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FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions about Susie Hulet Community Solar

Brought to you by Weber State University!

Have questions about Weber State's Susie Hulet Community Solar? Read on to see answers to our most frequently asked questions.  You can also review frequently asked questions about solar technology.  Don't see the answer to your question? Contact us

The Program is brought to you by Weber State University to promote the development of residential solar electricity generation systems in Davis, Morgan and Weber counties. Oversight and administration of the program is by community volunteers, Weber State's Sustainability Practices and Research Center (SPARC), and Utah Clean Energy.
 
The Program provides:
 
  • A substantial discount for residential solar installations, made possible by the volunteer Steering Committee facilitation of a supplier discount for residents of Davis, Morgan and Weber counties.
  • Simplified and streamlined solar installation process: Installing solar through the program is streamlined and simple. The Program does the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to. As a participant, you will have access to information and a community network to guide you through the solar process without hassle.
  • Pre-screened installer: The volunteer Steering Committee vetted a solar installer for participation in the discount program based on quality and price, and locked in discounts for residents of Davis, Morgan and Weber Counties.

The barriers to installing residential PV solar include upfront cost, uncertainty about installers and the sales process, and lack of familiarity with solar technology. Community Solar projects have helped homeowners overcome the financial and logistical barriers to installing solar energy systems. The Program not only offers discounted prices, but also informatinal workshops, expert solar advice, a simplified and streamlined installation process, and pre-screened installer that has been selected by the volunteer Steering Committee for participation in the program.
The Community Solar model for solar was first used during a 2009 project in Portland, Oregon called the Solarize Project. It was a partnership between several Southeast Portland neighborhoods and the Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Sustainability Program. From the 20-30 initially projected installations, the program grew to around 120 residential installations in just six months. The model has since been replicated city-wide. Learn more from the Solarize Guidebook.  Based on the success of this model in Portland and around the country, Utah Clean Energy, a local non-profit, supported a community–led project in Salt Lake County in 2012, and in 2013 Utah Clean Energy teamed up with Summit County and Park City to support Summit County citizens in the implementation of Summit Community Solar. In 2014 Utah Clean Energy partnered with the University of Utah for their biggest community solar project yet, and the first university sponsored program in the nation. Collectively, homeowners have installed over 2.3 megawatts of solar through Community Solar projects in Utah.  Now, Susie Hulet Community Solar is an opportunity for residents of Davis, Morgan and Weber counties to team up and go solar together!
The Program is brought to you by Weber State University, administered by Utah Clean Energy, and driven by community volunteers to make residential solar electricity a simple and affordable choice for residents of Davis, Morgan and Weber counties. You can meet the team here!

  • Weber State University and its Sustainable Practices and Research Center (SPARC) support Susie Hulet Community Solar because it is an investment in new, local sources of renewable energy.
  • The Weber State University Facilities Management team, itself noted for its sustainability practices, endorses the program.
  • Utah Clean Energy is a local non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization partnering to build the new clean energy economy. Utah Clean Energy has helped hundreds of homeowners install solar through Community Solar programs and offers technical expertise to guide you through the solar installation process.

The volunteer committee of the Program learned from the best practices of the University of Utah Program to develop criteria for selection and produce a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP committee selected a solar installation company that will offer discount prices on high quality componenets, streamline the installation process, and back up their work with warranty and service 
Through the Program, you will receive a predetermined discount off of the price for a typical installation. You will also have access to expert information about solar, a simple and streamlined installation process, and a pre-screened installer. Program volunteers selected a solar installer for participation in the discount program based on experience, quality and price, and locked in discounts for residents of Davis, Morgan and Weber Counties. The selected insaller has committed to the terms in what the selection committee called the "Solar Installation Standard" for the Program.
Any resident of Davis, Morgan and Weber counties is eligible to participate on a first-come, first-served basis. You must own your own home, get your electricity from a utility, and have a rooftop or ground site that suited for solar.  

