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Customer-Owned Generation Q&A

Customer-Owned Generation Q&A

What are the components of a rooftop solar system?

There are many variables when it comes to the actual solar installation, but the main components of a typical system include:

  • Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Panels – Solar panels are what uses the energy from the sun to generate electricity. The panels are connected to a main inverter or multiple microinverters.
  • Inverter - Solar panels produce direct current (DC) power. An inverter converts the DC to alternating current (AC) so it can be used to power your home. Inverters connect to the circuit breaker panel, where power is supplied to your sockets and outlets.
  • Solar Array Mounting Racks - The mounts that secure the panels to your rooftop. Proper mounting is crucial to prevent roof damage and ensure stability, especially in extreme weather conditions.


Beyond equipment, what else is needed for a home solar system?

It depends on whether you’re connecting to a utility grid or going off-grid. Here are some additional components needed for each situation:

  • Net Meter - A specialized electric meter is necessary for a grid-connected system. This will enable you to receive incoming energy for backup purposes and to export surplus energy to the utility company for credit.
  • Batteries or Battery Pack - Used to store backup energy for times when the sun is not shining. This is optional if you get backup energy from the grid.
  • Backup Generator – For systems that are not tied to the utility grid, a generator will be needed to supply energy during periods of low solar output or high electricity use.

Is my roof right for solar?

OPPD has a Solar Calculator available to gauge if your home is a good fit and to provide a cost estimate. Solar panels can be installed on most roofs. Here are important factors in determining the cost, size and efficiency of your installation:

  • Direction: South-facing roofs are the most productive for solar, followed by west- and east-facing structures. North-facing roofs often are ruled out due to lack of direct sunlight.
  • Shade: Sun should hit your panels for five or more hours a day. It’s a problem if trees or other obstructions block the sun from shining on your roof.
  • Roof pitch: The ideal angle for solar panels is 30 degrees, but they can be installed on roofs ranging from zero to 45 degrees. Tilted racks are used to mount solar panels on flat roofs.
  • Size: The average amount of contiguous space needed for a residential solar installation is 500 square feet.
  • Roof type: Asphalt shingles or corrugated metal are the best surfaces for mounting rooftop solar systems. Installation on slate or tile is more complex and expensive, and wood shingles are sometimes ruled out due to the fire hazard.
  • Roof age: If your roof needs to be replaced within the next five years, you should consider doing it before installing solar panels. Removing and reinstalling solar panels in order to replace the roof is more expensive.

Are there different types of rooftop solar panels?

There are three major types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline (also known as mulit-crystalline), and thin-film. Nearly all solar panels are made of crystalline silicon and have a life expectancy of approximately 25 years.

Monocrystalline panels are made from top-grade silicon and have the highest efficiency rate (15-20%), perform well in low-light conditions, are space-efficient and are the most durable. While monocrystalline panels are more expensive than other options. They usually come with a 25-year warranty.

Polycrystalline panels (also known as multi-crystalline) are manufactured using a simpler, more cost-effective process. Made with less pure silicon, they have a lower efficiency rating than monocrystalline panels (13-16%) and require a larger installation with more surface coverage for equivalent performance.

Thin-film solar panels are made cheaper than crystalline-based solar panels. However, their lower efficiency rating (13-14%) means you will need significantly more coverage space to achieve similar energy production. Thin-film panels also tend to degrade faster than their counterparts and have shorter warranties as a result.


How many solar panels will I need?

OPPD has a Solar Calculator available to help determine how large of a system you may need based on your average energy usage and other important factors. In short, a number of variables will help determine the size of your rooftop solar system. These include:

  • How many kilowatt-hours you use per month.
  • What percentage of power you want to offset with solar.
  • The efficiency rating of the solar photovoltaic panels you’re considering.

As a matter of comparison, the average residential solar system is five kilowatts (5 kW), which translates to approximately 20 high-efficiency solar panels.


Does OPPD allow customers to install batteries with their solar?

Yes, batteries are an acceptable form of COG. It is important to note that batteries are treated like any other form of generation (i.e. solar). Therefore, a physical disconnect is needed in the appropriate location to disconnect the generation from the grid in case of emergency. With many battery systems, this means that a physical disconnect must be added just after the electric meter to allow the entire house or building to be disconnected from the electric grid.


Will a rooftop solar system save me money?

Yes, but how much you’ll save and how quickly you’ll be able to offset the cost of your solar system depends on a variety of factors. Hours of daily sunlight, size and angle of your roof, solar panel efficiency, household energy use and your electricity rate all affect your bottom line. Check out OPPD’s Solar Calculator for an estimate of how much a solar installation might save you. This calculator will also come in handy when comparing contractor quotes for a solar photovoltaic system.


Are there operational costs for residential solar systems?

Solar panels require little maintenance, are very durable and have no moving parts to break down. Any damage that might occur should be covered by your solar system warranty. Nevertheless, there are some fees that will arise during the lifespan of your solar panels.

