Contact Usfacebook

 

FAQs about UCS

Have questions about U Community Solar? Read on to see answers to our most frequently asked questions.  You can also review frequently asked questions about solar technology.  Don't see the answer to your question? Contact us!

About U Community Solar

U Community Solar is part of a larger campaign to help University of Utah communities access electricity generated from renewable sources.
 
U Community Solar provides:
 
  • A substantial discount for residential solar installations, made possible by the University facilitation of a supplier discount for members of the U campus community.
  • Simplified and streamlined solar installation process: Installing solar through U Community Solar is streamlined and simple. U Community Solar does the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to. As a participant, you will have access to information and a community network to guide you through the solar process without hassle.
  • Pre-screened installer: The University selected a solar installer for participation in the discount program based on quality and price and locked in discounts for members of the campus community in Salt Lake, Summit, and Davis Counties.

The barriers to installing residential PV solar include upfront cost, uncertainty about installers and the sales process, and lack of familiarity with solar technology. Community Solar projects have helped homeowners overcome the financial and logistical barriers to installing solar energy systems. UCS not only offers a substantial upfront discount, but also educational workshops, expert solar advice, a simplified and streamlined installation process, and a pre-screened installer that has been selected by the University for participation in UCS.
The Community Solar model for solar was first used during a 2009 project in Portland, Oregon called the Solarize Project. It was a partnership between several Southeast Portland neighborhoods and the Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Sustainability Program. From the 20-30 initially projected installations, the program grew to around 120 residential installations in just six months. The model has since been replicated city-wide. Learn more from the Solarize Guidebook.  Based on the success of this model in Portland and around the country, Utah Clean Energy, a local non-profit, supported a community–led project in Salt Lake County in 2012, and in 2013 Utah Clean Energy teamed up with Summit County and Park City to support Summit County citizens in the implementation of Summit Community Solar.  Collectively, homeowners have installed over 1/2 megawatt of solar through Community Solar projects in Utah.  Now, U Community Solar is an opportunity for members of the University of Utah campus community to team up and go solar together!
U Community Solar is brought to you by the University of Utah and Utah Clean Energy to make residential solar electricity a simple and affordable choice for members of the University of Utah campus community. 

  • The Associated Students of the University of Utah supports U Community Solar because it is an investment in new, local sources of renewable energy that will generate Renewable Energy Certificates for the University.
  • The University of Utah Sustainability Office Office is supporting U Community Solar.
  • Utah Clean Energy is a local non-profit, non-partisan public interest organization partnering to build the new clean energy economy. Utah Clean Energy has helped hundreds of homeowners install solar through Community Solar programs and offers technical expertise to guide you through the solar installation process.

The University of Utah Sustainability Office organized a committee to pre-screen and select a solar installer to offer a streamlined solar installation process and discount prices to members of the campus community.
Through U Community Solar, participants receive a substantial discount on the price for a typical installation. Participants also recieve access to expert information about solar, a simple and streamlined installation process, and a pre-screened installer. The University selected a solar installer for participation in the discount program based on quality and price and locked in discounts for members of the campus community in Salt Lake, Summit, and Davis Counties.
Any member of the University of Utah campus community living in Salt Lake, Summit, or Davis counties is eligible to participate in U Community Solar on a first-come, first-served basis.  Members of the campus community include faculty, staff, students, alumni, and campus guests.  You must own your own home and live in a grid-tied residence to participate in U Community Solar.  Contributions of Renewable Energy Certificates allow the ASUU to provide funding for U Community Solar.  If you participate in the Rocky Mountain Power Solar Incentive program, you will be contributing your RECs to Rocky Mountain Power.  Both programs are excellent opportunities to install solar, however if you plan to use the RMP Solar Incentive, installing solar through U Community Solar is highly discouraged.
U Community Solar installations will be completed on a first-come, first-served basis. The schedule for your installation will depend on how many people choose to sign a contract to go solar ahead of you; UCS and the installer will keep all participants informed about the estimated timeline for installations. All installations are expected to be complete by March 2017. The installation itself will take 1-3 days for a typical system.
The following panel and inverter combinations were available through U Community Solar. Learn more about the discount pricing.

Option

 Module

Inverter

Price
(per watt)*
Monitoring
Price
(one-time, flat fee)

A

Suniva Suniva Optimus 295 Watt, Black on Black Enphase S280

$2.76

Enphase Envoy S Standard*

$485

B

LG all black LG NeON2 300 Watt, Black on Black Enphase S280

$2.92

Enphase Envoy S Standard*

$485

C

 LG black on white LG NeON2 315 Watt, Black on White Enphase S280

$2.92

Enphase Envoy S Standard*

$485
*Enphase Envoy S Metered option is also available at a one-time flat fee of $650.  The Envoy S Metered included consumption monitoring and is storage-ready. Learn more from Enphase Energy.

