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Magic Valley EC News

Steps to Take Before Installing Solar

Don’t be in the dark when it comes to making your decision

Thinking of going solar? We’re here to help you ask the right questions and help you determine if going solar might be a good fit for you. As your electric cooperative, we want to be your source for energy and information. Since solar power generation is rapidly becoming more widely available, we put together some information to help answer questions you might have.

Did you know that as an MVEC member, you’re already using renewable energy? Solar power, wind energy, and other renewable energy sources account as part of our diverse fuel mix portfolio to meet our members’ energy needs. 

As prices decline and technology improves, installing a residential solar system—also called a photo-voltaic or PV system—makes sense for some consumers. However, even with the recent improvements in PV, it’s important to find out the facts before committing to a purchase. Consider these points as you explore whether solar is right for your situation.

Research, research, research, before investing in a solar system. Magic Valley should be one of your first contacts. Our energy advisors will be able to answer questions you may have, provide resource materials and direct you to reputable websites.

Understand how a solar system interconnects with MVEC’s system. Most solar systems are designed to provide you with a portion of the electricity required but may not provide 100 percent of your needs. At night, on cloudy days, and possibly during other high energy-use times, you’ll need more power than your solar system can produce. That means you’ll still be connected to MVEC’s power lines. Because these systems are grid-connected, energy can flow both ways. Each utility—including Magic Valley—sets appropriate policies and rates for connecting solar systems to our lines (the grid), and it is important to note that MVEC does not purchase any excess energy your system might produce. As you begin to explore solar systems, be sure you ask MVEC member service representatives about rate structures, interconnection requirements, essential safety precautions, and any other connection-related details.

Review your current energy use so you can determine what size solar system to install. MVEC’s member service representatives can help you review your past energy use, one relevant bit of information that will be useful is looking at how your energy use fluctuates throughout the year. Having that information will help you determine—with expert assistance—the size and type of system best suited to your situation.

Review upfront costs. It is important to note that Magic Valley does not sell, install, or maintain solar systems, so you will have to purchase or lease a system from a contractor who is not a part of the Cooperative. If you purchase a solar system, you will be the owner, and you’ll be responsible for the purchase price, as well as ongoing maintenance and repair costs. If leasing is the option you prefer, you will pay less initially, but you’ll likely have higher ongoing costs. In either case, it pays to spend time figuring out all of the expenses you’ll be responsible for during the life of the system. These may include: installation (in addition to the price of the system), interconnection costs, insurance, taxes, and possibly others, too. If you are leasing, ask contractors about the length of the term, if the contract is transferrable to a new homeowner should you sell your home, potential for price increases, as well as the same questions you’d ask if you were to purchase a solar system. 

Search for incentives, rebates and tax credits. Any financial incentives available will help reduce your investment costs. Opportunities vary by state and locale, and many have expiration dates. One database offering details is This site includes a clickable, interactive map, showing federal and state incentives, credits, exemptions, grants, loans, and rebates for residential and commercial/industrial projects. In addition, your contractor should have up-to-date details about incentives available where you live.

Accept short- and long-term responsibilities. If you purchase a solar system, you’ll need to meet the requirements of Magic Valley’s Interconnection Agreement. That includes paying any costs of connecting to the cooperative grid. After the interconnection requirements are met, and the safety and integrity of your system are approved, Magic Valley will take care of replacing your meter. And, as the owner of the system, you’ll be responsible for maintenance and system repairs. If you lease a system, your responsibilities will depend on the agreement you sign. Be sure you know and understand what your responsibilities are.

Follow all safety precautions. Most solar systems are grid-connected. Because of the two-way flow of electricity, excess energy your solar system collects during the daytime flows into your cooperative’s lines. This assumes you with the responsibility for the safety of Magic Valley’s field workers or others who may come in contact with a downed power line. Improper connection and maintenance of your system may endanger people and the reliability of the grid.

Choose a reputable contractor/installer. The easiest way to compare solar providers is to create a document that includes the details of each company, all on one page. Start creating a list of options acquired from website research, local or state Better Business Bureaus, renewable energy associations, your state energy office, your state Attorney General’s office, and any other local experts you can call on for assistance and advice. Contact at least a few of those contractors appearing on your list, especially if recommended by multiple state and local experts. Filter your list after asking many questions, checking out other installations the contractor has completed, comparing bids (get at least three), checking references, and thoroughly examining contracts. If possible, ask a contract specialist or lawyer to review the contract before signing. 

Maintain good records. Keep files on your pre-purchase research and pre-installation data provided by Magic Valley, as well as bids, contracts, inspection reports, maintenance records, and all other details you may need to refer to in the future. In addition, you’ll want to know about system performance, so set up a system to track and compare your actual system performance with predictions provided by the contractor/installer. 

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