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ComED Photovoltaic Pilot Project

Illinois' Clean Energy Future is Here. And it's looking for a home.

ComEd is seeking residential customers to participate in a ground-breaking solar project co-sponsored with the U.S. Department of Energy and researched in conjunction with the University of Illinois' Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

It's called the ComEd Photovoltaic Pilot. This three-year program will study the customer benefits of rooftop solar electric panels and their effect on ComEd's electric distribution and transmission system.

Further information on this pilot may be found here. If you have questions about ComEd's PV Pilot or about the home qualification survey, you may e-mail ComEd at PVPilot@ComEd.com.

Two questions in the online survey ask about your main electrical service panel. For your convenience, you may wish to use this reference sheet to gather information about your home's electrical infrastructure in advance of taking the online survey.

 

Proyecto piloto fotovoltaico de ComEd

El futuro de energía limpia de Illinois está aquí. Y está buscando una vivienda.

ComEd desea que sus clientes residenciales participen en un proyecto solar pionero copatrocinado con el Departamento de Energía de EE.UU. e investigado conjuntamente con el Centro de Tecnología Sostenible de la Universidad de Illinois.

Se denomina Proyecto piloto fotovoltaico de ComEd. Este programa de tres años estudiará los beneficios a sus clientes de los paneles eléctricos solares para techos y su efecto en el sistema de distribución y transmission eléctrica de ComEd.

Puede encontrar más información sobre este piloto aquí. Si tiene alguna pregunta sobre el Pilot ComEd PV, o sobre la encuesta de la elegibilidad residencial, puede enviar un correo electrónico a PVPilot@ComEd.com.

Dos preguntas en la encuesta en línea se refieren a su panel de servicio eléctrico principal. Para su conveniencia, tal vez quiere usar esta hoja de referencia para obtener información sobre la infraestructura eléctrica en su hogar antes de hacer la encuesta en línea.

Customer Frequently Asked Questions

Project

1. What is the purpose of the ComEd Photovoltaic (PV) Pilot?

The ComEd PV Pilot will study how residential customers' energy use changes when they are provided rooftop solar electric (PV) panels. Participants will also be given access to household energy usage information and will be charged hourly market prices for electricity instead of the flat-rate pricing program most ComEd residential customers currently receive. This Pilot will measure the effect this technology has on ComEd's electric distribution and transmission system, as well.

2. What does this Pilot involve?

The Pilot study will include approximately 200 residential customers and as part of the Pilot, ComEd will provide rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems free of charge to 100 residential customers with "smart meters" in 10 communities served by ComEd. These communities are Bellwood, Berwyn, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, Maywood, Melrose Park, Oak Park, River Forest and the Humboldt Park area in Chicago. Some customers also will receive a battery-based energy storage system in conjunction with their rooftop PV system. During the study period, the 100 participants who receive PV panels will also receive access to a Web portal that will provide them with their hourly household energy consumption and hourly electric pricing information.

3. Is there a fee to participate?

If selected for the pilot, there will be no charge to participate and no fee to receive any of the equipment that will be installed. Service and maintenance of the system is complimentary through December 31, 2012. Service and maintenance expenses occurring after 12/31/12 become the responsibility of the homeowner.

4. Who is running this Pilot?

ComEd and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) are co-sponsoring this Pilot. Additionally, several other organizations are assisting ComEd and the DOE in the Pilot's development, deployment and management. These organizations are:
  • The University of Illinois Sustainable Technology Center ("ISTC") A division of the University of Illinois ("UI") with extensive experience conducting research and surveys on environmental issues.
  • GridPoint The company chosen to conduct on-site home assessments and installation of the photovoltaic (PV) systems, as well as provide PV system software and customer Web portal access.
  • Argonne National Laboratory A division of the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE") recognized as a global leader in the analysis of power system issues.

5. How is this Pilot funded?

This Pilot is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Program, with funds appropriated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).

6. Is this Pilot a part of ComEd's smart meter project?

This Pilot is not part of ComEd's smart meter project, an endeavor that you may have heard about or have previously received communications about from ComEd. However, customers in the PV Pilot's 10 targeted communities who have had smart meters installed are still eligible to apply to participate in the Pilot.

