Saturday, June 6, 2009

Vermont leads the way on alt-energy incentives

Good ole leading edge Vermont has implemented a Europe-style "feed-in tariff" law that essentially pays renewable-energy generators a sustainable rate for any extra electricity they generate.

Why is this important? The present rate in most states for systems such as wind and solar PV that use "net metering" is woefully, downright insultingly low, in the area of a wholesale price of six cents per kilowatt generated in Massachusetts.

Net metering means that your solar PV or wind system is connected to the electric grid. Any extra electricity you generate beyond what you use causes the electric meter to spin backwards, requiring the electric utility to credit you for those additional kilowatts.

A low wholesale price for alt-energy means that if I had a big solar PV system (instead of one that generates about 250 KwH per month) that generated about 200 extra kilowatt hours per month, then the electric utility would only have to pay me $12 per month for the energy.

Yet I pay them about 18 cents a kilowatt hour for the extra electricity my house uses beyond what we can generate with PV panels!

This is unfair because it provides no financial incentive for thousands of generators to become small satellite utilities, which is just what this country needs to overcome its oil and coal addictions.

Vermont law H. 446 will pay $0.30/kWh for solar PV systems; $0.20/kWh for wind systems of less than 15 kilowatts; and $0.14/kWh for wind generated by the larger wind turbines. The law took effect on May 27, 2009.

Speaking of wind, the first floating wind turbine was launched in Norway. This allows wind farms to be located farther out to sea where the winds can be stronger, and also helps staunch the "not in my backyard" problems that plague some off-shore wind farms.