I was a newbie idiot regarding net-metering

Well I’ve been saying all along, I probably call myself an idiot almost every day at some point, whenever I do something dumb, which we all do.

A couple of days ago, after 13 years of not looking closely at my electric bill, I realized I was losing out on over a thousand dollars per year of excess electricity generation, over my usage. When I bought this ranch, it had a noisily-operating 10 kW Bergey wind turbine on a 120-foot tower. (I learned years later that Bergey had gone through a bad batch of main bearings for the generator/rotors, affecting a number of turbines).

The local installer, the most prolific in the world, and someone I considered a friend at that time, had put in around 150 of these systems in our general area - maybe the most homes powered by wind turbines anywhere in the world. He told me my turbine was still under its 5-year warranty, and had a crane come over to take down the turbine to send it back to Bergey in Oklahoma for a rebuild. (Mike Bergey, the owner, was also a friend of mine, who had even offered me a job. Me and Mike and the local installer used to hang out at wind energy trade shows around the country, having lunch, etc.)

Anyway, this local installer, attempting to tilt down my 120-foot tower with the half-ton Bergey 10k turbine on top, connected two of the three vertical struts to the belt connected to the crane, placing the single third vertical strut in compression, and thereby buckled the attached tower section, dropping my turbine 100 feet, smashing it to the ground. Luckily, nobody got hurt. but this local installer "just happened " to have a used turbine on a trailer with him, which he had bought back from a customer, and “kindly offered” to substitute this used turbine, which he said was also under warranty, for my now-smashed turbine.

Anyway, long story short, I slowly learned that this local installer had a terrible reputation around here as a ripoff artist, going back long before he had begun to capitalize on the incentives for alternative energy, and people would look at me funny when I said he was my friend. I’m now on my third Bergey turbine, because the one he had substituted immediately had a loose piece of leading-edge tape that made a horrendous noise like a Huey helicopter landing in the backyard. When I later insisted he repair that leading edge tape, for which he chose to use a crane again, although there were other ways to do it, he sent a newbie up to connect the wires, and one of the three wires was never actually placed into its terminal, but rather just resting behind the terminal but making contact, so a couple years later, when the wire fell away from its terminal, the generator started single-phasing and burned out the generator.

Luckily for me, a neighbor had another used turbine that had been replaced by the government for free, when they bought 40 acres from him for a drainage project, and he sold it to me even though this crooked installer tried to jump in between us, and acquire it for himself to resell. Due to his continuous dishonesty and incompetence, I am on my third Bergey turbine here, with the second one sitting on a trailer waiting to be rebuilt. Luckily for me, a couple of honest Bergey installers have been willing to help me out with getting my third Bergey turbine, which I refurbished by cleaning up all the bird poop inside the nacelle and flipping one of the slip-ring brushes around backwards, up and running. Anyway, I could tell you endles stories of this local installer’s dishonesty and incomptence, but I’ll stop at tell you one of the last interactions we had with him and his wife was them trying to bilk us out of thousands of dollars to join a multi-level marketing scheme called “Lyoness” (illegal in some countries) that was their latest scam. Apparently, he never saw a scam he wasn;t attracted to.

OK now back to how stupid I have been for the last 12 years or so:
Besides the couple of times I had no operating wind turbine here for months on end, whatever Bergey 10k turbine was on my tower had pretty much paid the electric bill. We are on “net-metering” here, where you get credit for your kWh generated, month by month, with some rollover at the end of your service year, based on your start date. So I had never scrutinized the electric bill beyond a brief glance, knowing the electric bill was paid, and seeing some small excess amount of a negative electric bill value, being “rolled over” into the next year’s tally. My attitude was, who cares about the little details, the electric bill is being paid, so “if it works, don’t fix it”.