Participation

1. How will participants be selected?

ComEd has developed a six-step selection process:

  • Step 1- INVITATION TO REGISTER: Potential participants with smart meters in the 10 targeted communities serviced by ComEd will be sent letters of invitation to register their homes for consideration and participation in the Pilot.
  • Step 2- ONLINE SURVEY: Homeowners who register will be directed to a confidential online survey. This survey will help ComEd identify qualified candidate households. Households that do not meet the Pilot's criteria or requirements will be notified via US Mail. Households that meet eligibility requirements will continue in the selection process, receiving e-mail updates along the way.
  • Step 3 - PROGRAM AGREEMENT: Qualified candidates must confirm that they understand the requirements of participation in order to proceed to the next step.
  • Step 4 - IN-HOME SURVEY: GridPoint, ComEd's service partner, will schedule and perform an in-home inspection for candidates who confirm that they understand the requirements of participation and agree to proceed in the selection process. This inspection should take less than an hour and typically requires a visual inspection of the homeowner's roof, main electric service panel and in some cases, the home's attic, basement and garage.
  • Step 5 - CUSTOMER CONTRACT: ComEd will select qualified candidates by evaluating the results of the in-home inspections conducted in Step 4. Candidates whose homes do not meet participation requirements will be notified by US Mail. Candidates whose homes do meet participation requirements will receive an e-mail or phone call announcing that their application has been approved. Detailed proposals outlining the terms and conditions of participation, as well as specific information concerning the photovoltaic (PV) equipment that ComEd will install in their homes will be supplied. "Town hall"-type meetings will be conducted to allow potential participants the opportunity to ask questions of ComEd's program administrators before they sign any Customer Agreement.
  • Step 6 - INSTALLATION AND INSPECTION: GridPoint will schedule and perform installation of all PV equipment and batteries (if applicable), as well as coordinate appropriate inspections and approvals by local building and electrical code officials for those residents who agree to participate and sign participation agreements.

2. Which ComEd communities are eligible to participate and why?

Participants will be selected from among 10 communities serviced by ComEd: Bellwood, Berwyn, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, Maywood, Melrose Park, Oak Park, River Forest and the Humboldt Park area in Chicago. These communities were selected because they best reflect the demographic and electric-service diversity of ComEd's entire customer base. Customers must also have a "smart meter" to be eligible for the Pilot.

3. What criteria does the ideal candidate home meet?

Ideal candidate homes are single-family structures occupied by an owner resident who has been a ComEd customer since December 2009 and plans to remain in the residence through at least December 31, 2012. Additionally, ideal candidate homes have south-facing rooftops that are less than seven years old and are not shaded by nearby buildings or trees. These homes also have high-speed Internet connectivity and electric code-compliant main electric service panels. A high-speed Internet connection will need to be maintained through December 31, 2012 at the homeowner's expense.

4. Why wouldn't my home be selected?

There could be several reasons. You may not have met the general criteria outlined in question #3, there may have been other households that more closely reflected the ideal characteristics of the Pilot or ComEd may have identified all 100 homes before your application and home inspection were completed.

5. When and how will participants be notified?

Homeowners who are selected to participate will be notified by e-mail and by phone sometime during the last three months of 2010. For this reason, it is important that the contact information you provide in your survey registration be accurate and up to date. If you have already initiated the application process and your contact information has changed, please contact ComEd at PVpilot@ComEd.com.

6. Do I need to own my home in order to participate?

Yes, and the home must be your primary residence.

7. What is expected of participants?

Because this Pilot is a multi-year study, participants are expected to commit to living in their homes through December 31, 2012. In addition, participants will be required to maintain Internet connectivity and their enrollment in the hourly electricity pricing program for the duration of the Pilot. Participants are also expected to provide access to their homes for installation purposes and service calls during the Pilot, as well as complete periodic online surveys.

8. Will participation impact my electricity bill?

Yes. Photovoltaic systems generate electricity from the sun and offset some of the electricity you need to purchase from the utility. At the same time, your enrollment in an hourly electricity pricing program means that you are paying a different market price for electricity at each hour of the day. Depending upon your energy usage behaviors, you could observe either an increase or decrease of your electricity bill. This of course is one of the objectives of the Pilot - to see how having your own electricity production and hourly pricing information impacts your energy consumption behaviors.

