Grid-tied without net metering - Michigan

I need some advice.

We're currently building a new home in SW Michigan. Our goal was to be a Net-Zero home, but I have concerns about Consumers cooperating. Is it possible - or realistic - to be grid-tied and not be a part of the net metering program? In other words, can I erect a grid-tied array of my choosing and still be connected to the grid? I'm thinking 'No' but I'm hesitant and go off-grid...simply because I wasn't planning on it.



  • SolarPoweredSolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    Because of the NEM agreement, listing safety concerns, and utility power exchange rates for being grid tied.
    The short answer is No, and if you do so without a NEM agreement you could be fined.
    NEM is suppose to be beneficial to both the utility provider and the solar producer on exchange rates. Without metering your utility power you will end up not recieving credits back for off time PVwatts production so you essentially lose thousands of dollars a year against the return of the solar investment.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,800 admin
    It really depends on your local electric utility...

    In general, utilities do not like GT Solar systems on homes. It reduces their income. In states like mine (California), the state PUC has setup a rate structure that subsidizes GT Solar Power systems from various government and utility rate payer funds. And protects the utility from some losses.

    The basic answer is most (all?) utilities do not allow un-permitted/unapproved GT Solar installations. If somebody does connect an unapproved GT power system, the things that can happen are:
    1. The system will work fine. Meter will spin forward when you buy power, and backwards when you sell excess power to the utility. If you sell more than you buy in one month, you may get a really strange utility bill (my transition period--between when utility changed meter and upgraded my account vs when city said I could turn the system on--I generated more power than I used and the billing computer decided there was a meter reading error and sent me a $187 bill instead of a $4.50 bill).
    2. The system will work fine. Meter will spin forward when you buy power, and spin forward when you sell power (companies charges you for "selling power").
    3. The system will work fine. Meter will spin forward when you buy power, and not spin when you sell power.
    4. The system will work fine. Meter will report you selling power to the utility and the utility may pull your meter, may sue you for illegal information, building dept may red tag your home.
    5. The system may not work OK... In rare cases the system may not "see the correct voltage" (utility voltage is too high/too low--possible for people in rural areas at end of distribution line).
    6. The system works fine. You get the permits, get utility approval, you get a billing plan that puts credits into your account (ideally, 1 year credit bucket, some are one month). My utility has a $4.50 per month billing charge and gives me "retail pricing" credits (I have Time of Use metering--Pricing varies by time/day of week/summer/winter). Other utilities can have other plans that charging you $20-$98 per month, and only credit you will wholesale pricing).
    What will happen to you and what your utility does for billing--I haven't a clue.

    While GT Solar is pretty much a standard product these days and, for the most part, safe and uneventful--The major decision point (besides if you have the money and a place to install the panels), is your permitting requirements and utility's rate plan. You can have a very nice place to install your panels+system, but the utility either does not allow or has very poor net metering plans--Or you have a great plan. It is mostly politically based on where you live. Many small co-op type utilities do not support net metering plans.

    You can install a Hybrid solar power system (GT + Off Grid capable inverter + battery bank + etc.) that would technically not sell to the utility. In California, that is technically illegal (co-generation) without utility approval and (according to the paper work) paying "load departure" fees to the utility (even a pure off grid system not connected to the utility can be subject to departure fees). Has anyone been hit with the penalties here for that? I don't know.

    If you want to go solar--Check with your utility (and/or local solar installer) and see what is allowed in your area and what type of rate plan they have. GT Solar is certainly the most cost effective method today of generating power and even can save money (depends on $/kWH charges and Net Metering Rate Plan details). Pure off grid solar power--That can cost you $0.50 to $1.00 to $2.00+ per kWH--Depending on your cost of installation, how efficiently you use the power, etc. The battery system just raises the costs and drops the efficiency of the solar power system. Plus you need to replace the batteries every (very roughly) 5-7 years or so, and the electronic equipment every 10+ years or so. The maintenance costs are not trivial.

    In general, your first/best use of your time and money--Conservation. Lots of insulation, double pane windows, modern energy star appliances and LED lighting. Choosing efficient HVAC systems, well pumps, etc. Turning stuff off when not used (computers, entertainment systems) and such.

    And off grid solar power systems do not save you money if you have reliable/cost effective utility power to your property--Unless you have very unreliable power and want emergency power (i.e., your power goes out for weeks-months after an ice storm, or you have natural gas or ability to store large amounts of fuel on your property for a genset, etc.).

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • bntherbnther Registered Users Posts: 2
    Thanks for the replies! I didn't figure it was really an option for me.
    My plan was/is to be utility free, but it seems like every provider has their own spin on things - and it is subject to possible change. Probably the only way to avoid all that is to just go off-grid.
    Thanks for the in-depth feedback.
  • SolarPoweredSolarPowered Solar Expert Posts: 626 ✭✭✭
    The only reason why Californians get any type of over production credit is because the people of the state of California, took the utility companies to the state Supreme Court, demanding some form of compensation for energy demand since the CPUC deemed that only wholesale distribution would be paid at a wholesale rate of electricity.
    The courts ruled that producers of solar are compensated to a below wholesale rate since residential producers are not business entities paying business taxes. That's where the $.0397 kWh average credit for overproduction comes from. If it were whole sale the rate would be closer to $.10 kWh, but then there would be business income taxes applied to that rate.

    California NEM does have a fair exchange rate for overproduction. It's only a matter of time before other states catch on to receive a dividend credit, for feed in tarrif energy exchange.
  • solar_davesolar_dave Solar Expert Posts: 2,394 ✭✭✭✭
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