Residential (Schedule 1) and small commercial (Schedule 7) customers may connect up to 25 kilowatts (kW) of generation. All other rate classes may connect up to 100 kW of generation. For projects over 100 kW refer to Generator Interconnection. Residential Time Of Day customers (Schedule 5) may not participate.
No. Idaho Power employees do not sell solar installations or any energy services door to door. Idaho Power employees may visit your home to perform maintenance or turn a meter on or off; however, those visits are preceded by a phone call, door hanger or other communication; and Idaho Power employees will arrive in a company vehicle that is clearly marked with Idaho Power’s logo. If someone claims to work for the company, ask to see their employee badge.
No. Idaho Power does not hire, contract, endorse or partner with any specific solar companies. Although Idaho Power works with customers to connect solar installations to the grid, we are not involved with the sale or installation.
No. According to Idaho Power’s current Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), we will not need additional generation resources until at least 2026. While the company supports renewable energy and customer choice, we are not asking customers to install solar panels to help us avoid an energy crisis.
Solar panels only produce energy in natural daylight. They do not produce energy at night, and production may be limited on cloudy days. Panels also are incapable of storing energy. Solar panels can be paired with storage systems or batteries, but that is at an additional cost to the customer.
The monthly electric bill for homeowners who install solar or wind may be lower because of the energy they receive from their system. But solar and other renewable generation systems can be a large investment, costing thousands — often tens of thousands — of dollars. So, while your electric bill may be lower each month, you won’t see a true return on your investment for years down the road. For example, if a Boise residential customer uses an average 952 kilowatt hours (kWh) a month and installs a 6-kW solar system, it could take 14 to 18 years to recover his or her initial investment in solar. Additionally, there are different payment options for solar, including paying cash upfront or financing plans that include interest. Typically, any time a large purchase requires making monthly payments, interest charges are included. Adding interest increases the total cost and length of time to recoup an investment.
Idaho has some of the lowest electricity prices in the nation, largely due to our clean, low-cost hydroelectric system. In states where electricity is expensive, an investment in solar on-site generation can have a quicker payback. In California, for example, solar install prices are only slightly higher than Idaho’s, but their electric utility prices are significantly higher. Therefore, residents of California who choose to install solar can start saving money in less than 10 years. Idaho Power customers enjoy lower electricity prices, which usually means a much longer period to recover an investment in solar.
Sources: Project Sunroof and PVWatts Calculator 1Find descriptions of simple savings and net present value under the question Why does Project Sunroof provide two different 20-year values? at idahopower.com/solar.
Investments for homes in San Jose and Boise with identical energy use
|San Jose, California||Boise, Idaho|
|Average monthly electric use:||500 kWh||500 kWh|
|Average monthly bill:||$125||$45|
|System size to offset nearly 100% of use:||3.75 kW||3.75 kW|
|System net cost after tax credit:||$12,400||$8,400|
|Simple Savings1 Calculation|
|Estimated break even point:||8 years||17 years|
|Total 20 year payback:||$21,200||$950|
|NET PRESENT VALUE1 CALCULATION|
|Estimated break even point:||10 years||Beyond 20 years|
|Total 20 year payback:||$10,500||-$1,700|
Sources: Project Sunroof and PVWatts Calculator 1Find descriptions of simple savings and net present value under the question Why does Project Sunroof provide two different 20-year values? at idahopower.com/solar.
Many factors can affect the payback, including the installed cost per watt of the system, system design and energy production, and tax credit eligibility. A system’s energy production depends on the technology used, how the system is configured, as well as environmental factors. Wind production is affected by location, turbine height, and obstacles that interrupt wind flow, such as nearby structures or trees. Solar production is affected by the direction and tilt of the panels and shade. Another factor is electricity price changes. Prices fluctuate slightly year-to-year due to inflation, fuel costs, and other factors. In 2018, Idaho Power customers experienced a decrease in electricity costs. Looking forward, Idaho Power’s most recent Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) report estimates that relative fuel prices will increase, on average, 1.3% per year over the next 18 years.
Generally, no. Having power when the grid is down generally requires battery backup. Inverters are the part of a typical solar system that convert DC power to usable AC power. The vast majority of inverters are grid-connected and work only if the electrical grid is functioning normally. If the grid experiences an outage, the inverters sense the abnormality and will stop interacting with the grid. This helps keep work crews safe and the grid stable. A small number of customers connect to the grid and have a battery backup. This allows them to use energy stored in the batteries while the power is out. Battery backup systems will add significant cost to the overall system.
Most homeowners with on-site generation connect to Idaho Power’s electrical grid to ensure reliable, consistent electricity. The wind doesn’t always blow. Solar panels only produce when the sun is out. Even then, the panels may not produce enough energy to meet the home’s energy needs at all times. The grid lets solar customers draw power at night when there is no sunshine, during a cloudy day, or any time they need more electricity than their system is generating. Also, most customers with on-site generation rely on the grid for the rush of power needed to start up large appliances like air conditioning units. Without the grid, the average solar or wind generation system can’t supply enough instantaneous power to turn on these large appliances. For these reasons, homeowners with on-site generation rely on Idaho Power’s electrical grid every hour of every day. The following graph shows a full day’s meter readings for a sample home with an on-site solar generation system connected to Idaho Power’s electric grid. One example is from August when the days are long and solar panels are at their peak generation. The other example is from January, when solar panels typically produce less than half the energy than they do in July and August because of the shorter days in winter. The red line indicates zero kilowatt-hours. The yellow shading shows the times that the home’s solar is generating more energy than the home is using. During this time, excess energy is delivered to the grid. The blue shading shows when the home needs more energy than solar can provide, and the home is drawing energy from the grid. *For simplicity, the chart shows a pure yellow color. However, the home may still rely on the grid even when solar is at its midday peak. For example, when a cloud goes by or a large appliance needs a boost, the grid is there to meet the home’s energy needs.
Currently, customers pay the same retail rates for power they use as Idaho Power’s standard service customers who don’t generate their own energy. However, the rules — including the current rate structure and interconnection requirements — are subject to change and do not represent a guarantee of future pricing.
Currently, customers who generate more electricity than they need in a month will receive an energy credit measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). The credit will carry forward to offset the customers’ energy needs in future months. Excess energy credits carry forward indefinitely until they are used. However, if service is disconnected, any remaining credits will be forfeited. A kilowatt-hour (kWh) is the unit Idaho Power uses to measure your electricity usage each month. Kilowatt-hour is the most commonly-used unit of measure showing the amount of electricity consumed over time.
Currently, solar photovoltaic (PV) is the most common choice for those who generate their own renewable energy. However, Idaho Power’s net metering and on-site generation tariffs allow customers to connect solar, wind, small-scale hydro and other renewable technologies. Learn more at idahopower.com/CustomerGeneration.
For a solar array, each kilowatt (kW) of solar photovoltaic generation capacity requires about 100 to 200 square feet of roof or ground area depending on the efficiency of the panels. For a wind turbine, the space depends on the type and height of the system installed. A general rule of thumb is the turbine generator should be 20 feet above the top of anything within 300 feet of the system. Turbines should be erected away from structures to minimize the risk of falling on buildings during strong winds. The minimum distance between turbines and structures is typically equal to the combined height of the tower and blades, known as the “fall distance.”
Before you decide on a size, consider taking advantage of Idaho Power’s energy efficiency programs to help lower your overall energy use. Reducing your energy needs may allow you to install a smaller system and save money, and is also your greenest option. Information can be found at idahopower.com/save. The size of the system depends on many factors including the type of technology, the available space and how much energy your home or business uses. Your monthly electric bill shows your usage for the past 12 months and can be accessed through My Account, Idaho Power’s online account portal at idahopower.com/MyAccount. For customers interested in solar, visit idahopower.com/solar for calculators to help estimate system size and costs.