9. Do I need to sign up for an hourly pricing program to participate?

Yes. Participants will be required to enroll in an hourly electricity pricing program, such as ComEd Residential Real-Time Pricing (RRTP) program or a similar program provided by an alternative retail electric supplier. To learn more about the ComEd Residential Real-Time Pricing (RRTP) program, please visit the program's Web site at TheWattSpot.com. While visiting the site, and prior to joining, we recommend that you also read the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and the ComEd RRTP Real-Time Pricing Guide. Details on hourly pricing programs provided by alternative retail electric suppliers can be found online.

10. I am enrolled in an hourly pricing program. Am I still eligible to apply if invited?

Yes.

11. I am enrolled in the ComEd Load Guard program. Am I still eligible to apply if invited?

No. ComEd Load Guard program customers are not eligible to participate in this PV Pilot.

12. Will I have to cover any expenses for the equipment or labor?

No. All equipment, on-site inspection and installation expenses will be covered by ComEd, the U.S. Department of Energy and our project partners. Service and maintenance of the photovoltaic system also will be complementary during the study period (through Dec 31, 2012). At the conclusion of the study, responsibility for equipment maintenance and servicing (or its removal) will be the responsibility of the homeowner.

13. Will receiving this equipment impact my property taxes?

Illinois offers a special property tax assessment for homes employing solar energy systems. To receive this special assessment, you must file property tax form PTAX-330 with your local county assessor's office. Details on the property tax code can be found in section § 35 ILCS 200/10-5,10. Please consult your tax advisor to determine the tax-related aspects of your specific circumstances.

14. Am I eligible to receive federal or state rebates for the PV equipment?

No. Typically rebate and incentive programs are to help offset the cost to customers of purchasing PV systems. Because all equipment and installation expenses will be provided to the customer at no cost as part of this pilot, the customer does not qualify for these rebates.

15. What happens if I move?

If you plan to sell or rent your home before December 31, 2012, we ask that you do not sign up to participate. However, if you do sell your home during the test period, the purchaser must agree to assume the obligations of the Customer Agreement. If the purchaser will not assume the obligations of the Customer Agreement, then the seller must reimburse ComEd/U.S. Department of Energy for the fair market value of the equipment and installation costs, which may amount to $41,000 to $60,000. After December 31, 2012, there are no restrictions or limitations on the homeowner.

16. Can I withdraw from the Pilot early?

No. Participants who withdraw from the Pilot before December 31, 2012 will be required to reimburse ComEd/U.S. Department of Energy for the fair market value of the photovoltaic system, equipment and installation costs, which may amount to $41,000 to $60,000. After December 31, 2012, there are no restrictions or limitations on the homeowner.

17. Can I remove, alter, or disable the PV system or equipment installed at my home before the Pilot ends?

No. The equipment must remain in place and intact on your home through December 31, 2012. Participants who remove, alter, or disable the equipment will be required to reimburse ComEd/ U.S. Department of Energy for the fair market value of the equipment and installation costs which may amount to $41,000 to $60,000. After December 31, 2012, there are no restrictions or limitations on the homeowner.

Technology

1. What equipment or technology will be provided through this Pilot?

Participants will receive a roof-mounted photovoltaic (PV) system that is able to generate 3kW of electricity and all the electronics, materials and wiring necessary to deliver this energy to the home.

The electronics will include:

Some participants also will receive a battery-based energy storage system that provides emergency power to some circuits in the event of a power outage. Installation of this battery system will require the additional installation of an electrical sub-panel to contain the circuits that would receive backup power in the event of a power outage. The battery bank is an enclosed, indoor lead battery system capable of supplying approximately 9.2 kWh of energy storage, which will provide approximately 6-hours of back-up power for the electrical sub-panel loads, e.g. furnace fan, refrigerator, sump pump and select lighting circuits.

2. How does a photovoltaic (PV) system work?

A PV system uses roof-mounted solar panels to convert sunlight into direct current (DC) electricity. This DC electricity is then changed to household alternating current (AC) through an inverter. This electricity is used to supplement your household energy needs. Any additional energy that your home may need is purchased from your electric supplier and be delivered by ComEd. If your PV system generates more electricity than your home needs, you'll be able to supply that excess energy back to your electricity supplier for a billing credit.

3. How big is the PV system?

The PV systems installed for this Pilot will require approximately 700 sq ft of roof space.

