The sun shines in Vermont. It arrives on our roofs and in our yards – a free gift from the universe.
Imagine if all of us had the will and the wherewithal to install solar to cover 50% of our residential power usage or 20% of our commercial power usage. It is possible and profitable. If we have a roof or yard with 60% sun, we can do it. If we rent or don’t have that sun, we can group net meter for solar located in some other sunny spot.
The law has been helpful. The utilities have been helpful. The non-profits have been helpful. The solar industry has been helpful.
The Vermont Energy Act of 2011 created several solar benefits. It raised the system cap from 250KW to 500KW. It provided for simplified CPG permit process for systems of 5KW or less. It raised the per-utility cumulative net metering cap from 2% to 4%. Finally, the legislature tipped their hat to a popular GMP program and mandated all utilities offer a “solar adder”*.
Launched in 2008, GMP decided, for those peak summer sunny daytime hours, they would rather pay their customers a bonus for installing solar, as that is solar’s prime production time, than pay another entity for expensive dirty diesel backup generators to cover peak summer demand.
Before SolarGMP the utility saw about 20 new solar systems per year said Communications Manager Dorothy Schnure. Today in just over 2 years it’s increased 10-fold to 200/year. In January 2009 GMP had 66 solar customers. As of June 2011 this number increased 6-fold to over 400 solar customers. They now have about 3.5 MW installed capacity, about 1% of its total load, and GMP customers have generated nearly 3 million solar KWH in the last 12 months. And there’s another 1% solar capacity in the queue to be installed and go online said GMP’s Director of Customer Relations Robert Dostis. CVPS is doing quite well too with 370 solar customers.
With the purchase of CVPS, GMP will launch Rutland as a Solar City. With details to be designed by the city and the utility, the focus for Rutland Solar “is not only on deployment of more solar generation, but also building Rutland into a hub for renewable industry,” said Dostis.
VPIRG is facilitating solar with their Community Solar Program. When enough townspeople say they want solar, VPIRG puts a package together. Program Director Dan Conant said “people complain that trying to go solar is confusing and expensive so we come in to help”. VPIRG puts out an RFP and the winning bidder offers solar installations at an excellent price to the entire town.
To smooth the sale, these new solar investors can access the low interest financing package VPIRG helps put together. Community solar programs have set up in Charlotte, Hinesburg, Shelburne, Waterbury (includes Duxbury and Moretown) and Williston including St George. Conant reports that in four months of Solar Montpelier they helped 65 families get solar hot water (there had been 13 in the previous decade).. On the PV side, says Conant, they doubled installations with 40 in Waterbury and Williston in the first 4 months. They just signed up an entire county with the launch of Solar Addison County.
The Clean Energy Development Fund has certainly helped further solar installations through funding both the rebate program and the business tax credit. The business solar tax credit spurred the installation of 93 new solar systems and, since its 2003 inception, the rebate program has incentivized 2158 new systems (1741 have been installed).Finally, the solar industry too has worked to bring module prices steadily down. The module cost of about $8-9/watt in 2002 is now about $5/watt.
Through the gloom of climate change the sun shines brightly and is perfectly willing all day long to create electrons for our needs. Ever right at hand, it can be the solution to a huge portion of our energy problem and we don’t have to let it go to
waste. More and more of us aren’t.
All VT residential consumption in 2009 = 2,120,949 MWH.
If 50% of this 2.1 million MWH was generated by solar,
it would remove from the grid 1.06 million MWH.
GMP has 95,000 customers –
if 400 have solar it’s 0.42 %
Here’s How “The Solar Adder” Works
(using 500KWH/mo consumption + GMP rates)
Your house consumes 500KWH/mo and has no solar. Your bill is (500 KWH X 0.14271) $71.35.
- EX #1 – you install solar that generates 100KWH/mo. Bill is 500-100=400 kwh/mo and 400kwh X 0.14271 = $57.08. Then you get the “solar adder” just for installing solar at all. It is 6¢/kwh your solar generates which is 0.06 X 100 = $6.00.
- EX #2 – install a system that generates more than you consume (say 700 KWH/mo) you get an even greater benefit. The bill for your consumption is $0.00 (500 – 700 = 0.0KWH X 0.14271 = $0.0). Then, because you have generated an extra 200KWH to grid (sort of like a power plant) you get paid for that at the commercial rate (200 X 0.13456 = $26.91). Then, you also get the “solar adder” for every KWH you produce so that is 700KWH X $0.06 = $42. So you pay nothing and earn $68.91/month as if you were a little generation plant.
**customer rate is lower because costs a little less to serve a commercial customer because in general they use a bit more per customer, thus spreading the fixed costs over more kwh.
Under the new law, all utilities now must provide a solar adder like GMP but only up to 20¢ (which is GMP’s retail rate + 6¢). So, for example, VEC has a 2-tier rate system of $0.0848 for the first 100KWH and $0.17118 for the next KWH. VEC would pay at least $0.02882 solar adder.
The solar adder reduces a customer’s utility bills but only down to zero (including fees + effic charges). The customer must pay for meter. If the adder is 3¢ and later the utility raises their rate, the 3¢ remains.Researched and written by Diane Reynolds
GET Aug2011 page 1