April 22 2015:

 Susie Hulet Community Solar Launch! Take your first step toward solar by getting on the mailing list (we promise not to spam you).
   

May 28 2015:

The Solar Survey opens! Get started by giving us a little bit of information about your home and we'll connect you to an installer.
   

October 01 2015:

 Last day to take the Solar Survey and become eligible for the Program.
   

November 06 2015:

All interested and eligible participants receive a site visit and contract proposal by this date.
   

November 20 2014:

Final date for participants to sign a contract to go solar.
   

March 31 2016:

Anticipated completion date of all installations.

Installations will be completed on a first-come, first-served basis. The schedule for your installation will depend on how many people choose to sign a contract to go solar ahead of you; the Program and the installer will keep all participants informed about the estimated timeline for installations. All installations are expected to be complete by March 2016. The installation itself will take one day for a typical system.
The Discount Solar Pricing page has all the information about the products and pricing offered through the program.  
The pricing is for a complete solar installation, including the hardware and labor.  It is not possible to purchase solar equipment and hardware independent of the installation services through the Program.
Unfortunately, commercial properties are not eligible. Commercial properties have different incentives, permitting processes, and rate structures for electricity. To make the process simple and streamlined for participants, only residential properties are eligible.
If a participant has already been awarded the Rocky Mountain Power Solar Incentive for 2015 then they can use their Incentive and participate in the Community Solar Program. However, Program participants will not be able to use the 2016 Solar Incentive because they will have already signed a community solar contract before the 2016 Solar Incentives are awarded.

Solar and Your Home

Solar PV works on just about any home, as long as the site gets enough sunlight. Solar PV can be integrated into most existing wiring systems. If the roof is shaded or not conducive to solar, solar PV can be installed on a ground mount system, on a pole mount system, or on a garage, shed or adjacent building. Solar can be mounted on almost any roof type. In most cases, solar will be feasible and the installer will help you to figure out the best solution for you and your energy goals.
 
Solar panels work best when they are installed facing south or west. If you have a large area of roof that faces either south or west and does not receive significant amounts of shading, your home is probably suitable for rooftop solar panels. East facing panels can sometimes outperform west facing ones, and your solar installer will let you know about all the options that are available to you. However, east facing systems may not be able to take advantage of state tax incentives.
 
Fire codes mandate that there is a minimum distance between solar panels and the edge of your roof for safety purposes--so you can not cover 100% of your roof space with solar panels. If you have a flat roof or a very steep roof, or you do not have optimal roof space due to shading issues, you will either need to mount the solar panels on an angled rack or use a ground- or pole- mounted system located on an auxiliary structure (like a garage), or in a sunny part of your yard. There may be some extra costs associated with these systems, and the installer will let you know about those costs during your site visit. Most homes can accommodate rooftop solar installations, as long as you have some sunny, south- or west-facing roof space.
 
The first step to getting involved with community solar is to take the Solar Survey with a couple questions about your home.  If your home appears suitable, the installer will conduct an on-site assessment of your home, provide you with an individualized quote, and help you determine whether or not solar PV makes sense for you.

If your roof is not suitable for solar, or your HOA does not allow rooftop solar, solar panels can also be mounted on a pole or on the ground in your yard. There is an extra fee to build the structure that ground- and pole-mount systems are installed on, but often ground- and pole-mount systems can be installed in optimal locations for sun exposure. Solar panels can also be installed on accessory structures, like a garage or a shed.

The size of your system will depend on your current electricity usage, your available usable roof space, your budget and financing options, and the percentage of your energy consumption you want to offset with solar. It is recommended that you first take steps to make your home as efficient as possible before (or in conjunction with) making your solar investment. Get some simple tips to help conserve energy and make your home more energy efficient.
 
