The solar power boom is underway, especially out here in California, but for most of the rise of the solar revolution one large group of people has been left out: Apartment dwellers have always gotten the short end of the stick when it comes to solar, since residents of multi-family housings could only apply solar energy generated on their rooftops to offset common-area electricity or for individual tenants.
Over at Renewable Energy World, Junko Movellan writes about California’s Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program, the rise of Virtual Net Metering (VNM) and how that policy is opening the door for a solar boom on apartment and condo rooftops.
Movellan writes about the recent uptick in VNM projects:
The VNM was originally only available for low-income multi-family properties in California, but in April 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved the expansion of VNM to all multi-tenants and multi-metered properties. In July the CPUC reported that as of March 2013, there were 24 non-MASH projects (a total of 0.9 MW) that use the VNM tariff.
“When VNM became available, we jumped right in” said Ross Williams, vice president of Home Energy Systems in San Diego. The company designed and installed a 338-kW PV system on Solterra, the first non-MASH multifamily apartment in California that utilities VNM and San Diego’s first net-zero luxury apartment. H.G. Fenton Company developed the “EcoLuxury” apartment, which opened in San Diego in May.
That means that the Solterra project, instead of consisting of more than 100 individual PV systems, could include 1,380 solar modules across four rooftops, carports and on the grounds of the complex — a significantly simpler project, and one that can generate 100 percent of the electricity used by the entire apartment complex.
While VNM is still a very small slice of what is still a very small market — there are fewer than 400 solar systems either installed or in the works under the MASH program in California — solar installers and industry observers expect demand to keep solar projects moving forward on large residences.
Photo of Park Villas apartment complex in National City, Calif., courtesy of Everyday Solar.
By Matthew Wheeland