Getting Started with Solar
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 you. Contact a solar contractor to learn how much it might cost; enroll in our solar rebate program; and begin collecting your rebate.
Why Go Solar?
Going solar provides many benefits for homeowners, businesses, and the environment.
- Drastically reduces or eliminates your electric bill. Customers receive credit for solar energy produced through our net metering program.
- Earns you a return on your investment and increases your property value. The average American homeowner pays off their solar system within eight years and earns a return on investment of 20 percent or more. In addition, a home that provides its own energy provides an attractive selling point. Demand for homes with renewable energy continues to grow.
- May be cheaper than you think. Customers can compound their savings by taking advantage of federal and City of Columbia incentives. City of Columbia offers solar rebates for installation costs, beginning at $500/kW. Rebates up to $31,000 are available, depending on the capacity of your system. City of Columbia also offers low-interest solar loans to help finance your investment. Hurry to take advantage of federal tax credits. The residential solar tax credits are being stepped down each year and will expire in 2022.
- Furthers energy sustainability and independence for Missouri and the U.S. Solar energy reduces strain on the local energy grid. Solar energy provides a consistent, dependable and reliable form of energy.
- Is on the rise. More and more Columbia residents and businesses are going solar.The number of solar systems in Columbia has steadily increased by 20 percent or more since 2013.
Will Solar Work for Me?
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.
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.
What Is My Home's Solar Potential?
In one year in Missouri, 1 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. Call one of our solar contractors for an evaluation.
How Much Will It Cost?
The cost of your solar system will depend on the size, efficiency and complexity of the system and its components. In 2016, the average cost, not including rebates or other incentives, to install 1 kW of solar panels in Columbia was $3,250. You should consult with an approved Columbia Water & Light solar installation contractor for more accurate cost and rebate estimates.
What About Incentives?
Compound your savings by taking advantage of federal and local incentives.
- Federal tax credits: Until 2020, the federal government will provide a tax credit for 30 percent of your costs associated with your solar system. In 2020 the rate will drop to a 26 percent tax credit.
- Columbia rebates: 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 kilowatt.
- Columbia loans: We also provide solar system loans, up to $15,000 for residential and $30,000 for commercial.
How Do I Install a Solar System?
Follow these six steps for installing your own solar system:
- 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.
- Choose your contractor: Contact several solar installation contractors. Columbia Water & Light maintains a list of solar contractors who meet our program requirements. It is important to ask the contractors for references, licenses, and certifications.
- Review the parameters of the rebate program: Review the net metering and rebate guidelines with your contractor.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.