As we explained in a previous post, net metering is a system through which you can receive credits from your utility company in exchange for the solar power your produce, helping you to reduce your monthly power bill or even make money off of your solar production.
Virtual net metering is an extension of this process, where a group of utility customers can share the electricity from a single power system. This is common among residential neighbors or the stores within a mall, for example. Often the amount of credits received is proportionate to the specific customer's contribution or ownership of the shared system.
Advantages of virtual net metering
Shared system on an optimized site
Because the energy is shared between tenants, often the installation costs for a single power system are split among them as well. This results in a smaller installation cost per party, including the need for only one meter that sends electricity back to the power grid.
With any solar solution, it's important to find the proper area to install it. From south-facing roofs to large areas of land with no shade, the requirements can add up quickly for your clients depending on your geographic location and the type of solar installation you are considering. This can be especially difficult in residential neighborhoods or urban areas, as well as for businesses that operate out of attached or shared buildings. Virtual net metering overcomes the issues associated with the position or shading of individual buildings by having one centralized, optimized installation site.
Allows non-homeowners to do their part for the environment
Many renters are interested in switching to renewable energy, but are unable to do so, since they don't own the home they live in. A virtual net metering agreement can be shared among tenants within the same building or on the same property, which is an attractive option for renters who might not otherwise be able to install a solar system on their property.
Expedited project development and implementation
In addition to finding communal ways to finance a solar project, virtual net metering agreements "can streamline the interconnection application and review process for both utilities and customers," according to the Environmental Defense Fund, a national nonprofit organization that has worked to solve critical environmental problems facing the planet since 1967. "Compared to applications from multiple residents with rooftop solar, a community project would require a single filing, saving both time and money." Throughout this process users and installers can also avoid some of the red tape associated with any utility project on the municipal level by submitting fewer applications.
As with traditional net metering projects, installers should inform themselves on policies and procedures specific to the states in which they are licensed to operate. If you are considering starting or joining a virtual net metering project, ensure that you have access to metering equipment that allows for joint metering, and know whether it can separate the bills according to the proportion of energy consumed. Additionally, make sure your power company sends back bills that demonstrate transparency of usage data, so that each contributor can know precisely how many energy credits they have accumulated.
Whereas solar energy used to be reserved for those who had the financial resources and space to install their own solar systems on their property, virtual net metering is changing the game by making it accessible to those who want to make the switch. Space, money, and homeownership are no longer obstacles to going solar, meaning that more and more people can be a part of the renewable energy future.
A solar tracker, which can produce up to 45 percent more energy than rooftop systems, could be a perfect fit to get your virtual net metering clients the ROI they seek. For more details, download our complimentary tech specs on AllEarth Solar Trackers.