Membership & Billing|
What is the relationship between the solar farm, the utility, and Ampion?
A solar farm is a privately owned business established for the purpose of capturing energy from the sun and converting it to electricity. The electricity is then distributed via the utility grid. People can subscribe to a solar farm and receive a credit on their electricity bills for their share of the energy produced. Ampion acts as a broker for the solar farms, enrolling new subscribers and providing customer service.
How is the electricity from the solar farm measured?
Electricity is measured in Watts. Because solar farms are producing large amounts of electricity, it is typically measured in megawatts (MW). The output of a solar farm is measured and tracked by the utility company.
- 1,000 watts equals a kilowatt (kW)
- 1,000 kilowatts equals a megawatt (MW)
How long does it take to build a solar farm?
Construction of a solar farm takes about 16 weeks. However, finding a viable site, funding the project and acquiring all the permits necessary to start construction is the real challenge. That process can take anywhere from six months to over a year, depending on the permitting process and coordination with the utility.
Where are the solar farms located? Is there one near me?
Solar farms are usually located in suburban and rural areas. Solar farms can also make use of abandoned industrial properties, bringing new activity back to the local economy.
Who can join a solar farm?
The short answer is almost anyone! So long as you have an active utility account, you’re eligible. There’s no special equipment to buy or install. Don’t own your property? No problem. Homeowners, renters, places of worship, and small businesses can all support clean energy and benefit from cheap solar power.
Has anyone else in my community joined the solar farm I’ve been matched with?
People are joining all the time, so probably, yes. However, out of respect for our customers’ privacy, we can’t actually answer this question. We suggest that you ask your neighbors about it.
Can I enroll in a solar farm before it goes live?
Yes. Subscribing to a solar farm while it is being developed is a way to reserve capacity for yourself. This commits the solar farm to meet your energy needs once it goes live. You won’t be charged a subscription fee during the construction phase. Neither will you receive any credits on your bill.
How do I know that the solar farm is producing energy?
You will have access to a software portal that will allow you to view the solar production, monetary savings, and environmental impact that’s possible with your support of our program.
Will my electric company change?
No. Your current utility will still service your account and deliver energy to your home or business. Any energy consumption that isn’t covered by your energy credits will be paid to the utility at their price.
What does it cost, & how much money will I save?
There is no cost to join our community solar program. You will receive a monthly invoice for the energy credits, produced by your solar farm and applied to your utility bill, at a discounted rate.
What happens if I move?
If you are moving to a residence that is still in the area of eligibility, you can take your subscription with you! As long as you reside in the same utility service territory, you can continue to be a part of your project.
Where can I sign up?
You can start enrolling here. The sign up process takes about five minutes and you will need a copy of your electric bill.
Who can participate?
Because no roof is required to participate, nearly anyone can join. Homeowners, renters, places of worship, and small businesses can all support clean energy and benefit from cheap solar power.
My energy is provided by a third-party supplier. Can I still join?
In most cases, yes. However, if you receive a bill for your third-party supplier that is separate from your utility bill, credits can only be applied to your utility bill. If your electricity charges appear in a consolidated bill, your credits can be used to offset the entire bill.
How can I keep track of my Community Solar bills?
In addition to showing you real-time information about the solar array you belong to, our software will also provide online records of your current and past bills.
How am I matched up with a solar farm?
When you provide us with your utility bill, we review your past year of electricity usage so we know how much energy you need. Then we identify your service area and search for local solar farms that have the capacity available to meet your needs. In most cases, that’s it. A match is made and you’re offered a subscription to that solar farm.
How does Ampion know how large a share of the solar farm I need?
Referencing your utility bill, we can determine how much electricity you’ll need each month. We then find a solar farm that has matching capacity. Your allocation is the portion of the solar farm’s energy that is dedicated to meeting your needs. The goal is to make sure that the amount of bill credits you receive on your bill matches your annual electricity costs.
What is the sign-up process?
