Welcome, dear readers to another edition of Your Solar Questions Answered. Let’s jump right in with this question from Jim in Illinois:
Q: What happens if net metering goes away in my state?
A: Probably not much (if you already installed solar)
For those of you not in the know, net metering is the policy that every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy generated by solar panels should earn the solar owner 1 kWh of credit on their electricity bill. Some solar kWh are used in the home, and some are sent to the grid. Without net metering, those kWh sent to the grid could be bought by the electric company for as little as 15-20% of retail cost. (2 or 3 cents, while retail prices average 12-13 cents).
Many states currently offer net metering to their customers, including your home state of Illinois, Jim. And a couple states who used to have it, don’t anymore. For example, Arizona, Indiana, and Maine have eliminated or changed their former net metering policies, but in each case, there’s some good news: existing solar customers get to stay on net metering after changes.
There is one important example where this did not occur: Nevada. Back in 2015, The Silver State’s Public Utilities Commission voted to end net metering for all solar customers. Well, that prompted an OUTCRY of support for solar in the state, and the state legislature (and governor, working with the opposition party) restored net metering in spring of 2017.
What are the arguments against net metering?
The utility companies are afraid… very afraid, of rooftop solar. After all, if everyone had solar panels, we’d be buying much less of their energy. And their argument seems to make sense: why would you pay Pauline 12 cents for a kilowatt-hour you’re going to sell to Petra for the same amount? Basic economics says that’s no way to run a business.
But this ain’t basic economics. Rooftop solar provides huge benefits to the utility company, from reducing peak energy demands in the summer when everyone’s blasting their A/C to reducing the need to build expensive new electric transmission lines. State after state has studied this issue, and the most thorough analyses universally conclude that solar owners provide value to the grid.
So if your state tries to take away your net metering, follow Nevada’s example and get Mark Ruffalo on the case.
And as a bonus, we have a question of our own for you, dear readers:
Q: What cute animal is getting Chinese children excited about solar power?
A: The panda bear!
Hey, Americans: The Chinese are mercilessly beating us at innovation, investment in solar, and fighting climate change! And they’re even getting the kids involved.
A company called Panda Green Energy Group Limited (recently changed from the less-cute “United Photovoltaics Group Limited” has just completed the first half of construction on a new solar power plant with a section built in the shape of a Panda Bear.
The image above shows and artist’s rendering of what a Panda-shaped solar installation might look like, using two different types of solar panels. The dark areas would be made up of monocrystalline silicon solar panels, and the lighter areas made up of thin-film solar. But in the end, the Panda Green Energy Group Limited seems to have decided that the more efficient monocrystalline panels were a better choice for the whole thing, which doesn’t produce quite as exciting an image when you see the final result:
The fun doesn’t stop here, with just one Giant Solar Panda. The group plans to build 100 such installations all throughout China. And the site of the first Panda Solar Farm will soon play host to a nine-day youth summer camp all about promoting clean energy.
Your move, America.
Last modified: October 1, 2019