When considering installing a Net Metering system, members should carefully review and understand the Net Metering Virginia Code. At REC, members who have an approved solar energy system on their home or business can offset the power they receive through REC. Every kilowatt-hour you generate is a kilowatt-hour you do not have to purchase. Solar panels utilize a two-way flow meter that measures the electricity you consume through REC and the excess electricity your solar panels produce. As your solar panels produce electricity, that energy is first used to supply your own energy needs. If the solar panels produce more than you need, the excess is measured at the meter and sent back onto the power grid to be used by other customers. Conversely, if at any time your solar panels will not cover your energy needs, then REC provides the remainder. Your net energy usage is what you can expect to be billed for, which represents the power REC delivered to you less the power you put back on the grid. Before you choose to go solar, explore the different benefits and financial options solar energy provides. 

Solar Sizing 

Before installing or applying to interconnect your solar energy system, it’s important to ensure that the size of the system is appropriate. The solar energy system should be sized by your solar contractor, guided by your energy consumption history and future goals, but also in accordance to Virginia State Capacity Laws. In Virginia, for residential net metering applications, the maximum generator size is 20 kW. Whereas the individual maximum allowable generator size for those on nonresidential tariffs is one megawatt (1000 kW). Therefore, it is important to note the maximum allowable sizes of solar energy systems that you might install on your property. 

The state of Virginia allows REC members to install net metering capacity based on REC’s peak annual load and the threshold differs between residential, non-residential, or non-jurisdictional customer classes. See below for the available NEM Capacity Available: As of Sepember 1, 2021:

Total Residential Capacity Available (kW) 13,365
Total Nonresidential Capacity Available (kW) 8,309
Total Nonprofit & Non-jurisdictional Capacity Available (kW) 21,912

Examples

House uses 1500 kWh – Renewable Generator produces 1000 kWh = REC will bill the member 500 kWh for that month.
House uses 500 kWh – Renewable Generator produces 1000 kWh = REC will bill the member 0 kWh for that month and will carry forward a 500 kWh credit to the next month

Going Solar: Is it a good fit for you?

Before choosing to install solar panels, it may be beneficial to learn what you can expect from a solar energy system on your home or business by considering some key factors.  

Examine Your Roof

Rooftop solar is the most common installation setup for residential and commercial solar energy developments, so assessing your roof can give you a good idea of what solar installation you can expect. South-facing roofs are best for solar, but east- and west-facing roofs also provide good opportunities. Because solar panels will most likely be installed at a fixed tilt, the angle or pitch of your rooftop is not likely a concern. 

roof

However, because solar panels can last 25 years or more it’s important to have a roof in good shape, even if it’s not brand new. Shading from nearby trees or other objects can reduce electricity production from solar panels, so considering your rooftop shading environment is important as well. Roof orientation, age, and shading are some key factors in assessing if solar is a good fit, however, follow the advice of your solar contractor to determine if rooftop solar is appropriate for you. 

Ground-mounted solar may be a good option for you if your property has large open spaces where solar panels can be installed. Community solar may be another option if you wish to support clean energy without installing solar panels on your property.

solar

Evaluating your Solar Potential 

The amount of energy your solar panels can generate is directly related to how much of the sun’s energy reaches your property. Being located in Virginia, you likely receive 4 to 5 hours of peak sun each day, which is suitable for solar panels. To get a better idea of the sun’s energy on your property and estimations of your solar potential, use the PV Watts Calculator. You can use this tool by entering your property address and following the prompts to determine estimates of your solar potential.

cost

Estimating Costs and Benefits 

Choosing to go solar is an investment that you are making, and by using some online resources and tools you can estimate some of the costs and benefits associated with solar energy. In addition to the PV Watts Calculator, we recommend using the solar calculator by Energysage to examine you property’s solar potential. It is important to note that these resources provide only estimates, and interacting with a solar contractor will provide more detailed estimations that address your concerns. 

