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Virtual Metering: Getting the BENEFITS of solar without solar.

Virtual Metering: A promising forcast for COMMUNITY solar?

Many people would like to enjoy the benefits of solar PV, however, there are some situations that will stop solar integration dead in its tracks.  Obstacles to solar implementation include predominant shading over a building, lack of roof space, improper roof, and lack of landlord cooperation.   For these would-be consumers, virtual metering could be the solution.

Virtual metering is the practice of having another property owner host solar panels on their roof; to create energy for their own use, while selling the excess energy to a consumer who cannot host solar panels on his own roof.  Utility companies, municipalities, and even independent investors often fund these, which gives rise to the name “Community Solar”. 

Virtual metering allows you to take advantage of solar anywhere, regardless of whether you’re renting, living within a homeowner’s association, or have predominant shade issues over your roof.  It’s also a low cost option which makes solar power available to lower income families and homes.

“The concept is akin to leasing a panel and putting it on your home, except with Community Solar it’s a larger array which is put on the territory of a utility service or municipality. All risks for ownership and maintenance are appropriated by the utility service, which makes for lower costs, fewer obligations for customers, and no aesthetic worries.” says Mike Taylor, research director for the SEPA (Solar Electric Power Association).

 Could Virtual Metering Be the Solar Model of the Future?

Taylor, research director at SEPA, maintains that virtual metering is a key to the increased usage of solar power in the country. “Utility companies are gaining interest in virtual metering, and the low prices of solar are expanding that interest. Getting the benefits and yields of solar power into the hands of more people across more diverse demographics is hugely important. Community solar could be offered by as many as 30 utilities by the time the year is up. However it’s still a niche market and there are other factors to take into consideration.”

These factors include the economic climate and the possible rise of utility prices otherwise, “If solar power is successful in reducing the amount of electricity used significantly, then utilities will no longer have the ability to cover the cost of maintaining the grid of electricity, which could force them to raise prices, and the electric grid is still crucial to our everyday lives. The added cost would in large part have to be accounted for by those without solar.”

These factors, which Taylor mentions, are similar to those brought up by Scott Gordon, the senior VP of HelioPower, who spoke about a possible “grid of the future”. Gordon says that as more people move to solar, utilities will move away from generation and creation towards distribution. Hence, the ability of community solar and virtual metering to create energy could work to keep energy costs from escalating out of control, as well as, inadvertently penalizing the “have -nots”.  

 

Article written by Jennifer Coleman of Sun Source Solar Energy Brokers, providing solar brokering, brokerage, and solar energy consulting services in Santa Rosa, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano and San Francisco Counties.  For more information, please visit www.SunSourceSolarBroker.com.

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