Simplifying solar adoption for apartment owners and condo communities
CSE is collaborating with EnergySage, an online solar marketplace, to promote and simplify installations of solar electric power systems at multifamily residences in California. The partnership has resulted in the development of an easy-to-use, online comparison-shopping tool that provides information about the unique opportunities for shared solar projects and enables apartment building and condo owners to obtain price quotes directly through the website.
The new web resource, MultifamilySolarCA.com, was created specifically to streamline the process of installing solar for California multifamily properties and to help property owners and tenants reduce electricity costs. It offers resources and assistance for system financing, site considerations, utility billing and identifying experienced, reliable contractors. Property owners enter answers to site-specific questions and a group of prescreened contractors respond to requests and offer individualized solar proposals. The site also offers a series of online toolkits that provide a step-by-step guide on how to go solar.
Benefits of virtual net metering
Solar for multifamily properties presents a variety of challenges because each tenant residence has a separate electricity meter as do common areas and exterior lighting. However, a special utility billing arrangement, called virtual net metering, allows energy generation credits from a single solar system to be effectively shared by accounts with separate meters. This program is offered by the state’s three large investor-owned utilities, San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas and Electric.
“The ability to virtually share the credits for energy generation greatly improves the value proposition of installing solar on multifamily buildings,” said Alexandra Patey, project manager for CSE’s Advisory Services team. “Both property owners and their tenants receive direct utility bill savings while bypassing the need to physically connect the solar system to each meter.”
CSE estimates there are more than a quarter of a million multitenant residential and commercial properties in California that could take advantage of solar virtual net metering, yet only a few hundred are doing so now. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, at least 15 states currently have virtual net metering policies.
“We’re thrilled to be assisting CSE in its efforts to simplify the solar shopping experience for multifamily property owners in California,” said John Gingrich, senior vice president for strategic partnerships at EnergySage. “This online solar marketplace will allow multifamily customers to receive comprehensive, unbiased information about their solar energy options, while at the same time connecting them with several high-quality contractors in their area. By evaluating multiple quotes through a competitive marketplace, participants can expect to save 20 percent or more on their solar energy systems than market averages.”
Savings with solar
Solar on multifamily residences offers significant savings in operational costs by generating energy on-site, offsetting the cost of electricity purchased from a utility. Multifamily property owners typically spend about 10 percent of annual operating costs on energy. Once the initial investment is recovered, property owners and tenants have essentially free energy for decades.
In addition to the ongoing savings of virtual net metering, there are a variety of solar loan programs, low-cost leases, property assessed clean energy (PACE) programs and other financial mechanisms to pay for system installation, as well as federal investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation allowances that can reduce installed costs by more than 40 percent.
Partners for multifamily solar
CSE initiated this multifamily solar marketplace through the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative’s Solar Market Pathways Program, working with the California Solar Energy Industries Association and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, as part of efforts to expand solar access to renters and tenants in California via virtual net metering.