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Is rooftop solar right for you?

You may have seen claims about rooftop solar that seem over the top. Can you really get paid to install panels? Will it truly get rid of your electric bill? Here’s a look at the nitty gritty before you make your decision.

How do you install rooftop solar?

Third-party solar contractors engineer, design and install solar panels on customers’ roofs.

Alliant Energy doesn’t endorse or recommend any installer. In choosing one, we encourage you to get multiple quotes, read reviews and talk to local electricians and customers. Be cautious of door-to-door sales, unsolicited phone calls, requests for verbal agreements, demands for cash or scare tactics. It’s a good idea to call the Better Business Bureau for more information about the companies you consider.

After you complete your assessment, should you choose to move forward and select an installer, they’ll drill mounts into your rafters, secure them with steel bolts and seal the surrounding area to prevent leaks. Then they’ll fasten the solar panel to the mount and connect the system to the electric supply. You’ll need to contact your utility to confirm the interconnection process.

The total process takes up to three months on average. You may be able to receive up to 30% of the total cost in tax credits.

What happens to the energy your rooftop panels generate?

Your electric meter tracks how much energy you pull from the grid to power your home. If you install panels, utilities will then allow for your meter to track the flow of electricity from your home to the grid.

Solar panels are considered behind the meter, meaning the energy you generate first powers your home. If you generate additional energy, it gets sent to the electric grid and you get bill credits. If your system doesn’t generate enough to cover all your use, you’ll pull energy from the grid and be billed as usual. A typical home needs between 17 and 21 solar panels to cover 100% of its electricity usage.

Formerly in Iowa and currently in Wisconsin, rooftop solar generation was tracked monthly and compared against your bill to determine your usage and credit. Because the demand for electricity and solar panel production fluctuates throughout the day, our inflow/outflow program in Iowa and proposed Power Partnership program in Wisconsin track excess energy use in smaller increments, such as every 15 minutes or every hour. This means you’re more fairly compensated for energy generated by your panels during times of high demand and receive a regular rate during times of low demand.

Alternatives to rooftop solar

If owning and maintaining solar panels isn’t for you or if your property isn’t conducive to solar panels, our Alliant Energy® Community Solar program might be a great option. Customers choose this option for a variety of reasons:

  • Your home is shaded by trees or other buildings.
  • The roof doesn’t have great southern-facing space.
  • The angle of your roof is too steep.
  • You simply don’t want panels on your roof.

We build, operate and maintain dedicated solar gardens for 20 years and offer customers the opportunity to purchase blocks. After participating customers cover the upfront cost, they receive credits on their energy bill for the life of the project, as if the energy was generated on their roof.

Calculations differ for each project, but typically bill credits will pay off the initial investment within 12 years. After that, all the credits customers receive for the remainder of the project life is essentially free energy.

Learn more about our community solar projects in development in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Janesville, Wisconsin. Also check out our Fond du Lac project that has been generating energy and bill credits for Wisconsin subscribers since early 2022.

Chris is a Communications Partner specializing in Alliant Energy’s renewable investments. Coming from a journalism background, he’s excited to tell the story of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint and other renewable trends in new and exciting ways.

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