When Green Mountain Power (GMP) went looking for more generation resources to meet peak summer electricity demand, it looked to an obvious resource: its customers’ own rooftops. With more than 96,000 customers in Vermont, GMP launched an ambitious initiative to help its customers install 10,000 solar panels within its service area in 1,000 days. Well, that apparently wasn’t good enough for GMP’s customers. Not only did the utility meet this goal a year ago, but its customers ended up installing (or are in the process of installing) more than 26,000 solar panels.
Since July 2008, the company’s SolarGMP program has offered customers six cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for solar energy they produce, in addition to the 14 cents they are already credited through net metering. According to GMP, this program compensates customers appropriately for the economic value of the solar generation onto the grid, helps shave peak demand during the summer and reduces the utility’s need to purchase expensive market power.
GMP also owns a significant portion of its solar capacity in Vermont, including 952 panels in Berlin, 616 panels on the roof of the company’s Montpelier headquarters and 308 panels at its Westminster Service Center. It is also in the process of building a 530-panel “solar orchard” at Shelburne Farms, and two other large solar installations. The company’s other renewable generation sources include hydro, farm methane, wood, energy from landfill trash and utility-scale wind.
“The more solar panels we have on line, the less electricity we have to buy from the New England regional market during peak times, which comes from expensive and higher carbon-emitting sources,” said GMP President and CEO Mary Powell. “Our customers clearly want more solar, and we are determined to help provide it. Local distributed generation from renewable energy has economic and environmental benefits for our customers and for Vermont. In-state development of renewable energy promotes the green economy, creating jobs, and enhancing Vermont’s energy independence.”