Mesa is preparing to bolster incentives to residents and businesses who want to cut their electric bills by installing solar panels.
The city’s current approach hasn’t made solar a popular option. Of the 15,000 customers in the Mesa-owned utility, only five homeowners have solar panels. But other homeowners are considering solar panels if the city offers the right incentives, said Frank McRae, Mesa’s energy resources director.
Now, Mesa doesn’t allow homeowners to get credit when solar panels produce more energy than a house consumes. The meter simply stops.
But the city is looking to have meters spin backward at time of excess energy production, which McRae said is an important financial consideration for those considering panels.
“There is more of an incentive for them,” McRae said.
Some homeowners have probably put off solar panel installation until the city allows them to get credit for that extra energy production, he said.
Mesa’s initial round of incentives will be small. It will offer rebates of $1,000 per kilowatt of solar production, with a limit of 5kW for a home and 10kW for a business. The program is capped at $100,000 of incentives, split evenly between businesses and homes.
The city will study the financial impact to avoid losing money if its solar customers begin producing large amounts of energy. After evaluating that, Mesa will look at the possibilities of industrial-level solar production.
“Then we’ll use that data to see how the city can invest in solar in larger scales, whether buying large power plants or put in our own facilities,” McRae said.
The solar program will include energy audits. It’s more cost-effective to address leaks or poor insulation than to install excess solar panels on an inefficient building, he said.
“We feel that’s really important when customers are contemplating solar to make sure they’ve done as much as possible to make sure they’re consuming energy as efficiently as possible,” McRae said.