Residential Solar in Fort Collins#
Equipping your home with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels can reduce your carbon footprint and your electricity bill. Fort Collins Utilities offers resources to customers interested in generating their own renewable energy and for people who have solar installed. More than 2,400 residential customers have solar PV systems in Fort Collins, which provide more than 15 megawatts of generating capacity.
Fort Collins Utilities provides incentives to defray a portion of installation costs and guidance to help make sure each project is a success.
If you're interested in solar, we encourage you to take time to do your research. Check out the information in the tabs and links below.
Is Rooftop Solar a Fit for My House?
Google's Project Sunroof is a free tool to assess your roof's solar potential. Does your roof or installation site have uninterrupted sun from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.? Savings suggested by Project Sunroof are likely inaccurate because the method is not disclosed and not tied to current Fort Collins Utilities rates. Seek specific savings analysis from a Participating Solar Contractor to determine if solar is a fit for your home.
Consider also the age and condition of your roof. Removing a solar PV system to replace a roof can be expensive, so it is recommended to replace or upgrade an old roof before installing a solar system.
Your own personalized solar savings estimator, powered by Google Earth imagery. Approximate savings are based on national average rates, not Fort Collins Utilities rates.
Start with a Home Efficiency Audit from Efficiency Works. An audit will provide a full assessment of your home's efficiency level and recommendations to improve it, including costs of different measures. Investing in efficiency can provide less expensive improvements and better financial returns than purchasing solar generation to offset energy bills.
Fort Collins Utilities also offers the new Epic Certificate to showcase your investments in efficiency and solar, providing a way for the real estate market to value the energy and solar PV upgrades. For the Epic Certificate to accurately reflect the homes improvements and the estimated annual energy savings from the solar PV system, the required energy assessment must be performed before the solar installation.
Sizing Your Solar PV System
Solar PV system designers often choose a system size to meet a certain percentage of a household's annual energy consumption. Though a solar PV system provides a portion of the energy your household consumes over the course of a year, it will sometimes produce more than needed and will produce less than needed at other times (nighttime or cloudy days). Your home will stay connected to the Fort Collins Utilities electric grid so you have reliable electricity during these fluctuations. How you select the right size for your solar PV system will be a balance of your priorities:
- Total cost budget, monthly payments and cash flow
- Goals for offsetting energy from the grid
- Available sunny space on your roof or property
Solar PV system size is limited to producing no more than 120 percent of your average annual energy load (based on a 24-month period). If your home is new or you recently moved in, Fort Collins Utilities can provide a solar system size analysis based on other estimation methods. We also consider sizing adjustments upon request to account for significant changes to electric load, such as adding an electric vehicle.
You can share energy consumption history with solar contractors through the MyData platform or by sharing your bills.
When you're ready to consider proposals for solar at your home, be sure to work with a Participating Solar Contractor, so that you can access the Residential Solar Rebate. The listed contractors have completed orientation to understand how solar works with the rates, program incentives and codes that apply in Fort Collins. Contractors typically guide you in the installation process and manage submitting all required documentation for the solar interconnection and rebate.
Talk with solar contractors to understand their business and experience. You might ask:
- How long has your company been in business? Where is it based? How long have you been doing business in Fort Collins?
- If a contractor comes to solicit at your door, do they have a solicitor ID badge issued by the City of Fort Collins?
- Do you install the solar PV system yourself, or subcontract that work?
- Will your NABCEP-certified installers be present for the entire installation?
- Can you provide references from recent customers in the Fort Collins area?
- Do you provide a performance guarantee and warranty workmanship of the system? How long?
- How do you calculate what system will be the best for me?
- Is the price you provide a guaranteed total cost or is it just an estimate?
- Can you show me the financial impact of installing solar panels and explain your assumptions?
You can review the company's performance with the Better Business Bureau and check for reviews on social media for the experience of local customers.
To compare proposals from different vendors, consider that the different proposed designs may be different sizes and could be designed for different system lifespans. To compensate for these variables, compare the system costs in dollars ($), as well as the cost per kilowatt (kW) (divide the total cost by the size in DC-kW to get $/kW). The average cost of solar installations in Fort Collins has been between $3,500 to $4,000 per kW DC in recent years, excluding systems with battery storage.
