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99% Of 2012 US Solar PV Installations Were Net Metered

In the United States, 99% of solar photovoltaic installations were net metered, signifying that net metering in the United States is preferred by far over the alternatives, which are off-grid solar and on-grid but not net metered solar.

Solar PV panels

Image Credit: Solar Energy via Shutterstock

I knew that net metering was popular, but I didn’t know it was that popular! The new data from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) indicates that annual solar power in the US surpassed 2 gigawatts (GW) for the first time in 2012 (hitting 2.4 GW, or 2,400 MW). Cumulative capacity is now reportedly at about 6.1 GW.

Utility-scale solar accounted for nearly 50% of the growth, adding 1.1 GW in 2012, 250% more than in 2011.

The total capacity of the newly installed net-metered systems in 2012 was 1.5 GW, bringing cumulative net-metered capacity up to about 3.5 GW.

SEPA is a very utility-focused solar association. Its latest report also lays out the utilities with the most solar power capacity:

  1. Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) — 805.6 MW
  2. Southern California Edison (SCE) — 194.6 MW
  3. Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) — 144.5 MW

The top utilities for solar power capacity per customer are quite different, however:

  1. The municipal utility for the City of St. Marys, Ohio — 563 watts per customer
  2. Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Hawai’i — 282 watts per customer
  3. Bryan Municipal Utilities, Ohio — 276 watts per customer

In the United States, owners of net-metered solar PV systems are paid the same rate for the electricity they generate that they pay for electricity from their utility companies.

However, outside of the US, that varies. Sometimes utilities will pay far less for residents’ solar power than they charge for electricity.

One example of this is Jamaica. The government just started allowing residents to sell solar electricity, and utility companies pay $0.25 USD per kWh of solar electricity, which is far more than Americans get, but they usually charged $0.40 USD per kWh (this fluctuates a bit).

So, rather than net-metering, some may be better off with an off-grid setup in Jamaica (and other countries that have such policies).

Net-metering helps by providing customers with a low-maintenance, battery-free alternative to off-grid solar systems. Off-grid systems have to be backed up with batteries or other generators for when the sun isn’t shining.

The cost of replacing batteries is extremely high (often over $0.25 per Wh, or $250 per kWh). Off-grid setups, however, are not affected by power outages. Imagine having power all throughout a hurricane or blizzard without the noise of a gas-powered generator. This is a big plus in some areas.

Also, with an electric vehicle, you wouldn’t have to worry about finding fuel in the aftermath of a disaster either, because it is falling out of the sky!


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Written By

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.

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