With a solar electric system, the sun provides clean energy with no fuel costs. Solar Photovoltaic (PV) systems convert sunlight directly into electricity, saving money and energy. They are easy to maintain and do not produce any noise or pollution.
With solar energy, a property owner can:
- Reduce electric utility bills
- Increase the property's value
- Reduce carbon footprints and help protect the environment
Getting Started - Things to Consider
- Is your home or business energy efficient?
Before considering solar, it is important to focus on reducing your overall energy usage by making energy-efficient upgrades. By maximizing your home’s energy efficiency first, you can be sure that the electricity produced by your solar electric system is not lost through leaky ductwork, inadequate insulation, or an inefficient heating and cooling system. As Power and Communications residential or commercial customer, you can speak with an expert Efficiency Works™ Energy Adviser, sign up for a home energy audit, and apply for efficiency rebates. Simply visit the Efficiency Works website or call 877-981-1888 to speak with an Energy Advisor today.
- What size PV system would I need? How large of a system can I install?
Your system size will depend on a number of factors: how much of your electric consumption you want to off-set, the size, location, and orientation of your roof, budget constraints, and whether you'll be installing a battery system or not. These calculators can be used to figure out the size, costs, and benefits of a grid-tied solar PV system for your home or business.
Maximum System Size
PV systems interconnected to the Estes Park electric system are limited in size to:
- 10 kW (DC) for residential installations and 25 kW (DC) for commercial installation
- a system capable of producing up to 120% of the last 12 month’s consumption
whichever is larger.
This means that the annual power output (kWh) of a PV system can be no greater than 120% of the total customer usage from the previous 12 months. Any applications that come in over the 120% rule will be declined and asked to adjust system size accordingly. Consumption is calculated at the time of application review by using the previous 12 months of usage. If 12 months of usage is not available, then the average of the available months will be used instead (minimum of 4 months is required).
Solar + EV Charging
For customers who wish to off-set EV charging with their solar systems, the Power & Communications will:
1) require proof of vehicle purchase/registration (the vehicle must be registered at the service location with the solar system and confirm the EV purchase date) as part of their net metering agreement application packet.
2) either add the 3000kWh to the customer's consumption history upfront if they've had the EV for less than four months or make no adjustments if they've had it for longer than four months since the EV load is already incorporated into their consumption.
- How do I calculate the size limit when adding to an existing solar system?
If you already have a solar PV system and are considering a possible expansion, please contact us at email@example.com before working with solar contractors on designs so that we can evaluate how much solar you could add within the maximum size limits.
We will need a copy of your solar generation report for the past 12 months (typically available through your inverter or solar contractor) in order to assess the maximum allowable expansion of your solar system. That data allows us to understand your total PV system production and to calculate your total energy consumption on-site. You’ll be allowed to expand your PV array so that the total combined production of the old array and the new array does not exceed 120 percent of your total annual electricity consumption.
These are the formulas we use to establish your allowed solar expansion limit based on annual data:
Solar Self-Consumption = (Total Solar Production) – (Energy Returned to the grid)
Total Energy Consumption = (Solar Self-Consumption) + (Energy Delivered from the grid)
Max Solar Production Limit (kWh) = 120% * (Total Annual Energy Consumption)
Solar Addition Limit (kWh) = (Max Solar Production Limit) – (Total Solar Production of existing array)
Note: the time periods for solar production and metered energy consumption and returned must be aligned properly to calculate these values correctly.
- What happens at night?
Most solar systems are designed to provide you with a portion of the electricity needed, but won’t provide 100 percent of your needs. At night and on cloudy days, and possibly at other high-energy-use times, you’ll need more power than your PV system can produce. That means you’ll still be connected to the grid. Net metering is a billing program that allows customers with solar energy systems to buy and sell electricity to and from their utility. By participating in the net metering program, a customer is able to buy electricity when their solar energy system is not producing enough energy to meet the demand in their home or business, and get credited for the excess generation to the grid when they are producing more than needed.
- Why does the amount of electricity I sent to the grid not match the output stated on my solar energy system’s monitoring device?
The amount of electricity that you receive credit for will likely not match the stated production of your system’s monitoring device. Electricity is only sent back to the grid when your system is generating more than what your home or business is using at the time. If your home or business is using all of the electricity your system is generating, there is nothing to send back to the grid and therefore no credit on your bill.
