What You Need to Know: Solar Energy, Fixed Costs, & Energy Credits

Considering solar energy for your home? Before you make that investment, it’s important to know how solar energy will work for you—from the purchasing process to its effect on your energy bills.

The energy experts at Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative (GCEC) are available to help at (800) 568-3667. In the meantime, here is what you need to know about residential solar installations.

Calculate your Return on Investment Before you Buy

Before purchasing a solar system, contact GCEC for assistance in calculating your potential savings. Solar contractors often use regional or national electric rates when calculating your potential savings. Our energy experts can provide you with our information to help you make an informed decision.

Consider Intermittency & Infrastructure

Solar energy can only be generated when weather conditions permit. At night and on cloudy days, for example, solar panels cannot produce electricity. Solar panels are also not reliable during peak periods—such as cold winter mornings before the sun comes up—when most people require the greatest amount of power.

Members who generate only a portion of their own energy needs with solar panels will still need to buy energy from Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative.

Because of solar’s limitations, GCEC must rely on other generating sources— such as natural gas, coal, nuclear and hydro—to meet energy demands 24/7 year-round.

Understand Fixed Costs

Because each member has access to the infrastructure that delivers electricity— poles, wires, meters, transformers, etc.— and must rely on it at least some of the time, each member must pay their fair share of these fixed costs.

Members cover part of this cost through a basic service charge of $30 a month. This fee is required of all residential members who receive service from GCEC, whether or not they buy energy.

It’s similar to owning a car. Your fixed costs—monthly payment and insurance —are the same each month, regardless of how much you drive the car. Your variable costs—gas and maintenance— vary based on use.

Your power bill works in the same way. The fixed costs are mostly recovered through the basic service charge. Your variable costs change depending on how much electricity you use each month.

To ensure all members pay their fair share of the fixed costs required to operate the system, members with solar installations pay a 3.02-cent per kilowatt/alternating current solar fixed cost recovery charge.

Sign an Interconnection Agreement

Setting up solar panels and connecting to the electric grid requires certain metering equipment to be installed. Members also must sign an interconnection agreement—legal documentation between GCEC and the member.

Interested parties must complete Gulf Coast Electric Cooperative’s interconnection agreement and application, and pay a $60 service fee.

Our energy experts can assist you with this process.

Let Us Help You

If your primary goal is to save money, we can help make sure you’re buying solar that is right for your budget and energy needs.

Call us at (800) 568-3667 ext. 3008, or email us.

Tips for Avoiding Solar Scams

As the popularity of rooftop solar panels increases, so do solar scams. Here are a few tips to consider before you install a solar photovoltiac system for your home.

  • Talk to your electric co-op first. They can offer guidance and recommendations.
  • Get at least three quotes from solar companies, and thoroughly read their reviews.
  • Avoid solar companies that use high-pressure tactics.
  • Don't believe unrealistic promises.
  • Only sign clear, easy-to-understand contracts.