In 1999, I was Solar Guerrilla #0006 (see HP73). A few months ago, I got a call from a representative of my electric utility (it’s a public utility district; PUD) telling me that the new smart meter installed at my house last summer detected “reverse energy.” When they asked if I knew of a reason for this—and asked if I have solar panels—I saw no point in trying to hide (plus, the PVs are mounted out in the yard). I said, “Yes, but my charge controller was supposed to prevent that from happening.”
The caller, who turned out to be the energy services manager, asked if he could see the installation the next afternoon and drop off a net-metering application. I agreed, expecting that he’d turn around and get back in his car when he found out that it wasn’t a county-permitted, licensed-electrician-installed, AHJ-inspected system. During his visit, he asked about the system generation capacity and anti-islanding protections, and dropped off the six-page application, all the while talking like it was a done deal—just fill out the forms and send them in and he’d rubber-stamp them.
I filled out the application, including a one-line system diagram and a layout drawing showing the spatial relationship of the ground-mounted array, house, utility meter, and service drop, and sent it in via email the day after his visit. The next afternoon, I got an email from him telling me the application was approved. The email also included a copy of the signed contract.
It’s done—my system is legit with the utility! All I can figure is that the last 14 years wore them down. I ran out the clock, and now that they have all these darned smart meters that are ringing bells and flashing red lights down at the administration building, they are bringing everyone they can into the fold so that they can concentrate on more important stuff. Amazing! No permits, no inspections, no electricians, and most mind-blowing, no lockable disconnect!
Exactly one week from the initial phone contact, a crew of two workers from the utility’s meter shop installed a newer smart meter that can recognize reverse energy as net production. Afterward, I turned off my Frankenstein dump load controller and just let their meter sort it all out. I was catching 99% of the PV surplus before, so I didn’t expect to see a big advantage. Now, I’m entering the fourth month of net metering with a 38 kWh surplus.
Of course, I’ve also spent a fair bit of time since fiddling with my newly installed hydro project. If I’m going to get paid for stuffing electrons back into the grid, I’m going to get good at doing it. (They pay wholesale rate for any production over parity at the year-end even-up time.)
So, back in 1999, I was Solar Guerrilla #0006, and in 2013, I’m Owner-Generator #19 for the local PUD.
Solar Guerrilla #0006 • via email