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Louisville Inspectors find issues with solar projects at 30 properties

FOCUS investigators found Louisville issued corrective actions for solar projects at 30 properties in Louisville. What you need to know before signing up for solar.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville is moving towards the goal of using 100% of clean energy by 2040 one solar panel at a time.

Friday, a solar system was installed on a home in Louisville as part of the "Solar Over Louisville" campaign that the Louisville Metro Government and the Louisville Sustainability Council have launched.

The city has partnered with Solar Energy Solutions to offer incentives for homeowners to go solar.

The company has been vetted, the city says, but we found that work done by at least one other company isn't so bright.

"I think at the moment we're starting to see some bad actors on to the solar scene", said Steve Ricketts, Solar Over Louisville Project technical advisor. 

FOCUS found that at least one company started work in the Metro and in other parts of Kentucky without pulling the proper permits first.

The Kentucky Attorney General's Office, as well as the AGs in Tennessee and Georgia, are investigating dozens of customer complaints.

RELATED: FOCUS investigates customers’ complaints against a solar company

John: "You think there is a real chance there are systems out there that are not only not up to par but that can be dangerous?"

Ricketts: "I think so, yeah."

Complaints include panels on the roof for months, but no power generation because the systems have not passed inspection and are therefore not up and running.

At the same time, customers are paying monthly bills while still paying electric bills.

Problems exist in Louisville as well, where corrective actions have been issued to at least 30 properties.

"We're just beginning to become aware and that is why I wanted to be on the front end of this thing," said Metro Councilman (R) Robin Engel.

Louisville's lofty goal is that energy generation here will be 100% clean energy within the next 20-years. 

Another goal is to have half the homes in the Metro use solar by 2050.

That's a big job, and a job needing to be done properly.

"I've seen other installs in the last few years that would give me serious concerns," Ricketts explained. 

Learn more:

On Saturday, the Kentucky Solar Energy Society will have presentations from industry experts from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the University of Louisville's Ekstrom Library. 

Louisville's Office of Advanced Planning & Sustainability said from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. there will be a presentation specifically on 'solar scams'. The entire event is free and anyone can attend. 

For more information go to https://kyses.org/.

Here are some tips for those interested in purchasing solar panel systems:

  • Make sure to vet the potential solar company before committing and signing a contract. Search reviews and social media to see current customers' experiences. Check to make sure they have filed the proper paperwork and are in good standing with the Kentucky Secretary of State’s Office. Click here to search.
  • Get multiple quotes to compare all your options.
  • Check with your utility company to learn how much energy you are using so that you are not paying for a system that is more or less than what you need.
  • Ask for all the terms of the contract to review prior to signing any contract. Make sure to carefully read every line and ask questions if you do not understand.
  • If you are financing the purchase, make sure to explore multiple financing options. Consider taking out a home equity loan.
  • Make sure you know what permits are needed by calling the Planning and Zoning and/or Code and Regulation Enforcement offices in your area. There may be additional requirements if you live within city limits.
  • Consider additional costs that may be required to optimize the potential energy output. For example, you may have to trim some trees. If the panels are being placed on the roof, there may be additional structural work required to hold the weight of the panels.
  • Prior to any work being done for installation, check with local officials to ensure the proper permits have been pulled even if the vendor said they take care of all the permits for you.
  • Request the name and contact info of any sub-contractors and check with the city, county and/or state to make sure they have the proper licensing.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also offers consumer advice and more things you might consider when looking to invest in solar power.

Counties participating in the Solar Over Louisville campaign include:

Kentucky: Louisville/Jefferson County, Oldham County, Shelby County, Spencer County, Bullitt County, Trimble County, Henry County, Hardin County, Meade County, Nelson County

Indiana: Floyd County, Clark County, Harrison County, Washington County, Scott County

The campaign is offering solar energy products at a discount.

The deadline to sign up is June 30th. Sign up here.

RELATED: Solar company responds after FOCUS investigation

How to choose a solar power installer:

Review these tips offered by the Louisville Climate Action Network and the Solar Energy Industries Association. A list of local solar installers is available on the KY Solar Energy Society webpage.

How to report concerns:

If you have concerns about a product or service, you should file a complaint or report issues to multiple agencies.

  • Submit a complaint to the Attorney General's Office in your state. In Kentucky, you can file a complaint online or call the Consumer Protection Division at (502) 696-5389.
  • Contact the Kentucky Public Protection at 502-782-2736.
  • Contact your county and/or city officials to report the issues and seek additional guidance and resources. 
  • If you live in Louisville and you feel work was not done up to code or without proper permits, contact Metro 311.

Have a story tip? Contact the FOCUS Investigative team at FOCUS@whas11.com

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