Enter your zip code to learn if our service is available in your area. If you live in an eligible area, we’ll direct you to a sign-up page where you can get started. The specific steps vary with each utility but the basics are pretty simple.
- Enter your zip code
- Upload a utility statement to calculate the amount of credits needed to offset your electricity usage as well as validate that your account is eligible for the program
- Complete the DocuSign form.
- Enter payment information. You can pay with a credit card or link to your bank account.
Membership & Billing
How is my allocation determined?
Referencing your utility bill, we can determine how much electricity you’ll need each month. We then find a solar farm that has matching capacity. Your allocation is the portion of the solar farm's energy that is dedicated to meeting your needs. The goal is to make sure that the amount of bill credits you receive on your bill matches your annual electricity costs.
How are credits acquired?
Your allotment provides you with a percentage of the total output of the solar farm.
How are credits applied? To the entire bill or just the supply portion?
The credits from your solar farm allotment are automatically applied to your monthly utility bill, reducing the total amount due. Bill credits offset all electricity costs: supply and delivery.
If you use more electricity than was generated on your behalf, the utility will invoice you for the difference. Use less electricity than your allotment generated and you will not owe the utility any money that month. Any remaining credits will be banked for future use.
In New England, our seasons have an impact on solar energy production. In the summer months, with longer and sunnier days, solar farms produce more electricity. In the winter, solar farms tend to produce less. Over the course of a year, you can expect your solar farm to produce more electricity than your household can use.
How do I find my credits on the utility bill?
This question comes up A LOT. Utility bills are notoriously hard to read, and each utility designs its bill differently using different terms to identify the credits:
- ConEd: Adjustments
- RG&E: CDG Value Stack Credit
- Eversource: Net Metering Credit
- NGrid: Net Metering Credit
How do I know how many credits I have?
There are a couple of places where you can check on the number of credits in your account. The easiest way is to log into your Ampion account. There you will see a summary of how much electricity the solar farm has produced, your monetary savings, and the environmental impact of your account.
- Our portal will also provide you with online records of your current and past bills.
- Your monthly invoice from Ampion will include a summary of the previous month’s credits.
- Additionally, your credits appear on your monthly utility bill.
Do unused credits expire or rollover?
Unused credits will be banked in your account and automatically applied to months where you’ve used more electricity than was generated on your behalf.
After I join, how long will it be before I see credits on my bill?
We will notify you once your account is fully activated and let you know how quickly you can expect to see credits on your utility bill.
What does the program cost?
While there is no cost to join the program, you are required to pay for the bill credits applied to your electric bill. Discounts vary by state, but in most cases you will pay less than the face value of the credits, often 10-15% less. Learn more about Community Solar in your state.
Can I opt-out of the program?
Yes. You can cancel your subscription at any time.
What is a fuel cell?
A fuel cell is an electrochemical device that converts fuel directly to electricity without combustion. It is like a battery in that its power is generated via direct chemical reaction, but unlike a battery, fuel cells continue to supply power as long as fuel is supplied. This direct chemical reaction is important as it speaks to the extremely high efficiency of fuel cells. Rather than losing energy to convert from chemical to thermal, thermal to mechanical, and mechanical to electrical, as with other electricity generation options, it’s all done in one step.
How does a fuel cell work?
When fuel (such as natural gas, biogas, or hydrogen) flows on one side, and air flows on the other, two things happen: first, an electrical potential is created between the two sides. Second, oxygen from the air portion wants to migrate to the fuel side and react with the present hydrogen to form water – a process that brings along with it electrons from the air to the fuel side. Once there is a flow of electrons and an electrical potential across it, electricity is created.
Are there different types of fuel cells?
Yes, there are several types of fuel cells, but they all share a single common design and process: a negative electrode (an anode) and a positive electrode (a cathode) sandwiched around an electrolyte.
