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The Kentucky Solar Partnership

The Kentucky Solar Partnership was formed to give voice to members of our community who want the use of solar electric and solar heating systems to prosper in our state. Our goal is the installation of no less than 510 solar photovoltaic and solar hot water heating systems by December, 2010. The nature of this partnership is fourfold:

(1) Determine and break down barriers to the growth in number of solar installations in our state;

(2) Generate informative resource materials;

(3) Educate community and students on the benefits of solar energy use;

(4) Demonstrate with appropriate, safe, code approved solar installations.

A quarterly electronic newsletter will be posted on our Kentucky Solar Partnership website. We want the website to be a forum for members to track and share local concerns and successes. Also, a place for members to track solar energy installations that members have had installed for themselves, or have installed for others. If you prefer other means of communication, we will share information through ASPI's quarterly newsletter or separate mailings as needed.

One barrier to solar installations in Kentucky is that it is one of only 15 states left that does not have net metering. Net metering allows homeowners to receive full value for their solar generated electricity in a utility grid connected system (see figure at below). With net metering any excess electricity generated from the solar system is used to offset the homeowners electric bill at the same rate that the homeowner is charged for electricity by the utility company. In essence there is only one meter, which rotates in one direction when the home is using more electricity than its solar system is generating, and rotates in the other direction when its solar system is generating more than the home is using. At the end of the month, if homeowners use more electricity than they generate, they pay the difference. If homeowners generate more electricity than they use the excess is either credited towards the next billing period or is paid to the homeowner by the utility at the wholesale power rate.

Kentucky Solar Partnership's goal at the state level is net billing, with rollover credits provided to the homeowner for excess energy, if any, generated each month. At the local level, fair and safe standards will be proposed, focusing on technical requirements and contract terms. Also important will be educating those unfamiliar to the technology, in order to develop such standards.

Here at ASPI's Mt. Vernon office, we will install a1500-Watt utility grid connected solar system as a demonstration for others to learn from. The primary function of the solar system will be recharging ASPI's electric car.


Net metering now the law in Kentucky

By early next year, net metering should be available to the owners of small solar energy systems in Kentucky.

That significant step forward in the promotion of renewable energy systems is the result of a program developed by Appalachia-Science in the Public Interest and the Kentucky Solar Partnership and actively pushed as legislation by KFTC members in the 2004 General Assembly.

“I’m real excited about this. It’s a way to promote renewable technologies,” said solar activist Joshua Bills. “It’s a win-win program at no cost to the state.”

The net metering legislation requires Kentucky’s non-municipal utilities to develop a program to allow solar systems, up to 15 kilowatts in size, to be hooked into the electric grid. When the solar system is generating more energy than its owner is using, these kilowatts will be put into the electric grid. They can be drawn back out when needed.

The system owner’s electric meter would run forward as it normally does when they are drawing electricity from the grid. But it also literally would run backwards when they are adding their surplus kilowatts.

This allows the solar system owner to avoid the need for expensive batteries to store their surplus power.

“This could very well mean a boom for renewables in Kentucky, a place that really hasn’t had an opportunity for renewables.” said Bills, who works with ASPI and is a KFTC member. He helped educate state officials and legislators about net metering before and during the session. “Net metering is definitely one route to overcome barriers to solar use.”

Currently, about eight solar energy systems in Kentucky are hooked into the electric grid as part of voluntary pilot programs established by several utilities. This number is not larger because the pilot programs were temporary, creating too much uncertainty for potential solar energy system buyers.

“It’s really a good thing the net metering bill passed because those pilot programs are set to expire in less than a year,” said Bills.

The outcome of the legislation was unknown until the final hours of the recently concluded legislative session. Senate Bill 247 received its final vote in the House on April 13, just hours before final adjournment. The vote was 93-0.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher signed the bill into law on April 22, Earth Day.

The fate of the legislation was uncertain because of the partisan bickering between the House and the Senate. Earlier in the session, the House had passed House Bill 490 and sent it to the Senate for consideration. A few days later, the Senate passed SB 247 and sent it to the House for consideration. The two bills were identical.

However, Sen. Ernie Harris, chair of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the sponsor of SB 247, refused to hold a hearing on HB 490. Although the two bills were identical, Harris told KFTC, “I like my bill better.” He said the House needed to act on SB 247.

Initially, the House took the same stance of refusing to act on the Senate bill. However, Sen. Ed Worley intervened with Democratic leaders in the House. As a result, the House Energy Development and Tourism Committee held a special meeting on Friday, March 26 to approve SB 247.

House leaders made sure the bill got placed on the orders of the day for the final regular day of the session, Monday, March 29. But they never got around to vote on it before recessing.

That left the fate of the bill uncertain when legislators reconvened on April 12 and 13 to consider any vetoes. Though these two days are usually limited to considering any vetoes, the House acted on several pieces of unfinished business, including the net metering bill.

What happens next is that the state’s regulated utilities, excluding those municipally owned, have 180 days to submit their net metering program guidelines to the Kentucky Public Service Commission. Upon approval, the owners of solar energy systems can begin participating in the net metering of solar energy.

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The University of Kentucky, located in Lexington, Kentucky, is the state's only comprehensive, land-grant research university.

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