The other day, at the end of my service year, I decided to take a close look at my electric bill for the first time. I noticed something about an accumulated amount of “year-to-date-charges $ -1,104.48”

But I did not see where this thousand-dollar-plus excess was appearing on my next end-of-year “Settlement Bill”. So I called the electric company to get an explanation, and learned that the accumulated excess power generation was paid at their lowest wholesale price, rather than the retail price (about ten times as high) that I normally enjoyed as a monthly offset. Below is an image of the page of my next end-of-year “Settlement Bill” where they multiply 3146 kWh (my excess generation) times $ -$0.03600 (3.6 cents per kWh) (their lowest wholesale rate) and end up “rolling over” about 1/10th of the retail value of my generation.

So I asked the lady from the electric company on the phone what was the best way to get my full value, rather than 1/10th, for this excess generation, and she suggested “put up a whole bunch of Christmas lights?”.

I suddenly realized that I had been unnecessarily heating my place with natural gas every winter, when i could have been just using electric heaters for free, using up my excess generation kWh before the electric company confiscated the value by reducing it to the lowest possible wholesale value, rather then offsetting my average retail price.

So I’ve been unnecessarily paying $200-$300 (sometimes more) per month for natural gas heating every winter, when I could have been using my excess kWh credits, that essentially expire every February, for the last 13 years or so, meaning I probably paid about maybe $12,000 in unnecessary natural gas bills over the last decade+, when I could have just used an electric heater or two, for free!

Needless to say, today, we’re running an electric heater!

So, if you happen to be a perpetual newbie in some aspect, after 13 years, don’t feel bad if I point it out, because I am also not immune from being a complete ignorant idiot and a perpetual newbie, by simply not paying attention, and assuming everything was just going great! :slight_smile:

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Epilogue: I was “grandfathered-in” to the original net-metering rates, where your use was offset at the retail rate, except for accumulated excess every year. Now that has changed for new customers!

Rooftop solar installations have suddenly dropped precipitously, with most solar installers going out of business, and nobody is installing home wind turbines anymore at all, due to the NEW net-metering program, where new customers ONLY get paid the super-low wholesale price, moment-by-moment, so they NEVER get the retail price back, except when offsetting their actual immediate use in real time.

This was because the utilities were losing too much money on net metering customers.

I think a good use of solar panels might be solar shade structures to charge an electric car, and they should be installing them where people work, because that is where the cars are parked in the day, when the sun is shining! For someone who doesn’t work a remote daytime job, the solar panels could be at home. That way you get the full value of your generation.

Anway, back to my original story, I had often commented on the seeming coincidence that my wind turbines always seemed to almost exactly offset my yearly power use. How was that possible, I wondered? So here I was, often running additional turbines, and even thinking of adding solar panels, not even knowing I was already generating far more electricity than I was using, the whole time!

So here in «communism» land Norway, public services control everything electricity. You can select your provider but its basically a small shim over the same regulations.


We do have our own issues though not the ones you talk about where the utility company is very free to dictate in what way you get paid for money being fed back into the grid. Pur issues seem to be centered around pretty expensive fixed electricity costs, though thats what I hear, myself Im not complaining

If you’re frequently going to be dumping excess electricity to heat …
And you think this may not cover the whole energy demand of the heating required …
Instead of just blasting it all into resistive heaters
Consider using heat pumps (and insulating and Mechanical ventilation with heat recovery)
You get a ~3x return on the electrical to heat energy.
Sounds too amazing but you’re just moving heat from environment and concentrating it into home.

Hello Rod: I’ve been running this by a couple of friends:

  1. A fellow hang-glider pilot, (still alive after being airlifted out of two major crashes) who happens to be a very good HVAC tech/installer. He almost jokingly mentioned I could utilize heat-pump technology to heat this building, saying it is “like running your air conditioner backwards” (which of course we already know), but cautioned that it would require installing a whole new furnace unit (or maybe more?), which would be expensive.

I told him I was familiar with the concept, and mentioning the oft-cited “3x as efficient” meme, but he countered that it was not really 3 times as efficient (said it was an exaggerated claim), and that you only get a 20 degree Fahrenheit rise in temperature, similar to how much colder an air-conditioner makes the airstream, which, he pointed out, was not as satisfactory as the higher temperature rise from a regular furnace.

