In just one week this summer, July 1 to July 7, distributed solar power reduced peak energy demand across several New England states, including New York, saving all customers $30 million in electric costs. The results of a new study show how rooftop solar is helping to reduce the cost of electricity not just for those with solar, but also those without.
The study counters previous claims from utilities that the higher cots of distributed solar and the rates utilities pay for net-metered energy put back on the grid raises electric costs for everyone. Net-metering has previously proven to benefit the grid and consumers but this study shows it actually happening. It evaluated the impact of distributed solar energy in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. It also evaluated the impact of distributed solar in New York.
Massachusetts, which had half of New England’s solar capacity, saw $9.3 million in savings during the period. New York saw $4 million in savings, with 15 percent of the solar power in the Hudson Valley and 15 percent in New York City. Hudson Valley saw $900,000 in savings during the period and the city saw $3.1 million in savings because of the higher demand in the city.
“We’ve always known that solar contributes in a big way to our region’s energy needs on long, hot, sunny summer days. We wanted to put numbers to it,” said James Moore, one of SunCommon’s co-founders. “$30 million in savings in one week is impressive! The amount of solar produced was the equivalent of removing 1.37 million homes from the grid.”
The analysis was conducted by Synapse Energy Economics on behalf of SunCommon and evaluated the impact of distributed solar power on the overall wholesale cost of electricity during the July heatwave. The results of the analysis found that a small number of homes and businesses with solar were able to decrease the wholesale costs of electricity from the grid by 14 percent across New England states and 6 percent in New York state.
On one day of the heatwave solar produced as much as $6.7 million in energy savings as consumers turned up the air conditioning and fans to beat the heat. The study did not evaluate how much the solar energy produced actually saved those with solar panels.
Distributed solar was providing up to 1.6 gigawatts of energy generation, representing 7 percent of the peak energy demand, according to SunCommon. During the week, the study estimated that the solar installations produced 96 gigawatt hours of energy.
“Solar power is the perfect match for heat waves. During a heat wave, energy demand goes through the roof and so do energy costs. The power that solar produces allows our utilities to buy less of the most expensive—and often the dirtiest—energy,” said Patrick Knight of Synapse Energy Economics.Tweet