By Lindsay Drogin
As a satisfied Community Solar user in New York City, I get satisfaction from saving money on my electric usage every month while encouraging the development of solar power within the physical New York City (“NYC”) borders.
What is Community Solar?
Community Solar allows a customer physically connected to their normal electric utility to receive monetary credit for solar power fed into the electric grid from a solar source that is not directly connected to that customer.
How does it work for me?
There is an approximately 1MW PV solar array in Queens, NYC that feeds electricity generated by the sun directly into the NYC power grid. I have a 20 year power purchase agreement (“PPA”) with the owner of the solar panels in Queens. This agreement has a contractual rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) for me to be charged for my electric use. This contract specifies a rate that I am being charged that is lower than the kWh rate I would normally be charged by the New York City electric utility, Con Edison, for my electric use in my apartment, located in Harlem NYC.
I am not directly physically connected to the solar panels.
Each month, Con Edison deducts the higher amount of money they would have charged me for my monthly kWh electric use, and my bank account is charged for the lower amount I pay each month for my electric use as per the contractual rate indicated in my PPA. Note, my PPA has escalator provisions to raise the kWh rate I am being charged over the 20 years of the contract.
What happens if I move or want to terminate the PPA for any reason?
If I move elsewhere within Con Edison’s service territory in New York City or Westchester, I can take the PPA with me. If I move outside Con Edison’s territory, I simply let the Community Solar project know and have the freedom to leave at any time with no fees. Since Community Solar is virtual and there are waitlists of households waiting to be on projects, there is no reason for a termination fee.
How are these adjustments made?
There is a NYC-based innovative software company, PowerMarket, that sits between me, Con Edison and the owner of solar panels. This software company asked if I would like to be a subscriber, or in industry terms, an “offtaker” of the community solar project, even though I am not directly connected to the solar panels. The software company electronically liaises with Con Edison, the owner of the solar panels and me. I receive an email notifying me about the adjustments and what my bank account will be charged (and therefore what I have saved every month) as I choose to have automatic payments made for my monthly electric use.
Why does this matter?
Because Community Solar in New York City is fighting climate change while saving consumers money!
What needs to happen?
We need more solar panels installed all over New York City and more New York City residents to sign up to get credit for the carbon free energy fed locally into our power grid. The less electricity has to travel, the greater its efficiency and the greater the resiliency of the grid. Therefore having locally generated solar power within New York City makes a lot of sense.