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State Raises GMP's Net Metering Cap, Allowing For More Community Solar Projects

The state is allowing Vermont’s largest utility to continue accepting community-scale solar projects. Last fall Green Mountain Power hit the cap, maxing out how many of these types of solar projects can be hooked up to the grid.

On Friday, the Public Service Board granted Green Mountain Power’s request to allow an additional 7.5 megawatts of new solar to be connected to the grid.

Under this order, projects up to 150 kilowatts will be allowed. This means Green Mountain Power can accept at least 50 additional smaller solar projects in 2016.

For a project to be eligible, the Public Service Board requires the solar panels must be built on the customer’s land or neighboring property, and at least 50 percent of the energy must be consumed by the customer.

The proposed projects must also be built in a location where the grid has capacity for new renewable energy connections — the green lines on this solar map.

“There is a lot of interest in these solar projects, and that’s why we wanted to continue with unlimited rooftop projects for customers,” says Kristin Carlson of Green Mountain Power. “And it also includes a portion of community solar projects for people who can’t go solar on their own rooftops.”

Applications must be submitted by July 11. If the demand goes beyond the additional 7.5 megawatts the board has approved, there will be a lottery to select which projects go forward this year.

Next year, solar projects will be approved according to different criteria. The Public Service Board is still finalizing net metering new rules for 2017, which allow homeowners to sell excess solar power to the utility company. The draft rules include a tiered system where solar projects built on less desirable land — for example, a brownfield — bring in higher rates than projects built on desirable land, such as a farm field.

This proposed new tiered payment system could significantly lower the rates some customers are paid for solar energy. 

Kathleen Masterson as VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covered energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen came to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.
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