- Will I still have a monthly bill? What is included in my monthly customer charge?
Yes, customer-generators will still have a monthly customer charge based on their billing rate. This amount can be found on the current rate sheet under Customer Charge. This tutorial explains how to read a net-metered electric bill, with breakdowns and explanations of how the Bank meter is tracked and calculated.
Estes Park Power and Communications' rate structure is designed to cover most of the fixed costs for the utility’s electric distribution system with the monthly customer charge and rather than kilowatt-hour usage charges. This is because the population demographics in the Power and Communications service area are heavily weighted with customers who have electric service but do not use power year-round, e.g. second-home owners or net-metered customers. If charges designed to cover the utility's fixed costs were left in the kilowatt-hour charge, customers who generated as much or more electricity over the year than they consumed and customers who are only in the area for a short time, would not contribute their share of the electric distribution system costs. Since Power and Communications is a not-for-profit municipal department, this would result in other customers having to subsidize this usage.
- Where can I find information about incentives or financing for installing a PV system?
The Colorado Energy Office in partnership with Elevations Credit Union offers a residential loan program. The RENU program makes home energy upgrades easy and affordable by offering low-cost, long-term financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. The Colorado Energy Office includes a directory of participating contractors.
The State of Colorado's Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program enables owners of eligible commercial and industrial buildings to finance up to 100% of energy efficiency, renewable energy. and water conservation eligible improvements. Financing is provided by private capital providers at competitive rates with repayment terms up to 25 years. The State's website includes a directory of participating contractors.
Another resource for federal and state incentives is the Database for State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. This site includes a clickable, interactive map, showing federal and state incentives, credits, exemptions, grants, loans, and rebates for residential and commercial/industrial projects. Local contractors should have up-to-date details about available incentives.
PV installation and Net metering Application approval process
When installing a system within the Town limits of Estes Park, the solar contractor must have or obtain the proper business license from the Town Clerk. Refer to the business license database for information on contractors already licensed to install solar systems within the Town limits or contact the Town Clerk's office at 970-577-4777. Once the PDF or spreadsheet is downloaded, search for "solar" to find the current solar contractors.
If the property is located within the Town limits, a building permit must be obtained from the Estes Park Building Division.
Within Estes Park Town boundaries, zoning approval is incorporated into the building permit process.
After April 1, 2020, Larimer County Zoning approval will be required for ground-mounted solar systems in unincorporated Larimer County. Customers installing a ground-mounted system will need to submit a site plan showing the location of the ground-mounted system with the building permit application. It will be routed to the Larimer County planning department. Roof mount systems will not need zoning approval.
Battery-retrofit of existing solar systems
Customers retrofitting their existing solar systems with battery systems are required to submit a new Interconnection agreement with updated system plans to Power and Communications prior to installation and operation.
The owner of the site of installation will be required to enter into an Agreement for Interconnection and Parallel Operation of Customer Generation System (also referred to as a net metering agreement) with the Town of Estes Park. The regulations and requirements set forth in the net metering agreement and the Town's Renewable Energy Policy-Net Metering must be followed and adhered to. Please note that the net metering agreement has been updated as of June 22, 2020. All interconnection submissions from that date must use the revised agreement; any agreements submitted with the old agreement will be returned for resubmission.
Completed interconnection application packets must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Incomplete packets will not be processed for approval until all required information is provided.
After the installation is complete, the new system must be inspected by the appropriate Electrical Inspector. Upon receipt of the meter release from the Electrical Inspector, Town staff will perform a final inspection and finalize the net metering agreement for PTO (permission to operate) approval.
Please note that the installation should not be operational until Power & Communications has signed Exhibit B and returned the finalized agreement to the customer as the PTO.
Subsequent Owners of Customer Generation Systems
Customers who have purchased a home with a solar system or wind turbine already installed are required to submit a net metering agreement in their own name. The Interconnection Agreement for Subsequent Owners ensures that customers taking over an existing solar or wind system are aware of their rights and responsibilities as customer-generators. Customers will be required to submit their net metering agreement within 15 days of taking over a net-metered account or Power & Communications may lockout their interconnected system.