Solar Panels in Coho
From: Joel Plotkin (joelsunyit.edu)
Date: Thu, 24 Jul 2014 08:40:23 -0700 (PDT)
Hundredfold Farm in so. central PA required owners to install solar PV and
solar thermal panels at their own expense. Minimum size required was 1.8 kW
( a minimum size determined by a failed offer of a grant from a regional
private electric utility). We are grid-interactive, so our local utility,an
REA coop, required safeguard controls that remove our systems from the grid
in the event of a system-wide outage. Readings of intake and output are
recorded monthly and separately--surplus electricity sent to the REA at the
end of the year (more output than input) is reimbursed from REA to
homeowner at a near-market rate, although the actual money comes, I believe
from the REA's generation contractor, Allegheny Power. These are all
homeowner specific activities that do not involve the COA.

We also sell Renewable Energy Credits (REC) on a green market. Each
megawatt generated (not surplus, but actual generation) earns a single REC.
Our ten homes generate between about 2.5 mWH per month in winter to 4.5 in
summer. At first, we aggregated all the homes under a single account
registered with PJM-GATS, a certifier. When credits were sold (through
Spectron, a broker), a single check came to the COA and was divided up
among homeowners according to the amount generated. Every homeowner reports
monthly generation figures to a single energy coordinator.

We recently changed to a different system. All generation is reported to a
single aggregator, and separate checks are issued to each homeowner. The
energy coordinator (me) still collects the numbers, and I record them to
SRECTrade, our aggregator, who issues the checks. We are in the first few
months of our arrangement with SRECTrade, so things may change. The main
advantage is that the COA doesn't have to report the single REC check on
its tax return. Each homeowner should probably declare REC earnings as
personal income, although it's a small amount.

None of our common property buildings has solar arrays--that's where I
assume some coho policy would be needed. At one point, we had an agreement
from our REA that surplus generation from cooperating homeowners (8 of ten)
could be credited to a separate account for electricity used by common
property (a power-hungry greenhouse), but that agreement was nixed after a
year or so by the REA. We might have appealed that decision, but did not.

A possible coho issue might come about if the solar system were leased.
Many independent solar companies have sprung up recently, especially in
states like NJ and CA that have a high value for their RECs. They build and
own the PV system on a homeowner's roof, and give the homeowner a monthly
rental fee and a credit for a part of the electricity generated. This would
be a subject for coho decision-making if the roof or ground array was on
common property. I assume urban cohos might have this arrangement,
especially with a shared roof.

I'd be interested to hear from any coho that has a leased agreement.
Perhaps in an off-line message.

Joel Plotkin
Hundredfold Farm
Orrtanna, PA

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