In California, residents at any apartments can enjoy the benefit of solar powered electricity at their own apartment complex, without owning PV panels. This benefit is made possible by Virtual Net Metering (VNM). Although VNM is not a new thing, it has the potential to be the next big thing to expand solar on multi-tenant properties.
In the past, apartment owners could put a PV system on an apartment complex only to offset the electricity load of common areas or to offset tenant loads. Offset tenant loads for multi-family housing required separate PV systems and inverters for each tenant and this process was often very complicated and expensive. VNM has removed this barrier, allowing the distribution of energy from a single PV system among multiple meters, without requiring the system to be physically connected to each tenant’s meter.
Each resident gets “allowance” on electricity consumption each month from the central system that generates enough electricity to power the units. The allowance, or expected energy usage allocation, for each tenant can be designed by analysis of each unit's individual needs. For example, each apartment tenant could receive on average 250 to 350-kWh electricity allowance per month, depending on the square footage of tenant’s unit and the remaining of electricity of the total production to be used for common areas such as for hallway lightings, gym equipment and appliances in the club house.