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Community Solar Owners Resources#

Notice: Riverside Community Solar Project Offline Due to Equipment Failure#

Fort Collins Utilities has selected Namaste Solar to replace the Riverside Community Solar Project inverter. Utilities signed the contract with Namaste Solar on June 17. Namaste Solar has been in business for nearly 20 years and has experience supporting this site with Operations and Maintenance services since 2017. Utilities staff are confident they will be able to provide the solution that this project requires. 

Namaste Solar, a Colorado-based contractor, will meet with City staff this week to affirm details of tasks defined in Phase 1: Design. Staff anticipate that the Design phase will be completed by late July.  

Fort Collins City Council approved using funding from the Fort Collins 2050 Climate Tax to re-energize the site. City Council dedicated $250,000 to the project through Ordinance No. 058 in May.  

In addition to selecting the vendor and moving forward with the replacement, Utilities has also been working to create the Riverside Advisory Committee. Nineteen owners have expressed interest in serving on this committee, and staff are now scheduling the first committee meeting. Thank you to those who are willing to spend time on this and get more involved. 

We’ll continue to share news with you as things progress. As always, feel free to reach out to riversidesolar@fcgov.com with questions. 

Thank you to everyone who has been engaging with us about Riverside Solar, whether by attending the meetings last week, through email communications, or by staying up to date by reading this. As we shared during our discussions and in the video update, our intention is to provide clearer communication and more robust engagement opportunities for this project moving forward.


Big News!

At the City Council meeting on May 21, Councilmembers supported designating $250,000 from the 2050 Tax to re-energize the Riverside site. After 10 days, these dollars will be available to Utilities to spend.


Updated FAQs.

At last week’s meetings, some more questions emerged. We updated the FAQ document we provided at the discussions to reflect common questions brought up in the meetings.

Click here to view the Updated FAQs

Recorded Presentation.

For those who could not make the in-person meetings, we recorded a presentation. It shares information about what happened, what's happening now, and what is planned for the future. This information is the essence of what was shared at the meetings. Please email any questions or thoughts after watching it. If you have issues accessing it, let us know and we can fix that for you.

Recording emailed directly to owners.

Advisory Committee.

Finally, we expressed at last week’s meetings that we are open to facilitate an advisory committee if there is interest from the panel owner community. For more details on what participating in this committee may look like, check your email and click on the link provided.

Riverside Community Solar Team 

RiversideSolar@fcgov.com

Upcoming Discussions#

We are hosting two events for Riverside Solar owners in mid-May. Our primary goals for these events are to provide you with details about the replacement project’s plans, financing, and construction timeline, address your questions, and listen to any concerns you have. We will present the same information at each meeting, so if you are interested, please choose one of the following to attend: 

  • Afternoon meeting on May 13 (noon – 1:30 p.m.) - This event is at capacity. 
  • Evening meeting on May 15 (6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.) - Northside Aztlan Community Center

The City posted a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the inverter replacement at Riverside Community Solar on March 22:  

  • This posting solicits design and pricing from qualified service providers. 
  • Several service providers attended a pre-bid site visit last Wednesday to view the conditions of the equipment at Riverside. 
  • Service providers must submit proposals by April 22. 
  • Proposals will be reviewed by City staff and will be evaluated on several factors including the service provider’s capability and experience, proposed methods to repair, schedule and availability of the repair, and pricing.
  • The City project team will select a service provider in early May from the proposals received. 

Utilities has proposed funding the replacement as part of a package of projects using the 2050 tax, which is a voter approved sales tax to fund climate-related initiatives in the community. Utilities have received initial support from City Council on using these funds and will be making a final determination in May through the Council process. Some portion of project costs may be paid from the Riverside Operations and Maintenance fund or other sources. 

SAVE THE DATE! We are hosting two events for Riverside Solar owners in mid-May. Our primary goals for these events are to provide you with details about the replacement project’s plans, financing, and construction timeline, address your questions, and listen to any concerns you have. We will present the same information at each meeting, so if you are interested, please choose one of the following to attend: 

  • Afternoon meeting on May 13 (noon – 1:30 p.m.) at the Senior Center located at 1200 Raintree Dr., Fort Collins, CO 80526. An RSVP will be emailed to the Riverside Community Solar owners soon.
  • Evening meeting on May 15 (6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.) location TBD. An RSVP, with the confirmed location, will be emailed to the Riverside Community Solar owners soon.

We will also have a pre-recorded slideshow version available online, but we encourage those who want to provide input or present questions to attend in person since there is no feedback channel in the pre-recorded option.

