Co-op News

Harnessing the power of the sun

By Jennah Denney and Hayley Leatherwood July 2023

Key considerations for potential residential solar projects

Photo by Mike Teegarden, Pioneer Utility Resources

When considering the installation of residential solar systems, it is crucial to prioritize contacting your local electric cooperative, as most systems are interconnected with your electric provider. In Oklahoma, electric co-ops are well-informed about the advantages and disadvantages of solar installations. They can assist you in making an informed decision and navigating the process of connecting your system to the electric grid, known as interconnection. Typically, electric co-ops have a specific approval process for planned solar arrays before installation and conduct inspections afterward.

Kiamichi Electric Cooperative, headquartered in Wilburton, Oklahoma, recognizes and appreciates the value of renewables in the energy mix. However, before signing a contract with a third-party provider, it is important to evaluate residential considerations. Michelle Warmuth, Kiamichi Electric Co-op’s manager of member and public relations, emphasizes that even with solar installations, you will still have an electric bill.

“Many members have contacted the co-op after being falsely told they would never have an electric bill again,” Warmuth says.

Warmuth and Derek Shaw, Kiamichi Electric Co-op’s field staking technician, collaborate to advise members that a solar installation can offset their electric bill. The extent of the offset depends on various factors such as system size and sunlight hours. Furthermore, a solar system is not a backup generator unless a proper battery storage system is also installed. Shaw initiates discussions with members by encouraging them to evaluate their residential property.

Like any investment, it is important to have a clear understanding of the final costs, expected annual energy production, corresponding value and the duration required to recoup the investment. Shaw also advises members to consider how a system installation might affect homeowner’s insurance costs and the fate of the equipment if the member plans to move in the future.

Many solar installers provide quotes using national averages for energy prices to estimate annual savings. However, these calculations can be highly inaccurate as energy prices vary significantly across the country. While it is essential to consider potential increases in energy prices over the lifespan of a residential solar array, it is often calculated at a higher rate than what has been experienced in the last 15-30 years.

“We strongly urge you to shop around,” Warmuth advises. “If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Ensure that you are working with a reputable dealer. We encourage members to use the Better Business Bureau (BBB) when searching for a solar vendor and to refrain from signing a contract until they have consulted with their co-op.”

Installing solar is a significant decision that requires a reliable energy partner, such as your electric co-op, to assist you in the decision-making process. If you are contemplating solar for your home, utilize the questions and considerations guide to help you make an informed decision before entering into a contract with a solar vendor.

Thinking About Solar?

Installing a rooftop solar power system is a major decision. If you’re considering solar, use the following questions as a guide before entering into a contract to install the system.

Initial Questions

  • Do you plan to stay in the home long term?
  • How much shade does your roof receive? (The orientation of your roof can impact how much electricity the system provides.)
  • How old is your roof? (If it’s old/in poor condition, consider replacing it before installing solar.)
  • What are your goals? (If you’re looking to save on energy bills, consider an energy audit first.)
  • Will you lease or purchase the solar power system? (Compare quotes from multiple contractors/installers.)

Utility Questions

  • How will you need to work with your electric co-op to connect the solar power system (to the electric grid)? (For example, an interconnection agreement must be signed.)
  • How long will the process take?
  • Does your co-op offer special rates for members with solar power systems?

Contractor Questions

  • Can the contractor provide appropriate documentation of licensing, permitting, bonding and insurance requirements?
  • Can the contractor show documentation of safety practices and how those will be followed?
  • Can the contractor provide current credentials?

Contract Questions

  • Do the ownership terms make sense/seem fair?
  • Do the system performance calculations seem realistic?
  • Do the terms change if you sell the property?
  • Do the project start and end dates seem reasonable?
  • How long is the system warranty?
  • Who is responsible for system maintenance?
  • Who will receive the renewable energy credits (RECs)?
Category: Co-op News

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