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The drop in price of solar panels has created fertile ground for do-it-yourself power generators. While it’s not widespread, we have seen an increase in electric systems being installed that have not been planned and installed by a certified installation company or with the coordination of the utility.

United Power will be actively looking for these systems and requiring that the installations meet all required permitting processes. To keep everyone safe, the cooperative is even prepared to disconnect service to members who are operating a system without proper permitting until all requirements are met. This is necessary to help keep all our members and our employees safe. While it looks simple to throw some panels up on the roof and hook them up, there are a lot of risks involved with the process – let’s look at some of them:

Installation of a solar photovoltaic system is like any other electric installation in your home – it can be dangerous if not installed correctly. Make a mistake and you can suffer an injury – nasty things like burns, falls and electric shocks. There is also the risk of a fire if the unit is poorly installed. Like any electrical work in your home, your homeowners insurance will want to know that the unit it properly installed before paying any claim for damage. Also, if the utility doesn’t know you’ve put the system in it poses a real risk to lineworkers during maintenance work or during outage restoration. Not having an appropriate inverter would make your system into a mini power plant, that wouldn’t shut down during a power outage. Your system could feed energy back onto a line and injure or kill a worker if the utility doesn’t know it’s in operation.

Solar installations are subject to federal, state and local permit requirements, along with an interconnect agreement with the utility. Just as you would need permits to complete work on a basement finish or bathroom remodel, a solar system requires multiple permits. The permitting process makes certain your system is installed correctly, meeting all the electrical and/or plumbing requirements for the state and local municipalities. Electricity production is a regulated industry, so you’re not legally allowed to connect your system to an existing grid without appropriate inspections. The interconnection agreement with the utility helps to clarify your relationship with the utility – it makes you eligible to apply for rebates and allows you to take advantage of United Power’s net metering program.

If you have a generating system that you installed without securing the necessary permits, or are operating without an interconnection agreement with United Power, we are looking for you. Give us a call at 303-659-0551 to find out how we can help you get your system in compliance, and help you avoid injuring or killing one of our United Power line workers or someone in your neighborhood.