Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Going solar: The problem with the SNAP program

In researching the possibilities for GVEA's SNAP program, the overwhelming issue for the Republic is one of initial setup costs. This is considerable, but GVEA's financial incentive doesn't come in the setup, only after everything's paid for. Elsewhere in the country, they aren't doing it this way:
Net metering essentially allows people to become mini-power producers. Programs vary state to state, but they are typically coupled with financial incentives that make it easier to invest thousands of dollars for photovoltaic panels, windmills or fuel cells. Since sun and wind are intermittent, customers still rely on the grid for steady service. The meter runs backward when more energy is produced than a customer consumes.
GVEA's program requires a separate meter, rather than net metering. Small producers can't expect the SNAP program to make it worth their while. But larger ones can, and so a few people are starting to supply GVEA with electricity. This is a good thing, but to get to their 20% renewable goal by 2014 (which is, I'm sorry to say, probably way too slow and too small a proportion), GVEA will have to get a larger, decentralized production from far more people. Still, GVEA is advertising the heck out of it, which sometimes isn't the case in other states or with other utilities.

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