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Getting Started with Solar

house with solar

Columbia Water & Light provides incentives for multiple benefits through our solar rebate program and net metering agreements. 

Clean, renewable solar photovoltaic (PV) power on your home or business reduces Columbia’s carbon footprint, protects the environment and contributes to the City of Columbia’s renewable energy portfolio.

Solar photovoltaic basics

First, you work with an approved Water & Light PV installation contractor as your guide through the design, application and approval process. Once the system is approved, it will be connected to your home’s electrical system as well as Columbia Water & Light’s grid. This “interconnection” allows you to have a backup source of electricity for times when you are using more electricity than the PV system is generating. For the times when the PV system produces more electricity than you are using, electricity flows into Columbia Water & Light’s grid and you get a credit for the amount of electricity delivered.

How big a PV system do I need and what will it cost?

Size: In Missouri, 1 kW of solar panels will offset about 1,350 kWh of electricity use each year. From your annual electric usage (kWh) you can determine how much you want to offset with PV. You can offset up to 100% of your average usage. 

solar illustrationCost: In 2019, the average cost, not including rebates or other incentives, to install 1kW of solar PV in Columbia was $2,500. 

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

What is the best location for a solar system?

PV generates electricity from the sun, so the best locations are consistently sunny throughout the year. In general, the most important factors are clear and unshaded roof space. These conditions simplify the PV installation and will produce the most energy.

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.

Solutions for space or shading issues are available and they may increase system payback time. An approved Water & Light PV installation contractor can help advise you on the best options for your budget, location and electrical usage.

Going solar is on the rise

More and more Columbia residents and businesses are going solar. The number of solar systems in Columbia has been steadily increasing each year.

commercial and residential pv systems in Columbia

Six steps to installing your solar system

Step 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.

Step 2: 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.

Step 3: Review the parameters of the rebate program. Review the net metering and rebate guidelines with your contractor.

Step 4: Submit the Net Metering Agreement. Fill out the  opens in a new windowInterconnection and Net Metering Agreementopens PDF file  and submit it to Columbia Water & Light, Utility Services, 4th Floor, 701 E Broadway, Columbia, MO; or email it to  opens in a new windowefficiency@como.govcreate new email.

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.

Step 5: Receive an 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 City 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) 441-5528 and schedule a rebate inspection.

Step 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.


Contact City of Columbia Water & Light at renewables@CoMo.govcreate new email or call (573) 874-7325 with any questions you have about going solar.

Contact Utility Services


701 E Broadway, Columbia, MO 65205




efficiency@como.govcreate new email

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