To estimate the size or cost of your solar system, you should start by using your electricity bill to figure out how much electricity you use. Then you can use the Solar Simplified calculator (a project of Utah Clean Energy) to estimate what size solar system will work best for you. The average Utah household uses 8400 kWh of energy each year, or about 700 kWh a month. A 20 panel, 5.6KW system will produce enough electricity to replace all of the average household consumption. You can take the solar survey and get a good estimate of what you need and what it will cost. The key information you need is how many kWh you used last year and what percentage you want to offset with solar. You can use your electricity bills or call Rocky Mountain Power for help.
 
Solar arrays can be sized for any sized home so there is really no ideal size. You don’t have to size the system to cover all of your electricity needs. Solar systems are modular which means you can start small and add more panels over time (though, Susie Hulet Community Solar is a one-time, limited-time offer and it is more affordable over the long run to do the installation all at once). 

Once you have put solar panels on your roof, you will have to remove them in the event that you need to replace the roof. Panels can be temporarily removed, and re-installing the panels is less time intensive than the original installation, but there will be a cost to have a solar installer come to remove and replace the panels. If your roof is in need of replacement in the near future, it is often worth it to have the roof replaced before installing solar. Most solar panels are warrantied for 20 – 25 years, at least, and continue producing electricity long after their warrantied lifetimes, so by replacing your roof first you can avoid unnecessary costs down the road.

There are no moving parts in a standard rooftop solar system, so there is not much that will break or malfunction under normal conditions. Solar panels should be sprayed down periodically (usually in the spring or summer) with warm water to prevent dust and pollen build-up (the thin film of dust blocks a little bit of light from hitting the panels, reducing the amount of electricity they make). Ensuring that your solar panels are free of debris will help them operate at their maximum potential. Large amounts of snow can block solar radiation to the panels as well, so if you live in a snowy area your winter production may be decreased if you aren't able to remove the snow. As solar panels are black and tilted at an angle, the snow will usually melt fairly quickly.
 
The standard system for this Program specifies that panels and micro-inversters are both warrantied for 25 years. If you need to replace a panel due to manufacturing defect it should be covered by the warranty on at least a pro-rata basis. If you need to replace a component of your solar system due to damage, the solar installer should be able to replace that specific component (panel, inverter, etc.) individually.

Solar panels can operate perfectly well in the winter, especially if you have good sun exposure and many sunny days a year. However, large amounts of snow can block solar radiation to the panel, so if you live in a snowy area your winter production may be decreased if you aren't able to remove the snow. As solar panels are black and tilted at an angle, the snow will usually melt fairly quickly. If you are able to safely access your roof, some people use a snow broom to remove snow from the panels. Removing snow from even a small portion of the panels can help the black panel absorb sunlight, warm up, and shed the rest of the show. The installer can recommend snow removal strategies based on where your system is located and how steep your roof is.
 
The vast majority of solar installations are "On-Grid" systems. These systems are installed on houses that are still connected to the power grid. Through net metering contracts with Rocky Mountain Power and other utilities, power flows to the house when the solar system is not producing as much electricity, and the panels feed extra electricity back into the grid when they are. In this way, excess generation in the summer can be used in the winter! To learn more about net metering please click here.

As a low maintenance technology that decreases utility bills and has a positive effect on the environment, solar makes homes more desirable to buyers and increases the value of a home. The amount that a solar system increases a home’s value depends on many factors, including the size of the system (which affects the economic return the owner receives) and whether buyers in the market are educated on solar’s value and the ease of ownership. The overall market demand for homes with solar ultimately determines the increased value. 
 
This value has been quantified in a number of ways. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study that looked at data from California found that a solar system added between $3.90/Watt and $6.60/Watt to the home’s value—more than many solar systems cost to install to begin with! Clearly buyers in that market value the ease of a home that already has solar installed. Sandia National Laboratory has been working with home appraisers to determine how much a solar installation increases home value in markets around the country. They have developed a spreadsheet tool, called PV Value, which allows users to enter data about their home and solar installation and determine how much their system increases their home’s value. Another key element is educating realtors and appraisers about the value of solar and energy efficient construction so that they can in turn inform potential buyers as to the value these upgrades will give them. 

