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.
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:
- Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) — 805.6 MW
- Southern California Edison (SCE) — 194.6 MW
- Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) — 144.5 MW
The top utilities for solar power capacity per customer are quite different, however:
- The municipal utility for the City of St. Marys, Ohio — 563 watts per customer
- Kauai Island Utility Cooperative, Hawai’i — 282 watts per customer
- Bryan Municipal Utilities, Ohio — 276 watts per customer
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.