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#SolarChat: Virtual Solar 2.0

Our #SolarChat for 5/9/12 simplified what many customers find to be a complicated concept: net metering.

We had a huge panel of guests for this insightful discussion, and each brought unique and relevant insight. Mike Taylor, director of research for the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA); Annie Carmichael, solar policy director at Vote Solar; Rosalind Jackson, director of communications and development at Vote Solar; and Joy Hughes, founder and CEO of Solar Panel Hosting LLC shared their thoughts on net metering, community solar and other solar billing models.

Net Metering, Defined
What is net metering? Some of the best quotes of our hour-long Tweet-fest came in response to our first question:


Carl Siegriest summed up what really matters: “Customers who generates their own solar power are compensated with a lower bill.”

You can’t get much simpler than that. If your next question as a potential solar customer is, “How?” we can look to Demeter Power Group’s response: “Net metering creates a battery out of the utility infrastructure all consumers pay for… why not use it?!”

Net metering puts the solar customer in the driver’s seat. You create solar power and what you don’t use, you “sell back” to the utility as a credit on your bill. By staying connected to the grid, you don’t have to pay for costly battery back-up or buy more solar panels than you really need in case you get a week’s worth of rainy days in a row.

Community Solar?
With this basic question out of the way, our conversation moved toward other forms of net metering and different solar production models. As one of our panelists, Mike Taylor, shared with us prior to the chat on this blog, virtual metering and community solar is one way people whose homes or apartments are not good candidates for a solar installation can still benefit from solar power.

He tweeted these sentiments, tying community solar to net metering: “It can accelerate net metering markets for people who can’t afford, are shaded, rentals, etc.”

VoteSolar explained it further: “Community shared solar models aim to give people access to the benefits of solar, even if the panels aren’t on their own roof #SolarChat.”

Solar 2.0: Solar Goes Virtual
Let’s go back to the cable TV analogy. You don’t need a TV production studio attached to your home to enjoy the programming hundreds of networks provide. They create the content elsewhere and send it to your home. It’s the same with traditional electricity generated from coal. You don’t need a power plant in your backyard for your lights to turn on when you flick that switch.

Likewise, your solar array could be two blocks up the street or halfway across your state and it can still provide your home with solar energy. The panels don’t have to be physically attached to your roof for you to reap the benefits of clean energy and lower electric bills.

There are still challenges to community solar, and industry members discussed these in depth during our chat. Solar gardens, which is a great term for the areas that provide solar to entire communities, are growing in popularity. The solar industry has bright, capable minds working on overcoming the challenges. Our #SolarChat, above all else, showcased the industry’s desire to learn, to brainstorm and to do what it takes to plant solar gardens across the country. Stay tuned as we keep you posted on new developments in solar gardens and other community solar models.

The Solar 2.0 story is just beginning…

Post Written by
For Raina Brett Russo, taking care of the environment is a necessity, not an option. Having grown up in Israel, a place where conservation is required and solar hot water heating is the norm, Raina knows the importance of solar energy. Through her work with the EcoOutfitters.net team, Raina found a way to help grow the solar industry in a significant way. As the founder and host of #SolarChat, a bi-monthly "gathering" on Twitter, Raina and her team have created an engaged solar think-tank community that comes together regularly for collaboration and networking with the ultimate goal in mind of spreading the solar message.

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