More Resources:

Homes that will be able to install solar by March 2016 are eligible to participate.  You may not yet know some details about the home (for example, you will not know your annual energy usage), but fill out the survey to the best of your ability and you will be connected with the installer to discuss your situation.

Pricing & Financial Information

The Program steering committee selected a solar installer for participation in the Program based on quality, price, and service to residents of Davis, Morgan and Weber counties.
 
The average Utah household uses 8400 kWh of energy each year, or about 700 kWh a month. A 20 panel, 5.6KW system will produce enough electricity to replace all of the average household consumption. This size system will cost $19,200 upfront, and $12,100 after tax credits. But if you are thinking about cost, you should also be thinking about payback. This same 20 panel system will save $28,000 in electricity bills, stop 94 tons of coal from being burned and 189 tons of co2 released into the atmosphere. You can take the solar survey and get a good estimate of what you need and what it will cost. The key information you need is how many kWh you used last year and what percentage you want to offset with solar.
 

To estimate the size or cost of your solar system, you should start by using your electricity bill to figure out how much electricity you use.For example, the average Utah household uses about 8600 kw of electricity each year. If you need help you can call Rocky Mountain Power.

Homeowners who install solar through the Program will receive a discount price off of the price for a typical installation. Pricing ranges from $3.24/watt for the “standard” components to $2.87 for a lower cost system. Past community solar projects in Utah saw a discount of up to 30%. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the national average installed price for residential solar in the fourth quarter of 2013 was about $4.59 per watt. Your customized solar bid and final discount will depend on the size of your solar PV system, selected components, and your ability to take advantage of available incentives.
There are many financing options available to help defray the initial upfront costs of residential solar. You may also be interested in energy efficiency as an initial first step and a smart investment for your home (that will save you money and energy). Energy efficiency investments also help make your home more solar-ready, which means you may not need as large of a solar PV system to meet your energy needs. You can also inquire with your bank or credit union to see if there are financing options for renewable energy or home improvement projects that you can take advantage of.
After the installer conducts the on-site solar assessment, they will provide you with a customized solar bid based on the size of your solar project and any special circumstances your project may require. Your customized solar bid and final discount will depend on the size of your solar PV system and selected components. Your estimate will include the impact of available tax credits (30% Federal, and up to $2,000 Utah).  In some cases, homes may require additional installation components (at an additional cost).  Learn more about the program pricing.
Solar financing can help lower your upfront cost and make rooftop solar even more affordable. Learn more about financing options for solar, and don't forget to check with your bank or credit union to see what residential solar financing options they may have available.
A state tax credit and a federal tax credit are available for solar PV.

  • U.S. Federal Tax Credit:

Tax Credit: 30% of equipment and installation cost with no upper limit

Expires: December 31, 2016

Details: Existing homes & new construction qualify. Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not qualify. Learn more >

  • Utah State Renewable Energy Systems Tax Credit:

Tax Credit: 25% of equipment and installation cost up to a maximum of $2,000

Expires: Never

Details: Available for any house, condominium, apartment, or similar dwelling for a person or persons, but it does not include any vehicles such as motor homes, recreational vehicles, or house boats. Learn more > Consult with a tax attorney regarding your eligibility for the aforementioned incentives.  The Program makes no guarantees about the availability of incentives or participant ability to take advantage of the incentives.

No, as long as you own the residence, you are likely eligible for both tax credits.  However, please consult the information below and a tax attorney before making any tax-related decisions. The Program does not guarantee eligibility nor the availability of any incentives to participants.
 
 
Read more about the Federal Tax Credit

The Program is limited to people who are able to install solar on their property through a roof-mount or ground-mount system. Off-site, “solar collective” or "solar garden" models are beyond the scope of this campaign. Renters or individuals who do not own their property are not eligible to participate at this time. However, Rocky Mountain Power is planning to build a "solar garden" where you can invest in a large and efficent solar system, and then offset your power consumption with its production. Here is a link to Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky Subscriber Solar webpage.    

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