CLEANTECH: Credits into Cash

By Published On: January 16, 2009

Californians with solar systems may soon be able to cash in on the carbon reduction and renewable energy attributes of their photovoltaic rooftop panels. Under a draft decision the California Public Utilities Commission is expected to adopt January 29, solar power system owners could sell renewable energy credits to utilities, which could use them toward meeting their 20 percent green energy requirement under the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The key is aggregating a lot of little roofs into one big solar credit. In a world where timing is often the key to business success, a New Jersey company developed a service to help solar rooftop owners precisely measure energy output and cash in on both renewable energy credits and carbon emissions reduction credits. Despite that solar installations may have slowed with the economic downturn, the company hopes to tap homeowners with existing solar rooftops as well as new ones. “We feel homeowners are losing money,” said Ezra Green, chief executive officer of Clear Skies Solar, which has developed the service. Right now, homeowners with solar rooftops cannot effectively market the green attributes of their systems’ electricity output. The hurdle, according to Amy Morgan, California Energy Commission spokesperson, is that buyers of the credits usually want to purchase them in large numbers. Since residential solar systems average around 3 kW, homeowners do not produce enough credits, nor are they positioned to effectively market them. To do so, she said, it takes an aggregator who can gather credits up from numerous homes and sell them in large numbers on trading markets. Clear Skies is aiming to do just that by marketing its service in the coming months to homeowners and small businesses for between $14.95 and $19.95 a month. At the heart of its service is a $100 meter Green developed--now going through the final stages of Underwriters Laboratory certification. The small box measures the output of solar panels and transmits the information via cellular phone line back to the company’s computer. Clear Skies then plans to aggregate the data and sell the resulting renewable energy credits and carbon emissions reduction credits in various markets. Solar rooftop owners are to get a print out showing system energy output and a check for the value of the resulting renewable energy and carbon credits sold each month or quarter. “The owner will be making money,” Green said. He aims to sign up 100,000 solar system owners for what is known as the Carbon612 service. California, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland are the major markets for the service in the U.S., he said. Under the CPUC decision, California utilities would be able to buy renewable energy credits from such green energy facilities located anywhere throughout the Western region. If successful, Green estimated his firm would employ hundreds of people to make, install, and process data from the devices. Clear Skies also plans to market the service heavily in Europe, where Germany, Spain, and other countries are experiencing a solar energy boom. The device can be used to measure energy output from wind, solar thermal, and geothermal energy production facilities, as well as photovoltaic systems, Green said.

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