Solar technology has come a long way from its humble beginnings:
What once took lots of giant panels days to produce can now be generated by smaller panels within hours.
What once was expensive to most homeowners has now become affordable and incentivized by state and federal governments.
Modern solar technology continues to advance with each passing year. But one of the most beneficial advancements to consumers has nothing to do with the physical setup of the system or composition of their panels, but rather how the energy you generate is stored and utilized. This process is called Net metering.
1. Solar panels are installed in places which receive the most sunshine.
2. Once the sunlight is captured, it is sent to an inverter.
3. Within the inverter, the energy is converted into electricity.
4. After converted, the energy flows into a home electrical panel and is used for anything powered by the electrical grid.
Most home solar installations don’t include a way for homeowners to store excess or unutilized energy for later use.
On days a home solar system doesn’t generate enough power to meet the demand, the outside electrical grid functions with no discernible difference. This is where net metering comes in.
Net metering allows owners of small wind turbines and solar panels to claim benefits for any excess energy generated. The original law allowed anyone generating less than 40 kW to either roll over any kilowatt credit to the next month or pay for the excess. In 2000, this was amended to compensation “at the average retail utility energy rate.” Idaho utilities adopted net metering in 1980. As of 2017, only four states offer no form of net metering. Any excess energy flows back into the utility grid and then is delivered to other consumers.
In states without net metering, compensation for the excess energy is usually based on the “avoided cost” of electricity. This represents the rate the utility company would have had to pay to produce or purchase that energy from another source.
In simple terms, utility companies frequently pay for the power at the wholesale cost.
States that offer net metering frequently have laws that mandate any excess power be purchased by the utility company at the same retail price the homeowner paid for the electricity drawn from the grid.
The price set for excess energy delivered back to the grid varies from state to state.
First, net metering systems are simple and require hardly any action after the initial installation.
Net metering offers value for excess energy without any additional installation or other expensive storage systems.
Second, it serves as a way for homeowners and businesses to contribute energy and remove some of the pressure from the grid, especially during peak consumption periods.
Third, with net metering, a single solar-equipped home can potentially power several others homes.
On a larger scale, neighborhoods adopting solar systems could become self-sufficient.
Fourth, net metering enables consumers a simple yet effective role in their own alternative energy production: Without doing anything different, solar installers can help protect the environment and preserve natural resources.
Lastly, homes using net metering tend, on the whole, to be more aware of energy consumption and reduce energy waste as a result.
According to Idaho Power: “[Idaho’s] Net Metering tariff allows customers to install small-scale renewable generation projects on their property and connect to Idaho Power’s electrical grid.
When customers generate more electricity than they consume, they earn a kilowatt-hour (kWh) credit that is carried over to the next month.
Residential (Schedule 1) and small commercial (Schedule 7) customers may connect up to 25 kilowatts (kW) of generation. All other rate classes may connect up to 100 kW of generation.”
The applying process for net metering in Idaho begins with the customer submitting a completed application form and a $100 application fee to Idaho Power.
The customer will receive a notice of receipt from Idaho power, and within seven business days, will provide the customer with the results of the feasibility overview.
From here, the installation will either be approved or Idaho Power will work with the applicant to determine any upgrades needed to make the installation function properly with the existing grid.
Once the system has been completely installed and passes the state electrical inspection, the customer must submit a System Verification Form detailing the final installed components of the net metering system.
Idaho Power will conduct its own inspection within ten business days and will then, after approval, install a new meter programmed for net metering within 15 business days.
All of the required documentation, instructions, and guidelines for net metering are available on Idaho Power’s website.
Throughout the solar installation process, our team of experts will be with you from start to finish, and as a full-service solar company, we cover your system design, electrical engineering, installation, and warranties.
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