The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.

Virtual Metering: Solar Benefits Without an On-site Solar PV Array

Are you interested in the benefits of a solar PV array but don't believe you can afford it? Is your home in a heavily-shaded area that would prohibit a good return-on-investment from solar? Do you rent? Maybe you live in a community with a homeowners' association, where you're not permitted a rooftop solar array?

Virtual metering may be the answer. Virtual metering is when your solar PV array is located off-site so you can receive clean, low-cost renewable energy generated by solar panels mounted in another location. Often, this concept is called “Community Solar,” since the solar is provided by the utility company, the municipality or even investors.

Mike Taylor, director of research for the Solar Electric Power Association, explains: “It’s somewhat similar to leasing solar panels from a solar company that puts them on your home, except in this case, the utility is putting a larger system somewhere in their service territory. The utility company takes on the risk of owning and maintaining it; customers benefit from no- or low-cost solar, low contract obligations, and portability.”

Not that a solar PV array requires much maintenance or a lot to think about, but this type of virtual metering works especially well in places like apartment buildings, houses that are part of homeowners’ associations, or homes in heavily-shaded areas — three market segments that typically could not benefit from solar power for a variety of reasons. Virtual metering also works well for lower-income homeowners without the cash to pay for a solar array or the credit history to get any sort of financing in the form of a solar lease or a loan.

Could Virtual Metering Be the Solar Model of the Future?

Taylor thinks its one piece of the puzzle that will increase the percentage of electric power that comes from the sun. “A lot of utilities are interested in the concept,” Taylor says. “Lower solar prices are enabling that interest. Getting solar benefits to a broader range of income demographics, not just high-income or early adopter customers, is a notable goal. It wouldn’t surprise me if 30 utilities offered community solar by the end of the year.”

“But,” Taylor adds,” this is a niche area of development and there are larger issues at play.”

Some of those larger issues, he says, involve economics and utility cost recovery. “Theoretically, if half of all customers reduced their electricity use by 25 percent, utilities wouldn’t be able to recover the costs of running the electric grid and would have to raise electric rates. Even people with solar still need the electric grid – it’s much cheaper than batteries. People who didn’t have solar and/or weren’t efficient would absorb that increase more than others.”

The issues Taylor brings up echo HelioPower’s senior vice president of sales Scott Gordon’s thoughts on the “grid of the future.” Gordon asserts that utilities will move to a distribution, rather than generation or creation, model for electricity as more customers move to renewable energy sources. But if utilities are creating energy through community solar programs, it reduces their loss.

Taylor says: “Community solar can promote solar to a broader customer base, at potentially lower costs than rebate programs at a customer’s site, at potentially less revenue loss than net metering.”

He, too, speculates on the “grid of the future.”

“Can utilities do business differently in ways that minimize costs and expand benefits? I see virtual metering as one test bed for that transition. Community solar isn’t a perfect solution, but it’s looking in the right direction.”

This article was originally published on EcoOutfitters and was republished with permission.

Image: pan_kung via Shutterstock

RELATED ARTICLES

Rooftop Solar Panels

Hypocrisy? While Buffett Champions Renewables, His Company Fights Rooftop Solar

Mark Chediak, Noah Buhayar and Margaret Newkirk, Bloomberg Warren Buffett highlights how his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. utilities make massive investments in renewable energy. Meanwhile, in Nevada, the company is fighting a plan that would encourage more residents to use green power.
Japan Microgrid

Born from Disaster: Japan Establishes First Microgrid Community

Junko Movellan, Correspondent Although Japan's Fukushima prefecture is most commonly associated with the 2011 disaster due to the nuclear power melt-down, Miyazaki prefecture, located north of Fukushima, suffered from the largest death toll, close to 10...
Renewable Energy Finance

Clean Energy ETFs Are on a Tear

Eric Balchunas, Bloomberg Green investing used to be synonymous with losing money. But while the S&P 500 Index is up 2 percent this year, and the MSCI All-Country World Index is up 5 percent, clean energy ETFs have double-digit re...

Wheels, Towers and Trees: Unconventional Renewable Energy Technologies in the Pipeline

Andrew Williams, International Correspondent A number of companies around the world are developing novel technologies in an effort to grab a slice of the global renewable energy market.  Although many of these technologies are simple incremental improvements to e...
A full-time freelance writer, Dawn frequently covers energy efficiency, green living, and topics like LED lighting and whole home control systems for a number of blogs and technology trade magazines. Dawn is proud to live in New York as the state ...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

03/01/2015
Volume 18, Issue 3
file

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @megcichon @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

EU PVSEC 2015 (European PV Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition)

The EU PVSEC is the largest international Conference for Photovoltaic re...

Energy Security: Opportunity Power with the Sunny Boy Secure Power ...

Wouldn’t it be great to have a grid-tied inverter that could still...

SMA More Power, More Profit Tour - Duluth

SMA’s More Power, More Profit Tour is aimed to provide highly-valu...

COMPANY BLOGS

EU PVSEC 2014 extends its Scope

Added focus on application and policy topicsAbstracts for conference con...

EU PVSEC 2014: Call for Papers Receives Great Response

More than 1,500 contributions apply for presentation in AmsterdamScienti...

Boulder County Residents Generate Their Own Energy with Community S...

Despite a soggy afternoon, solar energy advocates gathered at ...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS