Borough Of Pemberton (a resident's perspective)

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Referenced Documents

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Pemberton Borough Code 90

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Buzalski vs GeoPeak Electric

GeoPeak Energy
 

geopeak commits Fraud

Pemberton Borough Solar Policy
2/17/2014  BTBuzalski

Back in the dark ages, about 2005, one of the Borough's residents decided to be proactive and install solar panels on her roof.  This caught Pemberton Borough off guard.  This was a major threat to their cash cow.  They couldn't afford to allow solar installations that would cut into their sale of electricity.  How would they manage this problem.

They consulted with the PPANJ (Public Power Association of New Jersey) who advised them to not permit net metering and to purchase all the power that was sent to the grid at their cost of power but not including any of the transmission costs because a solar facility wouldn't have those costs associated with it. 

So a very complex Code was developed.  The code clearly stated how much would be paid for electricity going to the grid.  It also stated that a separate utility grade meter would be installed to  record the amount of energy delivered.  The original meter would still be in place to measure the amount of energy consumed from their utility.

The contract they prepared (the original being some 15 pages) prohibited the installation of a net meter.  This is where things began to get sticky.

In the Solar Industry, Net meters are installed by the utility.  These meters measure the energy flowing in both directions and takes the difference between them.  If the consumer uses more energy than they deliver, they pay for the difference.  If they deliver more than they receive the power utility purchases that energy at an agreed upon price.

With Net meters it is better to reconcile once a year.  That is the same as the utility averaging the bill over time and billing equal installments.  The difference here is that far more energy is being generated in the summer than can be used, even with the air conditioners running.  So there is always an excess of energy being delivered during the day.  However at night, there is no solar energy generated and the consumer will withdraw energy from the grid, using up the credits for the Excess that was delivered during the day.

Pemberton Borough does not want to return the energy once it is captured.  They want to purchase all of it and a very low price and sell it back at full price. 

What is unfair about this process is that Pemberton Borough fails to recognize that there is a cost associated with the energy produced by the Solar Panels.  That cost is the installation or lease cost amortized over time divided by the total amount of energy produced.  In my case that is 18 per killowat hour. 

Ina Cabanas, the first installer, fought the Borough for years but was unable to change their view of Solar.  The Borough Council resolutely stood their ground. 

Then in 2010, being new to the community and unaware of the past history, I entertained Trinity Solar who represented that they would install Solar Panels for $2300.  That would provide me with the solar energy, maintenance and insurance for the 20 year life of the system.  I couldn't resist so I readily signed the contract.  I started to receive communications from SunRun who owned the panels that would be installed. 

After about 6 months I received a notification that due to the Borough's ordinance and their refusal to permit Net Meters, SunRun could not install the panels and were terminating the contract.

Of course I was very disappointed.  I started researching the Code and saw that "reversing meters" were not permitted.  I'll admit, at that time I no technical understanding of what was happening.

In 2012, Geopeak Energy was contacted.  I advised them of the previous failure.  After several weeks, the salesman assured me that he and his Electrician had met with the Borough Electric Department and had resolved the problem so the installation could proceed.  When I asked what the solution was he refused to discuss it.  I should have been suspect then. But I proceeded blindly forward.

The Borough wanted $3500 deposit for the permit to cover any costs they might encounter.  That was outrageous but I had no choice.  The installation moved forward and was completed on July 17, 2012 and approved by the Borough Inspector.  A couple of days later I received a 15 page Contract from the Borough.  I had never seen it before.  I was shocked and refused to sign it.  It took the Borough 3 months but they revised it and, although I was still not happy about their refusal to permit a Net meter, I signed it at the end of October.  On December 17th 2012, their electrician finally connected it to the grid and I could turn on my system.

Over the next 10 months I had a period of discovery.  I learned that the Meter to measure the "EXCESS" energy was installed in parallel with the House meter and that all the Solar Energy generated was sucked into the grid.  The Borough was buying ALL my Solar Energy not my EXCESS. 

As part of this discovery Geopeak Energy and I determined that the only way I would be able to use the Solar energy generated was if the meters were in Series. We tested this and found that when electricity flows in the reverse direction through the House Utility Meter, it is summed with the energy flowing into the house. 

Although I was now able to use some of the energy generated the meter placement caused two problems.    First, the placement of the Solar Output meter was reading all the energy created.  The Borough was purchasing ALL the energy not the Excess.  Second, the reverse flow in the House Utility Meter, as adding the energy I put into the grid to the energy I was taking out of the grid resulting in a ludicrously and exorbitantly high monthly bill.  I was being charged 22 for every kWh I put into the grid.

The Electrician from Geopeak Energy contacted an electrician from Pemberton Borough (a contract employee as the Borough has no full time employees in the Electric Department) who stated that the output meter should be connected to the output of the solar system and the House side of the House meter. The system was reconfigured this way.  I turned off the Solar Generator to avoid being charged for the Energy I sent to the Grid.

The Borough has  not commented on any of my monthly communications.  There is nothing a citizen can do when the Borough Council is Wrong.