Skip to main content

Solar Contractor Resources#

Contractor installing solar

Welcome to the contractor resources page. This site includes information on our Participating Solar Contractor Network, rebates, a link to our interconnection application portal, codes and standards, and more.

Monthly Contractor Orientations 

Fort Collins Utilities hosts monthly contractor orientations where you can learn about how solar works in Fort Collins, including our rebate programs, how to submit and manage interconnection applications and more. Contact us at solar-rebates@fcgov.com for an invitation to the orientation for you or others on your team.  

Participating Solar Contractor Network

Utilities' Residential Solar Rebate Program created the Participating Solar Contractors Network to ensure consistent positive customer experience and support their decision-making with complete proposals and pricing details in a consistent, industry-accepted format.  

Only active Participating Solar Contractors may submit solar PV projects for the Residential Solar Rebate Program. In order to be eligible, a project must be sold and installed by active Participating Solar Contractors. See the 'Join the Network' tab below if you're not already participating! 

Solar PV and solar thermal system installers must register as a specialized trade contractor with Building Services to install solar systems in Fort Collins. Building Services requires a building permit application for every solar and/or battery storage installation.   

Proposals and Contracts

At a minimum, the customer must receive these documents with both the initial and final proposals for a project:

  • SEIA Solar Purchase Disclosure or SEIA Solar Lease Disclosure
  • Residential Solar Fact Sheet
    • Utilities requires two customer confirmations to ensure they have read and understood the content early enough in the project to ask questions. PowerClerk provide several ways of posting two versions of the Residential Solar Fact Sheet if your company captures the signatures in different electronic signings. 

      Please capture the customer's first signature with the proposal presentation showing the signature date aligning with the date of delivering the proposal. Capture their second signature with the presentation or execution of contract. This version of the Residential Solar Fact Sheet can be signed independently or integrated into your contract signing electronically.

Solar Installation Project Resources

Battery-only Interconnection Approval Required

This type of project requires submitting a Distributed Energy Interconnection Application to Utilities in parallel with the Building Services General Alteration type permit. Please note that battery-only additions were previously an over-the-counter electrical permit but have recently been changed to a General Alteration Permit and require Utilities approval prior to installation.

Solar PV System Sizing

Residential solar PV system size is limited to either 12 kilowatts or to one that produces no more than 200% of the customer's average annual energy load (based on a 24-month period), including all dedicated generation sources. 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. 

For property owner-owned solar systems, solar PV system sizing is limited by the combination of program rules below. Utilities staff will approve the system size if either of the following conditions are met:

  • Intended renewable energy offset is less than 200%, or
  • System size is less than the allowable reference system size (currently 12 kW-DC, based on the residential customer class average annual electricity consumption)

While calculating the total amount of solar generation benefitting the customer in kW-DC is relatively easy, calculating the 200% limit in kWh is more complex for customers with an existing solar array. Utilities doesn’t typically calculate the maximum sizing unless the customer is seeking to exceed 12 kW. If the total size of the system is greater than allowable reference system size, and the intended energy offset is greater than 200%, the customer may submit an exception request documenting why the system is oversized (e.g., a newly purchased heat pump or electric vehicle). Utilities may approve exceptions related to electrification of customer loads or anticipated increases in use on a case-by-case basis.

Utilities uses the following formulas to establish an allowed solar expansion limit based on annual data:

  • Solar Self-Consumption (kWh) = (Total Solar Production) – (Energy Returned to the grid)
  • Total Energy Consumption (kWh) = (Solar Self-Consumption) + (Energy Delivered from the grid)
  • Max Solar Production Limit (kWh) = 200% * (Average Annual Energy Consumption)
  • Solar Addition Limit (kWh) = (Max Solar Production Limit) – (Total Annual Production of existing PV array)

*The time periods for solar production and metered energy consumption and returned should be aligned to calculate these values accurately. By selecting longer time periods of 1-2 years for analysis, the alignment between monthly inverter reporting and billing cycle dates are reduced to negligible variation. Utilities typically calculates Average Annual Energy Consumption based on 24 months of billed data.

