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Virtual Net Metering Increases Solar Market Potential

Many of you have already heard that it’s not practical/possible for most people to install solar systems on their rooftops. This is misleading, and the reason for it is that many people don’t own their homes outright — they can’t install solar panels on other people’s property, unless they receive permission to do so. But that doesn’t mean their roof couldn’t sport a nice solar power system.

One potential solution to this issue is quite simple: The homeowners/landlords can choose to furnish the houses with solar panels and charge the tenants a recurring monthly fee.

Apartment complexes are common across the world, and thus, have become an especially important but difficult target for the rooftop solar industry. Two good ways to get solar systems atop apartment complexes include:

Oak Knoll Villas with rooftop PV panels.
Image Credit: Everyday Energy.

In California, virtual net metering (VNM) is a concept which enables all tenants of a given apartment complex to obtain solar energy from a single solar system that does not have to be physically and directly connected to their meters. The system directly powers tenants residences and in some cases will supply surplus electricity back to the grid.

“VNM in affordable multi-tenant housing allows for the maximization of roof space to create one or a few solar arrays to benefit multiple meters, without the expense of interconnecting to every meter,” said Scott Sarem, CEO of Everyday Energy.

Sarem said, “VNM provides stability to the apartment property by allowing the housing operator and the tenants to know what their energy expense will be on a monthly basis and it also allows for a hedge against energy inflation.”

VNM was originally only available to low-income families in California (at least they were prioritized for a change), but now the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has approved the use of this concept for all multi-tenant and multi-metered properties.

“When VNM became available, we jumped right in,” said Ross Williams, vice president of Home Energy Systems in San Diego. The company designed and installed a 338-kW PV system on Solterra, the first non-MASH multifamily apartment in California that utilities VNM and San Diego’s first net-zero luxury apartment. H.G. Fenton Company developed the “EcoLuxury” apartment, which opened in San Diego in May.

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