HOA fighting Delmarva Power on interconnect and payment
For anyone driving near the intersection of Parker House and Beaver Dam roads near Ocean View, the two solar arrays with 12 panels each in the common area of the Forest Reach community, near the pool, may look pretty impressive, but they are only a third of the system as it was originally designed. The process has been about a year in the making – time spent learning about solar panels, rebates and incentives. Finally, the home owners had hoped even to produce more energy than needed, to offset some costs. But they have hit a snag.
“I read something in one of the papers about a year ago, and we started looking into it,” explained Forest Reach Homeowner’s Association President Mike Ball of their original concept. “A neighbor that is retired got some information, and DelDOT bought some land from us, so we had some extra cash. We found the perfect site with southern exposure, and it all fell into place like it was supposed to be – except for Delmarva Power.”
The development wants the solar-power system for three reasons: They want to power their pool and its equipment, and their fountains and ponds, and they wanted to offset their biggest expense, their street lights.
“They wanted a larger system,” said Ben Farr, vice president of Flexera, which installed the solar arrays. “It was oversized for their needs, and they wanted to sell back to the grid, which is allowed – but Delmarva Power is skirting the law by refusing to interconnect.”
Ball explained that the street lights are not metered, rather they are rented from Delmarva Power, and the homeowners pay a set fee. Overproducing for the pool and the ponds and equipment would have allowed them to totally offset the fee they pay for street light rental, and to generate power that could be sold back to Delmarva Power, but with the problems getting paid for that extra production, the remaining two-thirds of the Forest Reach solar project is being indefinitely postponed.
“The solar systems have to go through a meter and, technically, they cannot connect through meters. We should be able to overproduce for the pools and pond, and they would pay us the money that we would be spending for the streetlights, but Delmarva Power is making it extremely frustrating,” said Ball.
Farr explained that they had wanted an oversized system to offset some of the costs of the street lights and to generate some power, but they were turned down by Delmarva Power on the grounds that the system would have produced significantly greater power than needed.
“They tried deliberately to have an oversized system,” acknowledged Farr. “The irony is it’s not particularly oversized, but the street lights are not metered.”
Delmarva Power spokesperson Matt Likovich responded, “Delmarva Power welcomes any renewable energy application that conforms to the rules and regulations as outlined in the tariff and application process.”
He went on to say that customers who install renewable energy sources must first submit an application to link their system to Delmarva Power’s. He said that is done to ensure safety and compatibility with their electrical system.
The Public Service Commission has a hearing scheduled for Dec. 8 on the issue. Both Ball and Farr said they are optimistic that the commission will interpret the law the way it is written, so people who want to generate power are not discouraged from doing so. The current law, enacted last legislative session, was originally worded so as to require payment for power generated by individual property owners that was fed back into the grid. The section of the law that did so was later watered down so as to permit such payment but not require it.
Farr said the implications of the case are wide-reaching as property owners statewide are looking both to become more environmentally friendly in their power use and generation and to be less dependant on the grid and its rising power prices.
“Solar is scalable. That is one of the advantages of renewable energy,” said Farr. “It is not feasible to have coal-burning plants in everyone’s homes, but we could have hundreds of little solar-powered plants all over the state,” he explained. “In a utility-centric grid network, up to 50 percent of energy is lost. Distributed generated power is much more efficient. Power produced in that neighborhood stays in that neighborhood.”
He went on to say that surrounding states have been even more progressive than Delaware in their renewable-energy laws.
“In Pennsylvania, you can connect 3 megawatts to a light bulb and sell the rest back to the grid.”
The two said they hope that Delmarva Power will agree to interconnect the system to the grid, and if that doesn’t happen, they see a change in the law as their other option.
If, in fact, the commission interprets what Delmarva Power is doing in the Forest Reach case as being in compliance with the law, Ball said they will be disappointed.
“We’ll be stuck with one-third of a system that will only negate a portion of our electric bill. And Delmarva Power will still have to generate the power [for the street lights.]… We are trying to do the right thing, and Delmarva Power is blocking it, essentially.”
For more information on Delmarva Power’s Green Power Connection, visit http://www.delmarva.com/energy/renewable/connection/default.aspx online or call the The Green Power Connection Team at Delmarva Power, at (866) 634-5571.
The Public Service Commission meeting will be held on Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. in the Cannon Building, Hearing Room, 861 Silver Lake Boulevard, in Dover, and it is open to the public. Senate Bill 85, an act to amend the net energy metering bill, can be viewed in its entirety at http://legis.delaware.gov.