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

Renewable energy jobs

Global Renewable Energy Employment Surges 18 Percent to 7.7 Million

Andrew Burger, Correspondent Ongoing growth in renewable energy investment and deployment is creating jobs worldwide — and lots of them. This job growth is helping governments address a fundamental economic problem plaguing developed and developing cou...
Beach sand

Italian Company Uses Sun-Heated Sand to Produce Energy

Flavia Rotondi and Alessandra Migliaccio, Bloomberg

Italy’s well-known sun and sand form the basis of many beach holidays. An Italian company has also found another purpose for the combination: energy production.

Panasonic Japan solar module manufacturing

Panasonic Ramps Up Japanese Solar Manufacturing to Meet Domestic Rooftop Demand

Junko Movellan, Correspondent Panasonic Corp, a Japanese electronics company, announced that it will expand its domestic solar cell and module production to meet the rooftop solar demand in Japan. The company will invest a total of 9.5 billion yen (US$7...

Renewable Energy Is Beginning To Power Africa

Andrew Burger, Contributor According to the International Energy Agency, sub-Saharan Africa will require more than $300 billion in investment to achieve universal electricity access by 2030. Committing more than $7 billion in U.S. government support ...
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

Volume 18, Issue 3
1505REW_C11

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...

Sponsor/Exhibitor: MIREC Week 2015

Solectria, Pillar, and Variadores together are co-Silver Sponsors! Come ...

More Power, More Profit Tour - San Diego

Register for the SMA More Power, More Profit Tour for free, in-person sa...

COMPANY BLOGS

The Outlook for Midwest Solar

Our whirlwind solar conference tour continues! Yesterday we touched down...

Well, Hello There Southeast — We Are Excited To Be Here

We’ve traveled 651 miles into the heart of the Deep South to atten...

3 Trends We’re Watching After The First Quarter Of 2015

The U.S. solar industry closed its first quarter on March 31. So where d...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS