To the Editor:
As a candidate for Trustee of the Overton Power District, I feel the need to comment on the article posted online on April 25, “OPD survey asks if you want solar power,” by Susan Santarcangelo (Editor’s note: the article appears on Page 1A of today’s edition). The referenced survey is a good step by OPD in determining ratepayers’ interests, and OPD does currently support customer-owned solar installations in some ways. However, some of the questions and answers given by OPD in the survey appear to overestimate the cost of solar energy. If elected trustee, I will work towards accurately determining the lowest cost options for solar energy, and I will advocate for OPD to improve support of solar customers without unfair costs to others.
In the survey, OPD states that the cost to install a rooftop solar array is $4,000 to $4,500 per kilowatt, DC. I installed a top-notch system in October 2013, at a cost of almost exactly $4,000 per kilowatt. I know of two similar installations in Mesquite early this year that cost slightly less, and of one larger system that cost just over $3,000 per kilowatt. Costs today are therefore lower that stated by OPD, probably due to the continuing decline in prices.
Question 9 in the survey asks if you would be willing to pay an additional $4 to $5 to buy 100 kWh of solar generated power from a solar garden. This sounds OK at first, but 100 kWh is not much energy, perhaps only five to ten percent of typical monthly usage. The stated cost would add about 50 percent to current rates per kWh. There are several ways to structure costs for solar gardens. As rustee, I would work to find the lowest cost approach for OPD customers.
Solar energy benefits not only the people who use and pay for it, but everyone in the country. Everyone benefits because renewable energy reduces dependence on fossil fuels. It is national policy to subsidize implementation of renewable energy, and it is Nevada law to require regulated utilities to support renewable energy through net metering. (Customers with home solar arrays supply power to the utility during the day, and take power from the utility at night. Net metering means that they pay each month for the net amount taken from the utility.)
OPD is not a regulated utility, and does not treat people with home solar arrays as favorably as true net metering. This tends to discourage rather than encourage people from installing solar arrays. I believe that OPD should encourage use of solar energy as much as is possible without being unfair to other customers. I have not seen an accurate study by OPD that supports the current billing of solar customers. As trustee, I would encourage such a study, and as an experienced electrical system engineer, I would volunteer my help in conducting a study. I would also encourage a review of all billing schedules to ensure fairness to all customers.