Solar power is driving an energy revolution in America that is changing the way people think about electricity. Consumers are now empowered to generate their own electricity, better manage their own energy use, and sell their own excess energy to the electric grid – all leading to exciting opportunities for consumers while posing challenges to the traditional electric delivery system.
For us, rising to this challenge required a change in our company’s approach to solar energy. “We saw the fast-growing interest in solar energy as both a challenge and an opportunity to partner with our customers and help educate them on sustainable solutions to meet their changing needs,” said Gary Stockbridge, president of Delmarva Power.
For years, the promise of solar seemed out of reach for the average household, as solar panels were simply too expensive. Thanks to significant technological improvements in recent years, that’s no longer the case. The cost of solar panels has fallen by at least 60 percent since 2010, according to the Department of Energy, while their efficiency has increased considerably.
With the rapid fall in the cost of solar came a boom in the number of households and businesses benefiting from solar power generation systems. For utilities, responding to this growing customer demand for solar poses a challenge – connecting solar generating systems to the grid requires net energy meters and a process called interconnection that allows excess energy produced by a customer’s generating system to flow onto the grid.
For us, the increase in solar applications was dramatic, from 256 in 2011 to 2,211 in 2016. Each solar connection requires coordination between the customer, their solar contractor and us. The process involves two phases of applications, an engineering review and installing specialized equipment to safely allow power to flow in both directions – off the grid and onto the grid. Helping customers through this process is a priority for us.
“Our focus is on educating our customers to best meet their needs, and making it easier to connect their solar generating systems to the electric grid,” said Gary.
That’s what makes us a responsive 21st century utility. This means reviewing and approving solar applications and installing net energy meters swiftly, and it also means developing tools and resources to educate our customers on solar power and simplifying the process.
Our new approach to solar has already resulted in major improvements for its customers. While we do not install solar panels, it has made going solar faster by reducing the time needed to review and approve applications and to install net energy meters from months to just days. In addition, we have created several tools and resources to make going solar quick and easy for its customers, including:
- WattPlan®, our online interactive tool to show customers how much solar energy they can generate at their home based on roof angle and sun patterns, and a cost-benefit analysis with potential savings;
- An online resource center with information about the interconnection application process and other useful solar information;
- An online interconnection application portal, which helps customers through the process of connecting their solar system to the grid;
- Green Power Connection™, a dedicated team and process to walk customers through the interconnection requirements
We continuously develop new resources to make going solar easier for customers. For example, a Solar 101 webinar for customers took place Thursday, June 29 from 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. The webinar allowed participants to ask questions directly to the Green Power Connection™ experts and learn more about the process and resources available for going solar.
By providing more tools and information on the benefits and ease of getting solar energy, we are delivering on our promise of helping even more customers take the leap and go solar.