Solar panels are starting to become an affordable way for consumers to contribute to stopping global warming. Unfortunately, only about one fifth of the population has enough usable space where solar panels can be installed.
Imagine how much the residential solar market would accelerate if solar power would be doable for everyone – even for those living in a huge apartment building in the city.
Typically, one of the ways people can afford solar is through the net metering program. With net metering you can sell the surplus of electricity generated by your photovoltaics. It basically introduces a way for your power meter at home to spin backwards.
Depending on where you live, different limitations and caps are placed upon the net metering programs. The main motivation behind all of them is to make solar more affordable for the resident. One way of looking at it is that the grid now acts as a huge battery – much cheaper than if every household would have their own battery pack.
Virtual Net Metering
Virtual net metering is almost exactly the same. The only difference is that more than one household can be a part of each net meter, and centralized larger solar systems can be utilized.
Those who otherwise would not be applicable for solar systems in the past (because of lack of space, shading etc.) now can become members of community solar arrays – a solar panel garden – and receive bill credit as if the panels were on their own roof.
A “subscriber” can purchase a certain part of the amount of power that is being generated by the solar system, and will be paid accordingly in terms of bill credits in essentially the same manner as with “solo” systems.
This model can be taken another step further when an individual hosting company is in charge of the solar panels, maintenance of them and subscriber management. This eliminates the extra hassle for the utility company and enables the birth of these communities in states where virtual net metering is yet to be in place.
Members of Holy Cross Energy own the panels in this solar array in El Jebel, Colorado.
Photo Credit: Clean Energy Collective
For an overview over the various solar gardens that have popped up across the country in just a few years, go to:
There is no doubt that solar gardens offer a smart way to invest in solar panels for your home without the solar panels physically being there – opening up the residential solar market for most people.