Straight Talk on Solar
Solar power is taking center stage as a powerful renewable energy resource that has many electric consumers considering going green, going off the grid and hoping to save money on their energy costs by installing solar at home. To help consumer-members better understand their solar options, OREMC Member Service Representative Dewayne Johns candidly addresses some of the common misconceptions about residential solar, explains the Cooperative Solar alternative and the amount of solar already in OREMC’s power supply mix.
Why am I still paying an OREMC light bill?
“That is the question,” Johns says. Time and again after a consumer-member has installed residential solar on their rooftop or in their yard they are surprised to still be receiving an OREMC bill. He says, “As we are working with our members who initiate an Interconnection Agreement with us and explain how it works, we review the fact that OREMC will continue to serve as their standby power supplier at night or on cloudy/rainy days when the sun doesn’t shine and their solar panels don’t produce electricity. The cost of having ready power is the monthly Basic Facilities Charge of $35, plus the cost of any kWh used.”
I thought OREMC was going to pay me for power?
This is another big misconception says Johns, “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by a member that their solar installer told them not only would they no longer have to pay OREMC, but that OREMC would be paying them for power. Should any member generate more electricity than they consume, yes, OREMC will pay them the current wholesale rate of three cents per kWh. But as noted above, the reality is all most all our residential solar members rely on standby power from OREMC as they don’t produce enough to power their daily needs, and they don’t have storage capacity.”
Installing solar will save me money.
“Saving money is the first thing most members tell me they want to do when considering a residential solar installation,” Johns continues. “If using renewable energy and reducing your carbon footprint is your primary reason for installing solar, it might make sense to do so. But if saving money is your primary reason for installing solar, keep in mind the words from retired CEO Hill Bentley of Tri-County EMC, ‘Sunshine is free. Solar is not.’ Not only will you continue to have a bill for OREMC to ensure you have standby power, now you will also have monthly payments on your solar equipment and any storage capacity you might purchase. It could be up to 20 years before your see a return on investment.”
Well, at least I’ll have power if the OREMC system is down!
Not realistically, explains Johns, “Solar power is DC or direct current power. It has to be converted to AC or alternating current power to be utilized in your home. That’s where your invertor comes in. The invertor needs power to operate. If the sun isn’t shining, it won’t work. If you don’t have back up batteries, usually solar charged, or other external supplemental generator, it won’t work.”
I’m going to go completely off the grid.
“Anyone can absolutely go off the grid, but doing so is a complete lifestyle change, not just putting solar panels on your roof,” notes Johns. “Storage capacity and supplemental power are both going to be necessary to charge the batteries that run the invertor, regardless of the weather. And if a member decides not to have an Interconnection Agreement, then OREMC is no longer there as standby power/backup generator.”
Cooperative Solar is an alternative to residential solar.
“If you want the benefits of solar but are rightfully concerned about the costs to install, have restrictive homeowners’ covenants or are a renter, Cooperative Solar is a viable alternative,” says Johns. OREMC has three community solar fields that can produce two megawatts of power. OREMC members can subscribe to blocks of power—typically producing 120-200 kWh per month—choosing the right amount of solar offset based on their average household usage. The cost per block is $20 per month. Every month the solar energy generated from a member’s share of the total capacity is credited back to their account.
Remember, solar power is dependent on the sun.
Johns notes, “Members need to keep in mind that solar output—residential or Cooperative—will vary from month to month based on the position of the sun, the time of year and the number of cloudy/rainy days. The biggest difference between the two solar options is that Cooperative Solar costs significantly less, does not have any ongoing maintenance costs and still enables members to access renewable energy and invest in the environment.”
More solar in OREMC’s power supply mix.
Johns says it is also worth noting the OREMC’s total solar capacity in its power supply mix has increased with the completion of Green Power’s 200-megawatt (MWAC) solar portfolio that includes three utility-scale projects in southern Georgia. Green Power EMC is the renewable energy provider for 38 Georgia Electric Membership Corporations (EMCs), including OREMC. Green Power’s total solar capacity provides enough low-cost, renewable energy to serve more than 35,000 EMC households. As a clean energy source, the solar portfolio’s environmental offset is equivalent to more than 350,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Whether you want to learn more about Cooperative Solar or are interested in installing residential solar at your home, OREMC is here to help. Please contact Member Services Representative Dewayne Johns at 800-262-5131 ext. 1143 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also download all the necessary forms and documentation required for interconnecting residential solar to the OREMC distribution system at oremc.com/rooftop-solar.