Lakeland Electric, a municipal utility in Florida, is the nation's first utility to offer solar-heated domestic hot water on a "pay-for-energy" basis. The utility has contracted with a solar equipment vendor, Regenesis Lakeland, LLC, to install solar water heaters on participating customers’ homes. Lakeland Electric bills the customer $34.95 per month regardless of use. Each solar heater is metered and equipped with a heating element timer as a demand management feature. The $34.95 monthly charge is a bulk energy purchase. The water heater is owned and maintained by the vendor. The utility provides program policy management, meter reading, billing and collection services. Residents must live in the Lakeland Electric service territory, and all candidate homes are subject to a site inspection to determine suitability.
Lakeland Electric plans to deploy up to 20,000 solar water heaters, producing the thermal equivalent of about 40,000 megawatt-hours per year upon full build-out. Interested customers can enroll directly at the [http://www.solarlakeland.com/sign_up.html Solar Lakeland web site].
The program serves as an incentive to residential customers to utilize solar energy by:
* eliminating up-front equipment expenditures and maintenance costs;
* locking in a portion of the customer’s energy costs; that is, a portion of their energy costs are exempt from fuel charge increases
* reducing standby losses when the water heater is not in use (typically ~ 15% of the energy consumption of a conventional hot water heater), thereby further reducing energy costs
* reducing the environmental impact of energy usage
The program benefits the utility by:
* managing electricity demand
* decreasing transmission and distribution losses because the solar energy is generated at the point of use;
* diversifying its resource base
* reducing environmental impact from its operations
* improving public relations by offering a renewable energy program
* acquiring all green attributes associated with renewable energy
*'' Lakeland Electric retains ownership of all green attributes associated with the solar thermal energy produced by the systems. In 2004, Lakeland Electric became the first utility to sell RECs derived from solar water heating systems through an arrangement with Sterling Planet, a national REC marketer.''