Virtual Net Metering: Coming to a neighborhood near you?

If you happen to believe – as many people do – that the sun is the greatest source of “Clean energy,” then you’re probably also an advocate of Solar Energy Systems.

But you don’t have to be a mathematician to deduce that the most logical objection to installing one in a home or business is the cost.

Until now.

A business model known as virtual net metering holds the promise of changing that paradigm by extending the benefits of solar power projects to more people at a much lower cost. In fact, about a dozen states – including New York and Connecticut — already have enacted virtual net metering policies, and many more are reportedly eyeing the concept carefully.

It is more cost effective because it eliminates all the customized engineering and equipment cost for each roof or groundmount of a house. On standard array in a field or parking lot can provide solar for 25 to 50 to 100 roofs. That reduces a lot of people hours for engineers and field crew.

One of the reasons virtual net metering is becoming far more viable is that in urban environments – where there are large populations of renters – virtual net metering allows tenants to benefit from clean, green, reduced-cost energy.

Virtual net metering means you own or lease a system just like if it is on your property but it isn’t. It is down the road or in the next county but the electric company credits your electric bill just if you were hard wired.

When people are part of a net metering network, they generate their own solar energy onsite and send any excess energy back to the utility grid. People receive credits for this excess energy on their utility bill, which is why net metering gives credence to the image of “running a meter backwards.”

Adding “virtual” may be confusing, but it’s accurate: It means that customers can receive net metering credits even if they are not located on the specific property where the solar energy is being generated – such as those in a single-family home subdivision or townhouse development. The solar installation may be located nearby, or on a communal building.

Actual advantages include making solar power available to a greater number of people who enjoy…

  • …Basic economies of scale, which lowers costs. In fact, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the cost of a solar project can drop by more than 30 percent when the project is upgraded from 2 kilowatts to 10 kilowatts.
  • …Better choice of sites for solar projects. Think about the homeowner who able to draw energy from an ideal location one block away, and one that is bathed in full sun, unlike his own roof
  • … A streamlined project review and approval process. A greater number of people attached to a single solar project application means more clout in getting it approved.
  • …The potential for creative financing options, perhaps through third-party stakeholders, and possibly higher compensation rates from the local utility.

It’s state-of-the-art, so to speak, and local legislators realize that public policy should be tailored to the dynamics of a specific state or region if it’s going to succeed.  Some states, for example, require solar customers to live in the same neighborhood. In others, virtual net metering is open only to municipalities, non-profit groups and agricultural customers. Though they may be trying to please different constituencies, advocates for virtual net metering share one core belief: that the sun is the greatest source of natural energy and that solar energy projects represent the very best way to harness it.

In New York, the public service commission allows virtual net metering in each utility load Zone as indicated in the attached map.

District Sun is not only a professional solar design and engineering firm, but is expert at the many ways solar energy can be introduced to businesses and non-profits for the benefit of all – and the various financing options and incentives that make it possible.

District Sun will do everything under the sun to help you go solar, so contact us today.