D.C. Considers Community Solar Power

D.C. Considers Community Solar Power.


The D.C. Council is considering legislation that would allow people to get their energy from solar panels anywhere in the city — even for businesses and residents that don’t get the best light themselves.

Pastor Peter Spann is proud of all the things that go on under the roof of Promised Land Baptist Church in Takoma, D.C. From weddings to baby dedications, food donations to financial planning, Spann says the church is all about opening its doors to people. Still, the roof itself poses a problem. Spann wants to go solar, but the church can’t support the panels.

“The pitch of the roof is oriented east/west, and most of the sun comes from the south,” says Erin Alexander, who works for Kenergy Solar. “And it’s an old roof, so you’d have to redo the roof completely.”

But the recreation center across the street has a roof that’s perfectly suited for solar panels. Now Spann’s hoping a new bill will allow him to generate solar power there. Earlier this week, Ward 7 council member Yvette Alexander introduced the Community Renewables Energy Act of 2012, which would allow two or more individuals to share the electricity produced by a single system.

Steve Seuser, a member of the solar advocacy group D.C. SUN, explains: “The problem is if people can’t do solar on their own roofs, there’s no way to connect a solar system they would have somewhere else on their Pepco bill. That’s what this bill would do.”

It’s called community solar . And it means that people pay for power produced on panels anywhere in the city. Nicole Sitaraman with the D.C. Sierra Club says it’s an issue of equity.

“The main people who can benefit from solar energy generation are people who own the building, who own their own home, or their own businesses,” says Sitaraman. “Other people, like renters, are not able to benefit from solar energy generation.”

Similar bills have been under consideration in Maryland and Virginia, and Alexander says she hopes the D.C. bill will be passed before year’s end. After all, Spann says it’s all about promoting clean energy, and preserving resources.

“It helps us save our money for other needs,” says Spann.

And with solar power, he says he’ll be able to do even more under his roof.

3 comments on “D.C. Considers Community Solar Power

  1. First, I am not sure you would be better off being off the grid. If your state has net meeritng, you can bank power when making more than you are using. You can get it back when you use more than you are making. Batteries are an unnecessary, costly accessory. Unless you have critical need for power when the utility has an outage, you can do without them. In any event, buying and maintaining a small generator would be less costly.Using one manufacturer’s panels (they call them modules), you could get a 7.5 Kw system on your 900 sq ft. This means something around 5 kW effective.Look up INSOLATION TABLESon the Internet to find the average annual sun energy where you live.In my area it is 5 hours. 5 x 5 is 25, so you would get an average of 25 killowatt hours per day. Look at your utility bill, and see how much you now use. This will put you in the ballpark. It is likely, though, you won’t get a full 900 sq ft of modules. And, the angle from north-south your latitude and the pitch of the roof will all contribute to the efficiency of the system.My 6 kW system gives me 20kWh per day. Living alone, this is much more than I use for the items you mentioned. I keep track of daily electric meter readings. From a four-year record, I know roughly how much surplus I would have, and use that to augment heat from the gas furnace. Actually I used no gas last winter, except for heating water.Read all you can on the Internet, and in the green search box at the top of the page.Certainly you want to reroof prior to mounting the modules. Solar contractors like to say the modules protect the roof, but really it is only partial protection.Brain

  2. The sharing the cost part is not hard. The cost would ilnduce the [hopefully professional] install, including permits and fees. And you would share in the rebates. As far as any tax credits, most likely, only one person would take them, and would pay the equivalent of 1/4 of the amount each to the other two parties.Now, the hard news. Solar is not a big moneymaker. It can save money, but it is more of a money *saver* than maker. In most states, the power company doesn’t write an actual check for the electricity generated all they do is measure the net energy usage, and bill for that. So if a bill used to be $100 a month, and is now $40, it’s hard to determine how much of the difference was due to the solar panels’ input, and how much was due to plain old conservation. To be fair, you would need a separate meter to measure the solar panels’ output. Also, it is normal for solar panels not to break even for 5-10 years. And in some places, the panels will never break even.I’m a big fan of solar, and we even have our own panels on our roof, but I would be leery of getting entangled with relatives over the revenues from a photovoltaic system. I would say, if your mother doesn’t have the cash to pay for the system herself, she should get a home equity loan. If no one will give her such a loan, I don’t think it’s a good time for her to get such a system. If she can get a loan, you and your sisters could loan her the money at below-market rates, with the solar system as collateral. I would guess that you would each be putting up on the order of $4000, and expect to get paid back perhaps $10 a month.

  3. Any of those out there that know me; know that I have always had a vision of shared energy. I won’t even talk about my obsession with Tesla when I was a teenager and his theory of how to get free energy. But this is the next best thing to free energy.

    I am very excited about this initial vote and I think we are going to join a few innovative states that understand that more hands lightens the load. Keep it up DC!

    DC Council Unanimously Approves Shared Solar Program.

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