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Getting Started with Solar

home with solar panels in Columbia, Missouri

Have you been thinking about adding solar to your home or business, but aren’t sure where to start? Read these frequently asked questions to learn whether solar may work for your home or business. Contact a solar contractor to learn how much it might cost; enroll in our solar rebate program; and begin collecting your rebate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before you install a solar system, be aware that there are several obstacles that may lesson its effectiveness.


Which way your roof is facing will determine what part of the day your solar panels will be most exposed to the sun. South-facing solar systems are traditionally the most popular, because they have the highest potential to capture solar energy throughout the day. However, south-facing systems also produce the most energy at a time when demand is the lowest. Columbia Water & Light offers premium rebates for west-facing systems, which produce the most during high-peak times.

graphic demonstrating the difference between summer and winter sun paths


Even though you can still get solar on cloudy days, prolonged shading will impede your solar production. If your panels are obstructed by trees, buildings or anything else, or may be obstructed within their 25-year life cycle, check first if you will be able to clear the path for your panels (for example, tree-trimming). If your solar panels will be shaded, installing your own units may not be the most effective option.

The cost of your solar system will depend on the size, efficiency, and complexity of the system and its components. You should consult with an approved Water & Light  opens in a new windowsolar installation contractor for more accurate cost and rebate estimates.

How Big?

In one year in Missouri, 1 kW (kilowatt) of solar panels will offset about 1,300 kWh (kilowatt-hours) of electricity use. From your annual electric usage (kWh), you can determine how much you want to offset with a solar system. You can offset up to 100 percent of your average usage.

What Might It Cost?

In 2016, the average cost, not including rebates or other incentives, to install 1 kW of solar panels in Columbia was $3,250.

What About Incentives?

Until 2020, the federal government will provide a tax credit for 30 percent of your costs associated with your solar system. Additionally, Columbia Water & Light provides rebates for solar systems. A qualifying system (under 10 kW) would be eligible for rebates between $375 and $625 per kW. We also provide solar system loans, up to $15,000 for residential and $30,000 for commercial.

What Is My Home’s Solar Potential?

Call one of our solar contractors for an evaluation.

Follow these six steps for installing your own solar system:

  1. Educate yourself: Study solar systems and evaluate your energy consumption history. This will give you an idea of what type of system will work best for your location, and the size and cost of the system.
  2. Choose your contractor: Contact several solar installation contractors. Columbia Water & Light maintains a list of PV contractors who meet our program requirements. It is important to ask the contractors for references, licenses, and certifications.
  3. Review the parameters of the rebate program: Review the net metering and rebate guidelines with your contractor.
  4. Fill out and submit the  opens in a new windowInterconnection and Net Metering Agreement: A letter will be sent from Columbia Water & Light, approving your solar project and notifying you of the rebate funds reserved for your project. Projects not completed within six months of approval must be resubmitted and will lose their place in the rebate process.
  5. Receive electrical permit: After approval from Columbia Water & Light, your contractor must obtain an electrical permit from  opens in a new windowCity of Columbia Building and Site Development. After the solar installation is complete, contact opens in a new windowCity of Columbia Building and Site Development to schedule a final code inspection for your electrical permit. Upon receiving electric code approval, contact Columbia Water & Light at (573) 874-7325 and schedule a rebate inspection.
  6. Finalize your rebate: Your rebate will be finalized at the time of inspection by Columbia Water & Light staff. All invoices for the solar system, final approved code inspection and a copy of the insurance certificate, if required, must be submitted. If you were notified that your project was placed on a waiting list for rebate funds, the rebate will be processed as funds become available.

Other Solar Resources for Home Owners

Missouri residents’ property rights for solar energy are protected by opens in a new windowMissouri state statutes. For information about the solar industry in Missouri, visit the opens in a new windowMissouri Division of Energy’s website. For rebates from Columbia Water & Light, using one of our approved solar contractors is required. When choosing a solar contractor, it is important to ask the contractor for references, licenses, and certifications. For further information about tax credits available for solar energy systems, please review the Energy Star tax credit information.

Columbia's Commercial and Residential Solar Electric Systems graph

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701 E Broadway, Columbia, MO 65205



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