Virtual Net Energy Metering in Patterson – A Noteworthy Pilot Project

Virtual Net Energy Metering in Patterson – A Noteworthy Pilot Project

Posted on May 28, 2021

This April, SHE celebrated the grand opening of Stonegate Village, a 138-unit affordable rental housing community located at 625 Logan Way in Patterson, CA 95363. The project was financed through TCAC’s hybrid model, with 4% (66 units) and 9% (72 units) low-income housing tax credits.


In addition to its beautiful design, affordable rents and transit-friendly location, Stonegate Village has a long list of amenities such as an on-site laundry room, site-wide Wi-Fi, a spacious outdoor playground, a basketball court, picnic tables, BBQ grills and a community building equipped with a computer lab. Perhaps the most noteworthy amenity, however, is the project’s Virtual Net Energy Metering (VNEM) system that allows for the aggregation of solar energy and credits to benefit low-income residents. While VNEM is common practice in California’s Investor Owned Utilities (IOU) territories, Patterson is served by Turlock Irrigation District, which had not previously had a tariff and/or program to allow VNEM.


Early on in 2020, SHE met with the Turlock Irrigation District (TID), Spectrum Energy, and Jeffery Roth with Senator Caballero’s office to discuss the opportunity for Stonegate Village II to have Virtual Net Metering.  This would be the TID’s first project allowing Virtual Net Metering (VNEM).


“Since this was our first VNEM project, our staff had to explore how this program would work and details associated,” said Monique Hampton, the Energy Services Manager for the Turlock Irrigation District. “We had to develop a strategy and plan to take to the board for approval.  We had to make some internal modifications to our billing system to accommodate this project and conducted analytical work to confirm the customers would see the benefits.”


Spectrum Energy Development Inc. (Spectrum), the solar contractor, played a vital role in the project by designing and installing the solar system to meet TID’s new virtual net meter requirements. Spectrum, a company with over 100 years of combined experience building solar PV plants across California, has worked with SHE on various other projects to bring forth quality and reliable solar energy to our low-income rental communities.


“From our perspective, every affordable rental project is special,” said Donald Osborn, President of Spectrum Energy Development Inc. “We are very grateful to continuously work with SHE to get the benefits of solar to customers who need it the most, the lower-income customers. We are so proud to be a partner.”


Together, TID, SHE and Spectrum moved forward with installing VNEM at Stonegate Village II.  “We worked very closely with TID and SHE to answer questions and help resolve any issues that came up,” said Osborn. “The large utility companies have VNEM programs. However, smaller utility companies like TID don’t have to have them, and most don’t. This project is significant because here we have a small utility company deciding on their own to address this issue and move forward with this project in a very collaborate way.


Osborn believes that this partnership can serve as a “model” for other smaller utility companies to do the same.

This project also provides a unique opportunity for data analysis to study the most effective way to install solar PV at affordable rental communities. SHE installed 66 units in the project with 66 individual solar systems connected to each unit. Then, in the other 72 units, we installed shared solar with central inverters and common generation meters

.  This will provide a side-by-side comparison of the benefit received by residents through two separate approaches.


“We are very thankful the TID stepped up as a partner on the VNEM pilot,” said Betsy McGovern-Garcia, Director of Real Estate Development at SHE. “We believe this will generate a more extensive benefit for our residents and was dramatically more cost effective.  We look forward to continuing to work with them to advance the utilization of renewable energy technologies in conjunction with affordable rental housing.”


With the VNEM system in place, individual units did not require their own solar generation interconnections which resulted in reduced construction costs. Overall, families at Stonegate Village II can now receive solar benefits without their units requiring  a second generation meter.  This also allows the solar generation to be equitable amongst all tenants no matter which direction their solar is installed.  “The allocation is based on square footage of the unit and we believe the customers will see a savings on average of $50 – $70 a month,” said Hampton.



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