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Photo by IGT Solar Tallahassee
Why distributed solar matters and a model for City of Tallahassee utilities.

Tallahassee will soon be getting its first solar power plant generating around 10 megawatts of power. The solar project details are the subject of Sustainable Tallahassee's Green Drinks on September 28th.

The next step could be distributed solar. (The heart of the two solar amendments proposed in Florida and discussed previously here.).

When people consider solar for their rooftops, there are two typical barriers:
  • structural—the roof has to point the right way, able to support the panels, not be in the shade and,
  • the upfront costs.
Leasing programs like the ones offer by Solar City can be one solution (except it's not allowed in Florida where big utilities provide electricity).

In a different twist San Antonio, Texas, CPS Energy (formerly City Public Services) said it would offer residents cash—in the form of monthly credits on their electricity bills—if they would just agree to let a third party put solar panels on their roofs.

Like City of Tallahassee, CPS is a municipally owned utility. CPS Is the largest municipal utility in the U.S.   Like Tallahassee, they are not owned by investors and they offer net metering to customers who have installed solar on their homes, allowing them to send power back to the grid and receive a credit on their utility bill.

CPS Energy will contract with local solar companies that would buy panels and place them on roofs in San Antonio. These solar companies would maintain and insure the panels, and collect any associated tax credits. CPS would commit to buy the output of the panels, which would be funneled into the grid, at a price that is competitive with what it pays for electricity from other sources.

In exchange for offering up their roofs for a 20-year period, homeowners would get a credit on their monthly electricity bills of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. A typical customer could get a credit of about $30 per month simply by hosting the panels. City of Tallahassee charges residential customers around 11 cents per kilowatt  ($0.10721 per kWh).

CPS announced that it wanted to place up to 10 megawatts of rooftop solar in its service area through this model—enough to cover about 2,000 rooftops. In the first three days after the announcement, more than 2,000 people applied—as many people as had installed rooftop solar in the past seven years in San Antonio.

Do you think this is a model for Tallahasse?

Read Daniel Gross article in full here.



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