Where’s the best place in Utah for solar?
You’d think the answer to that question would depend on what parts of this beautiful state see the fewest cloudy days or see the most sun because of lower latitude.
But the answer actually depends more on which power company supplies the power to the home.
Most homeowners who install solar panels still rely on the power company to provide them with electricity at night or when the sun isn’t shining.
In order to offset the cost of this power and make their homes net-zero, most solar arrays are built with enough panels to generate more power than the home needs during the day.
This excess power is then sold to the power company so it can be used later when the sun isn’t shining.
The agreement between the power company and the homeowner that details how much the homeowner will be paid for their extra power is called a net-metering or interconnectivity agreement.
Each power provider in the state has different rules regarding how their net-metering agreements are written.
Some utilities give you a kilowatt hour for kilowatt-hour credit while others pay homeowners a fixed rate for the extra power generated and may or may not charge an additional monthly fee just because you have solar panels.
Depending on the details, it can mean a return on investment for solar that can be recouped in just a few years or it can mean the ROI takes decades.
Which utility providers have the best interconnectivity or net metering agreements in Utah?
We’ll break them down into three categories and rank them from there.
1. ROCKY MOUNTAIN POWER – Fortunately, one of the best interconnectivity agreements found in Utah is still the one provided by Utah’s largest utility company, Pacific Corp, or Rocky Mountain Power.
After Rocky Mountain Power asked the State Utility Commission to change their interconnectivity agreement in 2016, Gov. Gary Herbert encouraged the utility to sit down with solar industry experts to ensure their new arrangement would allow continued growth in solar in Utah.
The new agreement that was hammered out currently ensures homeowners get 9.2 cents per kWh for the extra power they generate. That’s about 90% of the 10.2 cents per kWh average price of electricity from RMP.
While 90% isn’t as good as the straight 1 for 1 credit RMP customers got up until November of 2017, it’s not bad.
2. UTAH’S ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES – Most of Utah’s electric cooperatives like Dixie Power or Garkane Energy provide net metering and several even offer a kilowatt hour for kilowatt hour credit. What drops them to second place on our list, however, is that fact that these cooperatives offer some of the cheapest power rates in the nation.
Solar power winds up costing somewhere around 6 to 7 cents per kWh if you do the math. (Take the cost of the array, spread it out over the 25-year warrantied life of the panels and divide that figure by the average rate of production on a south facing, 30 degree pitched roof…)
That 6-7 cent rate stacks up pretty well against many Utah electric cooperatives where you’re also paying just under 7 cents per kWh. Since there’s no guarantee rates from the power cooperative will stay as low as they are now, buying 25 years worth of power at today’s rates does make sense.
Inflation alone demands co-op power rates will eventually rise by about two or three percent a year, but still, it’s difficult for most co-op members to see the wisdom in paying for all their power needs for the next 25 years in one lump payment today.
3. UTAH’S MUNICIPAL POWER PROVIDERS – There are some city power companies in Utah like those in St. George and Heber that aren’t all that bad when it comes to net metering.
Many more of them, however, charge fees for solar owners and offer net metering deals where customers get wholesale prices in the range 4 or 5 cents per kWh for their excess power and are then forced to buy it back at retail rate north of 10 cents per kWh.
Utah Clean Energy’s website lists links to a variety of municipal power company’s net metering rules. See if your city is on the list and get the details on your net metering options at https://utahcleanenergy.org/issues/rooftop-solar/item/342-local-governments-and-solar-net-metering
While those are rankings for general types of electricity providers in the state, here’s our top half dozen picks for the Utah power companies that make going solar attractive to homeowners:
1. Heber Power and Light – Heber City provides a kWh for kWh credit and gives you a payout at the retail rate for the extra power you generate over the course of a year when credits reset in January. The only drawback to solar in Heber City is their 15kW limit on the size of a residential solar array.
2. Rocky Mountain Power – Even with their departure from a kWh fo kWh credit in November of 2017, RMP still pays enough per kWh for solar and their prices are high enough that a solar array almost ALWAYS makes sense for RMP customers.
3. Brigham City – Brigham City also provides a kWh for kWh credit but their payout for the extra power you generate is set to the wholesale rate they pay for power when credits reset in June. Brigham City also has a lower 10kW limit on the size of a residential solar array.
4. Dixie Power – Sure their rates are some of the lowest in the United States but their net metering agreement provides a kWh for kWh exchange and their rates aren’t going to stay as low as they are now for forever. Plus their array size limit is set at 25kW.
5. Lehi Power – Just like Dixie Power, Lehi’s net metering agreement is a beneficial kWh for kWh exchange. The limit on the solar array size, however is just 10kW.
6. St. George City – If it weren’t for the fact that St. George City adds in a fee every month for solar customers, they’d rank far higher. That said, the fee is only $2 per kW per month and after that they do provide a straight kWh for kWh credit so on balance it’s a pretty decent deal.
Of course, a homeowner can also choose to utilize battery systems to store their excess power, rather than selling it to the power company for pennies on the dollar.
With the costs of large scale battery systems still ranging in the tens of thousands of dollars, however, the cost can prove prohibitive.
Another option for homeowners who live in areas where the power companies don’t offer great options when it comes to solar is simply reducing power consumption by making their home more energy efficient.
You don’t need any sort of agreement from the power company or tax credits from the federal government to reduce your consumption.
ACES Companies is a local Utah business that does provide solar but they can also help you lower your power bill without going solar by increasing the energy efficiency of your home.
If you’d like to find out if solar could work for you and your home or what your power providers net metering rules are, or if you’d like more information on how to lower your power bill without going solar, call ACES Companies today!