Renewable resources continue to grow in popularity. Pioneer offers options to allow members to use green energy. Renewable sources — including solar — make up approximately five percent of Pioneer’s overall power supply. Therefore, Pioneer wants to make sure our members are aware of our processes and options when it comes to solar energy.
It’s important that you work with your cooperative before purchasing equipment or signing a contract with a solar vendor to determine what type of system works best for you, your lifestyle, and your utility provider. Interconnecting a solar array with Pioneer’s distribution system requires an application, as well as contractual agreements.
Please contact Pioneer at 800.762.0997 or firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.
Solar Frequently Asked Questions
Solar energy systems work when sunlight hits a solar photovoltaic module (solar panel or PV panel) and causes electric current to flow. The current produced from the PV panels is controlled and regulated by an inverter, which converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC), needed for use by household appliances. The electrical panel is where the power gets distributed throughout your house; any excess electricity may be sent from the panel back to your cooperative’s power grid.
That depends on several factors.
1) The size of your system. You can determine how much electricity you want to produce; then size your system accordingly. Note that you can start out small and add on. A system that will generate 100% of your energy needs is expensive, so most systems are sized to generate only a portion of your home’s needs.
2) Your site. If you have a shade-free area from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., you’ll be able to collect more sun and produce more energy than if your site is shaded.
3) Your region. The more sunny days in your area, the more electricity you’ll be able to generate. For example, systems in the Southwest produce more electricity per year than in the northeast. You can find online calculators to help answer this question in more detail, and installers can provide details about your situation, too.
Battery-backed or grid-independent systems use on-site energy storage to store excess energy produced during the day for use at night or when the sun is not producing enough power. Choosing this option will add significant cost and maintenance to your system.
Most people opt for grid-connected systems for reduced cost, maintenance, and high reliability. With this type of system, Pioneer continues to provide energy to you when you need it 24-7. Your PV system will produce energy, and even excess energy, on sunny days. Your system will not collect sunlight at night and on cloudy days. That means, you will continue to draw electricity from the co-op during these times.
Most grid-connected PV systems shut down to prevent back-feeding electricity into de-energized power lines that may have fallen or that line crew members may be working on. It’s important to have this shut-down feature to prevent injuries—and even death—to those working on the line.
The payback period can range from fewer than 10 years to more than 20 years, depending on the system cost, available rebates and incentives, the amount of electricity produced, and the retail price of electricity you purchase from your cooperative. Check with Pioneer for more information.
Certified PV products and systems generally are reliable, with a life expectancy of about 30 years. Manufacturers test PV panels for hail impact, high wind, and freeze-thaw cycles to represent real-life situations.
Most manufacturers offer 20- to 25-year warranties for panels; extended warranties may be available at an extra cost. Little maintenance is required; occasionally it may be necessary to rinse modules off with water to remove dust and grime.
Other components like inverters may have a shorter life. PV panels may outlast the roof they are attached to. Make sure your roof is in good shape or budget for replacement during the life of the system.
To begin, you can look at factors such as which direction your home faces, the condition of your roof, and obstructions such as trees and other buildings that may block the sun during the peak generation period of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Solar contractors can provide a more detailed analysis on what to expect, and your cooperative can offer advice, too.
If your house is not ideal for solar, you rent your home, or you just aren’t ready to make a big investment, there are other options. Talk to Pioneer about, OurSolar, our community solar project, or Envirowatts options.
Generating technologies located close to where the electricity is being used that are connected to the electric power grid and serve as supplement to or an enhancement of the traditional electric power system. The technologies of interest today for member-owners primarily include solar and wind generation and energy storage solutions. Distributed generation allows members to produce some or all of the electricity they need. Renewable energy distributed generation systems only produce power when their energy source, such as wind or sunlight, is available; this is called intermittent power. Due to this intermittency of the power supply from distributed generation, there often are times when the member-owner still needs to receive electricity from the cooperative’s grid. When the distributed generation system produces more power than the member-owner can consume at that time, the excess power is sent onto the cooperative’s grid. This reduces the overall amount of electricity that the cooperative needs to supply at the time the distributed generation system is producing power.
Central station generation produces electricity at a power plant, which is transmitted through the interconnected grid infrastructure to a widely distributed group of users, which provides significant cost efficiencies. Central station generation often uses a diverse mix of fuel sources, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar and biomass. Central station generation provides diversity in system size, optimal operation times for maximum efficiency, and geographic location. Baseload central station generation resources (e.g. typically coal, oil, nuclear, and natural gas) are designed to and can operate 24/7 and can also be dispatched as needed to meet load, regardless of factors such as weather. Distributed generation is generally smaller in size than central station generation and located on or near a member’s source of energy needs. Although technology is changing, most renewable energy distributed generation systems are unable to meet the dispatchability requirements of the grid. Currently, not all distributed generation is able to completely serve the member loads without relying on utility-based backup.
For decades, power from central station generation has been and continues to be the most reliable and affordable way to provide power to large numbers of members. When members only receive power from centralized sources, they benefit from economies of scale and Pioneer Electric Cooperative can adequately plan for future energy demand and have adequate generation available to meet those needs. Distributed generation, while supported by Pioneer, introduces many new variables that need to be continuously factored into energy planning and delivery. Some of those factors include, but are not limited to, supply and demand forecasts, the rate structure to ensure non-discriminatory rates and that all members pay their fair share for the costs associated with delivering and receiving power from the grid, and various distributed generation inspection protocols to ensure the continued safe operation of the grid.
