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PSEG to propose doubling number of meters that bank excess wind, solar power

A PSEG Long Island truck in Hicksville on

A PSEG Long Island truck in Hicksville on Jan. 1, 2013. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

PSEG Long Island in the next month will propose doubling the number of special meters that can spin backward when a customer's solar or wind energy systems produce power in excess of their usage.

The move accompanies approval by the state Public Service Commission to increase the cap on these so-called net meters for all other utilities in the state.

The new cap would increase the number of net meters to 6 percent of the LIPA grid's 2005 peak load of 5,116 megawatts, from a current 3 percent cap. For LIPA, 3 percent amounts to 153 megawatts of net-metered power, all of it clean, renewable energy. The new limit would increase that to 307 megawatts. A megawatt of solar energy powers about 155 homes.

LIPA isn't subject to PSC jurisdiction, but can voluntarily make changes to its bylaws. The Department of Public Service's Long Island office has recommended the change.

For the increase to take effect, PSEG will propose a change to LIPA's bylaws within the next month. After public hearings, the change would be put in place by March.

PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir said the utility doesn't expect to hit the current 3 percent limit on net meters until mid-2016. Even without a change in the bylaws, he said, PSEG would continue to process and approve net-meter applications.

The vast majority of net meters are for home solar-power installations. There are now 22,800 net-metered customers in the LIPA service territory.

Customers with solar panels often produce more power than they use in a given day. Spinning the meter backward allows the excess power to be metered as it is sent out to the grid. As it does, it is logged in an energy bank that customers can draw from in future months when their solar production is less.

"By increasing the cap from 3 percent to 6 percent we will further enable the growth of solar on Long Island, which will help sustain green businesses, create new jobs, reduce pollution and align with New York State's policy for renewable energy," Weir said.

Rick Shansky, LIPA's managing director of contract oversight, said LIPA staff is working with PSEG on the trustee recommendation "to continue to grow renewables on Long Island in alignment with state renewable energy policy goals."

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