Going Solar at Home, the Next Steps...

Photos: Harry Strharsky

Late last year I wrote a blog post on how to go about researching and determining your needs to offset your electric utility bill by selecting and installing clean, renewable energy, rooftop solar panels on your home. https://10001ways.com/post/going-solar-step-by-step

Today I will be relating a cautionary tale about what happens after you sign a contract.

On November 4, 2020 I signed an agreement for a 4.251 kW system that would deliver 6,708 kWh annually to meet 100% of our electric needs with thirteen 327-watt Sunpower solar panels. It met my cash flow break-even goal of less than 10 years after rebates and other incentives. After researching business reputations and customer reviews online I selected the proposal from Freedom Solar, a regional sales, installation and warranty company doing business in Colorado and Texas.

The very next day I received a Welcome email from Customer Support and Scheduling detailing “The Next Steps to Your Solar Project.” These included: 1) Site Assessment & Design (2-3 Weeks), 2) Permits & Approvals (2-4 Weeks), 3) Installation (1-3 Days), 4) Inspection ( 1-4 Weeks), 5) Activation & Closeout (2-3 Weeks). So far, so good, a clear and concise outline of what to expect with a reasonable timeline.

Within five days of signing the contract I had an appointment within a three-hour window for a site assessment. On November 9 it was snowing all morning in Fort Collins. During the first break in the action when the wind died down we were visited by a company engineer with a drone to take pictures of the surface of our roof from every angle and to personally peek into the crawl space above our ranch home ceiling. The following day I received our first invoice for project initiation. It was promptly paid.

After not hearing anything for the next 10 days, I made an email inquiry as to the status of our solar project. I was told we were #20 in their queue. “At this time, we expect your installation to take place in Mid-Late December.” I then made arrangements for Freedom Solar to apply for approval from the Architecture Committee of our Home Owners Association (HOA) and I also signed a Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Solar Purchase Disclosure. Then, once more, silence.

By the start of the second week of December I started to worry that without an install date and the holidays soon approaching I would lose my 26% federal solar credit set to expire at the end-of-the-year and be lowered to 22% for 2021. So after five weeks I again inquired about the status of our project. I was told that “the final design plan was completed on 11/25. There was a few days delay in submitting everything” for permitting. Turns out that the City Utilities Specialist said he did not receive the permit application materials until 12/8 and the last day to submit projects for the 2020 calendar was November 30th.

On December 17, I sent a scathing email declaring “I was not a happy camper” and thought that their project management was less than competent and “Who is going to make this right?” The balance of December and all through January was peppered with email apologies for my frustrations with their delays and attempts to make amends with a company rebate to cover the loss difference in the 2021 federal tax credit. I appreciated our Energy Consultant’s attempt to make us whole, as originally proposed and urged them to move forward.