For customers without a load history, if the home was built before 2020 and has gas heat, 3 kWh/square feet per year will be used to estimate the annual electricity consumption based on the total conditioned floor space (referencing Larimer County records).

Distributed Energy System Modeling

  • For the purpose of proper solar system sizing and modeling economic analysis, use the MyData platform to get detailed customer electric usage history data.
  • When modeling electric rates, the historic 10-year average for the residential class has shown an average rate increase of 3.45% per year. The forecast for rate increases between now and 2030 will likely be approximately 5% per year.
  • Credits for energy returned to the grid have historically followed changes in the energy charges, approximately 6 to 10% below that rate. A conservative estimate of the forecast for energy returned credit rate would be holding the credit rate as-is over the coming decade. Rate changes and structure can change over time following City Council approval.

Contractor Responsibilities

Utilities Incentives for Distributed Energy:

Limited-time incentive boost in 2024! Check out details here or here.

Incentives

BOOST period  (1/1/24 – 7/31/24)

Solar PV panels

$300/kW-DC, up to $1,500 maximum

Battery storage

$200/kWh capacity, up to $3,000 maximum

Both solar & battery storage included in any DE Interconnection and rebate application

$1,000

Adding generation or storage to an existing DE system

$500

Residential Solar Rebate Eligibility Requirements

  • Solar PV system owner must be a residential Fort Collins Utilities electric customer.
  • Solar PV Systems must be sold and installed by a Participating Solar Contractor (no subcontracting outside the Participating Solar Contractor Network). The PV system's designer is not required to be an active contractor in the network.
  • PV system must be sized greater than 500 watts. 
  • Systems must meet Utilities Interconnection Standards.
  • Equipment must be new and UL listed and named on the eligible equipment list.
  • If the system is shaded between 9 a.m.-3 p.m., the applicant must submit a shading analysis.
  • Customer agrees to manage trees and other potential shading sources to mitigate excess array shading from 9 a.m. to 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.

Project Requirements: 

Solar Modules Recycling Resources

Utilities recommends recycling solar panels rather than discarding them as trash. Guidance is available from the following organizations:

These are the basic steps to installing solar or other distributed energy resources: 

  1. Contractor completes the Utilities interconnection application. Installation work cannot begin without approval from Fort Collins Utilities.  
  2. Contractor obtains building permit from Building Services. Work cannot being without a paid permit.  
  3. Install solar PV system within six months of the date the rebate reservation is issued.
  4. Schedule and complete final building inspection through Building Services.  
  5. Notify Utilities through PowerClerk that the project passed final building inspection.
  6. Utilities tests system to validate proper system performance. 
  7. Rebate payment will be issued by check approximately six weeks after final Utilities system test. Residential solar and battery incentives are payable only to the electric account holder or real property owner, not the contractor.
    • For shared energy systems, the incentive still goes to the building owner or entity that's investing in the system. This would be the customer of record for the production meter. 

Tracking Your Application

Monitor your applications in PowerClerk from application through final Permission to Operate. 

Contractors and customers can use the Fort Collins Citizen Access Portal to track a building application with the Building Department using the site address.  

PowerClerk Training Resources 

See the linked slide deck or recorded training to learn how to use PowerClerk: 

Using a Loan?   

If your customer is obtaining solar financing using the Epic Loan, the process includes a few more steps:  

  1. Consider a home energy assessment through Epic Homes. 
  2. Customer selects the contractor. 
  3. Customer completes the Epic Loan application with fees. 
  4. Lender confirms customer eligibility and sends loan approval form to Utilities. 
  5. Lender notifies homeowner to contact the contractor with loan pre-approval and to submit solar application materials to Utilities (solar-rebates@fcgov.com).  
  6. Solar contractor submits all required interconnection documents to Utilities (solar-rebates@fcgov.com) and the building permit application to Building Services.  
  7. Utilities solar approver reviews project, issues rebate reservation letter and completes the loan approval form to send to Lender.  
  8. Contractor submits building permit application to Building Services (review fee required). Building Services will notify contractor when permit review is completed.  
  9. Lender notifies customer that project is approved, and contractor may begin. 
  10. Contractor picks up building permit and pays fees. 
  11. Construction occurs. 
  12. Contractor calls for building inspection.
  13. Building Services inspection is performed. 
  14. Utilities testing, inspection and PTO is issued. 
  15. Contractor submits Lien Waiver & Completion of Work affidavit to Lender along with final project invoice.  
  16. Lender sends final loan approval form to solar program approver with final invoice.  
  17. Solar approver completes final loan approval form and returns to Lender. 
  18. Lender closes loan with customer and releases loan proceeds to contractor / customer. 

