The article below is from the Solar Energy Industries Association. Solar Chief is a proud member of the SEIA.
Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid. Many states have passed net metering laws. In other states, utilities may offer net metering programs voluntarily or as a result of regulatory decisions. Differences between states’ legislation and implementation mean that the benefits of net metering can vary widely for solar customers in different areas of the country.
What Is Net Metering?
Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits solar energy system owners for the electricity they add to the grid. For example, if a residential customer has a PV system on the home’s rooftop, it may generate more electricity than the home uses during daylight hours. If the home is net-metered, the electricity meter will run backwards to provide a credit against what electricity is consumed at night or other periods where the home’s electricity use exceeds the system’s output. Customers are only billed for their “net” energy use. On average, only 20-40% of a solar energy system’s output ever goes into the grid. Exported solar electricity serves nearby customers’ loads.
Giving Customers Control Over Their Electricity Bills
Net metering allows utility customers to generate their own electricity cleanly and efficiently. During the day, most solar customers produce more electricity than they consume; net metering allows them to export that power to the grid and reduce their future electric bills. California public agencies and schools will save $2.5 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years using net metering.
Creating Jobs & Encouraging Private Investment
Net metering provides substantial statewide economic benefits in terms of jobs, income and investment. Net metering increases demand for solar energy systems, which in turn creates jobs for the installers, electricians, and manufacturers who work in the solar supply chain. Today, the solar industry employs more than 250,000 American workers in large part due to strong state net metering policies which have allowed the solar industry to thrive.
Protecting the Electric Grid
Unfortunately, some utilities perceive net metering policies as lost revenue opportunities. In fact, net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and allow utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads. By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.
Solar energy is now more affordable and accessible than ever before, and using renewable energy makes a positive impact on the environment. It’s like they say: what does a solar spill look like? A beautiful day.
Everyone wants to save money, right? A solar electric, or photovoltaic (PV) system may be the answer. The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act of 1978 (PURPA) requires power providers to purchase excess power from grid-connected small renewable energy systems at a rate equal to what it costs the power provider to produce the power itself. This means that any excess energy your PV system produces can actually put money into your pocket. The greatest benefit for homeowners is through net metering. With this arrangement, a bi-directional meter is used to record the electricity your home pulls from the grid, as well as the excess energy your PV system produces. At the end of the month, if you are in the black energy-wise, the utility will pay you retail price for that extra electricity.
PROTECT THE PLANET
At least for the next 5 billion years or so while the sun still shines, solar energy is a renewable resource. This means that you can use as much of the sun’s energy as you like and it won’t deplete it as a resource. Processing solar energy does not release carbon emissions, unlike coal, which many utilities use to produce electricity. According to the EPA, the average American household produces 6.8 metric tons of greenhouse gas emission from electricity each year. By using solar energy to power your home, greenhouse gas emissions from electricity could decrease considerably.
Side note: If you can’t produce solar energy at home, why not buy clean energy from your local utility?
INCREASE PROPERTY VALUE
Investing in solar energy will not only save you month-to-month on your electric bill, but it could also increase the property value of your home. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that in California, PV systems added a $20,194 premium to the sales price of homes. Though solar can be expensive to install, the return on investment is approximately 97%, not including the savings associated with reduced energy bills.
The solar industry is growing rapidly. More homes are using solar energy and as such, new jobs are being created to meet this need. According to the non-profit Solar Foundation 2013 Solar Jobs Census, the U.S. solar industry employed 142,698 Americans in 2013. This is an almost 20% growth in employment since September 2012!
Farmers are now harvesting the sun for produce and power. As weather conditions change and the prices of crops increase farmers have turned to solar energy to make an income. Solar energy offers opportunities to farmers, where they can lease land for solar, sell back excess electricity, and/or offset their electrical bills. Are you a farmer looking into solar? Contact Solar Chief today!
Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loans & Grants
Solar Chief is here to make sure you are aware of any and all solar incentive benefits. Contact us and we can help assist you and/or contact your State Rural Development Energy Coordinator for more information on if your business or farm may qualify for this grant program.
An analysis by researchers at Michigan Tech found that solar farms are more profitable than tobacco farms.
The southern United States is a vast expanse of fields and undeveloped land, much of of which has been used for growing tobacco for hundreds of years. Tobacco is a terrific cash crop, and tobacco farmers make lots of money selling it but a new analysis from Michigan Tech finds that these farmers could make even more money harvesting sunlight.
The Michigan Tech researchers looked at tobacco farms in South Carolina, where much of the country’s tobacco is produced and calculated the point at which farmers could make more money farming energy given the falling rates of tobacco use in the United States.
The researchers factored in a lot of variables for their analysis, including the dropping price of solar panels and the increasing value of electricity in the future. They also took into account that the price of tobacco would likely drop in the future, given the decreasing popularity of smoking.
The researchers expected to find the crossover point for solar versus tobacco profits somewhere in the future but, to their surprise, their analysis showed that solar was already more profitable than tobacco.
“We looked at likely trends in all of the major economic factors,” says researcher Joshua Pearce, “but were surprised to find that because the cost of solar has dropped so dramatically it is already economically advantageous for tobacco farmers to replace tobacco with solar in many situations.”
Crunching a few more numbers, Pearce and his team found that switching every tobacco farm in South Carolina to solar would generate 30 gigawatts of power, enough to run the entire state. This could also save two thousand lives per year by removing air pollution produced by fossil fuel plants. Of course this all assumes that the new solar tariff does not significantly impact the math.
There’s also the benefit from reducing the amount of tobacco people smoke. If every tobacco farm in the country became a solar farm, the researchers say that over half a million lives could be saved every year. That might be a little optimistic, but a reduced supply of available tobacco products could hardly be a bad thing for public health.
“The economic benefits for ex-tobacco farmers going into solar is nice,” says Pearce, “but the real payoff is in American lives saved from both pollution prevention and smoking cessation.”
Buying a solar energy system will likely increase your home’s value. A recent study found that solar panels are viewed as upgrades, just like a renovated kitchen or a finished basement, and home buyers across the country have been willing to pay a premium of about $15,000 for a home with an average-sized solar array. Additionally, there is evidence homes with solar panels sell faster than those without. In 2008, California homes with energy efficient features and PV were found to sell faster than homes that consume more energy. Keep in mind, these studies focused on homeowner-owned solar arrays.
Disney added a 50-megawatt solar system in Florida. This solar farm includes more than a half million panels that cover 270 acres. This will considerably reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by more than 57,000 tons per year. As reported by the New York Times, Disney estimates the amount of energy the facility can produce would be enough to power 10,000 homes annually. That’s also as much as getting 9,300 cars off the road.
The new solar farm joins other Disney efforts towards its green goal. In 2016, the company opened a 22-acre, 5-megawatt solar facility that’s shaped like Mickey Mouse. Its Tokyo Disneyland also uses solar power from rooftops to generate more than 600 kilowatts for its electrical parade light. Disneyland Paris is also in on the green game, utilizing geothermal energy for the power needed in two of its theme parks as well as a hotel. Disney’s Shanghai Resort makes use of a cooling and heating plant that cuts emissions by 60 percent.
Source: Disney, The New York Times