Distributed generation basic questions
What is solar electricity?
Energy from the sun is captured and converted to electricity with photovoltaic cells. Using the sun as an energy source does not produce carbon dioxide emissions during generation.
How much would a distributed generation system cost?
Cost depends on a number of factors, such as design complexity, size of your system, system configuration, equipment options, and contractor expertise. Local distributed generation vendors or contractors can provide you with estimates or bids.
Here is a link to an example of the size of system a customer might require, which can help determine cost with a contractor.
What are the incentives?
There are federal tax incentives and possibly state incentives, depending on where you are installing your system.
Learn more about available incentives.
Will Avista pay me for what I generate?
If the customer has a Power Purchase Agreement with Avista, then Avista buys the power generated. If the customer takes part in the net metering program, Avista does not pay for the generation. However, the generation offsets your monthly usage.
Learn more about available incentives.
What equipment is needed?
The most common equipment would include DC-to-AC inverter, production meter, meter base, disconnect switch, and other accessories depending on what type of renewable generation is being installed. A contractor will be able to provide more equipment requirements for your specific system. A diagram of the necessary components for a solar generation system can be found here.
What electrical definitions do I need to understand?
There are many terms associated with installing renewable generation. We have provided a list of common terminology here.
What is net metering? What is a production meter?
Avista installs a "net meter" on a customer's property which will measure the difference between the amount of electricity supplied by Avista and the amount of electricity generated by the customer over the course of a month. A production meter is a separate meter used to measure the amount of generation from the customer's system. Avista will install the production meter using the meter base provided by the customer.
Learn more about net metering.
How many solar panels do I need for my house? How do I determine my current power usage?
The number of solar panels required depends on factors such as how much you want to generate and the space available for the solar panels. To find your current power usage, visit your My Account or find the information on your monthly energy bills. An example of sizing your system depending on your usage can be found here.
What happens when the electric power from Avista goes out?
Your generation system will not produce power in the event of an outage to your house or business. The inverter acts as a safety measure to prevent back feed to the Avista system until utility power is restored. It is important to note that current is still present on the generator side of the inverter, making the system still possibly dangerous. If you require uninterrupted service, then a battery backup or emergency generator is necessary.
What steps does Avista require to install a distributed generation system?
It is important that Avista be involved early in the process. A step-by-step process is defined here.
Should I hire a contractor or install the system myself?
Installing renewable generation is a complicated process, especially if you have no prior experience. An experienced contractor can help you avoid frustration, delays, and extra expenses.
Who sells and installs solar generation systems? How do I choose among solar generation system providers?
Avista does not sell or install solar generation systems or equipment. As the popularity of solar generation increases, so does the number of qualified installers in our area. Learn more about what questions we recommend you ask a potential contractor.
What permits are required?
Electrical and building permits are likely to be required for your installation. Check with your local building authority for assistance.
Where can I get further assistance?
Learn more about renewable generation topics and how to get started with Avista.