How Solar Can Earn You Cash from Your Utility


In Hampton, Virginia, resident Ben Cuker never pays the local power company more than $8.25 a month. What’s more, several times a year the utility sends him a check for $200. His neighbor, Max Buzard, enjoys a similar arrangement.

Both Cuker’s and Buzard’s homes are powered by solar energy systems, systems that provide all the electricity they need.

“Dominion charges us about $8.25 a month for staying tied to the electrical grid,” said Cuker, a professor of marine and environmental science at Hampton University.

The potential to earn extra income with residential systems isn’t some futuristic dream. For photovoltaic owners like Cuker and Buzard, it’s happening now.

The two are teaming up to spread the word, becoming part of this fall’s annual National Solar Home Tour, organized by the American Solar Energy Society, a non-profit organization that promotes green energy. Cuker and Buzard will be on hand to answer questions about the Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) program.

For each megawatt hour of renewable energy production, homeowners earn one SREC. Utilities are mandated by law to invest in renewable energy. They meet that mandate in part by purchasing clean power generated by residential solar.

solar-contractors-on-roofSome utility companies enter into an agreement with residential customers to purchase the SRECs. Otherwise, the homeowner can sell the SRECs on the open market.

Prices for SRECs vary from state to state. In New Jersey, SRECs can sell for as high as $700. In Virginia, SRECs sell for about $200.

And although Cuker’s home consumes almost all the electricity that his PV system produces, Dominion still pays him for it. “The fact that it was done without burning dirty fuels is what is traded,” he said.

For pricing on a solar system in your area, click here.

Other utilities purchase renewable energy using an arrangement based on net-metering. When homes with solar systems produce more energy than a home is using, it flows back into the grid, making the electric meter run backward.

Many states mandate utilities to buy this net excess generation, or NEG, from homeowners, typically at the same rate as conventional electricity.

Buzard, who sells solar panel systems through Royer Technical Services in Hampton, stated that a 10-panel PV system, after installation rebate and tax credit incentives, along with annual SREC sales, would cost about $14,000 and pay for itself in 10 years.

The PV systems at the homes of Ben Cuker and Max Buzard are about twice the size of the average system. Their systems already provide all the electricity they need. Once they’ve recouped their initial investment, those SRECs become sheer profit.

Since PV systems last from 20 to 30 years, that’s at least a decade of free electricity, and at least a decade of $200 checks every few months from Dominion.

So, what do you think? Want to see how much you can save with solar? Talk to a contractor today.

Posted on September 30 in Going Solar by .

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