4. How does the battery-based backup power work?

In the event of a power outage, photovoltaic (PV) systems without batteries must shut down to prevent feeding electricity back into the grid where it could harm ComEd field personnel working to restore power. PV systems with a battery storage system will automatically disconnect themselves from the grid during a power outage, but allow select circuits within the home to remain energized for as long as their battery storage system can supply power. These batteries can recharge themselves from the rooftop PV system or via electricity supplied from the grid once power is restored.

5. How large is the battery system?

The metal enclosure for the batteries measures approximately 40 inches (width) x 20 inches (depth) x 33 inches (height). The battery system weighs in excess of 900 lbs and must be installed on concrete or slab flooring, such as a basement or garage. The battery system has energy storage capacity of 9.2 kilowatt-hours.

6. How long does the installation take, and do I need to be at home?

Installation of the photovoltaic (PV) system will take approximately two days. The homeowner or a designated alternative point of contact at least 18 years of age must be present each day. Installations of PV systems that utilize the battery system will require one additional working day.

7. Is the equipment safe?

Yes. This Pilot utilizes proven technologies and all equipment meets current standards and codes.

Renewable Energy

1. How will my electric bill be different if I am selected to receive solar panels?

The rooftop solar panels will provide electricity to offset some of the power needed by your home. You will also be participating in the Net Metering Program which will allow you to receive a credit on your bill for excess electricity from the PV system that you don't use and which is returned to the utility grid. To participate, you will be asked to sign an Interconnection Agreement and a Net Metering Agreement.

2. How is my electricity bill calculated with hourly electricity pricing (aka RRTP) and Net Metering?

Each month your net electricity use is calculated for each hour of the bill period (in-flow of electricity minus out-flow of electricity). For each hourly period, the net electricity use will be multiplied by the hourly energy price to calculate the hourly period's charge or credit. These amounts shall be summed to determine the net energy charge or credit for the billing period. The bill will display the net energy charge or credit for the bill period.

If the summed net hourly energy use results in a credit, the credit will first be applied toward other charges that appear on the electricity bill (such as customer charges, taxes, standard metering charges, etc). Once all other charges have been satisfied, any remaining credit due will show in the total current charges and will be "rolled over" to offset energy purchases in a later bill period. Unused "rollover" credits expire at the end of the Annual Period, or if ComEd supply service under Rider POGNM terminates.

3. Will I receive an electric bill for the month if my current charges are zero or if I have a net credit?

Yes, you will still receive an electric bill even if the net hourly energy use results in a credit. Monthly customer, standard metering and other charges, as applicable for your electric service rate still apply each monthly billing period.

Security and Privacy

1. What data will you collect as part of this study?

In order to identify qualified participants, ComEd will ask questions about your household and energy usage.

Household data will include: dwelling size, year built, type of home, roof type, roof orientation, main electrical panel wiring, air conditioning, electrical appliances, household members, education, occupation, etc.

Energy usage data will include: 24-months of historical electric usage, electrical usage during the test period, weather data, energy prices, etc.

Additionally, survey questionnaires will be used to gather information about the opinions and perceptions of the participants.

2. Who else besides ComEd will have access to my responses?

ComEd will share your responses to survey questions with its study partners who will maintain its confidentiality. Our partners are:

  • The University of Illinois
  • GridPoint
  • Argonne National Laboratory

All of these entities have agreed to keep your information confidential and use it only for study purposes. Participant information will be analyzed, aggregated and compiled into reports that may be released publicly or posted on public Web sites. However, no personally identifiable information will be in these reports and all data will be reported in aggregate.

(NOTE: DOE, UI and Argonne are government agencies and subject to Freedom of Information Act laws that could require the future disclosure of some or all of the information you provide).

The survey you complete will be administered via surveygizmo.com, a Web-based survey provider. This provider has a well-defined privacy policy that clearly states that they will not share information with any third-party. Please refer to surveygizmo.com's privacy policy to learn more about how it collects, stores and uses survey information.

3. Is my personal information secure?

Yes. Most of the information that will be shared with our partners on the project will have all personal information removed or masked. A small subset of our partners will receive customer name, address, ComEd electric account number and social security numbers. All of our partners will be required by contract to keep all customer information confidential. However, you should be aware that several of our partners are government agencies and are subject to various Freedom of Information Act requirements. Pursuant to such acts, these agencies could be required to provide any information they have concerning this project to requesting parties.

4. Who do I contact with additional questions?

Please email PVPilot@ComEd.com