Further details about the meetings, including a sign-up link, will be coming to owners via email and postcard. 

We encourage you to review previous updates and Frequently Asked Questions below. If you have any additional questions, feel free to email: RiversideSolar@fcgov.com.  

Our Request for Proposals (RFP) for the inverter replacement project is being processed by our Purchasing Department and is expected to be posted within the coming weeks. Once the proposals are received, we will host a meeting with Riverside owners to discuss the project's financing, plans, vendors and construction timeline. We will provide the details for that meeting through email and here on our website.

Next week, Council Finance Committee will review the proposed funding source; if approved, it will be reviewed by City Council in a work session on April 9.

If you have questions and want to reach out to our team, please email RiversideSolar@fcgov.com.

Utilities has started the process of finding a qualified contractor to make the necessary repairs. We are seeking professionals capable of both generating the design and completing the construction. This helps ensure the design work is done properly, and that the contractor(s) involved have proven experience in this type of repowering project work. This project will go through a solicitation process, so we expect to choose both a vendor and design from the submitted proposals in April. At that point, we will provide another update on the selected design and timeframe of the installation.

Ensuring the long-term success of this project and avoiding production disruptions in the future are top priorities for this repair. To achieve this, the parameters of the project we are asking the contractor to meet are as follows:

  • Complete the replacement as soon as possible.
  • Minimize inverter life cycle costs over the next 15 years.
  • Minimize re-engineering requirements.
  • Maximize energy production.

During the due diligence research phase of this project, we learned about an industry trend: replacing large central inverters, such as this one, with multiple smaller string inverters. We expect some level of re-engineering may happen to modify the site infrastructure to accept new inverters with different voltage and ideal operating ranges. This approach helps reduce the single-point-of-failure risk for project operations. Additionally, smaller standard size inverters are easier to source with much shorter delivery timeframe.

The City is in the process of seeking City Council support for funding the redesign and repair of the site. Some portion of project costs may be paid from the Riverside Operations and Maintenance fund.

Thank you for your patience throughout the process of replacing the inverter. We understand this has caused hardships or frustrations for many of you and we are diligently working to get this equipment functioning again as soon as possible.  

If you have questions and want to reach out to our team, please email RiversideSolar@fcgov.com.

According to the inverter manufacturer, a repair requires remanufacturing critical parts, which they estimate could take between three to six months. Due to the cost, delays, and risk that a repair poses, Fort Collins Utilities is pursuing inverter replacement options instead.

The replacement process will also take time; we estimate about six months. But, right now, choosing to replace the inverter appears to offer a more reliable solution at a lower cost. Utilities plans to solicit replacement proposals through a public bidding process that will likely conclude in February.

Since the project began, panel owners have been contributing to its Operations & Maintenance fund to help pay for these sorts of costs as they arise. The cost to replace the inverter will likely exceed the amount in the account, so we need to find a way to pay for those expenses. We will revisit this with owners after we get more information on price and evaluate available options.

Shortly after we receive bids back, we plan to host an owner and beneficiary conversation with staff to present details on how we will resolve the issue and get the array working again.

an aerial view of Riverside Community Solar Project with rows of solar panels

We have been working with the manufacturer (Schneider Electric) to schedule qualified staff to repair the inverter and get energy flowing again. After they visit the site, we expect to get an estimate on when they can repair or replace the equipment.

Please know we are working diligently to get this project back online as soon as possible.

Sept. 8, 2023#

An issue with critical equipment at the Riverside Community Solar Project is preventing the site’s panels from generating and exporting solar power. Unfortunately, this means the bill credits were lower than usual on your September bill. 

Since the site’s inverter failed on Aug. 20, 2023, we have been working closely with our maintenance provider, Namaste Solar, and the inverter manufacturer, to troubleshoot and fix the problem. Right now, we don’t know the time frame to expect a resolution.  

When the Riverside Community Solar Project is not delivering energy to the grid, no credits are generated. Therefore, no credits are applied to your bill until after the inverter is operating again.

General Frequently Asked Questions#

If you're moving within Fort Collins, let us know so we can direct your credits to your new address or another preferred account.  

If you're moving outside of Fort Collins, you have two options. You may retain ownership of your panels and designate a beneficiary account to receive your monthly credits, or you may sell or donate your panels.    

Please notify the Community Solar program manager of the pending changes to your account 30 days before the move or closure of your electric account by email or phone: lkeller@fcgov.com or 970-221-6857. General account support is available at utilities@fcgov.com and 970-222-2900. 