The energy generated varies by the type of system and depends on such factors as technology, age, weather, location and directional orientation. Solar panels do not produce the same amount of power at all times of the year or all times of the day. They produce less in the winter due to weather and fewer hours of daylight. During the day, production will vary depending on the time of day, cloud cover and shading from nearby trees, roof pitches or other structures. PVWatts Calculator is an online tool developed by the federal government for estimating solar generation based on location, geographic weather patterns and system design. This tool is available at pvwatts.nrel.gov. According to PVWatts, one kilowatt of south-facing rooftop solar in southern Idaho will produce between 1,348 and 1,458 kWh per year. The average home in Idaho Power’s service area uses 11,400 kWh per year, so it would need a minimum of 8 kilowatts of solar to match nearly 100% of its electricity use for the year. To use PVWatts to determine the size system you would need, simply input your city, solar size in kilowatts (kW) and the calculator will estimate solar electricity generation by month and 12-month total. Compare the PVWatts estimate to your 12-month historical energy use, which you can find on My Account at idahopower.com/MyAccount. Tweak the kW in the calculator to find the size needed for your electricity use. If you decide to move forward with purchasing an on-site renewable generation system, a professional installer can help estimate a system’s monthly and annual solar generation. Be sure to compare the installer’s estimated solar generation with the information provided by PVWatts Calculator.
No. However, there are federal and state tax incentives and loan programs that can help with financing on-site renewable energy sources. Upfront cash payments will have a shorter payback period than financing with a loan. The Idaho Office of Energy and Mineral Resources has information on financing options at oemr.idaho.gov. For Oregon customers, visit the Oregon Energy Department at oregon.gov/energy. The Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy (DSIRE), funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, also lists incentives for renewable resources by state at dsireusa.org.
Connecting Your System
Plan your system. Decide the system size and equipment. A professional installer can help with this step. Use our Solar Checklist to help you through the process. Submit an Idaho Power Customer Generation Application and $100 fee. Applications are available at idahopower.com/customerGeneration or can be mailed upon request. Approved applications are valid for one year. Wait for approval to proceed from Idaho Power. We will review the application and check the infrastructure (lines, transformers, etc.) serving the property. We will let you know within 7 business days if you can proceed or if upgrades are needed. Upgrades are an additional expense, so we recommend completing this step before proceeding with your purchase. Build your system once you’ve received approval from Idaho Power and have secured any required building and electrical permits. Pass a state/city electrical inspection. Submit an Idaho Power System Verification Form certifying your system is complete and has passed all required inspections. Forms are available at idahopower.com/customerGeneration or can be mailed upon request. Once the System Verification Form is received, Idaho Power will conduct an on-site inspection to confirm compliance with our rules and in most cases, change the meter. Once the meter is changed, you may turn on your system and begin generating power.
Idaho Power customers can install solar or other renewable energy systems to offset their energy use. Systems that are connected to the grid are called “interconnected.” With an interconnected system, energy flows two ways between the electrical grid and your home. At times, the solar or renewable system will produce more energy than the home needs. At other times the home/business will need to draw electricity from Idaho Power.
Residential (Schedule 1) and small general service (Schedule 7) customers may connect up to 25 kW of generation. All other rate classes can connect up to 100 kW of generation. Residential Time Of Day customers (Schedule 5) may not participate. A Kilowatt is a unit of measure of the amount of electricity needed to operate given equipment. One kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts. Renewable generation systems like solar, are typically sized in watts or kilowatts.
Energy generated by a solar or renewable system is consumed by the home or business first, reducing the amount of energy purchased from Idaho Power. Any excess energy then flows through the meter to Idaho Power’s lines. The meter moves forward when the home or business needs more energy than the system is providing, and backward when the system is producing more than the home/business needs. Currently, the meter is read at the beginning and end of the month and the customer is billed based on the net use.
Solar, wind and other customer generation is an electrical source and must be designed with safety in mind. In general, we require a grid-tied inverter. Inverters with either the UL1741 or IEEE1547 listings meet Idaho Power’s requirements for interconnection. Inverters without these listings require additional testing. Idaho Power also requires an A/C disconnect switch on the customer’s side of the meter. The disconnect must be visible, accessible, and lockable using a standard padlock. Breakers do not meet these requirements. An overview of the interconnection requirements and a link to the rules as outlined in Schedule 72 Interconnections to Non-Utility Generation are available at idahopower.com/customerGeneration.
Aside from what you pay for your system and installation, Idaho Power requires a $100 fee to cover application processing, engineering review and on-site inspections. If the project requires upgrades to Idaho Power equipment, the applicant also must pay those costs.
You may install your system a little at a time; however, each expansion will require an application and a $100 fee, a new state/city electrical inspection, and an Idaho Power inspection.