  • Inverters typically last about 10 years and cost between 10 and 20% of the total system price to replace.
  • Annual inspection of panels can be arranged through your contractor for approximately $150.
  • Cleaning of panels can be done by the owner or by a contractor for about $150.
  • Homeowner insurance premiums may go up slightly as a result of increased coverage needed to account for the cost of your solar system.

What solar rebates, tax credits and incentives are available?

There are federal renewable energy tax credits. Here are other perks that make purchasing a home solar system more attractive:

  • Net metering is a program that allows power company customers with solar systems to sell surplus energy back to the utility for credit on their electric bills. Nebraska utility companies like OPPD have strong net metering programs.
  • For 2020, the federal solar tax credit allows you to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy system from your federal taxes.
  • Zero-down, low-interest solar loans are becoming increasingly common. For instance, a fixed rate of 4% for 15 years can help maximize your solar savings and influence your decision to go solar.

Will a solar system increase the value of my home?

This is contingent upon a number of factors, such as whether the solar system is owned outright or leased, the age and condition of the roof and solar system, preferences of prospective purchasers and energy costs in the area.


If I rent a home or apartment, can I still get a system?

It's not likely. Most landlords will not allow you to place solar panels on their property. However, you may still support renewable energy by participating in other renewable programs such as Community Solar or Green Power.


Do I need approval from my homeowners' association?

Some homeowners' associations have rules regarding the installation of anything on your roof or grounds. If you belong to a homeowners' association, consult your covenants for details.


Do I need permission from OPPD to connect my solar system to the grid?

Yes. OPPD has rules and procedures that must be followed to connect any customer-owned generation to the grid safely and legally. Your system must meet all standards specified in the OPPD Customer-Owned Generation Manual to ensure safe and reliable service, as well as for the safety of field personnel that maintain the electric grid.


How do I request access to the online system in order to submit a Customer-Owned Generation Application?

If you are a new solar installer contractor, or a customer applying on behalf of their own project, please send an email to productsandservices@oppd.com to request access to the system. Include the following information in your email request:

First Name
Last Name
Phone Number
Company Name (if applicable)


Where can I find the OPPD meter number required for the application process?

Below are examples of meters showing the location of the meter number. 


How long will it take to get the net meter installed?

Once OPPD has been notified that your system installation is complete and passed electrical inspection, the witness test and net meter installation will be scheduled. Installation will typically be completed in 7 to 10 working days.


Does OPPD buy back excess power from me?

Yes, this process is called net metering. Net metering measures the difference between the electricity you purchase from OPPD, and the unused electricity produced by your generation system. Under net metering, excess electricity produced by your system is delivered back into the utility grid, effectively spinning your meter backwards. Your electric meter tracks the net difference as you generate electricity and take electricity from the utility grid. Your bill reflects the difference. You are credited for each kWh produced at the same rate you are charged. Any generation at the end of each billing period in excess of your consumption is purchased at OPPD’s Rate 483 and appears on your bill as a credit.


What is the difference between the OPPD net meter and my array’s solar meter?

The solar meter on your system measures how much energy the solar array generates. The OPPD net meter measures the energy taken from the grid, and the energy sent to the grid, netting the difference. That is why it is called a “net meter.” 


Why doesn't the kWh production on our bill match what is shown on the solar meter?

Below is a simple diagram of the power flows for a net-metered house with solar. It is important to note the two electric meters (OPPD and solar) do not measure the same electrical flows. The consumption of the house must be subtracted from the array’s generation before any power will flow to the grid. 


What is the $2.07 charge or credit on my OPPD bill?

The two scenarios shown below illustrate how this charge or credit is displayed on an electric bill. It depends on how much energy (kWh) a customer uses in a given billing period. Keep in mind, the credit is only active during the summer months (June 1 thru September 30). Find out more about how to read a Net Meter Bill.

Scenario 1

Monthly Service Charge: $30.00

Minimum Charge - kWh 0-99: $2.07
Total Service Charges: $32.07
(Not including taxes and fees)

Scenario 2

Monthly Service Charge: $30.00

Minimum Credit - kWh 100-400: (-$2.07)
Total Service Charges: $27.93
(Not including taxes and fees)


For net metering, why are the meter start and stop readings no longer on my bill?

OPPD's billing system does not allow for two separate meter reading breakdowns on the same service agreement. Due to this, only the monthly usage and push-back, or energy that is sent back to the grid, are shown.


Why do I still have an electric bill even though I installed a solar system?

If your home has a net meter, that means you are interconnected to the grid. You are interconnected because your house uses more energy than the solar system produces. You can use OPPD's Solar Calculator to learn more about the average solar production in the area.


How do I use the online interconnection application software?

Click here to view our online Application Guide.


What resources are available for information regarding trusted contractors?

Nebraskans for Solar has a directory that lists trusted local contractors for these types of projects. Click here for the directory. We recommend checking this resource as well as doing some personal research, like checking with the Better Business Bureau, to ensure the contractors are accredited. We also recommend requesting multiple bids.