Solar Power

Why solar?

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
House with solar panels

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.

  CSU Solar Calculator
 
  NREL PVWatts Calculator

 
Maximum System Size

PV systems interconnected to the Estes Park electric system are limited in size to:
- 10 kW for residential installations and 25 kW for commercial installation
or
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). 

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? 

Estes Park Power and Communications' rate structure is designed to place most of the fixed costs for the utility’s electric distribution system into the monthly customer charge and remove from the kilowatt-hour charge. The population demographics in Power and Communications service area are heavily weighted with customers who have electric service but do not use power year-round: second homes and 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 customer-owned utility, this would result in other customers having to subsidize this usage. 

Does the Town of Estes Park offer rebates or incentives for installing a PV system?

No, at this time the Town does not offer any rebates or incentives to customers installing a PV or other customer-generated system. There are numerous other incentives available though. One 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 this 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.

If the property is located within the Town limits, a building permit must be obtained from the Estes Park Building Division.

If the property is outside the Town limits, a permit must be obtained from the appropriate county office: 
Larimer County building permit information
Boulder County building permit information

Zoning Approval
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.

 

For more information or questions, contact us at solarpower@estes.org or call Sarah Clark, Power and Communications Administrative Assistant, at 970-577-3627.

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 solarpower@estes.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 State Electrical Inspector. Upon receipt of the meter release from the State 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.