Designating a beneficiary account means that you direct the monthly bill credit to another active electric utility account in Fort Collins, but you retain ownership of the panels and remain active in the Community Solar program. Simply notify the Community Solar program manager by email or phone: lkeller@fcgov.com or 970-221-6857. You'll need to provide the last 5 digits of the account number that you want to designate as your beneficiary, along with the customer name and contact information.  

You can sell or donate your solar panels at any time to someone with an active electric account in Fort Collins, according to eligibility criteria in the program rules. For details on program participation, the new customer should refer to the Community Solar website to review the customer agreement and program rules.

How you locate a buyer and set a transaction price is up to you. Utilities does not buy back panels in the project. We maintain a waiting list of people interested in the Riverside Community Solar Project whom we can contact on your behalf with a sale notice. 

Notify the Community Solar program manager of your intent by email or phone: lkeller@fcgov.com or 970-221-6857. Once you have a buyer for your share of the project, you must contact Utilities with their contact information (name, address) so that we can verify their eligibility to participate in the program. We will verify eligibility and notify you with a confirmation to proceed with the sale or transfer.

Yes. Although this was uncertain in 2020, the Fort Collins general municipal insurance policy does provide coverage, including panels owned by customers, against all losses. The policy does not cover any lost earnings from solar production if the project is damaged or destroyed. 

We manage the project on behalf of the participating customer-owners to keep the project in good working condition. We provide monitoring and maintenance services that mirror industry standards to track the site's performance, repair or replace equipment as needed, and plan for equipment failures or retirement. All operations and maintenance costs are paid for by the Operations and Maintenance Fund, which is funded by a portion of the monthly earnings of the project. 

Including both rooftop and Community Solar, you can benefit from a total of either 12 kilowatts-Direct Current (DC) or a combined total of generation that produces no more than 200% of your average annual energy load (based on a 24-month period), whichever is more beneficial to you. Again, the sizing includes all dedicated generation sources that benefit your electric account.

For solar systems that are not owned by the property owner, such as leased systems, maximum solar system sizing is limited to 120% of intended renewable energy offset or 7.2 kilowatts-DC, including all sources of generation. 

Battery storage sizing is not constrained by this policy.  

Similar to owning a solar array on your own property, owning Community Solar panels exposes you to the risks of equipment failure and loss of production. This includes the possibility that some portion of the array or all of the array may be out of service for some duration of time. While solar panels are generally known to be durable and capable of producing energy for decades, the inverter(s) and other equipment at the site may fail or need to be replaced over time so that energy generated by the solar array can be delivered to the grid. Collectively, the owners of panels at the Project bear these risks and the financial liability of paying for operating costs, maintenance and the ultimate decommissioning of the project at the end of its useful life.

As the project's manager and owner, Utilities maintains the Operations and Maintenance Fund to help cover these costs. However, there is no way to mitigate the risk of the lost value of generation when the project is not operating at its full potential.  

The City of Fort Collins holds an insurance policy that covers potential damage to all assets, including customer-owned solar panels. This lowers risk to the City and customer-owners, but does not completely absorb all risk of physical damage.  

Finally, rate structures and the rates for both electric service and energy returned to the grid from the project will change over the course of time, in accordance with City Code subject to approval by City Council.  

Please email riversidesolar@fcgov.com.

Riverside Owner Meeting Frequently Asked Questions#

The large, central inverter of the solar array failed on Aug. 20, 2023. This piece of equipment is critical for converting direct current (DC) electricity generated by the panels into alternating current (AC), which flows to the grid. The solar array cannot function without an operational inverter. 

Several elements caused delays in the inverter replacement. First, we pursued a warranty claim with the manufacturer to diagnose and repair the inverter, which took several months. Unfortunately, it became clear that repairing the inverter was not going to be covered under warranty and was not a long-term solution. We have since pursued replacement as a more viable solution.

Other factors that added to the timeline include:

  • System design: the central inverter at Riverside Solar, though standard design at the time of construction, is very large and represents a single point of failure. 
  • Cost: the cost to repair the system is expensive so various funding options had to be explored and those options must be approved through our City Council process. 
  • Manufacturing: this inverter is a piece of equipment that is no longer manufactured at the existing size. Technology advances have prioritized manufacturing smaller inverters. 
  • Availability: there are supply chain issues. 
  • Specializations required: a contractor with specialized skills and knowledge must perform this custom repair.  
  • Bidding process: we must go through the City of Fort Collins’ purchasing and bidding process when selecting contractors to repair the inverter.  

