Considering solar? Contact your electric co-op first

With residential solar being installed and electrically interconnected with electric providers, your electric cooperative should top your list of project contacts when considering such a purchase.

Illinois’ electric cooperatives are well-versed in both the pros and cons of solar installations. They can help you make an informed decision and navigate the interconnection process (to connect your system to the electric grid). Your electric cooperative likely has a specific process by which planned solar arrays are approved prior to installation and inspected afterward.

Is solar worth the investment?

For homeowners, solar installations are considered an investment. As with any investment, you need a clear understanding of your final costs, the annual energy production to be expected along with its corresponding value, and the ability to determine how long it will take before you achieve a return.

Many solar installers provide quotes using national averages for energy prices to calculate your annual savings. These calculations can be wildly inaccurate as energy prices range considerably across the country. The assumption for increases in energy prices over the lifespan of your solar array can’t be ignored but is often calculated at a rate that is higher than that experienced over the last 15-30 years.

Finding the right location

To successfully install solar, you must first overcome location obstacles. Choosing an unobstructed, sunny location to install solar panels on your property is important, as is the choice between a roof or ground-mounted system. The cost for roof installations can vary with different roof designs, just as the location of a ground-mounted array can vary based on soil types and the distance an array is from the interconnection site.

Consider energy goals

Your home’s average energy use will be reflected in your bills from the previous year, and remember, certain factors may change your use over time. For instance, a growing family will use more energy, but the departure of college-age children would reduce energy consumption. Careful consideration and addressing the energy efficiency of your home may reduce the size of the solar array you will need. Many electric co-ops offer energy audits to help identify opportunities for savings.

Do your research

Selecting a professional installer, the right system and solar warranties are equally crucial considerations. The solar panel and inverter manufacturer usually provides a guarantee of 20 to 25 years for the panels and five to 25 years for inverters. Moreover, installers may provide a labor warranty.

Installing solar is a major decision. You need a reputable energy partner to help you decide. Remember to contact your electric cooperative first. They’re ready to answer your questions and help you make an informed decision.