Onsite renewable generation interconnected to Idaho Power’s electrical grid must comply with the rules for interconnection. These requirements ensure the safety of Idaho Power crews working in the area and to protect the reliability of the electrical grid for all customers. Customers with generation systems found to be interconnected without completing the Customer Generation application process will be asked to bring their system into compliance or risk being permanently disconnected from the electrical grid.
Excess Energy Credit Transfers
As a customer with on-site renewable generation, you may be eligible to transfer excess credits. Service agreements are eligible to receive credit transfers if they meet the criteria listed in Idaho Power’s Schedule 84, 6 or 8. These criteria include:
- Excess energy credits must be available.
- Service agreements must be held by the customer and be for the customer’s use.
- Service agreements must be on the same contiguous property and be served by the same primary feeder as the customer generation (i.e., on-site generation or net metering) service agreements.
- Transfers can only occur between Residential and Small General Service accounts (Schedules 1, 6, 7 and 8) or between Large Commercial, Industrial and Irrigation accounts (Schedules 9, 19, 24 and 84).
- If multiple service agreements are eligible for aggregation, excess credits must first be applied to eligible service agreements on the same rate schedule as the on-site generation/net metering service agreement. Remaining excess credits may then be applied to offset consumption at eligible service agreements on differing rate schedules in accordance with the criteria detailed above. For example, if the transfer is occurring from a Schedule 6 (Residential) service agreement to two eligible service agreements, one Schedule 1 (Residential) and the other Schedule 7 (Small General Service), you must transfer some portion of your credit to the Schedule 1 service agreement to be eligible to transfer a portion to the Schedule 7 service agreement.
Fill out the online Excess Energy Credit Transfer Request form. To complete the form, you will need a copy of your December 2019 bill. Requests must be received by Idaho Power no later than midnight, Mountain Standard Time, on Jan. 31, 2020, to be eligible for transfer in 2020.
Each year, Idaho Power notifies customers with on-site renewable generation of this opportunity. Although you may not currently have a credit or other eligible service agreement, your service needs may change. We want to ensure that all customers who may be eligible receive this information annually. If you do not meet the eligibility requirements, or do not wish to transfer any credits from your customer generation service agreement, no action is needed.
Excess Energy Credit Transfer Request forms must be received by Idaho Power by midnight, Mountain Standard Time, Jan. 31, 2020. After reviewing the eligibility of each request, Idaho Power will execute approved transfers no later than March 31, 2020. Between the time forms are submitted (January) and the transfers are executed (March), energy generation and consumption will continue to occur, impacting the available balance of excess energy credits. Because it is difficult to predict exact generation and energy use, Idaho Power cannot predict the exact credit balance that will be available at the time of transfer. Therefore, we ask for the percent of the available balance you would like transferred rather than a specific amount.
Click on the sample bill link on the online form to see an illustration of a bill and where this information can be found.
When you complete the Excess Energy Credit Transfer Request form, you have the opportunity to indicate the percentage of your credit you would like transferred to each eligible service agreement. If you would only like to transfer a portion of your credit, the percentage requested for transfer can total less than 100%. Excess energy credits that are not transferred will remain with the current service agreement.
If approved, we will email you to let you know. Also, you will see the transfer and transfer fees appear on your March bill statement. The transfer fee is $10 per transfer and will be applied to your customer generation service agreement. If Idaho Power determines one or more of the criteria identified in Schedule 84, 6 or 8 has not been met, you will receive notification by mail, email or phone that the request for transfer was denied.
The actual credit transfer will be stated on your March bill for both the customer generation service agreement and the service agreement receiving the transfer.
No. The rules only allow transfers one time per year and specify the Jan. 31 request deadline and transfer by March 31.
If the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) determines that the changes apply to existing customers, all kWh credits will be converted to a financial credit as of the customer’s January 2020 bill cycle. The financial credit will be calculated using a rate of 8.68¢ for residential customers taking service under Schedule 6 and 10.22¢ for small general service customers taking service under Schedule 8. This change would apply only to customers taking service under Schedules 6 and 8.
No. If the settlement proposal is approved by the IPUC, customers cannot receive a payout for accumulated credits; the financial credit can only be applied to your bill to offset energy charges and power cost adjustment charges.