How Going Solar Can Pay Off for Your Building An Expert Talks About Net Metering

An aspect of solar conversion is that master-metering is a critical component of the program (iStock).

Like empty tables in a restaurant, parts of your building may be costing you money instead of paying for themselves or making a profit. Roofs are a perfect example. But how could a co-op or condo make money from their roof?

This is where solar panels enter the picture through a little-known method called net metering, a term that many solar advocates are talking about, says McGowan Southworth, president of the Brooklyn-based company Brooklyn Power, a division of Zero Carbon Corporation.

“It’s the ability for your meter to run in both directions,” he says. "If you’re producing power on site, it allows the meter to go backwards. Essentially, whatever the end result is--meaning whatever comes from the grid versus the amount that comes from your roof at the end of the month--you pay. The utility provides you with a retail rate, the rate Con Ed charges for your energy consumption.” According to Southworth, some buildings have produced enough surplus energy with their panels to sell the surplus to other buildings at the retail rate.

A Solar Farm Grows in Brooklyn

Southworth says that his co-op, a 70-unit pre-war property located at 637 41st Street in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn, is able to put way more energy production on its roof than used in the common areas.

“We devised a plan to use our roof as an asset to produce income for the building to keep our maintenance down against rising costs,” he explains. “We determined that if we combined our individual meters into a master meter [and] then submetered, we could distribute the asset equitably within the bylaws of the co-op and then save meter billing fees; gain meter data, which is a tool to understanding energy use; and we have built-in customers to buy our surplus energy. We created a “storefront” and we sell energy to ourselves. That’s how we create energy for our co-op.”

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