“What’s going on with the WAPA meters?” is a question that has been on many St. John lips lately.
Some St. John homeowners who have purchased and installed solar panels enjoyed watching their old V.I. Water and Power Authority analog meters spinning backwards since they were producing their own energy instead of using the grid system.
These same residents, however, did not enjoy it when WAPA officials removed those analog meters and replaced them with new digital meters.
“A lot of people are excited about solar power and went out and got solar panels,” said one resident who asked to not be named. “After you have the panels installed you go out and see that WAPA has replaced their back-spinning meter with this new one that doesn’t show how much energy you are producing.”
“After you see this, you call WAPA and it takes forever for them to come out and give you a net meter,” said the resident.
While it’s easy to point a finger at the public utility provider, WAPA officials are only doing their jobs when they replace the old analog meters, explained Dan Boyd, owner of Island Solar.
“You have to have a net meter agreement with WAPA, which means that you go down and fill out the necessary paperwork and have the electrical system inspected by Department of Planning and Natural Resources and take that paperwork into WAPA and do an agreement that you will be doing net metering,” said Boyd.
People who are seeing WAPA switch out their analog meters with digital meters have not completed those net meter agreements with the public utility, Boyd added.
The meters WAPA is removing did spin backwards, but they did not calculate how much energy was being produced by a solar grid tie system, explained Boyd.
“When you put in a grid tie system with that old analog meter, it will spin backwards, but WAPA can’t tell from those meters what you are putting back into the system,” said Boyd. “Say you have an eight kilowatt system, WAPA doesn’t know what you are producing; it just made your meter spin backwards.”
The new net meters, which WAPA installs after residents complete their net meter agreements, will keep track of how much power a solar grid is producing, explained Boyd.
“The new net meters will be able to tell what you use and what you can put back into the system,” he said.
Residents who have had their meters switched from analog to digital still need to complete their net meter agreements with WAPA, according to Boyd.
“What happened is the installers did not get the paperwork completely done,” said Boyd. “So what you have to do is go to WAPA and request a net meter agreement. It takes about two weeks to a month and once you get that agreement, they’ll come out and put in a net meter.”
Once the net meter agreement is complete and WAPA installs the new meter, residents can just sit back and watch their saving pile up, Boyd added.
“Once you have the net meter and everything is in place, you will see exactly what you are producing,” he said. “And WAPA will be able to tell what the solar power system is putting back into their grid so they can have a good audit.”