Solar Energy

Solar panels on rooftop of home

Columbia River PUD supports the interconnection of residential solar generated electricity from our customers, and wants our customers to understand the pros and cons to new generation systems.

The size, effectiveness, and related return on investment for a new solar generation system are dependent on many factors, including installation location, system size, and the electric use of the residence, to name a few.

The following information and facts about solar generation in our territory are to help our customers make informed decisions. A list of questions is provided to help guide our customers in discussion with solar generation system representatives. While Columbia River PUD is here to help, we cannot assist with the operation and maintenance of solar generation systems, so it is important you become an expert on your home system.

Residential Solar in Columbia River PUD’s Service Territory (Updated December 2022)

  • Average size of residential solar generation system: Approximately 6.1 kilowatts (kW)
  • Total residential solar generation systems installed: Approximately 78
  • Average cost for residential solar generation system (2020 to present): Approximately $27,000
  • Average cost per kW for a residential solar generation system (2020 to present): About $4,950
  • Average cost for residential solar generation system with battery backup (2020 to present): About $37,000
  • Average cost per kW for residential solar generation system with battery backup (2020 to present): About $5,250


  • Solar works best on south-facing roofs, while east- or west-oriented low-slope roofs may be sufficient as well.
  • Shading from nearby trees, buildings, chimneys, and roofs can reduce how much sun reaches the solar panels.
  • In the event utility power goes out, a solar generation system will not continue to provide power to the home unless there is also a battery backup in place.
  • As long as you’re connected to Columbia River PUD’s system, you will receive a bill from us that will include the monthly base charge at minimum, plus any power that you use from us.

Things to Know

  • CRPUD’s current Rate Schedule 10, at which you buy power.
  • How much power you typically use. Look at your past bills for the total energy usage (kWh) and demand usage (kW) in the top right corner of your bill.
  • CRPUD’s Rate Schedule 97 – Avoided Cost Energy Rate, which is the rate at which we buy back any excess kWhs banked each February.

Potential Questions for Solar Installation Companies, Their Contractors, and Installers

  • What makes the location good for solar generation?
  • With my electric usage, will it pencil out?
    • Are the electric usage and rate high enough to justify a solar generation system installation?
    • Will the system pay for itself through reduced electric utility costs? How long will that take?
    • What is the expected lifespan of the system?
    • Would the project be eligible for any rebates or incentives? Who would apply for them?
  • What should be expected with the installation?
    • Will all contractors working on the project be licensed, bonded, and insured?
    • How long have they been in business?
    • Who will be doing the installation? Will it be your company or a subcontractor?
    • How many solar generation systems have they installed?
    • Do they do their own electrical work or subcontract an electrician?
    • Who will own the solar panels and related equipment after they’re installed?
  • Will the system perform as expected?
    • How will I know if the solar generation system is working?
    • How is it monitored, and will I get efficiency reports?
    • What happens if the system doesn’t perform as expected?
    • Is there a subscription fee for the application that monitors the health and performance of the system?
      • If it’s a mobile app, how will it be supported for the life of the system?
  • What can be expected long-term?
    • What type of warranty is offered and what does it cover?
    • What if the roof develops leaks?
    • What additional costs may be incurred over the lifespan of the system?
    • What maintenance is required for the system?
    • What is the process for removing and replacing the solar panels if the roof needs repaired or replaced in the future?
    • How much does it cost to remove a system after it’s no longer useful?
    • After removal, what’s done with the panels and the equipment? Are they recyclable?
    • What type of support is available if there are issues in the long-term?

Learn More

Download Information and Forms

SHMS Solar Project

Solar panels on the roof of St. Helens Middle School.

The rooftop at the new St. Helens Middle School is outfitted with 590 solar panels, making it the largest solar system in our territory.

That collection of panels gives SHMS a total system size of 218.3 kW. For comparison, the average residential system in our territory is about 6 kW.

Along with the system, St. Helens School District staff has access to an online dashboard showing real-time energy production. Data from the dashboard indicate the middle school produced 134,670 kWh in 2021, the first full year such data was available. That’s about one-third of the total electricity the school used that year, or enough to power about 10 average homes for the whole year.

The solar panels were installed in accordance with Oregon state law requiring public entities spend 1.5% of new public building costs on green energy technology.

Solar panels on the roof of St. Helens Middle School