Cue Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

My solar panels went online the day of the winter solstice, an auspicious day for not generating solar power.

Not only is the sun low in the sky with short days, but the panels lack a means to eliminate snow.

I’d assumed there would be some slippery Rain-X-type coating that would cause snow to slide off.

When it’s ultra-cold, as it has been for the past couple of weeks, even the sun fails to melt the snow.

On the few sunny days before the latest snow, the panels generated close to 30 kilowatts.

Overlooking the unalterable issues of local climate, solar power is the path to the future.

StraightUp Solar excelled in the installation of the system. It took professionalism to a higher level.

Understand that I paid full list price, receiving no discounts because of this column.

After some back and forth about contract clauses and scheduling the initial inspection, the installation proceeded as if by magic.

StraightUp first used satellite photos for insight into my roof and tree cover.

Then it ran computer simulations of insolation and variables such as seasonal tree shade, the angle of the roof and related factors.

With this simulation, it calculated the number and placement of panels and how much power they would produce to meet my expectation of supplying over 95 percent of my electric usage.

They offered other configurations for lower cost, but I decided to go all the way. StraightUp took care of all paperwork, permitting and authorizations.

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A few weeks before installation, they carefully inspected my attics, electrical entry panel and the location of my internet router. The system requires an internet connection.

Enphase, the system integrator and manufacturer, monitors the system and allows you to monitor your system via an iOS or Android app or on your desktop computer.

Without it, you cannot gain the financial credits for your sale of Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to a broker.

The friendly StraightUp crew arrived on a Tuesday in December. They wore masks for COVID-19 prevention and covered their shoes in booties so as not to track mud in the house.

After long days, they finished the installation Thursday.

On Friday morning, the electrician returned for the finishing touches, including my request to install a jack for the Ethernet cable to the router rather than a dangling cable protruding from the wall.

The jack was not in the contract, but StraightUp agreeably consented.

StraightUp warned me in advance it would break up some garage drywall and mount some gray boxes connected by metal conduit on the outside wall near the electric power meter.

Their crew accomplished this as neatly as possible. This spring, I’’ll hire a painter to fix the drywall and paint that conduit.

The electrician tested and certified the system on that Friday, notifying Ameren the system was ready.

Four days later, the Ameren technician arrived to install my new net metering electric meter that would permit selling power back to Ameren.

He approved the part of the installation interfacing with Ameren and threw the switch to begin feeding the grid.

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The courteous staff at StraightUp very promptly responded to my inquiries and concerns.

Only the SREC broker, Carbon Solutions Group (CSG), caused great difficulty and problems.

Don’t agree to its extensive online contract. Insist on reading a paper contract, and take it to your attorney.

Otherwise, you’’re in for a decade of angst.

(The system works just fine without selling your SRECs, but you might lose as much as $10,000 over a decade without an SREC agreement. If you wish to use your solar power to charge a battery wall, then you cannot sell your SRECs.)

If you want to help slow climate change or just slow your electric bill, check out (844-977-6227).

I’m looking forward to lengthening days and brighter sunshine with decreasing electric bills.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. Email him at



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