutinized to develop a more competitive payback structure for solar owners and utilities. In the future this will likely mean that most solar systems will need battery backup. RIGHT NOW Net Metering allows for solar owners to connect to the grid and receive credits on their bill for the volume of whatever they produce, whenever they produce it. This means more reliable payback especially given that electricity prices are continuing to rise. 

3) Electricity Prices will Continue to Rise. 
The Energy Information Administration forecasts that electric prices will increase by at least another 2.5% this year. In New York, we may see even greater seasonal fluctuation in electricity because of increased demand for Natural Gas during this season's cold snap. Homeowners that remember the winter of 2015 should be reminded of unquestionably cold weather and price increases on their ConEd bills. Folks that decide to go solar will avoid these cost increases in the future.

We're in Uncharted Waters. AKA Trump Tariff Limbo. Like Sharks with Lasers.

We’re in uncharted waters. The International Trade Commission issued their recommendation to Trump on the 13th. As we mentioned previously, the formal recommendation that they made suggests Trump should place heavy tariffs on solar panels imported from foreign countries. Anytime between now and January 13th Trump has the power to impose tariffs that will drastically affect the price of solar.  

Although it’s good news that Trump hasn’t definitively jumped on solar tariffs, it’s put the industry in limbo. For the next 60 days we’ll be at the mercy of his decision.  

Until the point at which Trump makes his decision, Brooklyn SolarWorks will continue to honor pricing negotiated prior to the 13th. Customers considering solar now and that make a commitment to work with us prior to any Executive decision will also receive preferential pricing. If you’re thinking about it… give us a call. 347-474-7144.

Get solar now. Trump could increase the cost of solar by $2,000 on November 13th.

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We're counting down the days until the International Trade Commission's tariff recommendations land on Trump's desk. We have a week. 7 days. 

To be fair to folks who we've been chatting with for the past several months, we're making sure that anyone who commits to going solar before that day will receive the solar price that we quoted them with. After Trump issues his decision, which will likely impose a tariff on foreign solar panels, we'll have to renegotiate all of our pricing. 

If you've been thinking about going solar... don't wait any more. Give us a call and we can talk you through the process so that you're ready to make the switch. 347-474-7144.

Trump's Terrifying Trade Decision: The ITC Recommendation and What it Means for Us

 Trump could increase the price of solar with the wave of a pen on Nov. 13th

Trump could increase the price of solar with the wave of a pen on Nov. 13th

On November 13th, the American solar industry could be dealt a dramatic blow by the Trump administration. On that date the International Trade Commission will issue a trade recommendation that could put Trump in a position to place hefty tariffs on imported solar panels. The tariffs, depending on their severity, could mean a downward turn in the solar installation business here in the United States.

Consistent with global manufacturing as a whole, solar installers across the country have relied on imported panels to meet growing demand because of drastically lower prices and quality differences in panels produced abroad. For these reasons the most common solar panels used by New York installers, including  Brooklyn SolarWorks, are imported. Companies like LG, Silfab, and Sunpreme make some of the highest quality panels for their price. If tariffs are placed on panels from these companies, it will likely cost $2,000 or more for us to source these panels or panels of similar quality for each of our jobs. A cost that, as the economic lingo goes, will then be passed  on to our customers.

Although the ITC’s final recommendation is no clear indication of what President Trump will ultimately decide to do, the tone that he’s used to approach international trade (especially that with China) has many of us scared. Trump’s call for tariffs had been hard to ignore. In a conversation with John Kelly, he pouted like a child for them. “Tariffs. I want Tariffs” has stuck with us like a kind of haunting mantra from the Orange Kid in the oval office.

As a local solar installer, we’ve already seen the prices of solar panels increase marginally in anticipation of some sort of solar tariff. The uncertainty and severity of this trade case has driven a number of commercial companies to stockpile thousands of panels at current prices. There’s almost complete consensus that whatever is coming… it isn’t good.

With pending change so clearly present in many of our internal communications as a company, it’s hard to accurately describe how frustrating this occurrence is from the industry’s perspective as a whole. The two companies that first filed “anti-dumping” claims, Suniva and SolarWorld, were notorious for poor service. Due to production issues, panels from Suniva and SolarWorld were frequently under delivered. It was difficult to accurately predict their availability. We rarely did business with either company. It hurts even worse to know that the majority of both companies’ shares were owned by foreign conglomerates. The whole thing has this aura of “un-American-ness” that’s unnaturally frustrating and reflective of our nation’s current political status.

At the present moment we’re recommending that any of our potential customers “get in” before we change our pricing to reflect the increases in solar panel module prices. Although we’re still going to be in business, and the lifeblood of our business isn’t going to change, locking in a price before Trump interferes seems like the only fair way to guarantee that we’ll be able to build systems at their quoted price. We’re not sure how quickly Trump will jump on the recommendation from the ITC. His ultimate decision could come as late as the middle of January. Or it could come the minute he receives the official recommendation from the ITC: November 13th.