Saturday, November 7, 2015

Demand charge

I think this represents what our peak demand was over the past year.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Energy monitoring

As we have been planning on the solar system expansion we have been increasing our awareness of energy usage.  The local utility still needs to capture operating costs while we are connected to them.  They are going to do this by charging a base connection charge around $25-30 and a peak consumption charge each month.  I think the peak connection charge will be about $7 per kwh.  What this means is that if we use 4 kwh we will have to pay $28 plus the base rate.  Here is a copy of the net metering rate

This new rate schedule brings on two different things for us.  First off, it allows us to calculate the utility of something like the Tesla Wall.  If a single Tesla wall costs $3500 and we end up having $600 a year in utility costs, perhaps a single Tesla Wall and going off grid makes financial sense.  The second thing  this does is have us try to limit the controllable peak demand charge.

In order to learn our energy usage patterns we bought a PowerCost wifi bridge and monitor off Amazon.  Our utility meters have a LED that can be read to know the energy used.  I wanted to learn what each appliance or fixture or consumed in power before net metering started.  This product installs on the exterior meter and gets read via the wifi system in the house.  I found this product difficult to get set up.  Despite following directions and accessing online support videos I could not get it working.  I had ignored the online reviews of the product.  Even if people got this product working it frequently died after less than a years worth of use.  Click on picture below to see this product.  I now wish we had bought a Ted Energy Pro monitoring system.

Site under Construction

We are finally in the process of expanding our solar system.  Our local utility has adopted net metering and tax incentives for our state expire at the end of 2015.  We are adding another 20 panels, perhaps doubling our generating capacity.  We hope this will leave excess to help power up an electric car in the future.  Click image for larger.  12 panels on the third row and 8 on a new lean to addition on the garage.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Greenville and GUC not so green

Thank you for taking the time to read the following discussion about solar energy and the need for the city of Greenville and the Greenville Utilities Commission (GUC) to offer net metering.

The bulk of local residential solar photovoltaic development has come about with the assistance of North Carolina Greenpower .  When a solar system generates power, the system generates Solar Energy Renewable Credits (SRECs).  NC Greenpower and other organizations serve as SREC aggregators that buy and sell the SRECs.  Historically the GUC based solar generators were connected to the grid using a buy all sell all arrangement wherein two electric meters are installed on a structure, one to purchase electric at the going retail rate and another to sell generated electric back the GUC at the wholesale rate.  Residential solar generators would then collect their bills for three months and submit them to NC Greenpower for SREC reimbursement.  Agreements with NC Greenpower are only good for 5 years, they do not renew the contract, and there is no ready market for SRECs after this contract.

Without a market for SRECs, GUC based solar generators remain stuck with a buy all sell all arrangement.  Solar systems designed to produce enough electric for a household continue to have to pay GUC for electric as they only get credited for power generation at the wholesale rate while needing to buy power at the retail rate.  The solution for this is to have net metering.

What is net metering?  Net metering is the process where the utility meter spins one direction for power generation and another direction for power consumption.  Solar generators thus pay only for the power consumed beyond what they produce.

Who supports net metering?  The North Carolina Utilities Commission  (NCUC) mandates net metering for all investor owned utilites.  The United States Department of Energy (USDOE) published Solar Powering Your Communities: A Guide for Local Governments that supports net metering.  The Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act supports net metering.

Who does not support net metering?  GUC does not offer net metering.

Why do solar generators want net metering?  Solar generators want net metering to fully capture their investments in renewable energy.  Current buy all sell all generators also have the burden of having to pay GUC a monthly fee for the extra required meter.

Why should the community around us want net metering?  GUC pays only pennies per kilowatt hour.  During peak demand times GUC may pay nearly $20 per kilowatt hour.  Residential retail solar mitigates the need for peak demand purchases, overall lowering demand expenses.  Without net metering it is not economically feasible to install residential solar systems.  If net metering were started it is reasonable to expect an increase in solar installations and thereby the building trades that install and monitor such systems.  Solar electric generation  avoids the need for dirtier forms of generation such as coal and nuclear plants.

