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A Brief Overview of Solar Metering Requirements for California’s CSI Thermal Program

California’s CSI Thermal rebate for commercial applications may be generous, but the three program administrators aren’t just writing checks for people to go solar thermal. Like any state incentive, there are specific requirements, and one of the biggest is performance metering for commercial installations, such as apartment buildings, hotels, nursing homes, etc.

According to the CSI Thermal handbook, “Accurate measurement of system performance is necessary to ensure cost effectiveness for system owners and ratepayers.”

There are actually three programs for metering your solar thermal installation. Briefly:

  1. Measurement & Evaluation (M&E): Here, you either volunteer your solar water heating installation or it’s chosen as an ongoing evaluation site for the CSI Thermal program. Both residential and commercial systems have the option to participate. The CSI-Thermal Program will pay an additional $500 to the contractor to offset the metering costs. Solar thermal installers must nominate projects for M&E, not the system owner or system host.
  2. Customer Performance Monitoring (CPM): Systems with a capacity over 30 kWth (equivalent to 462 square feet of fluid collectors) are required to have CPM to ensure system owners can effectively monitor performance. Consequently, if you have more than a small commercial system, you’re going to be required to install metering equipment.
  3. 70/30 True-Up Monitoring: Metering and performance monitoring are required for all systems with capacity over 250 kWth for the purposes of the 70/30 true-up monitoring. This type of monitoring is in addition to CPM and more accurate. Since 70/30 metering equipment is more accurate than those required for the opt-in M&E metering, customers may opt into M&E metering and get a one-time $500 payment…. but only if they provide M&E data for an additional 4 years.

There are many more requirements under these programs, including utilizing SRCC rated OG-300 and OG-100 equipment and being an authorized CSI Thermal contractor.

In terms of solar thermal metering equipment, the CSI administrators have tested and approved a very short list of third party services that qualify for the three CSI Thermal monitoring programs. Equipment needed includes a CSI Thermal approved monitoring system, as well as an approved flow meter and a flow sensor.

Free Hot Water offers many CSI Thermal monitoring kits that are certified. In addition, as U.S. master distributors for both SunReports and Grundfos, we can procure any qualifying monitoring system configuration, including the SunReports kits that are approved for M&E and True-Up monitoring.

The above is just a brief description, and installers will have to follow detailed instructions on how to apply the various monitoring requirements.  You can download the full CSI Thermal handbook to find out more. Free Hot Water will also be writing a White Paper with more details in the near future.

For engineering, plans, and permitting services, you also can contact our solar thermal engineers, who can help guide your commercial solar thermal projects through the CSI thermal monitoring process. Contact us for more details.

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