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Rent Out Roof Space To Energy Companies

| Thursday January 8th, 2009 | 9 Comments

gm_zaragoza_solar_big.jpg

All around the US, homeowners are getting paid by their energy utility to have solar panels installed. That’s because power companies have an urgent need for roof space. They’re in a race against the clock to replace ever greater portions of the regular energy supply by power sourced from renewables.

The trend began with deals between energy companies and various large companies and local municipalities to install solar panels on large premises in return for a fee. One example is ProLogis, a large distributor in California, getting solar energy from systems installed and run by outside energy companies. The first such deal was when General Motors got solar panels installed on the roofs of its Spain production facilities (see picture).

Now the energy companies are beginning to tap the residential sector. The inherent logic of this development is obvious; once they’ve got local authority approval, energy companies can extend their ‘solar parks’ quickly and with relatively little hassle by fixing normal residents up with solar power. Home owners are interested because they get a fee for renting out their roofs to professionally managed solar panels. It’s hard to imagine a better way to reduce your footprint. Or is there?

Despite the compelling logic of the roof rental schemes, the cost/savings equation of the plans of Duke Energy in North Carolina aren’t immediately sky rocketing. Duke recently became the latest in a spate of energy companies to announce it would start renting the roofs of ordinary houses for solar power generation. The energy giant will rent 425 roofs across the state as early as next year.

You could argue that Duke, which aside from the Carolinas is also present in parts of the Midwest, found a vital niche because not everybody can afford decent solar panels and this offers people the chance to participate in the solar revolution. But critics doubt that residents are getting value. Megan Treacy at Ecogeek comments that the cost is pretty high for a fairly modest return in energy.

Duke will invest $50 million and expected generated energy will be enough to power 1,300 houses. Those numbers might not mean much at first glance, but the New York Times reckons it’s a lot of dosh given that this output represents less than one-tenth of one percent of Duke’s customer base in North Carolina. Also, the company is charging every residential customer in North Carolina eight cents a month for its investment in solar energy, whether they are consumers of green energy or not.

Duke had to tone down its plans earlier on because the North Carolina Utilities Commission, a consumer advocacy organization, blocked the company’s plans to extend its solar presence on the roofs of 800 houses.

Despite resistance it¬¥s very likely that Duke¬¥s project will be extended to thousands of sites throughout the state. That¬¥s because the company¬¥s plans fit in well with the overall strategy that the state of North Carolina adopted in recent years.The stage requires 12.5% of its energy mix to be made of renewables by 2021. Duke says it’s going to be playing a central role in this development. But the company¬¥s plans to raise the funding for its investment by charging the customers for it might not make everybody happy.

Another company that is aggressively moving center stage is SoCal Edison. It is leasing roof space of ProLogis as the first step towards becoming the largest solar energy provider in the US. Panels placed on the 607,000 square feet of roof of ProLogis’ Kaiser Distribution Park in the Californian town of Fontana produce 2.2 megawatt of energy, enough for up to 1,426 households. Edison has plans for 50 megawatts (MW) worth of solar panel installations each year, ultimately generating 250 MW of solar energy.

Energy companies are also at the heart of very ambitious plans that politicians in Wisconsin are rolling out, stepping up the generation of home grown solar power. Wisconsin plans to embark on a state-wide solar power project within one year, which involves collaborative forms. The state has commissioned a study into the feasibility of large scale solar power generation.

Wisconsin’s future solar plans will likely will be a hyperized version of what’s going on already. A key solar energy project, Second Nature, already pays customers if they generate power contributing to the electric grid. In the next two years, home-brewn energy output is targeted to rise to over 680 kilowatts.

Wisconsin is investing around $5.5 million in investment in solar energy and the state’s government has strong backing of the Sierra Club, which itself initiated the idea of setting up a state-wide solar plan. Jennifer Feyerherm, of the Sierra Club said ‚Äòwe need to, as fast as we possibly can, be moving away from the dirtiest source of power, and that is coal.’

New, independent, companies are also getting in on the game of offering people the option of renting out their roofs. Outside renewable energy providers will pay for, install, own and operate the solar systems. All the home owners do is agree to pay a rental fee for the solar electricity generated – based on their historical usage at the previous year’s rate. Cost reductions of around 20% are feasible.

A case in point is the Delaware renewable energy company Citizenre which offers customers living in states that have a net metering law the option of renting panels for one, five or 25 years, also paying a per-kilowatt flat fee in stead of the utility bill. Excess power generated is sold back to the local utility by the Citizenre.

