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Saving with solar

With gas prices constantly rising these days, Solar Watt understands that Barbadians are looking to save wherever they can. Even after you’ve ensured everything non-essential is unplugged or turned off when not deliberately in use, it can still seem like there is more that can be done to keep more money in your pocket each month.

Most homes in Barbados already have solar water heaters, now is the time to start thinking about the next step in this evolutionary process – solar electricity. In our last Q&A we discussed some of the most commonly asked questions about solar electricity, including what it is, how it works, the fact that your solar water panels cannot be used to generate electricity for your homes; but one of the most equally popular questions asked about solar electricity has to do with the possibility of saving money by selling excess back to the grid.

Often when we talk about solar electricity, we hear the terms grid-tied and the discussion is sparked about selling power back to the national grid. Today’s Frequently Asked Questions, discusses this.

Before a solar system is tied to the national grid, an application has to be made to the Barbados Light & Power, a process you can follow easily enough by visiting that company’s website and downloading the relevant forms. What you should know however, is that any tied system will fall under the conditions of what is called the Renewable Energy Rider, which was initially a two-year pilot programme for “customers who qualify for the Domestic Service (DS), Employee (EMP), General Service (GS), Secondary Voltage Power (SVP), Large Power (LP) and Time-of-Use (TOU) tariffs”. When the pilot expired in June this year, it the BL&P presented a new proposal to the Fair Trading Commission for its extension, and will be extended under the same terms and condition until such time as a decision is made on the proposal.

The BL&P’s terms state: “All of the provisions of the applicable DS, EMP, GS, SVP, LP and TOU tariffs will apply except as amended by this Rider. This Rider is specific to customers with renewable resource generation facilities (hereinafter collectively referred to as “customer-generators” and each as a “customer-generator”) utilizing a wind turbine, solar photovoltaic or hybrid (wind/solar) power source located on the customer’s owned or rented premises.”

The Rider states that a “customer-generator” should have a capacity of not more than five kilowatts for service in the DS, EMP and GS tariffs, and a capacity of not more than 50kW for other tariffs, unless the company says otherwise. The Rider, it says, is available on a first-come first-serve basis, up to a maximum of 200 eligible electricity services or a combined installed capacity of 1,600 kW, whichever occurs first. At the end of the day, the right to limit the number of services per individual or entity rests with BL&P.

“This Rider is applicable only to the energy supplied to the Company’s electric grid by the customer-generator. All other services supplied to the customer-generator will be billed in accordance with the rates and charges under the customer’s-applicable standard tariff. Service under this Rider is conditional on the continuance of service to the customer under one of the applicable standard tariffs.”

There are a number of conditions to this Rider, which customers should read thoroughly related to dos and don’ts and the powers that rests with BL&P for national safety, etc.

The final thing you should know in this short attempt to further educate you on solar electricity, is that you MUST obtain approval “in writing” before your solar electric system is connected to the electric grid.

“Customers desirous of selling electricity to the electric grid should:

* Apply to the company;

* Submit a certificate of approval from the Government Electrical Engineering Department (GEED) for connection of the customer-generator to the electrical installation;

* Demonstrate its ability to meet the Company’s safety and performance standards and interconnection requirements;

* Enter into an interconnection agreement with the company, stipulating the point of connection of the customer-generator to the electricity grid; and

* Enter into a separate power purchase agreement with the company for a contracted period of not less than one year for electricity purchased by the company.

“All kWh supplied to the grid @ 1.8 times the Fuel Clause Adjustment or 31.5 cents/kWh, whichever is greater.”

These are all things you can discuss with your solar electric supplier to learn more.

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