What’s All This Net Metering Stuff, Anyhow?
(with apologies to the late Bob Pease for the title)
Net Metering? What is THAT?
It’s actually pretty simple. If you have a solar or wind energy system working on your property, the power company just takes the amount of power you use, subtracts the amount of power you produce, and charges you for the difference (or the net amount – it’s usually a financial term). When you’re using more power than you’re producing, your power meter spins like usual. When you’re producing more power than you’re using (like, on a sunny day in the springtime), then your power meter spins backwards. At the end of the month, when the utility takes its reading, it’s reading the difference between what you’ve used and what you’ve produced; the net energy, read off your meter.
Ok, so say you usually use 500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) every month – if your electric rate is around 15 cents per kWh, that’s a $75-a-month electric bill.
So say your solar array produces, oh, 3,000 Watts. During the day in full sun that’s 3 kilowatt-hours (kWh) produced for every hour of full sun. At 15 cents per kWh, you’re making 45 cents an hour (doesn’t sound like much, does it? But wait…). Here in Iowa we get about 4 hours per day on average of full sun (some say 3.5 hrs, some say 4.5 hrs – i say 4 to make the math easier), so you could expect to produce about $1.80 of electricity per day. Times 30 days, that’s $54 per month of electricity that you’ve produced with no effort on your part.
At the end of that month, the electric company would charge you $21 instead of $75.
$75 – $54 = $21. Yep, it’s that simple.