Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A Bright Spot for Solar

This blog has never been shy about pointing out the limitations of solar energy so it's only fair that we give equal time to one of its key benefits: excess capacity. Often, solar arrays produce more power than is actually needed.

Last year the PUC passed a "feed-in-tariff" that allows that excess power to be sold, but the tariff is more or less de minimis-- around $.08 kwh. Under the California Solar Initiative, individual users can use their excess power to zero out their bills, but that's it.

Now, there are three separate bills in Sacramento that seek to establish feed-in tariffs. AB 432 sees to set up a pilot project in Palm Desert, CA that establishes a feed-in tariff of between 26-32 cents kwh. SB 523 sets up a similar project in Santa Monica, CA. SB 32 proposes a feed-in tariff targeted more at large industrial users.

The ability to sell off excess power is good news for homeowners and commercial interests who have committed to solar, but the concept likely will be opposed by ratepayer advocate groups who believe that any additional costs incurred by utilities will be passed on to consumers.