Perhaps nothing incentivizes people to put solar panels on their roof so much as the promise of receiving a check from the utility company every month. In order to increase the amount of solar energy in its portfolio, Consumers Energy in Michigan is promising to do just that.
The utility, which provides electric and natural gas service to nearly 6.5 million Michigan residents, just announced the expansion of its popular Experimental Advanced Renewable Program (EARP). The next round of the production-based incentive program will incorporate 3 megawatts (MW) – 1.5 MW residential and 1.5 MW commercial – of customer-owned solar photovoltaic (PV) systems into the utility’s generation portfolio. The pilot EARP program, completed in June, provided for the long-term purchase of solar energy generated by 2 MW of new solar PV systems installed in Michigan.
The second round of the EARP program will offer participating customers a rate of $.200-$.259/kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy produced for up to 15 years. In order to be eligible, program participants must install solar equipment manufactured in the state of Michigan, or constructed by a Michigan workforce. Systems must be grid-tied, and can not include battery back-up or any other type of energy storage capability. Program participants are also not eligible for net metering.
Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard requires Consumers Energy to add 200 MW of new renewable generation by 2013, and 500 MW by 2015. Michigan utilities receive “extra credit” for customer-sited solar PV systems under this order. “We’re pleased to offer this opportunity to our customers and look forward to cost-effective innovation in advancing solar technology in Michigan,” said David Ronk, Consumers Energy’s director of transactions and resource planning.