The U Community Solar pricing is for a complete solar installation, including the hardware and labor.  It is not possible to purchase solar equipment and hardware independent of the installation services through U Community Solar.
Some commercial properties may be eligible.  Contact us for more information.

Unfortunately, if you have received a Rocky Mountain Power Solar Incentive, you are discouraged from using that incentive to install solar through this program.  If you are participating in the Solar Incentive Program, your Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) will be credited to Rocky Mountain Power.  The Associated Students of the University of Utah supports U Community Solar because it is an investment in new, local sources of renewable energy that will generate Renewable Energy Certificate contributions for the University.  RECs cannot be easily split between multiple entities.

Solar and Your Home

Solar PV works on just about any home, as long as the site gets enough solar potential. Solar PV can be integrated into most existing wiring systems. If the roof is shaded or not conducive to solar, solar PV can be installed on a ground mount system, on a pole mount system, or on a garage, shed or adjacent building. Solar can be mounted on almost any roof type. In most cases, solar will be feasible and the installer will help you to figure out the best solution for you and your energy goals.
 
Solar panels work best when they are installed facing south or west. If you have a large area of roof that faces either south or west and does not receive significant amounts of shading, your home is probably suitable for rooftop solar panels. East facing panels can sometimes outperform west facing ones, and your solar installer will let you know about all the options that are available to you. However, east facing systems may not be able to take advantage of state tax incentives.
 
Fire codes mandate that there is a minimum distance between solar panels and the edge of your roof for safety purposes--so you can not cover 100% of your roof space with solar panels. If you have a flat roof or a very steep roof, or you do not have optimal roof space due to shading issues, you will either need to mount the solar panels on an angled rack or use a ground- or pole- mounted system located on an auxiliary structure (like a garage), or in a sunny part of your yard. There may be some extra costs associated with these systems, and the UCS installer will let you know about those costs during your site visit. Most homes can accommodate rooftop solar installations, as long as you have some sunny, south- or west-facing roof space.
 
The first step to getting involved with community solar is to take the Solar Survey with a couple questions about your home.  If your home appears suitable, the UCS installer will conduct an on-site assessment of your home, provide you with an individualized quote, and help you determine whether or not solar PV makes sense for you.

If your roof is not suitable for solar, or your HOA does not allow rooftop solar, solar panels can also be mounted on a pole or on the ground in your yard. There is an extra fee to build the structure that ground- and pole-mount systems are installed on, but often ground- and pole-mount systems can be installed in optimal locations for sun exposure. Solar panels can also be installed on accessory structures, like a garage or a shed.

The size of your system will depend on your current electricity usage, your available usable roof space, your budget and financing options, and the percentage of your energy consumption you want to offset with solar. It is recommended that you first take steps to make your home as efficient as possible before (or in conjunction with) making your solar investment. Get some simple tips to help conserve energy and make your home more energy efficient.
 
To estimate the size or cost of your solar system, you should start by using your electricity bill to figure out how much electricity you use. Then you can use the Solar Simplified calculator (a project of Utah Clean Energy) to estimate what size solar system will work best for you.
 
Solar arrays can be sized for any sized home so there is really no ideal size. You don’t have to size the system to cover all of your electricity needs. Solar systems are modular which means you can start small and add more panels over time.


Once you have put solar panels on your roof, you will have to remove them in the event that you need to replace the roof. Panels can be temporarily removed, and re-installing the panels is less time intensive than the original installation, but there will be a cost to have a solar installer come to remove and replace the panels. If your roof is in need of replacement in the near future, it is often worth it to have the roof replaced before installing solar. Most solar panels are warrantied for 20 – 25 years, at least, and continue producing electricity long after their warrantied lifetimes, so by replacing your roof first you can avoid unnecessary costs down the road.

There are no moving parts in a standard rooftop solar panel, so there is not much that will break or malfunction under normal conditions. Solar panels should be sprayed down periodically (usually in the spring or summer) with warm water to prevent dust and pollen build-up (the thin film of dust blocks a little bit of light from hitting the panels, reducing the amount of electricity they make). Ensuring that your solar panels are free of debris will help them operate at their maximum potential. Large amounts of snow can block solar radiation to the panels as well, so if you live in a snowy area your winter production may be decreased if you aren't able to remove the snow. As solar panels are black and tilted at an angle, the snow will usually melt fairly quickly.
 

Solar panels can operate perfectly well in the winter, especially if you have good sun exposure and many sunny days a year. However, large amounts of snow can block solar radiation to the panel, so if you live in a snowy area your winter production may be decreased if you aren't able to remove the snow. As solar panels are black and tilted at an angle, the snow will usually melt fairly quickly. If you are able to safely access your roof, some people use a snow broom to remove snow from the panels. Removing snow from even a small portion of the panels can help the black panel absorb sunlight, warm up, and shed the rest of the show. The installer can recommend snow removal strategies based on where your system is located and how steep your roof is.
 