When you compare proposals, consider:
- Warranties for the equipment, system workmanship
- Any guarantee of performance from the systems proposed
- Who is responsible to provide ongoing support for any maintenance, warranty, or repairs needed
- Solar leases can require payment in full if you sell the home, or they may be transferable (requiring the buyer to submit to the lease terms)
Don't be afraid to ask pointed questions if anything in the proposal is unclear.
What You Need to Know about Solar in Fort Collins
Review this simple Solar Fact Sheet to understand how adding a solar PV system would affect your Fort Collins Utilities energy bill. Customers with solar PV systems will not have electric power during a distribution grid outage affecting their service transformer. Customers may install a battery storage system designed to isolate from the grid during an outage to serve the home’s energy loads.
A Participating Solar Contractor will provide a copy of this Fact Sheet with their solar PV proposal.
What's the cost of installing solar in Fort Collins?
In recent years, the average cost of residential solar PV systems, without battery storage, has been in the range of $3,500 to $4,000 per kilowatt of DC generating capacity. For example, a 6 kW solar array might cost $21,000 to $24,000 before rebates and tax credits are applied. Systems may be more expensive if there are premium components, multiple subarrays, complex roof planes, maintenance services or extended warranties.
Energy Savings with Solar PV
When you generate solar power, this solar energy reduces or replaces the energy you would otherwise purchase from Fort Collins Utilities. When your solar array produces more than you need, that energy immediately flows back into the electric grid. You are credited for net energy returned to the grid based on the residential net metering energy rate in effect at that time. These net metering credits are added to your monthly utility bill, reducing the total amount due from energy and other charges for water, wastewater and stormwater.
What's the Payback On a Solar Investment?
By generating your own solar energy, you will reduce the energy consumed from the Fort Collins Utilities grid. The amount of energy you generate and the monthly bill impacts will vary throughout the year, with the greatest energy production near the summer solstice, and the lowest energy production near the winter solstice. Fort Collins Utilities and solar contractors use sophisticated computer models to estimate how much energy a model solar PV system can generate based on its location, local weather, the orientation of the array or multiple arrays, and other equipment specifications. To estimate the financial return of an investment in solar PV, these models also incorporate electric utility rates, and assumptions about how those rates may change over time, financing rates, and degradation in the efficiency of the solar array production.
Ask solar contractors for analysis of the financial benefits with their proposal.
Additional Research Resources
Homeowner's Guide to Going Solar - DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Federal Energy Tax Credits - Tax credit information (See IRS Forms 5695 & 3468)
Colorado Solar and Storage Association - Association of businesses and agencies supporting solar and battery storage development in Colorado
Energy Saver (Department of Energy) - Home energy efficiency and solar electric information
Solar Consumer Protection (IREC) - Information resources for solar consumers
Solar Customer Resource Portal (SEIA) - Information resources and smart consumer checklist
DSIRE - National Solar Database of programs and incentives
SunShot - US Dept. of Energy solar initiative
Fort Collins Utilities' recommends working with the members of the Participating Solar Contractor Network listed below. Contractors in the Network have committed to conduct their business according to a code of ethics and the Solar Energy Industries Association Solar Business Code.
Residential Solar Rebates are only available to customers who work with active Participating Solar Contractors through purchasing, design and installation of their solar PV system. Customers are encouraged to solicit competitive bids from two or more contractors. Use Utilities' MyData portal to share your energy history data with contractors that have registered for this service.
This list is updated periodically as contractors join or leave the network. Consult the Better Business Bureau and social media sites for additional consumer feedback.
Active Participating Solar Contractors
The Participating Solar Contractor Network and listed resources are intended as a starting point for customers who do not have a prior relationship with a service provider or vendor. No warranty regarding the accuracy of the information, experience, quality of service, licensure, or proof of insurance or bonding is implied by listing a contractor in the Network. Under the City of Fort Collins Charter, Municipal Code, and City Manager’s Policies, the City is unable to recommend or endorse any individual contractor, without regard to those listed in the Network.
Suspended Solar Contractors
The following contractors are not active in the Participating Solar Contractor Network but can be engaged to develop solar PV projects. Customers working with these contractors are not eligible for Residential Solar Rebates, battery incentives or Epic Loans.