The advantage of these types of schemes is that energy prices might go through the roof, but that this won’t affect the solar panel renters.


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  • Christopher

    Very interesting and clever article. Any chance I could give you a call live to discuss? Or an email? It would be tremendously appreciated.

    Respectfully, Christopher

  • Uncle B

    Oil passes $80.00 bbl today as the American dollar falls like a stone and great hoards of investors drive Gold well through the $1k barrier of common sense! The “Yuan”, evermore powerful, bids against the sawbuck for “Black Gold” and wins! America! Time ! Well past Time! to convert to other energy sources! Iran sold the “South Azadegan Oil Fields” – the largest find in the Middle East in the last thirty years – to CHINA! in fear of becoming another Iraq! Military posturing, threats, subterfuge, all failed, America! We anticipate Chinese Plutonium and Chinese delivery systems for it, in the hands of the Ayatollahs and soon, to protect Chinese oil interests in Iran. This will certainly balance the Nuclear power in the Middle East to one of “Mutual Destruction” – cudos to China for its diplomatic feat! Great sorrow for the undeclared, uninspected, Nukes in Isreal, and time for them to fvck off and shut the fvck up, Now, Americans will have little choice in this energy world, but to pay at Asian demand’s prices for oil, to survive, and develop Nuclear at home for certain, desperate stop-gap action, pay the free-market shysters, corporations who bought up all Uranium supplies and rights, awaiting this day with glee and anticipation of pricing controls, monopolies, and corporate rapes! and America will have to tighten belts to invest in Solar, Wind, Wave, Hydro, Tidal, and Geo-thermal Power at home, on American soil, government sponsored, govenment controlled as was the Hoover Dam, the “Manhatten Project”, develop our own natural resources, and re-settle near them to survive! Bull Shiite on the “Super Power Grid” to feed existing cities – they have lost their factories and jobs to Asia and are outmoded, owned by influence, Yes! Up to Modern Technological standards? Look the the ruins in Detroit City for that answer! (SEE:http://current.com/items/91230385_depleted-uranium-dead-and-deformed-babies-in-iraq-and-afghanistan-are-no-joke.htm) Don’t take my word for it! We will re-locate, modernize and “change venues” to answer employment demands, leaving the pre-developed, out of date, antiquated, “American dream Era”, failures behind in their rubble, growing from the center out, so to speak, into a new age, a new paradigm for America, free from the Pontiacs, Corvette worship, Cadillac status symbols, SUV’s frought with plannd obsolecence, frequent model changes, high calorie diets for heavy labor not found in America any more, the money churning financial trap of the burbs, the McMansions, and enter a new age of plug-in cars, super-insulated survival shelter homes for economic down turns indemic in our corperatistic , Capitalistic economy, and find even our roofs a good source of energy, adequate for our new, technologically advanced way of life, away from the wasteful American Dream and the 8 to 5 slavery for wage it required! Super-insulations from NASA’s secret files, held back by corporatists, EV-1 batteries, freed from corporatists grips, and patent office shysters, and many more advances yet untold, to be unleashed, for the survival of the masses by a new Social-Democracy, imposed and supported by communist Chinese investment here, is about to evolve – the final take-over bid in a war by the Chinese to take over America! A shot never fired, they own and operate us now, the intelligensia of Asia, and we are transformed out of the Capitalist bondage and into the new age of Aquarius, the “Fourth Turning” in America! Solar roofs the first harbingers of this transformation to Peace!

  • Uncle B
  • totem111

    This is a really awesome project. I recently had some Flat Roofing done on my new condo, I considered getting solar panels but the cost of installation would be to high, but if energy companies want to do it for free that's fine by me! :)

    • Pingbat

      If you are after total flat roofing advice go to http://www.ikogroup.co.uk . IKO have been in the flat roofing game since Stephenson invented the rocket & Morris dancing was classed as an extreme sport :-)

  • Simon

    This is along similar lines to getting solar panels installed on a domestic roof then selling the surplus energy back to the grid. I wonder what kind of impact it would have if was made a law that all new builds had to have either solar panels or some other energy-capture/generating capacity…?

  • Greg Powers

    How much can I rent my roof out for? example a 50,000 square foot multi-family, sloped, south facing roof? Is rent paid on per square foot or so much per kWh generated?