The initial cost to invest in solar panels can be hefty but eventually you can save a bundle on your electric bill. Yet some consumers said all they got is burnt.
Scott and Angela Latham had solar panels installed at their Centreville home in December at a cost of $24,000.
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“We wanted to go green, wanted to help the U.S. economy out and save money on our electric bill,” Scott Latham said.
Going green and saving money appealed to Bernard Dadds and his wife, Ann, too. Their monthly utility bill was running as high as $400.
“There is just two of us living here. I don’t know why our bills are so high,” Ann Dadds said.
The Centreville couple paid $29,000 to install solar panels in January.
“They were supposed to generate half our electricity,” Scott Latham said.
The Dadds and Lathams tried to harness the sun by taking advantage of net metering, a process in which unused power is put back on the grid. It can actually reduce utility bills.
“What net metering allows is that if you aren’t using all output on your solar panels, you can effectively store it on the grid like it’s a battery,” said Phillip VanderHeyden, director of the electricity division of the Maryland Public Service Commission.
But neither the Dadds nor the Lathams are able to do this. After spending tens of thousands of dollars, Delmarva Power will not let them connect their solar panels to the grid and there’s a lot of finger-pointing going on.
Delmarva Power claimed its circuits are full and that it stopped accepting grid tie-ins in April 2013 — more than six months before the Dadds and Lathams purchased their expensive systems. In order to accommodate new hookups, Delmarva said consumers will have to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for upgrades.
“It’s not hooked up, ready to go. We can’t throw the switch. Delmarva has to put in the proper meter in order for us to turn it on,” Ann Dadds said.
So how were these families supposed to know the circuits were full? The Lathams said sales people from Renewable Energy Corp. told them they would handle all the paperwork Delmarva Power required. The application arrived at their home after the panels were installed.
“My wife and I felt that the company should have made us aware of what we needed to do before we even put solar panels up, which was an application with Delmarva Power,” Scott Latham said.
Renewable Energy officials admitted the application was sent after the panels were installed, but they point out they’ve never had a problem before and said they were just as surprised as the Lathams when Delmarva denied access to the grid.
The Dadds used a different company, Solar Gaines, which sent the hookup application early in the installation process. The Dadds blame Delmarva Power.
“When we applied for an interconnection hookup, they did not state that the circuit was full. They never said a word to anybody, neither to Solar Gaines or us that there would be a problem,” Ann Dadds said.
The PSC said the consumer, not the business, is responsible for contacting the utility and admits this is the first time they’ve heard about customers being denied access to the grid.
The Lathams and Dadds are still waiting for the PSC to hear their complaint.
“I’m hoping everything can be rectified,” Scott Latham said.
“We’ve got all this money sitting down here and we certainly hope we’ll get to use it,” Ann Dadds said.
Delmarva Power told 11 News the PSC has determined that the utility followed the appropriate procedures in denying the Lathams’ and Dadds’ requests. They said allowing additional generation would compromise their distribution system.
Renewable Energy Corp. has offered the Lathams a battery system at no cost. They said it closely approximates the position they would have been in had Delmarva allowed them to hook into the grid.