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Net Metering Cap Could Hamper Solar's Future Growth in N.H.

The nation’s largest solar energy contractor is expanding in New Hampshire. But officials with California-based SolarCity say solar’s future here would be brighter if the state lifts a cap on its net metering program.

SolarCity , whose principal investor is tech billionaire Elon Musk, put up 40 percent of the residential solar panels in the country last year, and has been doing business in southern NH since April.

With a new base of operations in Manchester, the company hopes to reach farther north. SolarCity Vice President Lee Keshishian says future growth may hinge on what the state does with net metering.

“The biggest thing for us is having a clear path forward," he said. "Obviously we believe that net metering is a key to having a clean energy program in any state.”

Net metering, which exists in 40 states and became state law in 1998, allows consumers who produce energy – via solar, wind, or small dams – to be credited for sending power back onto the grid.

Total credits here are capped at 1 percent of peak energy demand statewide and are divvied up between the utilities based on market share. 

Some utilities are reaching their caps, which make the economics of rooftop solar more tenuous.

Governor Maggie Hassan helped cut the ribbon at SolarCity’s  Manchester warehouse.

She says the cap may need to be revisited.

“I think we’ll take a look at that issue and see it there are ways we can work with the utilities to address that," she said, but mostly today I am celebrating not only solar in New Hampshire, but the creation of good paying jobs here at SolarCity in New Hampshire.”

So far, SolarCity has added 40 New Hampshire employees. The company expects that number to double when its Manchester facility is fully staffed.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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