Once funding is appropriated and a contractor agreement is signed, the inverter replacement will be designed, failed equipment will be removed, and replacement work will begin. 

Engineering, procurement, construction, inspections, and close out could last up to 7-8 months. We are hopeful that the schedule is conservative, and activation may happen sooner. We will continue to update panel owners as the engineering process continues.

Clean Energy Collective was the original developer, owner, and operator of this project. However, in August 2020 Clean Energy Collective went bankrupt. To ensure Riverside owners were able to continue benefiting from the array, the City took responsibility for the assets. Until this inverter failure, no major challenges or failures had occurred. 

The contract states the City is responsible for: 

  • Operation and maintenance of the array 
  • Distributing bill credits 
  • Customer service (answering questions, assisting with account changes, and supporting customers when selling or buying panels) 
  • Maintaining the web portal at fcgov.com/community-solar which includes data generation illustrations and financial performance

The City does not own the solar panels; individual Riverside owners own them.

The City provides monitoring and maintenance services that mirror industry standards which consist of tracking site performance, repairing or replacing equipment as needed, and planning for project continuity. The City also conducts financial planning for the Operations and Maintenance fund (O&M fund).  

Despite following industry standards in maintenance, the site experienced an inverter failure. We are not clear on the maintenance schedule that Clean Energy Collective adhered to while under its ownership.

The City’s operations and maintenance contractor conducts thorough annual reviews of equipment condition at Riverside, making repairs or replacing equipment as needed.

Solar panel owners have a financial stake in the project. Participating owners receive utility bill credits for energy produced by the panels during the prior calendar month. 

All equipment has a finite lifespan before it needs to be repaired or replaced. The City of Fort Collins provides preventative maintenance to extend the useful life of equipment, however, risk of equipment failure always exists.  

The risks to panel owners are similar to the risks of owning panels at your home. If equipment fails, loss of energy production and bill credits occurs until equipment can be repaired or replaced. 

To reduce the risk of out-of-pocket expenses, the City maintains the O&M fund. The O&M fund is specifically for managing operations and maintenance expenses associated with the array and cannot be used to pay bill credits for owners when the site is not operating. The City has discretion to change the percentage of the O&M withholding to ensure the fund maintains a balance that supports its purpose. 

This fund pays for typical annual expenses including maintenance, testing, and data monitoring services. Aging or failed equipment must also get replaced as needed. Some examples of maintenance include when the City of Fort Collins replaced fuses, fuse holders, and other electrical equipment that showed signs of degradation or premature failure. Landscape maintenance and other elements of site security are also within the scope of the O&M fund. As of May 2024, the O&M fund has a balance of $59,675. The City anticipates using a portion of the O&M fund to cover the cost of the replacement. A portion (currently 9.38%) of the project’s monthly earnings is deposited to sustain the O&M fund.  

The contractually responsible parties are the panel owners. This can be paid for with the O&M fund, and if the O&M fund is insufficient, the panel owners are responsible to cover the difference.  

However, the City of Fort Collins is seeking funding to supplement the cost of replacing the inverter to reduce the financial burden on panel owners and get the panels generating energy again as soon as possible. City Council is considering funding repairs through the voter approved 2050 tax, which is a 0.5% Sales & Use Tax increase dedicated to Parks, Recreation, Transit and Climate. The expected timeline for City Council to complete its consideration process is the end of May. 

The City will not reimburse owners for lost generation as described in the customer agreement. Energy credits are provided for generation pushed to the distribution grid, and without that generation, the City is unable to provide bill credits. 

Please email riversidesolar@fcgov.com

You can also follow updates on this webpage.

How to Read Your Bill#

In ground solar panels

Click the button below to view a sample bill and find out where your bill credits appear.

View a Sample Bill

Ownership Transfer of the Riverside Community Solar Project#

Utilities acquired Clean Energy Collective’s assets in the Riverside Community Solar Project Aug. 28, 2020. Utilities continues to credit customer bills according to the current Community Solar Time-of-Day pricing. Since the transfer, Utilities has provided all customer service, and operations and maintenance of the array.

Existing solar panel owners must sign a new Continuing Customer Agreement with Utilities before Dec. 31, 2020, in order to continue to receive bill credits and remain in the Community Solar Program.

Participants will be contacted by email and U.S. mail regarding details of updating their agreement. See the Continuing Customer Agreement, as well as the Riverside Community Solar Program Rules for details.


Did You Know?

Turning off lights and appliances when not in use saves energy

Replacing old windows with double-pane, low-e windows, can bring down your Utilities bill.

Taking advantage of daylight from windows and skylights can save energy.