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Customers Barred from Solar Program Wait for Net Metering Bill to Pass

Nick Governale makes a living finding the best spots to install solar panels.
JERICHO, Vt. - Nick Governale makes a living finding the best spots to install solar panels. He uses a tool called a "Solar Eye".

"It takes a photograph of the physical location we're in, then it overlays the track of the sun for an entire year," Governale said. As a solar adviser for Sun Common, he helps Vermont families go solar. But he's unable to have solar power in his own home in Jericho.

"My wife and I moved here in August. And the first thing we wanted to do was get a solar system in our yard," he said. "Just as we started making the plans to get the system going, that's when Vermont Electric Co-op hit their 4% cap."

Solar power is regulated in Vermont by the net metering program. Customers are connected to the grid, and sell their excess power back to the utility companies. But there's a cap: 4% of the company's peak demand from the previous year. VEC and Washington Electric Co-op hit that cap in 2013, forcing them to stop taking new solar customers.

"My family along with hundreds, if not thousands of other customers have been waiting patiently for six months," Governale said.

To add insult to injury, Green Mountain Power territory is just half a mile down the road from Governale's house. Green Mountain customers can still install solar; the utility has not yet reached the cap.

A bill in the Vermont Statehouse would extend that cap to 15%. State Rep. Mike Yantachka (D-Charlotte) says it's people like Nick Governale who helped spark the bill.

"It's people like him, and it's also meant to help the economy in general. Because the solar industry in Vermont is growing, is producing lots of jobs, and we want to keep it going," Rep. Yantachka said.

The bill passed the House of Representatives Thursday, and is now headed to the Vermont Senate. If it becomes law this session, Nick Governale will have a solar-powered home by spring. For now, the only solar energy at his house powers his weather station out on the porch.
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