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Frustrating Dependency on Fossil Fuels in MASS

Q&A with Howie Michaelson, Catamount Solar

There are many questions and concerns that repeatedly come up around Solar Energy and its day-to-day functioning. In this column, Howie Michaelson (who has lived in a solar, off-grid home for 14 years) will try to answer those questions in a simple, clear fashion.

Please submit your questions to G.E.T. or email: for inclusion in future editions!

I’ve heard about the new Group Net Metering rules and read about them in Green Energy Times. Does Group Net Metering really work and can I do it?

Group Net Metering in Vermont is definitely working and I believe it will become a more common answer for more people to gain entry into Solar Electric system ownership.

There are several reasons to consider Group Net Metering as an option: The most obvious – that your property/buildings don’t afford you enough solar “access” to make it worthwhile to install a solar electric system for yourself.

Other reasons to consider Group Net Metering is larger systems provide some economy of scale. They also provide a larger range of financing possibilities including possible leasing arrangements. It also allows individuals with multiple electric accounts to install one system that produces enough power to cover the electric usage recorded by all those meters. For instance, if a farmer has a meter for the house and one for the barn, one system could be sized large enough to cover the usage on both meters, allowing the credits to be attributed to the separate accounts as necessary or desired.

Fortunately, most of us have friends and/or neighbors that do have good solar “windows” on their property. With luck, at least one of those people will be interested in sharing that resource with you. Different possible good locations might include a large building or barn with a South facing roof which is largely unshaded for much of the day for most of the year. Another possibility would be a field not too far from electrical access with the same type of unshaded southern exposure. Often it is helpful to get a solar installer involved in the process to help identify locations that best meet the various criteria that make a good solar electric site.

With Group Net Metering, sharing a Solar Electric system is a relatively easy process, once you identify the group of people interested and a good location for the solar array. All the individuals and businesses interested in becoming part of the group need to be served by the same electric utility, but they don’t have to be in the same immediate geographical area. Once Green Mountain Power and CVPS complete their merger, this will mean about 70% of Vermonters could join the same Net Metering group. And those who are served by other Vermont utilities can still be part of a group of any other customers of that same utility, regardless of their location. Finally, it is possible to have members of the group change over time, if for instance, one member moves out of the area, or another person decides they want to become a member after the system is installed.

All-in-all, Group Net Metering will likely continue to grow as a means of entry into the expanding solar electric producing circle.

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