Community net metering represents a major shift in solar policy in New York State. Essentially community net-metering allows large buildings to install solar panels on their roof and sell the energy produced at a discounted rate to homeowners. Community net metering represents the first time in history that individuals have an option of where to buy their electricity from, instead of being forced to buy power from the monopolized power utility. Before further delving into community net metering it is worth understanding how traditional net metering works.
Fundamentally, net metering is a process by which grid-tied PV systems producing more energy than the buildings current electrical consumption; in turn, the excess energy produced during the peak production of the system is sent back to the grid and credited to the building owner. The credits that are accumulated by the building during the peak production are saved and are available to the building owner when their system is producing less than their present energy consumption such as during the nighttime. While not all states offer net metering, fortunately New York State currently supports net-metering and plans to continue its support in the future.
On a residential level net-metering is critical to making solar financially viable for a homeowner due to the fact that a large portion of residential energy is typically consumed in the evening after the sun has set. Without residential net-metering homeowners with solar would be required to pay for electricity consumed whenever the sun isn’t shining, which would be financially prohibitive for many. In addition to the pivotal role net metering has played in New York for residential solar customer’s; net metering will play a large role in the future of commercial solar.
In July of 2015, The New York State Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order to establish community net metering in New York. Essentially community net metering allows for multiple customers to purchase electricity produced by an offsite solar generation facility at a discounted rate. Community net-metering is ideal for anyone who can not install solar on their homes such as renters, low-income residents, and homes with heavy tree shading. The stipulations of community net-metering are as follows:
“A community energy project requires a minimum of 10 members. The group may include a single individual subscriber that has demand greater than 25kW, who will be limited to 40% of the total facility’s output. Other subscribers will be limited to individual demand less than 25kW, and their total energy use must aggregate to at least 60% of the facility’s output. The maximum size of the community energy system is limited to 2 MW. Any single entity, including facility developer, ESCO, municipal entity, business, non-profit, LLC, partnership, or other form of business or civic association can be the sponsor of the community energy facility. The sponsor will be responsible for building and operating the facility.” (Nyserda.ny.gov)
Overall the community net metering allows large buildings to install expansive solar systems that produce more power than is needed for the building itself with the ability to sell the excess power not consumed on site.
As was highlighted above community net metering offers a fantastic opportunity for residents who can not install solar to go green and save money without putting any panels on their home. In addition to the benefits, community net metering can have for residents who can not install solar panels on their own roof, community net-metering also offers an exciting opportunity for large buildings such as warehouses, offices, schools and churches to go solar. By participating in community net metering and installing a large scale solar system on the building; commercial building owners are able to utilize previously unused roof space to generate residual income and achieve a very rapid return on investment. Currently, community net metering is in the early stages of being rolled out on Long Island and can be expected to grow rapidly in the region over the next several years.