How can the community help?  There are many ways to help:
1.  Engage with your local community leaders.
2.  The Pitt County Commissioners send two people to the board of GUC.  Virginia Hardy's term expires June 2015, get involved to have a solar friendly board installed.
3.  Get involved with GUC board members.  One is the city manager for Greenville.  Four are appointed by Greenville City Council.
4.  Push Greenville City Council to send solar friendly board members to GUC.
5.  Greenville City Council member Dr. Richard Croskery is the board liason to GUC.  Please encourage him to support net metering.  His email is:
6.  Share this site with others in the Greenville area that care about renewable energy generation.
7.  Are you willing to put a sign in your yard in support of net metering?  These signs are getting designed and printed over the next several weeks.  Send an email to
8.  Consider a donation to defer costs of signage and a future media campaign.  Email

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Net metering

First an update on our solar.  We remain pleased with system performance.  Overall we think we use more than we generate, especially this past winter.  We have also had electric fencing on and the new garage has increased our demand.  We have kept all the data but not analyzed it to know for sure.  One panel went down, it took us months to figure it out and then months more to get it replaced.  Joe Sheffield of Alternative Energy Concepts has left that company but was gracious to help us with the warranty repair.

We have been using the system for just over 4 years.  We remain with a buy all sell all arrangement.  Our local utility sells us everything we use at the full retail rate.  We have a second meter that the utility purchases electricity we produce at the wholesale rate.  The info we get from the utility indicates that we pay them a fee each month for the second meter.  My wife keeps track of the system generation data and every three months submits the info to NC Greenpower, selling them our renewable energy credits (REC).  The reimbursement rate for our current contract is 15 cents per kwh.  With one year left to go on this contract we are looking at what the future holds for us.

NC Greenpower still purchases RECs but only for 6 cents per kwh.  This would basically eliminate a lot of incentive for new solar installations.  It also changes the payback to us on our current system to perhaps being equal.  A local installer suggested to me that the local utility sells electric at 13 cents per kwh, buys generated power at 7 cents per kwh.  As solar PV generators we have to keep track of the data, submit to NC Greenpower (or another broker in the future), wait for the check to come, and pay for an extra meter each month.  This will be extra frustration and expense on our part with no additional benefit.

There is a solution to this issue that is available in most of the United States.  This solution is called net metering.  One single meter is used to keep track of net energy usage.  If extra power is generated it is credited with the local utility each month.  After a year of use any excess credit is lost, though in some areas different things happen such as the generator getting paid either the wholesale, the retail, or some other rate based upon incentives.  RECs can be kept by either the utility or the generator.

My local utility does not currently offer net metering.  I would like to begin net metering next year.

In 2005 the Attorney General ( I think this is of my local state) in a brief filed with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) supported the adoption of net metering.    NCUC has the following info about their position regarding net metering:

There is a summary of the above available at the following link:

The United States Department of Energy has a publication called Solar Powering Your Community:  A Guide for Local Governments  (click for this document to open in a new window)

On page 89 of this document is the following:  

They then follow up with the following:

Today I am going to go to my local utilities board meeting to request they start net metering.  My local utility is guided by the local city council so I anticipate going to the city council meeting tonight to also ask for their assistance.

If you are a solar advocate in my area, please contact those you know on the boards of the utility and city council to ask for net metering.  Thank you for your assistance.

4/27/14 update:  NC Greenpower said they do not renew contracts at any rate.
Another company said they would not purchase my RECs.
GUC says they will do a rate study that might get net metering started.
GUC already has rates to buy and sell electric so it seems they could just make the decision to net meter?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Financial update

1. We are starting to see credit on our utility bill. The one that arrived today credits us 21.06

2. We have received our federal tax refund and therefore have 30% of our expense back already.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Utility Company data

I am going to try and paste images of an email I got from the local electric company that details energy generated. Click for larger if you wish.