Pioneer Electric Cooperative supports distributed generation developed and installed in compliance with Buckeye Power and Pioneer policies; and local, state and federal laws and regulations.
It is solely the responsibility of the member to determine if owning a distributed generation system is a good investment. Pioneer Electric Cooperative does not provide financial assistance with the analysis; however, we will assist you with finding appropriate and credible resources to help you with the decision-making process. Before determining if distributed generation is right for you, you’ll want to determine your goals (e.g. environmental stewardship, serving a percentage of your energy demand, etc.), evaluate the type and size of distributed generation desired, understand your economics, and investigate and understand all applicable requirements and regulations.
Planning for a home distributed generation system is a multistep process that begins with talking to Pioneer Electric Cooperative, and requires significant analysis and fact-finding, and then careful evaluation of the information that you learn in the process. If you are considering investing in and potentially installing a distributed generation system, it’s important that you follow these key steps: 1) Identify and implement energy efficiency opportunities. 2) Schedule a meeting with Pioneer. We can help you to understand interconnection requirements and point you in the right direction for credible resources that can further assist with the analysis process. 3) Analyze your electric loads. 4) Determine applicable codes. 5) Identify and discuss your options with credible resources and contractors. 6) Schedule a follow-up meeting with Pioneer.
An interconnection agreement is a legal contract for the connection of the distributed generation facility to Pioneer Electric Cooperative’s grid, specifying the location, size, cost, manner of payment, terms of operation, and respective responsibilities of Pioneer and the distributed generation facility owner. To ensure your own safety and that of your fellow cooperative members, you must notify Pioneer if you intend to install a distributed generation system. With any type of distributed generation system, whether cogeneration or renewable, maintaining the safety, stability and reliability of the overall grid is of the utmost priority.
Many factors will impact the cost to install distributed generation and includes things such as, type and size of system; construction, maintenance and installation fees; interconnection fees, such as line upgrades, isolating devices and system protection equipment; interest rates for loans; retail electric rate; cooperative’s avoided cost of generation; and insurance. The engineering study that your co-op conducts as part of the interconnection process will determine what equipment is necessary for interconnection.
Pioneer will conduct a commissioning test to ensure the system is operating properly. This is a highly specialized activity where a power installation is tested by a trained engineer to exacting industry standards. The test will verify that the system has all of the needed protective and interconnection equipment and can operate properly and safely.
Local and/or state officials conduct safety inspections.
The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (www.dsireusa.org) is one source of information on state and federal incentives, tax credits and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the U.S. The site features an interactive map, which allows users to click on a state to see a comprehensive listing of federal and state incentives, credits, exemptions, grants, loans and rebates for residential and commercial/ industrial projects and programs.
Due to current utility and cooperative rate structures that were designed with the concept of consumers always using the utility’s central station services, net metering, as structured for systems installed before January 1, 2022, is essentially a cost-shifting mechanism that provides a subsidy to the owner of the distributed generation system. This subsidy is a direct result of rate structure issues that force the non-distributed generation owning members of Pioneer Electric Cooperative to cover the cost of the subsidy rather than using a federal- or state-funded incentive program to offer such subsidies. A primary challenge with net metering and an increasing number of distributed generation systems is the gap that it creates in receiving the necessary funds to maintain a safe and reliable power grid. Under a net metering design, members who receive the benefit of net metering may not be paying their fair share of the costs necessary to construct, operate, and maintain the grid so that they can rely on the grid when their distributed generation is not producing electricity.
Net Billing is a billing mechanism that allows renewable energy system owners (i.e. members with solar panels) to generate electricity for personal use and sell any excess energy to the utility at a wholesale rate or "avoided cost." This type of mechanism is fairer to both those who choose to interconnect a renewable energy system and those who do not. By paying a wholesale cost, we are avoiding having other Pioneer members subsidizing renewable energy systems at other members’ homes/businesses.
As the owner of the distributed generation system, you are responsible for all costs or insurance claims associated with the system. Pioneer Electric Cooperative does not have financial responsibility for your system.
Your attorney can provide more information on liability. It is the responsibility of the property owner to obtain necessary insurance. This is an important question to pose to your installer to ensure they also have insurance.
If you are the owner of the distributed generation system, then you will be responsible for removal of the system.
OurSolar is a community solar program that offers one of the cleanest and most affordable renewable energy sources available. By grouping solar panels together, costs can be shared, power output can be maximized, and hassles of rooftop installation can be avoided.
Members participate for less than $2 per month, per panel. All subscriptions are currently filled. Please contact us at email@example.com or 800.762.0997 to be placed on a waiting list.
OurSolar is provided by Buckeye Power on behalf of Pioneer Electric Cooperative and its members.
For more information and a list of our most frequently asked questions visit the OurSolar Website Here
You can make a difference through the EnviroWatts® program. EnviroWatts is a voluntary, earth-friendly and inexpensive way to produce electricity and support renewable energy. With each $2 block of EnviroWatts you purchase, you can be assured that 100-kilowatt hours of electricity were produced from renewable energy sources.
A bulk purchase option is available for consumer-members who wish to purchase more than (25) 100-kWh blocks per month.
Please contact Ted Riethman at 800.762.0997 or firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to purchase in bulk.