Midcoast Green

Midcoast Green Collaborative > Home > Articles > Horsefeathers


Paul Kando

As a consummate researcher, I have kept good records on the performance of our 20 panel, 5.2 kW grid-connected rooftop solar system since it was installed in 2014. So, I find the lies about solar power, and the liars’ audacity repeating them, quite entertaining. The following are routinely invoked in response to any pending solar energy legislation in Maine:

Solar with a great view of Penobscot Bay
photo credit: Revision Energy

Falsehood #1: “Solar system owners’ net energy billing increases the electric bills of non-solar ratepayers” – Well, the Maine PUC’s 2015 Distributed Solar Valuation Study has set the value of solar-generated Maine electricity at 33¢/kWh. I am paying 14.24¢/kWh, including supply and delivery charges, 43% less than any solar power I meter into CMP’s grid.

In rounded numbers, my solar system generates 6,000kWh/year. Of this I directly use 2,800 kWh/year and meter into the grid 3,200 kWh/year. That 3,200 kWh is worth $1,056 @33¢/kWh, but CMP credits me at the rate of only 12.8¢/kWh, i.e. $409.60. The $646 difference benefits CMP – and the grid. No wonder Maine’s Public Advocate estimated that Maine ratepayers will save $120 to $150 million over 20 years under a renewed net metering regime!

Falsehood #2: “Solar electricity is subsidized by Maine taxpayers”. – How so? The above numbers speak for themselves and there are currently no state tax credits or rebates of any kind in support of solar energy in Maine.

Falsehood #3: “Utilities stand to lose millions of dollars in revenues because solar energy producers don’t pay their fair share of utility infrastructure improvement costs. These cost ‘shift’ to non-solar rate payers” — Now, if my neighbors and I all installed high energy consuming devices like ceramics kilns or hot tubs, this may, indeed, strain the grid at times, requiring the utility to upgrade grid components. So costs may shift.

If, however, we reduced our electrical load by replacing inefficient appliances, swapping off incandescent light bulbs for LEDs, or installed a solar system, this will reduce the load on the power grid. No need for an infrastructure upgrade or extra utility costs.

Furthermore the bulk of solar power generation occurs at the daily peak demand period– the time a distribution utility like CMP must buy power on the spot-market at peak rates. Nationwide the bulk wholesale price of electricity varies widely: off-peak rates $16-$20 per MWh (0.016¢/kWh – 0.02¢/kWh) and peak rates $35-$76 MWh (0.035¢/kWh – 0.076¢/kWh). In other words, peak power prices can be as much as 5 times higher than off peak rates. If 2/3 of my 6,000 kWh is fed into the grid at-peak demand times, CMP does not have to buy 4,000 kWh of power it would otherwise have to purchase at the peak price.

Finally, a word about jobs: A 4 person crew spent about 6 hours installing my system, 24 person-hours. In other words, each kW of installed solar PV created 4.6 person-hours of installation work. Add to this design, manufacturing, distribution, marketing, etc. In fact, nationwide, according to the US Department of Energy, one out of every five people employed in power generation today work in the solar industry.