- Auric Solar
- Bello Solar Energy
- Total Solar Solutions
Residential customers can apply to receive rebates up to $1,000 for a solar PV installation. Rebate amounts are calculated based on the schedule of $/Watt of DC system generation capacity shown below and include a 20-year Renewable Energy Credit (REC) assignment to Fort Collins Utilities. See Eligibility Requirements below for more details.
To ensure access to incentive funding to all eligible customers, we manage the solar rebate program incentive cap and earnings rate based on available funding. The table below shows the maximum incentive amount and incentive rate paid per kW of DC generating capacity installed.
Additional Incentives for Adding Battery Storage
Considering adding a battery to your home energy system? Customers with battery storage can store solar energy to offset on-peak energy consumption.
Solar Rebate Eligibility Requirements:
The actual incentive amount is calculated based on installed design and may be reduced due to modeled performance against optimal array orientation.
- Solar PV system owner must be a residential Fort Collins Utilities electric customer.
- Solar PV Systems must be sold, designed and installed by a Participating Solar Contractor (no subcontracting outside the Participating Solar Contractor Network).
- PV system must be sized greater than 500 watts and less than the capacity to provide 120 percent of average annual energy use over the previous 24 months.
- Systems must meet Utilities Interconnection Standards.
- Equipment must be new and UL listed and named on the eligible equipment list.
- The system cannot be shaded between 9 a.m.-3 p.m. If questionable, the applicant must submit shading analysis (check with your solar contractor).
- Customer agrees to manage trees and other potential shading sources to prevent shading from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
- Incentive rate may be reduced for systems generating less than 90% of optimal production.
- The system must be installed within six months of the rebate reservation letter.
Interconnection and Rebate Application
All distributed generation interconnection applications are made using the Distributed Energy Interconnect Application form, which incorporates incentives for solar, as well as battery installations.
- Solar Contractors submit the Distributed Energy Interconnection Application, along with supporting documents as outlined in the application.
- The customer sign to acknowledge Fort Collins Utilities' interconnection requirements and policies on the application signature page.
Tax Credits for Solar Investments
Solar electric systems (including battery storage charged by solar) are eligible for the 26% federal tax credit if placed in service before January 2023. The federal tax credit for residential installations declines to 22% on Jan. 1, 2023, before expiring at the close of 2023.
Customers may file IRS Form 5695 Residential Energy Credit for costs in the most recent calendar year related to solar PV installation, including batteries charged by the solar PV array. No forms or information are required from Fort Collins Utilities to complete this filing. Carryover costs from the prior year are also documented using this form.
Net Metering Bill Credits#
When you generate solar power, any energy you don't use immediately flows back into the electric grid. Fort Collins Utilities pays for the energy returned to the grid through net metering credits on your monthly utility bill based on current residential rates.
Your utilities bill only shows credits for the energy that you could not use in your home as it was produced. Only your solar production report from your solar inverter, or your solar provider, tracks all the energy your system produces. Your Fort Collins Utilities electric meter does not track that solar production; it only records the energy you purchase from the grid and the energy you return to the grid. Have a look at this infographic for more information.
Energy credits are allowed to offset other charges on the monthly utility bill. Accumulated bill credits can roll forward to the next month. Installing battery storage is the only way to bank solar energy in your home.
Local Solar Champions#
"Going solar, to us as a family, was very important... we feel like we’re 'walking the walk.' We also have an electric car and we can power our car with the sun from our roof which feels really good." - Christy M.
"With the City’s ambitious goal of being 100% carbon neutral by 2030 I wanted to do my part and what I could to help the community achieve that." - Abiah S.
Summary of Solar Process#
- Educate yourself! Read the 'Getting Started', 'Solar Resources' and 'FAQs' tabs above, for non-biased resources.
- Be aware of your financing options. Epic Loans are available for solar and battery storage, with attractive interest rates and payments applied to your Utilities bill.
- Contact at least two Participating Solar Contractors for project estimates.
- Select a contractor and sign a contract.
- Your solar contractor applies for incentives and permits. Customer must review and sign the Distributed Energy Interconnection Application. The same application is used regardless of whether or not a project is eligible for incentives.
- Solar contractor pays for building permit and installs your solar PV system.
- City of Fort Collins Building Services inspects for electrical code compliance.
- Fort Collins Utilities inspects equipment and tests functionality; solar PV system is turned on.
- Permission to Operate letter is sent to you.
- Generate solar power and earn credits!
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