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