There is good news for electric customers who are interested in installing solar panels at their homes. Up until now, many customers who have been interested in using solar power in their homes have been dissuaded from installing solar panels by the upfront cost of purchasing the panels, which can range from $15,000 – $50,000. The West Virginia Legislature recently passed House Bill 3310, providing an opportunity for retail electric customers to purchase solar power from panels installed on their property without paying the full upfront costs of purchasing the panels.
Customers have previously been able to own their own solar panels and generate electricity for their own personal use, but prior to HB 3310, customers could not allow a third party to own panels that would provide the customer with electricity because selling electricity to other customers has been considered a function of a public utility. Customers will now be able to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with a third party that will install solar panels at the customer’s property. The customer will then be able to purchase the power from the third party for use in their personal home or business.
The solar panels must be designed to meet only the electrical needs of the individual customer and should not exceed 25kW for residential customers, which is more than adequate to meet the needs of an average residential customer. The limit for commercial customers is 500 kW, and the limit for industrial customers is 2,000 kW.
The amount of electricity that can be produced by third-party owners of solar panels will be subject to the current net metering limitation of three percent of the electric utility’s aggregate customer peak demand during the previous year. A new customer wishing to enter into a PPA with a third-party owner of solar panels will be required to notify the electric utility of its intent to enter into the PPA. Then the electric utility will have 30 days to notify the customer whether the caps have been reached. Unless the electric utility notifies the customer that the cap has been reached, the customer is free to enter into a PPA.
Customers interested in pursuing a PPA and having solar panels installed at their homes should contact a solar panel installation company to see if it is participating in PPAs. So, welcome spring and let the sun shine.
(Lane is chair of the West Virginia Public Service Commission)