The electrolyte is an ion conductor that moves ions either from the fuel to the air or the air to the fuel to create electron flow. Electrolytes vary among fuel cell types, and depending on the electrolyte deployed, the fuel cells undergo slightly different electrochemical reactions, use different catalysts, run on different fuels, and achieve varying efficiencies. For decades, experts have considered solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs) to hold the greatest potential of any fuel cell technology due to their extremely high electrical efficiencies and low operating costs.
What are the benefits of fuel cells?
Fuel cells avoid the vulnerabilities of conventional transmission by generating around-the-clock power, distributed across many sites. Because they receive fuel through the underground pipeline system, fuel cells are less susceptible to the impacts of extreme weather, enabling safe, continuous operation, improving the resiliency of the grid.
Fuel cells’ modular, flexible architecture design allows for any number of Energy Servers to be clustered together, in various conﬁgurations, to form solutions from hundreds of kilowatts to many tens of megawatts. The modular, redundant architecture of Energy Servers allow the system to continue powering facilities while operation and maintenance activities occur on individual modules.
Fuel cells provide significant power generation in a small footprint, and thus they are an ideal power solution for smarter space utilization. Unlike large, multi-megawatt generating combustion engines, or multi-acre solar farms, Energy Servers can be deployed in increments as small as 200 kW, enabling power sources to be distributed and land to be used for other purposes.
How do fuel cells differ from Community Solar?
The output, or capacity factor, of a fuel cell is more than six times greater than that of Community Solar. This means fuel cells generate more electricity – and more credits for subscribers – for each megawatt of capacity that is deployed. i.e. a 1 MW fuel cell project produces more electricity than a 1 MW Community Solar project.
That high-capacity factor has another implication as well. It means fuel cells generate electricity during those peak times when the grid needs it the most, so fuel cells create more value by reducing peak loads on the system.
Finally, one of the biggest advantages of fuel cells is their small footprint – solar takes up ~125x more space if you look at it in terms of output per square meter. This incredibly small footprint allows fuel cells to be built in places like parking lots and industrial spaces. No trees need to be cut.
What are the sustainability benefits of Energy Servers?
Bloom Energy Servers are designed to optimize generation capability from natural gas, but high operating temperatures and high electrical efficiencies unlock fuel flexibility. The system generates significantly less CO2 than combustion-based technologies and the utility grid as a whole.
Understanding the Margin
Since Bloom Energy Servers are an efficient distributed energy resource, when a new Bloom Energy Server is brought online, it reduces the amount of power required from energy sources that generate “on the margin,” meaning those units that are operating to meet the last unit of energy demand. Since the Energy Servers’ carbon intensity is typically lower than the displaced (generally fossil-powered) alternatives, the net impact is measurable emissions reductions. In addition, when compared to these marginal sources, these fuel cells reduce nitrogen and sulfur dioxide by over 99% and other criteria pollutants (volatile organic compounds, carbon monoxide and particulate matter) significantly.
The health and environmental impacts of combustion-related pollutants are a major focus of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and air quality districts nationwide. These impacts tend to disproportionately impact disadvantaged communities due to the increased likelihood of proximity to industrial facilities, including power plants or businesses utilizing large diesel backup systems. The Bloom solution, which can provide up to a 99% reduction of these harmful air pollutants, continues to improve the air quality in these communities.
Bloom Energy Servers were first certified as meeting stringent California Air Resources Board (CARB) Distributed Generation (DG) standards in 2016. The DG certification program establishes the emission standards that electrical generation technologies must meet to be exempted from local air district permitting requirements. The CARB must re-certify the technology covered by the program, including Bloom Energy Servers every five years. Since its initial certification, Bloom has consistently improved its technology. During the most recent recertification process in 2021, the Bloom Energy Servers were certified based on data demonstrating its lowest criteria pollutant emission rates ever. In addition, in 2021 Bloom received Distributed Generation Certification for its product using digester gas and landfill gas.