Know Your Financing options

When it comes to financing your solar energy system, there are multiple options that you can consider. It is important to consult with your contractor about financing options, as some provide unique benefits and rates compared with others. Upfront costs of your solar panels depend on a variety of factors and the financing option that you choose. Below are some brief explanations of the different options available to you: 

Purchase

Buying Solar

Choosing to purchase your solar panels outright gives you full ownership of the system, and can allow you to take advantage of federal and state incentives. You often receive the most financial benefits compared with other options as you will likely see a return on your investment within 14 years. Once the solar system has reached its break-even point, it will continue to produce energy to meet your electricity needs and also return credits on your electricity bill in the event of producing excess energy. You will be responsible for maintenance costs. However, it is common for solar manufacturers to place warranties on the equipment and for solar installers to provide workmanship warranty, so maintenance costs are often minimal.

PPA

Getting a Power Purchase Agreement (PPAs)

PPAs are similar to solar leases as the solar contractor owns, operates and maintains the solar panels they install on your roof (or property). The solar contractor receives all available incentives, rebates and tax credits. Instead of agreeing to a fixed monthly payment, you agree to purchase electricity generated from the system at an agreed-upon price per kilowatt-hour. The rate is usually less than what you pay REC for electricity (up to 30 to 40% less), but may increase over time. PPAs range in term length, typically from 10 to 25 years, and when the contract expires you can (1) extend the agreement, (2) buy the system, or (3) get the contractor to remove the system. 

Loan

Getting a Loan

Getting a solar loan avoids the high upfront costs and allows you to purchase the solar system over time in monthly payments. Typically, solar loans are paid off in 10 to 15 years depending on the term length you agree to. When terms are longer (i.e. greater than 10 years) the monthly payments of the loan are often less than what your electricity bill would be. You are responsible for the system’s maintenance costs, however, solar equipment comes with warranties from manufacturers (often 10-30 years). 

Lease

Getting a Solar Lease

If you’re interested in avoiding upfront, installation and maintenance costs of a solar system, a solar lease may be a good fit for you. In a solar lease, you enter a contract with a solar installer agreeing to pay a fixed monthly lease payment based on the estimated annual production of your solar system. The solar contractor that you choose will own and operate the system, and gain all available incentives, tax credits and rebates. 

Financial incentives are available. If you choose to buy a solar energy system, you are likely eligible for the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC). If a solar energy project begins construction in 2021 and 2022, you can receive a 26% cost reduction for the system including equipment, labor and permitting. The ITC will be reduced to 22% for projects that begin construction in 2023. For projects that begin construction after 2023, the residential ITC drops to 0 and the commercial credit drops to a permanent 10%.  Additional tax exemptions may apply to homes or businesses with solar panels depending on the county or city where your property is. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Net Metering is a rate that allows members to operate renewable generators, such as solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric, biomass, or geothermal power systems in order to produce some or all of their energy needs. When a member's renewable generator produces more electricity than is being used, the excess energy flows onto the utility lines and the meter registers a usage credit. When a member's usage exceeds their generation output, the meter will run forward as normal. The net difference in energy consumed and excess energy is the basis for volumetric charges applied to the member's monthly bill.

If the renewable generator produces more energy than is used at the residence or commercial site, a credit rolls over to the next month. For example, if a member consumes 700 kWh in one month and the solar panels produce 1000 kWh, then a 300 kWh credit is rolled into the next bill.

Once your net metering notification form has been utility approved, your installation completed and approved by the county, your net metering certification form has been received by REC, and your interconnection has been inspected by REC, your account will be set up as a net metering account and your usage will be monitored accordingly.

REC's meters are designed to measure both the quantity and direction the electricity is flowing.

In most cases, REC does not have to install equipment. However, in a few cases, system distribution improvements may be necessary for interconnection to the utility. In those cases, REC will bill the member for these improvements because the output of the system being installed exceeds the capacity of REC's installed equipment. These charges will be based on the amount of engineering time, material and construction of work necessary to complete the interconnection.

REC charges an interconnection inspection fee of $50, which is payable at the time of inspection.

What size of a renewable generator am I allowed for Net Metering?

The state of Virginia allows installations of up to the following sizes:

Residential applications up to 20 kW Nameplate AC
Non Residential applications up to 1000 kW Nameplate AC
Agricultural Aggregate Net Metering applications up to 500kW Nameplate AC.

In each instance, the installation may not be sized to generate more than the total annual energy consumed at that location.

Can I install a renewable generator without notifying REC?


No. By law you must notify your Cooperative as to your intentions of interconnecting to REC's system.