The vast majority of solar installations are "On-Grid" systems. These systems are installed on houses that are still connected to the power grid. Through net metering contracts with Rocky Mountain Power and other utilities, power flows to the house when the solar system is not producing as much electricity, and the panels feed extra electricity back into the grid when they are. In this way, excess generation in the summer can be used in the winter! Learn more about net metering.

As a low maintenance technology that decreases utility bills and has a positive effect on the environment, solar makes homes more desirable to buyers and increases the value of a home. The amount that a solar system increases a home’s value depends on many factors, including the size of the system (which affects the economic return the owner receives) and whether buyers in the market are educated on solar’s value and the ease of ownership. The overall market demand for homes with solar ultimately determines the increased value. 
 
This value has been quantified in a number of ways. A Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study that looked at data from California found that a solar system added between $3.90/Watt and $6.60/Watt to the home’s value—more than many solar systems cost to install to begin with! Clearly buyers in that market value the ease of a home that already has solar installed. Sandia National Laboratory has been working with home appraisers to determine how much a solar installation increases home value in markets around the country. They have developed a spreadsheet tool, called PV Value, which allows users to enter data about their home and solar installation and determine how much their system increases their home’s value. Another key element is educating realtors and appraisers about the value of solar and energy efficient construction so that they can in turn inform potential buyers as to the value these upgrades will give them. 

More Resources:

 
Homes that will be able to install solar by March 2017 are eligible to participate in U Community Solar.  You may not yet know some details about the home (for example, you will not know your annual energy usage), but fill out the survey to the best of your ability and you will be connected with the U Community Solar installer to discuss your situation.

Pricing & Financial Information

The University selected a solar installer for participation in the discount program based on quality and price and locked in discounts for members of the campus community in Salt Lake, Summit, and Davis Counties. Learn more about the discount solar pricing or sign up for the newsletter to receive updates as members of the University of Utah campus community go solar!  The size (and cost) of your system will depend on your current energy usage, your available usable roof space, your budget and financing options, and the percentage of your energy consumption you want to offset with solar. It is recommended that you first take steps to make your home as efficient as possible before (or in conjunction with) making your solar investment. Get some simple tips to help conserve energy and make your home more energy efficient.
 

To estimate the size or cost of your solar system, you should start by using your electricity bill to figure out how much electricity you use. Then you can use the Solar Simplified calculator (a project of Utah Clean Energy) to estimate what size solar system will work best for you.

Homeowners who install solar through U Community Solar will receive a discount price of approximately 25% off of the price for a typical installation. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the national average installed price for residential solar in the fourth quarter of 2015 was about $3.50 per watt. Your customized solar bid and final discount will depend on the size of your solar PV system, selected components, and your ability to take advantage of available incentives.
There are many financing options available to help defray the initial upfront costs of residential solar. You may also be interested in energy efficiency as an initial first step and a smart investment for your home (that will save you money and energy). Energy efficiency investments also help make your home more solar-ready, which means you may not need as large of a solar PV system to meet your energy needs. You can also inquire with your bank or credit union to see if there are financing options for renewable energy or home improvement projects that you can take advantage of.
After the installer conducts the on-site solar assessment, they will provide you with a customized solar bid based on the size of your solar project and any special circumstances your project may require. Your customized solar bid and final discount will depend on the size of your solar PV system, selected components, and your ability to take advantage of available incentives.  In some cases, homes may require additional installation components (at an additional cost). 
Solar financing can help lower your upfront cost and make rooftop solar even more affordable. Learn more about financing options for solar, and don't forget to check with your bank or credit union to see what residential solar financing options they may have available.

A state tax credit and a federal tax credit are available for solar PV.

  • U.S. Federal Tax Credit:

Tax Credit: 30% of equipment and installation cost with no upper limit

Expires: Declines to 26% on 1/1/2020; Declines to 22% on 1/1/2021; Expires 1/1/2022

Details: Existing homes & new construction qualify. Both principal residences and second homes qualify. Rentals do not qualify. Learn more >

  • Utah State Renewable Energy Systems Tax Credit:

    Tax Credit:
     25% of equipment and installation cost up to a maximum of $2,000

    Expires:
     No set expiration.

    Details: 
    Available for any house, condominium, apartment, or similar dwelling for a person or persons, but it does not include any vehicles such as motor homes, recreational vehicles, or house boats. Learn more >

Consult with a tax attorney regarding your eligibility for the aforementioned incentives.  U Community Solar makes no guarantees about the availability of incentives or participant ability to take advantage of the incentives.

No, as long as you own the residence, you are likely eligible for both tax credits.  However, please consult the information below and a tax attorney before making any tax-related decisions. U Community Solar does not guarantee eligibility nor the availability of any incentives to participants.
 
 
Read more about the Federal Tax Credit

U Community Solar is limited to people who are able to install solar on their property through a roof-mount or ground-mount system. Off-site, “solar collective” or "solar garden" models are beyond the scope of this campaign. Renters or individuals who do not own their property are not eligible to participate at this time.   

Don't see your question here? Please contact us.