Solar Energy

A great article on Solar in Vermont:

What is Photovoltaic?

Photovoltaics (PV) also known as Solar Electric systems use solar electric panels to directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity. This conversion of sunlight to electricity occurs without moving parts, is silent and pollution free in its operation. The solar electricity fed through electronic equipment is converted to utility grade electricity for use directly in the home.

harlow farm

You may be more familiar with PV cells as solar cells that power watches and calculators. But PV can do much more. It can provide electricity for residential and commercial buildings, including power for lights and air conditioning. PV can also be a convenient source of power for pumping water, electrifying fences, or aerating ponds in remote applications.

PV has so many uses today that it probably already touches your life in some way. You might have noticed the small PV systems attached to emergency telephones along the highways.

What does Grid-Tied mean?

Most residential PV systems are used in conjunction with utility-supplied power – this is called “Grid tying.”

A valuable feature of grid-tied or grid-connected photovoltaic systems is the ability to connect with the existing power grid and sell excessive electricity back to the utility with a plan known as Net Metering. At times when you are not using all of the electricity produced by your system, your meter will spin backwards selling the electricity back to the grid at retail rate.

When electrical demand is greater than the amount of electricity being produced by the PV system, then grid power is used. The cost of this is offset by the power you previously “sold” to the utility company, therefore greatly reducing your monthly utility bill.

What are the main benefits of a photovoltaic system?

  • It’s highly reliable and needs little maintenance— typical PV systems may last 30 years with minimal maintenance.
  • It can be competitively priced with traditional energy sources – in the long run saving you thousands of dollars on your energy bill.
  • It has virtually no environmental impact.
  • It uses the sun, a renewable energy, therefore reducing your consumption and reliance on non-renewable energy sources such a coal and oil.
  • It reduces the amount of electricity purchased from your utility company, greatly reducing your bills.
  • It protects you from future electricity price increases.
  • It’s produced domestically, strengthening our economy and reducing our trade deficit.

Group Net Metering for Community Solar

What makes Community Solar possible is a law allowing for “group” net metering. Because of this law, a group of customers, or a single customer, located within the same electric utility service territory, can choose to receive their power from a small generation system. Costumers can use a percentage on that metered system to offset their energy costs.

What do I need to install a photovoltaic system?

PlavinA PV system needs unobstructed access to the sun’s rays for most or all of the day, throughout the year. Don’t worry if you live in an area with a changing climate. PV modules are relatively unaffected by severe weather. In fact, most PV cells actually work better in colder weather.

PV modules are angled to catch the sun, not snow, so any snow that does collect melts quickly. Even hail won’t harm them. Most often, PV panels are installed on roofs, but they can also be installed as free-standing units, on a pole on the ground, or even on complex tracking structures that change with the sun’s angle during the day. Are you a renter, or don’t have an ideal setting for a home installation? Participate in one of our Vermont Community Solar projects where you can receive all of the benefits of going solar without any of the hassle or responsibilities.

How green is PV?

Electricity produced using the sun’s energy reduces the amount of energy used from non-renewable resources such as coal, gas, oil and nuclear. In addition, there are significant environmental benefits resulting from reductions in air pollution from burning fossil fuels, reductions in water and land use from central generation plants, reductions in the storage of waste byproducts. In addition, the solar technologies produce energy with little noise and few moving parts.

Over its 35-year expected life, a 10 kW system will provide the equivalent CO2 reduction as planting 1450 trees. (Based on typical utility pollution, it will prevent emissions of 963,125 lbs of carbon dioxide, 4,237 lbs of sulfur dioxide, and 1,364 lbs of nitrogen oxides.) It will produce 575,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, as much as would be generated by burning 583,000 lbs of coal.

Electric Bill Premium for PV

All utility companies in Vermont now offer a special incentive for their customers who install a PV system.  They will pay an additional 6 cents per Kilowatt hour for every kWh generated by your system.  This makes a PV system much more financially attractive and significantly lowers the pay back period for the system.

More information about PV systems and tax incentives

For more information, links and resources about photovoltaic systems please visit our resources page.

For more information about tax incentives, federal and state rebates and grant opportunities, please visit our incentives page.

For more information about net-metering with Central Vermont Public Service, please visit their Q&A page.