Michigan utility Consumers Energy has added 21 more customers to its Experimental Advanced Renewables Program. Under the program customers install their photovoltaic systems and net-meter with Consumers Energy for any net excess generation the system produces.
The program is different than the utility’s normal net-metering program for customers that install photovoltaics on their home or business. “If they’re participating through this program they’re not eligible for the other net metering,” said Consumers Energy spokesperson Dan Bishop. Under the utility’s normal net-metering system customers are credited at retail rate for any net-excess generation and that excess generation is carried forward on subsequent months at the customer’s retail rate.
Under the experimental advanced program customers participating are paid up to 65 cents per kilowatt hour generated by their home-sited arrays. However, that was when the program was started in 2009. The rate is somewhat lower now.
The program was made possible by Michigan’s 2008 renewable energy law, according to Bishop. The program was made for, “Customers who want to install their own solar projects, they do the financing, the engineering, and apply for acceptance into this program,” he said.
In all the program will consist of 5.25 megawatts of photovoltaics, which was recently raised from 3.3 megawatts after the Michigan Public Service Commission allowed the expansion in May 2012.
The company opens the program up periodically to new applicants. “Periodically there’s an oversupply and we do a random drawing to determine who goes forward,” Bishop said. The program holds a random drawing on a roughly quarterly basis.
“Customers in the queue that have already been accepted, we’re roughly about halfway,” Bishop said. The program has about 170 customers enrolled, generating accumulatively 2.6 megawatts of solar. Most customers install their systems within a few months of being accepted into the program. “The customer is motivated. They have a interest in doing this, they come up with a plan,” he said.
While Michigan hosts motor city, it isn’t home to solar city. Perhaps that’s why a majority of clean energy Consumers Energy is bringing into its portfolio to meet Michigan’s requirements is wind. “We are in the process of completing a $250 million wind farm in Mesa County. We will also be building a larger wind farm in Tuscola County and buying wind from other sources,” Bishop said. At this point about 5 percent of the utility’s electricity comes from renewables. When the Mesa county facility comes online in a few months, about 7.8 percent of the utility’s generation will come from renewable sources and more when the Tuscola wind farm comes online.