Lake program focuses on solar

By Page H. Gifford

During a recent program of This Week at the Lake, host Ron Krauss interviewed Lake resident Steve Smith and Andrew Cotter, a power supply specialist with the Central Virginia Electric Cooperative (CVEC), regarding the advantages of using solar as an alternative energy source.

Krauss reminded the audience that Lake Monticello had recently installed solar panels on its Ashlawn clubhouse to save on energy costs.

 Smith discussed his concerns about the electricity cost of $300 a month for his house. In 2018, he examined his bills and a year later decided to contact a solar company about the option of installing solar panels to save money.

“It saves me 50 percent in energy costs and I get tax credits too,” he said. “Anyone considering solar has to have the sun shine on the roof. The house has to be a good candidate, sunny versus shade, it has to be viable.” His house on Sunset Court and the others around him are good candidates but others at the Lake may be too far into wooded areas to get the benefit.

“If you use 100 percent electricity, it’s worth it. The (power) from the panels go directly to my house and that is deducted from the normal usage CVEC gives me and I get a credit from them.”

“This is a growing trend in the industry,” said Cotter. “It is stable, affordable and safe energy.”

CVEC launched its community solar program, Solar Share, in the spring of 2018. Construction has been completed on two solar generation farms, and CVEC has finalized a purchase agreement with Coronal Energy, which fixes the cost of solar power until 2043.

“The solar farms will produce a total of 10 megawatts of energy, making them the largest solar project for an electric distribution cooperative in the state,” said Cotter. 

CVEC is adding 60 percent of the solar energy to its power supply portfolio for use by all 36,000 members, while the other 40 percent of the energy output will be offered to its members for subscription through CVEC’s Solar Share program.

“Through Solar Share, residential members may purchase blocks of solar energy, for a total of 1,000 kilowatt per household. The cost per 50 kilowatt block is $4.50. The subscription rate for this solar energy will be locked in until the year 2043. The kilowatts purchased and consumed through Solar Share will not be subject to rate increases or PCA adjustments related to energy costs during that time,” he said. “There are some physical limitations as to how much power we can put on the grid.”

“Solar is dependable but does have some glitches the same with other systems,” said Cotter.

Smith explained that the solar panels work like any other appliance in the home, for example, like an HVAC system.

“The only issue I’ve had in the last five years was it was a effected by a power outage but the system came back on.” The system included a net metering system that monitors the energy returning to CVEC. He also mentioned a couple of panels that had to be replaced but overall is pleased with his system and savings.

“The newer panels are more efficient and less expensive and are made in the U.S. in Texas and California. The old ones were made in China,” said Cotter. Regarding contracting with a solar company, Cotter warned, “It’s not free and it depends on how much power you will get from a solar company. It depends on how they are financed and how their systems are financed is important.”

One option for members who rent or otherwise are unable to install panels on their homes is Solar Share.

“It provides an affordable and maintenance free option for clean, renewable energy without a contract. Cotter explained some options for saving on energy costs. The basic rate is $32 plus 13 cents per kilowatt hour. Solar Shares would include 12 cents per 1,000 shares and does not vary compared to the regular cost of energy.

Cotter said CVEC members should look at their costs and potential savings and think about what works best for them.

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