Bloom Energy Servers withdraw water only during start-up and if the system trips and needs to restart. Otherwise, Energy Servers use no water during operation. Conversely, thermal power plants require significant amounts of water for cooling. In fact, the number one use of water in the U.S. is for cooling power plants. To produce one megawatt per hour for a year, thermoelectric power generation for the U.S. grid withdraws approximately 156 million gallons of water more than the Bloom platform.
Bloom Energy remotely monitors the performance of its fleet via two independent and geographically diverse Remote Monitoring Control Centers (RMCC) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 365 days a year. Hundreds of key performance parameters are continuously monitored via sensors and sophisticated electronic control hardware and software to allow for active control and rapid response to events. The modular, redundant architecture of Energy Servers allow the system to continue powering facilities while operation and maintenance activities occur on individual modules. Each power module independently connects and feeds power to a DC bus. When a power module needs maintenance, that module will be safely ramped down and shut off while the remaining modules continue producing consistent electrical output. The power module will then be repaired or replaced, and then ramped up to full power, ensuring consistent output from the fuel cells without disruption to a customer’s operations.
Tell me more about Ampion’s partner, Bloom Energy.
Bloom Energy (NYSE: BE) has been at the forefront of the energy transition since its inception, working to offer better alternatives to energy generation and delivery since 2001. Bloom created the first large-scale, commercially viable solid oxide fuel-cell based power generation platform that empowers businesses, essential services, critical infrastructure, and communities to responsibly take charge of their energy. The fuel cell projects in Maine use natural gas as the fuel source. But Bloom’s fuel-flexible Bloom Energy ServersTM can also use biogas, hydrogen, natural gas, or a blend of fuels to create resilient, sustainable, and cost-predictable power at significantly higher efficiencies than traditional, combustion-based resources.
Has Bloom Energy ever participated in a CDG program?
Yes. While the earliest CDG programs were designed with solar in mind, Bloom Energy has pioneered a CDG model for fuel cells. In 2021, Bloom announced agreements for CDG projects totaling more than 40 MW of solid oxide fuel cell projects in the Northeast. The projects are in various stages of development, with 7.5 megawatts already deployed on Staten Island, New York.
First CDG installation in Staten Island
N.Y. is in a designated “Locational System Relief” area that has recently faced multiple widespread power outages due to aging, malfunctioning, and over-stressed grid infrastructure. Residents and businesses in the area regularly experience low voltage conditions, and the local utility has been forced to shore up its constrained circuits using portable backup generators. The initial 7.5 MW Staten Island CDG project supports the local distribution grid with a targeted supply of reliable electricity while displacing more than 28,500 pounds of NOX and over 1,500 pounds of SO2 emissions annually compared to today’s alternatives. This scale of local combustion‐related pollutant emissions displacement is essentially impossible to achieve with any other technology, especially in space-constrained, densely populated New York City.
What is the Bloom Energy Server?
The Bloom Energy ServerTM is built on proprietary, industry-leading Solid Oxide Fuel Cell (SOFC) technology. Leveraging breakthrough innovations in materials science, Bloom Energy Servers convert fuel into electricity through an electrochemical process without combustion at the highest efficiency of any power solution available in the world today. Electricity generated by these Energy Servers will produce utility bill credits for customers of the program.
How fast are the Bloom Energy Servers installed?
In years past, the customer installation process required ~9 to 12 months of preparation work. The install base spans a diverse range of industries and facility types and different site variables were presented unique challenges that stalled timelines and/or drive up the costs of installation. Bloom’s Packaged Energy Server (PES) solution was launched to directly address these challenges and standardize, simplify and accelerate the installation process for customers. Bloom took a closer look at all the installation variables they could address and resolve in the factories and figured out ways to control and standardize them. Bloom Energy installed a 1MW system at the Ferrari factory in Italy. It had arrived at an Italian port on May 12 and set-up was completed just before Ferrari’s Capital Markets Day on June 16. This could not have been done that fast in the past, but the team was able to do so at Ferrari because of a significant change to the way the Energy Servers are manufactured and installed.