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Wednesday, September 18 2019 @ 08:12 pm EDT

What's Up With Those "Solar Farms" Anyway...

Today I had an appointment with a homeowner who was considering going solar. During our conversation she mentioned she had received numerous telephone calls from marketers promoting "solar farms." She had a very basic question - "what's up with those, anyway?"

Short Answer Up Front: In New York State a solar farm is basically an Energy Supply Company (ESCO). If you live in New York you've almost certainly heard of these - but you might not be familiar with the acronym ESCO. These are the dozens of companies offering to sell you electricity at a lower rate than Orange & Rockland. Usually the lower rate is for a short initial period like the first six months or so. Then, they slowly raise the rates, sometimes to a price higher than what you would be paying if you just stayed with O&R.

Solar Farms Are Like ESCO's, Sort Of: For some unknown reason, the state of New York calls energy produced by solar farms "Distributed Energy Resources" and not ESCO's. I suspect they might do this because over the past few years ESCO's have gotten a very bad reputation for unscrupulous marketing techniques. They slam your phone with offers that sound great, talk fast, and get you into the contract. In the end the savings are not what they promised.

Who Cares About Titles: In fact solar farms operate in exactly the same way as an ESCO with a few notable differences. First, the solar farm has to be relatively near your home - you can't subscribe to a solar farm in California if you live in New York. Secondly, the energy is produced by solar panels. Many ESCO's produce their energy with hydroelectric generation, wind, biomass, or through other means. They vary in the degree of how renewable the energy production, how "green" they are. Solar farms are all solar. There are also several different ways to participate in a solar farm, and with an ESCO you just sign up and buy your power from them. But in the end ESCO's and solar farms are basically the same thing.

Delivery Fees: Sorry for burying the lead. No matter if you buy your power from O&R, and ESCO, or a solar farm - you are still going to pay "delivery fees." These are normally about two-thirds of your total electricity bill. By all means, you should go grab our most recent electricity bill and follow along. Let's say a customer has an electricity bill of $100 this month. About $35 will be to pay for the actual electricity, and about $65 will be for "delivery fees." If you buy your power from O&R, and ESCO, or a solar farm, you're still going to be paying those delivery fees. If you put solar panels on your roof, there are no delivery fees because the power is there already. Going solar with roof panels is the only way to avoid those delivery fees. You can't do it by subscribing to a solar farm.

They Don't Want To Answer This Question: I encountered a solar farm promotion booth at a home improvement show recently. I hammered in on this question: "If I subscribe to a solar farm, will I still have to pay Orange and Rockland delivery fees?" Man, they really did not want to give me a straight answer. I was passed to a trainer. Then the trainer passed me to a supervisor. Then the supervisor passed me to a manager. Then the manager passed me to an owner. And then the owner was ducking and dodging and changing the subject and doing everything he could to avoid answering the direct question. I mean, it was like Mohammed Ali and the "rope a dope" (older people will get the reference.) But I persevered, and eventually I got my answer - Yes. You will have to keep paying O&R delivery fees. Whew, that was tough.

If Your House Is DQ, Then By All Means... Meaning, if your house is "disqualified" (DQ) for solar because you're buried in trees, then by all means consider going solar with a solar farm. Only about 25% of houses - maybe less - can even qualify for solar panels because of shading from trees.

"Go Solar Without Having To Put Panels On Your Roof" This is one of the major "hooks" used by the solar farm companies to get consumers interested. They know people have reservations about putting panels on their roofs, for many reasons. (See: I Would Go Solar, But I Don't Want Holes In My Roof! for more information about the installation of solar panels on your roof.) So, the solar farm companies use that resistance as leverage.

Do The Math: If you're thinking about going solar with a solar farm, I strongly urge you to compare your potential investment against traditional solar panels. In short, do the math. You can typically save many thousands of dollars over the life of the system with a traditional installation. Savings with solar farms are usually much, much less. The money matters.

Want To Save Thousands Of Dollars? Then give me a call or text (845) 800-6925. You can also send me an email.

  • We only use the highest quality SunPower solar panels.
  • They are covered by a 25 year warranty
  • We are a local company - we live and work in the Hudson Valley.
  • Hudson Valley Solar is Military Vet / Disabled Vet owned and operated.
  • The 30% Federal Solar Tax Incentive ends this year, completely phased out over the next two years.
  • Take advantage of existing $5,000 NY State Tax Incentive.
  • NYSERDA incentive covers the cost of installation.
  • No money out of pocket, no down payment or deposit required.
  • See O&R Electricity Rates Going Up, Again - Divorce yourself from the utility company.

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