If you are found to be operating a generator that has not been approved by the Cooperative, then your electrical service and generator may be disconnected due to the serious safety concerns to Cooperative workers and the public.

 

Additional resources:

U.S. Department of Energy
National Renewable Energy Laboratory - Solar Basics
Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy
Federal Tax Credit Incentives
Solar Electric Power Association
Virginia DEQ - Solar Power
Virginia Dept. of Mines, Minerals and Energy - Solar Power
Solar Energy Industries Association - Virginia

No, REC does not own or install your solar panels. Depending on the finance option you choose, you or the solar contractor you choose will be the owner of the solar panels. The solar contractor you choose will likely be the contractor (or affiliated subcontractor) responsible for installing your solar panels. 

Safety is REC's utmost concern. The Net Metering participant's generation must disconnect from the utility power system whenever an outage occurs. This prevents the member's generator from energizing REC's facilities and creating a hazard. The installer and your local building inspector should work together to make sure the system is installed correctly to protect you and your home, and the REC inspector will check to make sure the connection is safe for REC.

No, REC does not have access to your solar panels’ performance or production data. REC is unable to view anything relating to what your home is consuming from the solar panels and what they generate. REC can only advise members of how much electricity they receive through REC and how much electricity they put back onto the power grid. Any discrepancies members may find between the information from their solar energy system and what REC is advising will need to be addressed with their contractor

A. The energy you produce and use to offset your onsite electricity consumption is valued at the full retail rate for electricity. Any excess electricity at the end of the 12-month net metering period may be sold to the utility - if a Purchase of Power Agreement is entered into at the beginning of the 12-month period - at price equal to the utility's avoided cost of wholesale power, which is typlically 30 to 40 percent of the total retail rate.

How do I see the energy output of my system on my bill?

Your electric bill will not show any output of energy your system produced. Your bill will only show the difference between the energy generated at your site and the energy consumed from REC's distribution system; hence, the term Net Metering. Most renewable generator systems sold today have equipment with access to renewable generator readings that will estimate the output of the system. You will need to consult the manufacturer/installer of your system to determine if this is available.

Your bill will be similar to your normal electric bill. Any amount that is billed will reflect only the net of your usage minus any energy that your renewable generator produced. Regardless of how much energy is generated, you will always be subject to paying the fixed monthly charge. If your bill contains a volume-based charge, then your system did not produce more energy than was needed during that billing period. If you generate more electricity than is needed for your home or business in a given month, the excess amount is carried to the next billing period as kWh credit, which reduces the number of kWh billed in the following month.

This question is best answered by your installer or solar panel vendor, but you can get a general idea of payback period by using the tools at PVWATTs to determine the value of your generation per year compared to the total install cost.

REC does not monitor the generation of your system. REC’s meters record the amount of kWh consumed in excess of your generation (Forward), the amount of kWh generated in excess of your consumption (Reverse), and the NET total. 
 

No. Your bill does not show the amount of energy your system generates. The electricity your system generates is first consumed inside your premise to power appliances, electronics, lights, etc. Only your NET excess generation - the unused generation your system provided onto the grid - shows on your bill. 

Unless you install a system enabling you to completely disconnect from the energy grid, you will always receive an electric bill from REC (as long as you are an REC member-owner). REC will continue to provide electricity to your premise, which is consumed by you when/if your renewable energy system generates less than is used during the monthly billing cycle. When you have generated more electricity than you consumed during the billing period, you will receive a monthly bill that includes the access charge and any additional charges related to REC programs or services you have chosen. You will also see a credit of kWh (banked usage) which will carry forward to your next bill. 

Go to myrec.smarthub.coop. First time users can register there. You will need your REC electric account to register for the first time. Existing users can log in to see account information, view/pay their bill, and view details about their energy use. 

Remember to track your energy use in MyREC SmartHub so you can see how much electricity you are consuming hourly, daily, monthly and annually. Negative “NET” usage means you are reversing your meter at times and that your system is sending excess energy back to the grid. Remember, it is NET - your premise consumes the energy your system generates first. Only the energy generated and not consumed goes back into the grid. Smaller renewable energy systems may never show reverse usage. 

Contact REC’s Member Services Contact Center for any account questions. The Contact Center, available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., can be reached at 1-800-552-3904. You can also contact us or email office@myrec.coop

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