Ask Matt - August 2019

Ask Matt - August 2019

This month we are printing multiple questions, all dealing with solar energy. Please remember to contact FreeState before purchasing or considering grid interconnected renewable energy. 

I have had some solar panels put up at my place and wondering why FreeState has not been out to change the meter yet?
We have determined that FreeState was unaware of your intention to interconnect a solar array with the electric grid. Please complete an application to seek approval for your solar array to be activated and connected.

What information is FreeState looking for on this application?
We are capturing information like who sold you the system, who is building the system, details of the system itself, and the specifications of the equipment. We also request specification sheets of the material, a line diagram (a kind of electricians blueprint), and a $325 application fee to ensure our time working on this is not paid for by other members.

The application process should begin with FreeState before purchasing your solar array. By doing so, we can review the system and make sure it is compatible with the section of line you want to interconnect with and that it meets our criteria regarding system size. However, most importantly, completing the application with FreeState first protects you because your system will be signed off on before you have purchased or built it. 

Why does Freestate need to know what I do on my property concerning solar? 
We only need to know what you are doing when it interconnects with the electric grid. At that point, your electric generation impacts the grid infrastructure that we maintain, and the electricity that flows to your neighbors’ homes and businesses. Most importantly, the safety of the lineworkers must be considered when pushing power onto the grid.

What other steps will I need to involve FreeState during the process? 
Once completed, a Certificate of Completion requires a qualified inspection assuring the system meets the electrical codes and is safe to activate. Then FreeState will come out, perform an inspection of our own and put in a new electric meter that will allow solar generation.

My solar array costs as much as a new car. In your experience, what sales tactics should I be aware of? 
The most concerning tactic is insisting you sign up or purchase their product the day they come out or meet with you. Most reputable installers will allow you the opportunity to think over a large purchase. Also, be wary of paperwork that details your payments to them but doesn’t provide any information about the actual product they are selling. 

There have been companies from outside our area whose salespeople do not have any information on who will be coming to your property to construct the system. Any promises that sound too good to be true probably are. If they tell you that you won’t have an electric bill, it’s not true. If you are connected to the grid, you’ll be billed. 

On a final note, solar has been a hot topic in Kansas, and it can be hard to know whom to trust. Remember that FreeState is your cooperative, and as a member-owner you are our priority. We know members are interested in renewable energy and technology, and that is why we constructed arrays at both of our offices in McLouth and Topeka.

We want you to be safe, we want our employees to be safe, and most of all we want to protect our members.

We want you to come to us and ask questions, and we want you to feel free to contact us to talk about taking that step toward your energy generation. 

There are some fantastic energy companies in our area that are reputable and do a great job from start to finish with their customers. Consider getting bids from multiple companies, and make sure there is some form of maintenance or help available if a problem arises. 

I would also recommend research. Know what you are buying, and educate yourself on different types of materials, sizes of arrays, warranties and what specific needs you have. 

If I were buying a new car, I would compare a few different makes and models, and if someone insisted I buy a car the first time I walked onto a lot, well, buyer beware