So you’ve gone ahead and taken the leap: You’ve installed solar panels in your home or office. You’re feeling pretty good about this decision – you’re pulling in eco-friendly, renewable energy; the panels were cost-effective and the installation was seamless; you’re confident that you’ll be saving money in energy costs year after year. But here’s an added bonus you might not have known about: you can sell your solar power back to a utility company. That’s right – for savvy consumers, solar energy can both save and earn all at the same time. How’s that for multitasking?
Of course, it’s not quite as easy as receiving a big check from your utility company every month for the solar power you don’t use. There are a few different guidelines and things to take note of, especially depending on where you reside. That being said, net metering can be an additional bonus to what’s already a worthwhile investment, so let’s take a look at how to make your solar panels work for you even further.
It’s fairly common to have your residential solar system produce more energy than you can consume. According to SEIA, approximately 20-40% of collected solar energy goes into the grid. A process known as net metering allows consumers to take the solar energy that they don’t use and sell it back to utility companies, which helps to reduce electric bills. The United States government requires that each state purchases surplus energy from its residents, so rest assured that you’re not doing anything crooked by net metering!
In order to figure out how much energy your solar panels are generating—so you can then calculate how much you can sell—you’ll need to consult your energy measuring equipment. The website Residential Solar Panels explains it: “Most existing homes and businesses will have a power meter attached to them with gauges that run forward and backward, tracking energy use. Inside the meter should be what is known as an ‘inverter.’ The inverter allows the company to measure how much power you are generating.”
If you are generating more power from your solar panels than you’re using in your home or business, many electric companies will apply a credit to your monthly bill.
To lay it out simply, here are just a few potential positives when you choose to sell your unused solar energy back to the grid:
- You’ll save money on your energy bill. Depending on which state you live in and the policies of your utility company, you may receive monthly credits on your energy bill, or even a cash refund for the solar energy you don’t use.
- You’ll help create more jobs in the solar energy sector. As the demand for solar energy increases, more positions will be created to allow for the employment of manufacturers, installers, and electricians. SEIA notes that nearly 174,000 American workers are currently employed in the solar-tech sector, and this figure could very well rise depending on how many consumers choose to install solar panels in their residence or office.
- You’ll be setting a good example for the future of solar tech. Solar energy is still a fairly new industry; more people buying into it means that it becomes mainstream that much faster. Not only will you create more jobs as mentioned above, but you’ll also be able to set a positive example for peers wanting to learn more about the benefits of solar power.
Before You Begin
As a consumer, you’ll need to take a few extra steps before you begin monetizing your solar panels. For starters, make sure you know your utility company’s interconnection standards, because those will dictate just how much energy you’ll be able to sell back. Also, depending on where you live, you may need special permits or home owner’s insurance in order to recoup additional income from your unused solar energy.
To temper expectations: You likely won’t become rich by selling your excess solar energy, unless you’re recouping on a massive field of solar panels. You most likely will be able to save even more money on your energy bill. It’s definitely worth diving further into your utility company’s terms and conditions surrounding the selling of solar power and what you may receive in return.
Focus on California
As an example, let’s examine California’s policies regarding selling your solar power back to the grid. The website Go Solar California is a useful resource, and provides step by step instructions on how to audit your energy efficiency, find an installer, and apply for rebates. On the topic of net metering and excess solar energy, here’s what they have to say:
“…the total amount of energy produced over one year is credited against the total amount of energy consumed. If your solar system produced exactly as much power in a year as you consume, your bill for that year will be zero, even if there are times when you are consuming more than you produce. Your utility may still charge you a minimum service connection fee, sometimes on the order of $5, regardless of your net metering bill credits.
“If you produce more power over a one-year period than you consume, however, you will not be paid for the excess power, nor will your credits for the power you generate be carried over into the next year.”
As you can see, by law, California does not reimburse for excess solar energy, but you may get a break on your bill if you consume more energy than your solar panels produce.
The Bottom Line
When you choose to install solar panels, you’re making a choice that has myriad benefits for both you and the environment. And when there’s additional perks like recouping credits on your energy bill thanks to unused solar energy, then it’s a decision you can feel even better about. Being at the forefront of innovation solar technology definitely has its advantages!
Will you start looking into net metering? Does net metering make you want Solar Panels on your home? Let us know in the comments.