Thinking of installing a solar or photovoltaic (PV) system to generate electricity? Columbia Water & Light encourages you to review this basic information and also conduct detailed research to see if this renewable energy technology is right for you.
How does a solar system work?
Photovoltaic (PV) systems capture the electric current created by the interaction between sunlight and a semiconductor. PV systems are different from solar thermal systems which use the sun’s heat.
Solar systems usually don’t produce enough electricity for the average home or business in the Midwest so a back-up source of electricity is generally required. In Columbia, a customer can sign up for net metering which allows the solar producer to sell any excess electricity generated from the PV system and buy electricity when it is needed.
The diagram on the right shows how a solar system can be hooked into the utility's electric distribution system. Please note: this can only be accomplished with Columbia Water & Light's permission through an Interconnection & Net Metering Agreement.
Until 2016, the Federal government offers a tax credit for installing a solar system for up to 30% of the cost. Consult with your accountant or check the Energy Star website for more information.
Columbia Water & Light offers a one-time $500 per kilowatt rebate for qualifying PV systems. There is a 10 Kilowatt cap on Columbia Water & Light’s solar system rebate. If you are planning to install a larger system, please contact us about the possibility of a special arrangement.
Columbia Water & Light will pay the customer’s current electric rate for the delivered solar generated electricity when the utility retains the Renewable Energy Credits (REC). If the customer wants to keep the solar RECs, the customer will receive a credit based on the avoided average energy market price at the Columbia pricing node. There is a 100 kilowatt capacity cap on the net metering arrangement. Please see our net metering information for more details.
Does my location work for solar energy production?
It is best to place PV modules where they receive exposure to the sun most of the day, all year long. Check your roof throughout the day to see if it is clear of any obstructions that might cause shading. Your contractor can also help evaluate your location.
- The best location for a PV system is on a south facing roof, but an east or west facing roof might also work.
- Flat roofs provide an environment for a variety of solar modules.
- Locating the PV system on the ground can work with either a fixed mount or a tracking mount system.
If the space or the solar exposure for a PV system is limited, consider going to a system with a higher efficiency rating. They are more expensive but make more energy with less square footage of module space.
What is the cost of a solar system?
Costs of PV equipment are dependant on the type of system, where it is installed, the efficiency rating, the manufacturer/retailer and labor costs. Equipment costs make solar produced electricity more expensive than electricity purchased from Columbia Water & Light. A two kilowatt system installed in Columbia is estimated to cost at least $8,000. After deducting a $2,400 federal tax rebate and a $1,000 Columbia Water & Light rebate the final cost would be $4,600. A one kilowatt rated solar system in Columbia generally produces between 1,200 and 1,400 kilowatt hours in one year.
Selecting a solar contractor
Columbia Water & Light can not endorse any PV system contractors. There are a number of national agencies that keep lists of solar contractors that can be obtained through the internet or over the phone. It is important to ask the contractor for references, licenses and certifications.
Signing up for net metering & rebates
- Study photovoltaic systems and evaluate your energy consumption history.
- Contact several contractors that install PV systems. This will give you an idea of what type will work best for your location, the size and cost of the system.
- Review the parameters of the guidelines of the rebate program listed below and the net metering information with your contractor.
- Fill out and submit the Interconnection & Net Metering Agreement, the form with details about your PV system and the site diagram to Columbia Water & Light. Note: you can use your computer to fill out the forms but you must print and sign the Interconnection and Net Metering Agreement.
- Columbia Water & Light staff will review your proposal and give you approval for interconnection and a rebate or notify you of any changes needed to meet the guidelines.
- After approval from Columbia Water & Light for net metering and the rebate, work with your contractor to obtain an electrical permit from Columbia’s Community Development Department’s Building and Site Development Division.
- Upon receiving an electrical permit from the Building and Site Development office, you can proceed with the installation of the PV system.
- After completion of the installation, contact the Building and Site Development office to schedule a final code inspection for your electrical permit.
- Upon receiving final approval from the Building and Site Development office, contact Columbia Water & Light at 573-874-7325 to schedule a rebate inspection. At this time you will be required to supply an invoice for the PV system, a copy of the final electrical code inspection and a copy of the insurance certificate if the system is rated above 10 kilowatts. The rebate application will be completed by our staff at the final rebate inspection.
Listed below is the order in which you need to proceed with your PV project to receive a rebate and enter into a net metering agreement. Please review the Interconnection & Net Metering Agreement for a detailed list of requirements for PV systems attached to the Columbia Water & Light electric distribution system.
- Interconnection Standards: The PV system should comply with the following standards:
- National Electric Code(NEC) including but not limited to, NEC Articles 690(Guidelines outlining the installation of the system including structural and electrical components) and NEC 705(regarding the safety and warning signs of the system).
- Underwriters Laboratories (UL) including but not limited to, UL 1741(Standard for Static Inverters and Charge Controllers for Use in Photovoltaic Systems), and UL 1703(Standard for Safety: Flat Plate Photovoltaic Module sand Panels).
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Standards including, but not limited to 15472003(Standard for Interconnecting intellect Systems).
- An Interconnection & Net Metering agreement, the appropriate system information page and the site diagram must be submitted and approved by Columbia Water & Light.
- To receive the customer’s current applicable electric rate for the electricity generated by a customer’s solar system, the customer must agree not to sell or transfer any Renewable Energy Credits associated with the PV system.
- Photovoltaic panels must come with a 15-year or greater manufacturer’s warranty. All grid-tie, sine-wave inverters must come with a minimum two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Paid receipts for the system and a copy of the final electrical code permit must be submitted at your final rebate inspection. The receipt must list the model numbers for the installed equipment. A copy of the insurance certificate is required for systems rated over 10 kilowatts.
- Columbia Water & Light offers one time solar rebate to qualifying electric customers. Rebates are offered on a first come, first serve basis as funding is available each fiscal year.
- Copies of the receipts and the final code inspection must be submitted to Columbia Water & Light within six months of the solar electric system’s installation. If there is incomplete or incorrect information submitted, customers will have thirty days to provide the correct information or risk losing their place in the rebate funding process.
- Columbia Water & Light will inspect the installed equipment to make sure it meets all the program’s guidelines before the rebate is finalized.
- Columbia Water & Light reserves the right to reject a PV system if it does not meet the parameters of the net metering or rebate program.
This information taken from proposed Columbia Ordinance - Chapter 27, Section 27-164