Apply to Join the Network#

Residential solar PV contractors qualify to join the Participating Solar Contractors Network by agreeing to conduct their business as described in the Participating Solar Contractor Guide and in accordance with best practice guidelines outlined in the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Code of Business, and by adopting the use of standardized SEIA proposal disclosures.  

Get Registered as a Participating Solar Contractor

  1. Review the Participating Solar Contractor Guide
  2. Complete the Participating Solar Contractor Agreement
  3. Submit the signed Agreement with license information to solar-rebates@fcgov.com 
  4. Attend a Participating Solar Contractor Network orientation - sales and installation contractors will be required to have a manager (or similar role) attend the orientation in-person 
  5. Fort Collins Utilities also performs due diligence by way of customer satisfaction and reputation reviews

Contractors shall identify their business role(s) to Fort Collins Utilities by applying to participate in this Network as one or more of the following:   

  • Solar PV systems sales 
  • Solar PV system design  
  • Solar PV system installation 
  • Battery installation

Only customers who work with active Participating Solar Contractors for the sale and installation of their solar PV project are eligible for the Residential Solar Rebate. Subcontracting outside the Participating Solar Contractor Network is not allowed for projects receiving rebates or incentives. 

Contact us to arrange an orientation: 

Todd Musci, Program Specialist
tmusci@fcgov.com
970-224-6157  

Leland Keller, Energy Services Engineer  
lkeller@fcgov.com  
970-221-6857  

Participating Solar Contractors

Code Resources for Distributed Energy Projects

All solar photovoltaic (PV) and electrical energy storage systems (ESS) interconnected to the customer electric service panel are connected to the Fort Collins Utilities distribution system as parallel generation resources and therefore must comply with Utilities' Interconnection Standards.

Prior to initiating any construction activity, the customer or installation contractor must:

  1. Submit a completed Distributed Energy Interconnection application package and receive approval for interconnection from Utilities.
  2. Pay for and possess a building permit for the installation.

See Fort Collins Building Department Codes page for current codes enforced for solar PV and battery installations. Colorado adopted NEC 2023 in August 2023.

Systems with solar PV and/or batteries connected to a building’s electrical system (and thus the electric distribution grid) are required to have:

  • A manually operated, lockable, AC disconnect switch with a visual break must be readily accessible at all times by Utilities personnel on the outside of the building to allow all generation and storage elements of the DER system to be disconnected from the grid safely during maintenance or outage conditions. The disconnect(s) shall be located next to the Utilities' electric meter and rated for the voltage and fault current requirements of the DER system. A permanent engraved placard shall be applied to the meter with a site diagram if the AC disconnect is within sight and 10 feet from the meter. 
  • It is recommended that the disconnect be positioned so that it also serves to isolate any future installation of energy storage or electric vehicle charging equipment from the grid.

NEC 2023 requires:

  • Energy storage systems are required to have a readily accessible and lockable disconnect located within sight of the ESS, or as close as practicable.
  • For one and two-family dwellings ONLY, a disconnect which isolates the ESS or its remote control shall be located outside the building, grouped with the AC disconnect that isolates the house from the grid.

Placard Requirements:

Permanent placards are required by NEC 110, 480, 690 and 705, 706 and potentially other codes which may apply. NEC 2020 provides updates to placard requirements.

International Residential Code (2021), R328 addresses installation location, spacing, size, fire detection, documentation, listing and labeling in accordance with UL9540 and UL1741, ventilation of flammable gasses and protection from vehicle impact. (More detail here.)