From what I’ve read over the years, heat-pump heating does not feel as “satisfying” as a regular furnace, does not heat up your home as fast if you just woke up or just came home, and must run more of the time (more time with the fan running) to even maintain a given temperature.

I’ve been running electric heaters since I posted this topic a few days ago, but still find myself turning on the regular furnace to warm things up in the morning, because I don’t want to wait a few hours for the heat to accumulate. The electric heaters are relegated to just “helping” so far, but at least that is something. If I had some better electric heaters, it might improve the situation somewhat, but at least it is helping as of now.

  1. I ran this by a friend who lives at one of one of my test sites (downwind of one of the first windfarm areas in the world, Tehachapi) further out in the desert, where days-long, sustained, steady, super-high winds can put to the test even the most thoroughly-engineered wind turbine. These test sites emerged after destroying market-leading small turbines, which we replaced with ours. Anyway, like most people with onsite clean energy production these days, he has had a lot of solar installed in the ensuing years, and was completely aware of the end-of-year “confiscation” of all the excess energy produced, telling me he is currently (in winter) “digging a hole” (financially, for now) waiting for it to be made up in the higher solar production of the summer months. By next winter, when his “year” ends (based on original turn-on date) he expects to ~break even.

The lady on the phone at the electric company said “Well you are doing really well - you haven’t paid an electric bill in years” (when my turbine was down for service), telling me that many people have to pay thousands of dollars at the end of their “year” (which I did, a couple of times, due to turbine breakdowns), but still, I’ve been throwing away money for over a decade. Wouldn’t be the first dumb thing I’ve done!

The fact is, I’ve produced way more electricity than I’ve used over 13 years, with the electric company even allowing me to use the excess to offset other bills, and at least once, sending me a check, but from my point of view, I shouldn’t have had my output regularly “confiscated” at some arbitrary point in time, since that policy does not take into account times when the clean-energy system might be down for service. So I’ve lost money in two ways, due to the structure of the net-metering policy. It’s like they are pulling a “technicality” out of their back pocket to prevent a completely successful implementation of the overall idea of “net-metering”. Oh well, this is how bureaucracies work.

So I had chosen to ignore all the details of the net-metering agreement, to my own peril. Oh well, at least I finally checked the details and am now adjusting my electricity use (increasing it) to take best advantage of the current net-metering policy details. :slight_smile:

Just paid another unnecessary $175 natural gas bill, mostly for winter heating (which is actually a low bill for winter, and it doesn’t even get that cold here). I just can’t believe I never noticed the huge overproduction I was having confiscated every year, due to it being buried in the fine print further down the bill from the top numbers. Obviously they are hoping you don’t see it, so you won’t squawk at them when they confiscate your valuable contribution to the grid every year.

Not only was I paying thousands of dollars in electric bills when my 10 kW machines were down, even though in the long term I had more than exceeded that in my total production, but for years I was also running a couple of SuperTwins™. Imagine how much excess production I was contributing then! Meanwhile, I had even been considering adding solar panels!

These days, as I was saying, most solar installers are suddenly going out of business, due to the new rules where they only allow 3.6 cents per kWh of production while charging you ~10x as much to get that same kWh back when you need it.

That means you can only offset your retail cost by offsetting your immediate use in real time, not by feeding your excess generation into the grid. And battery storage systems are expensive, with a limited life.

So everyone gave up on home solar, and almost no home qualifies for wind energy in the first place, due to being in neighborhoods, with no fall-zone for the tower and other homes and trees blocking your wind anyway. So much for clean energy production at home.

I’m trying to understand how an electric car can be cheaper than a gas car, using grid power, if the cost of the electricity is marked up by 10x from what it takes to generate it mostly using fossil fuels, with that same built-in Carnot inefficiency of the internal combustion cycle as a car just burning the fuel itself.

Seems to me the best option is solar panels on a carport shade structure, set up to charge your electric car, and bypass all the 10x markup from using the grid at all.

We only charge our cars at night when we get the really cheap tariff