Going Solar

Going Solar

Many communities and residents run up against practical hurdles when deciding whether or not to make the transition towards renewable energy. Upfront costs can often be too high, or a homeowner may not have the necessary land or optimal conditions to install a renewable technology like solar PV.

In recent years, however, Vermonters have started utilizing a diversity of innovative solutions that allow for communities and homeowners to make the transition toward renewable energy.

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Power Purchase Agreements 

Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) are most common for solar projects that are sited on municipal land. The municipality enters into an agreement with a developer in which they purchase power from the solar project at or below current market rates, and are otherwise required to pay little to no upfront costs.  The developer, as a private enterprise leasing the land, in turn takes advantage of tax incentives and depreciation, while also receiving a guaranteed rate on the electricity produced over a fixed period of time—typically between 5-10 years.

After the initial contract period expires, the municipality can either renegotiate and renew the agreement, or purchase the solar project at a reduced—depreciated—cost.  Thus, PPAs give municipalities the flexibility to initially have on site renewable generation—without the responsibility of financing, designing, installing, and maintaining the project—with the opportunity for outright ownership once the cost comes down due to depreciation.

In 2010, the town of Starksboro entered into a PPA with AllEarth Renewables.  Read more about this inspiring story or contact Starksboro Energy Committee chair Caleb Elder for further info on the project and PPAs at calelder@gmail.com or 802-777-0156.

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Group Net Metering

Though many people may want renewables sited on their property or home, all sites are not created equal when it comes to renewable generation.  Some homes may be severely shaded, oriented in a way that makes solar impractical, or a homeowner simply may not have the necessary land to fulfill their energy needs with small scale wind or solar.

Fortunately, Vermont’s net metering law allows a group of customers in the same utility service territory to combine meters and benefit collectively from renewable generation that is sited on one homeowners property.

Group net metering, therefore, incentivizes the efficient use of property, and can achieve production levels that otherwise would not be possible on an individual basis.  A group can also spread the upfront costs amongst participants in a way that makes the cost for each participant less than it would be if they each invested in a system on their own–effectively reaching an economy of scale that would not be attainable otherwise.

Steve Webster and his wife, Barbara Yerrick, recently initiated a group net metering project on their property that now includes six households and a small business.  Contact Steve for more info about the details of the project at swebster@sbschools.net, or 802-652-7282 or 802-318-2362.

Also, take a look at the documents in the right sidebar.  The Vermont Law School has published a helpful primer on group net metering that will help you understand the opportunities and challenges of getting a group net metered project moving.  Additionally, Jeff Forward of the Richmond Energy Committee has developed a group net metering agreement template that should help those who are interested to develop agreements more quickly and effectively.  You can contact Jeff about the template—regarding either questions or improvements—at forward@gmavt.net

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