Design Configurations

Acceptable system configurations have been outlined by Fort Collins Light and Power for five unique inverter connected DER configurations including storage:  

  1. AC-coupled with no backed up loads 
  2. DC-coupled with no backed up loads 
  3. AC-coupled with backed up loads, generation operable during backup 
  4. AC-coupled with backed up loads, generation not operable during backup 
  5. DC-coupled with backed up loads 

View Approved Storage System Designs

Using Meter Collar Equipment for Solar Interconnection

The ConnectDER (5.1) and Tesla Backup Switch are approved for use in Utilities' electric service territory on homes that have ring-type meter can assemblies. Newer homes have ringless meter cans, which are currently not approved for the implementation of these meter collars.

For customers with battery systems, use of a Tesla Backup Switch with a whole-home backup configuration locates the AC disconnect in the home electrical system such that opening the AC disconnect causes the battery system to isolate from home loads. Utilities staff will open the AC disconnect any time they need to work on the distribution grid in the immediate vicinity. This loss of service from the battery during a grid-down scenario can be unexpected and frustrating to customers.

This issue is not unique to Tesla project designs; system configurations with other equipment can be designed in a way that introduces the same concern.

Utilities recommends solar contractors educate their customers about the implications of design choices and incorporate the following authorization language into their project documentation for customer signatures and submit it with the DE Interconnection Application:

My solar contractor has explained to me, and I fully understand, that the system design proposed in this application uses a Tesla Backup Switch, or other meter socket-based equipment, instead of a separate Gateway or transfer switch.

While both of these equipment options function the same way under normal grid operating conditions, as well as during widespread outages, the battery system will be isolated from all loads in the building if the AC disconnect switch is opened (turned off). This would occur if the AC disconnect is opened for maintenance, an emergency, or for safety reasons so Fort Collins Utilities can repair a local portion of the electric distribution system.

Customer Signature & Date: ___________________________________

In November 2021, Utilities offered clarifying policy regarding customer notification about use of the Backup Switch meter collar equipment and educating customers about the potential implications of this electrical configuration to protect contractors from liability:

  • Solar contractors are not required to submit evidence of customer authorization in their interconnection application to use the Backup Switch in their home energy system.
  • If a solar contractor does submit a signed customer authorization, this protects the contractor from complaints by the customer about the functional performance of their system regarding the battery isolation from loads when the AC disconnect is opened.
  • If a solar contractor does not submit a signed customer authorization, the contractor will be held responsible for complaints from the customer about the functional performance of their system regarding the battery isolation from loads when the AC disconnect is opened.

Battery Installations in Garages

The International Residential Code (IRC 2021) Section R328 addresses installation location, spacing, size, fire detection, documentation, listing and labeling in accordance with UL9540 and UL1741, ventilation of flammable gasses and protection from vehicle impact. Fort Collins Building Services enforces this code.

Regarding the protection from impact from a vehicle, the code provides little clarity regarding what the impact zone is or how to mitigate it:

R328.8 Protection from Impact: ESS installed in a location subject to vehicle damage shall be protected by approved barriers.

Building Services has offered interpretation and guidance to contractors regarding designs complying with this code:  

Although the International Fire Code (IFC) is enforced by Poudre Fire Authority, not Building Services, the IFC Figure 1207.1.7.1 provides a helpful illustration of potential ESS locations, some of which need impact protection:

two car garage sketch to show where a solar battery can be installed - contact Building Services for information

There are obvious impact zone areas as shown that present a hazard and require approved barriers. The wall directly in front of vehicle parking would be an impact zone and would require the extra barrier for protection whereas a side wall of a garage (where we see the majority of ESS installed) would not be considered an impact zone. ESS manufacturer requirements may be more restrictive than what minimum code would require.


Did You Know?

Watering in the early morning or late evening when there's less wind reduces water loss.

Setting your refrigerator to recommended 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit and freezer to 0 degrees Fahrenheit helps save energy.

Ensuring heating registers aren't blocked by furniture, carpet, drapes can help your heating system perform better.