October 29, 2013
Are there state and federal incentives for building solar projects on contaminated land?

There are several federal funding and incentive opportunities that are available for solar development on contaminated lands. These include assessment grants, clean up grants, and job training grants. The federal government also offers a tax incentive for brownfields in which the cleanup costs are fully deductible in the year incurred.
Many states also have similar grants and tax incentives pertaining to renewable energy development on contaminated land but availability if variable by state.

The link below contains resources for available federal and state grants and incentives that pertain to renewable energy development on contaminated land.

More Info >
October 15, 2013
What is the definition of started construction?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, developers will have to show construction commencement in one of two ways:

  • Significant work has occurred on the site and show "continuous construction."
  • At least 5% of the total project costs have been incurred and the developer must take delivery or title to services or equipment.
  • These definitions of construction starts are very similar to the Treasury cash grant program. They are applicable to the federal ITC and PTC incentives.

For more a more in depth understanding of this, please read Chadbourne & Parke LLP's IRS Defines Start of Construction.

More Info >
September 30, 2013
What is driving increased distributed solar energy generation (DG)?
Some factors influencing the growth of solar DG include RPS and other policy requirements, declining cost of solar PV, and increasing customer demand for more options for solar energy. For more information about solar DG and net energy metering, refer to the SEPA Webinar Solar Value Basics and Net Metering.View the webinar >
September 16, 2013
What is grid parity?

Simply put, grid parity is when an alternative energy source, such as solar, can directly compete with power from the electricity grid in terms of cost. Solar levelized cost of energy (LCOE) is used to calculate grid parity, which can be framed in multiple ways.

LCOE calculations can be compared to retail electric rates. In this sense, solar has reached grid parity, in which the cost of solar is equivalent to the retail rate. Retail rates can vary from one utility to another and depending on the customer class (residential, commercial & industrial, etc).

Grid parity can also be determined at the wholesale level. Broadly speaking, the solar LCOE is equivalent to the wholesale rate of electricity. But wholesale rates can be parsed out into various levels, such as average wholesale rate, wholesale rate of a certain conventional power plant, baseload vs. peak load wholesale rate, and many other wholesale comparisons.

Another aspect of calculating grid parity is whether to include any direct subsidies into the LCOE of solar energy. LCOE may vary when incentives are included.

Make sure to apply these considerations when reading or calculating grid parity.

September 3, 2013
Which utilities have seen the greatest amount of large scale solar activity in the last quarter?
San Diego Gas & Electric has experienced nearly 180 MW of centralized solar activity. Duke Energy Carolinas has seen nearly 140 MW and Pacific Gas and Electric experiencing over 100 MW of solar activity.To see the remaining list click here >
August 19, 2013
How many large scale projects have been completed in the first half of this year?
2013 is on track to be another record breaking year. So far, a total of 640 MW-ac of centralized solar projects have been completed. This is spread over 29 solar facilities with the largest being the 130 MW Tenaska Imperial Solar Energy Center South facility in Imperial County, California. Look out for the latest edition of the Centralized Solar Projects Bulletin in the coming week for more information on the centralized solar projects landscape.More Info >
August 5, 2013
How are solar installations distributed throughout the United States?
With SEPA's Centralized Solar Projects mapping tool, you can see the top 25 PV, CSP, and solar water heating projects in the United States. The tool also provides a map of PV and CSP projects currently in the pipeline. The mapping tool is useful for providing a visual overview of solar projects as well as detailed project data about each facility.More Info >
July 22, 2013
How are distributed generation (DG) or net-energy metering (NEM) rates established?
DG, billed via NEM, can be a challenging mechanism to implement. Regulation may be directed by state legislatures, federal laws, or regulatory commissions. The establishment of rates and rules is an involved process that includes stakeholders ranging from utilities to the solar industry. Rates are developed through a detailed valuation of costs, with concern for stability, simplicity, and equality. The variation in policy among states makes the broad picture increasingly complex. For a detailed analysis of the ratemaking process as it relates to DG, refer to SEPA's Ratemaking, Solar Value and Solar Net Energy Metering - A Primer Report.Link to Report >
July 8, 2013
What kinds of customer programs have utilities implemented?
Utilities' customer programs can take a number of shapes. Some of the many options include net-metering programs, feed-in tariffs, green pricing, and community solar. To see case studies of customer programs throughout the U.S. visit SEPA's Utility Solar Business Models Solar Data & Mapping Tool. Results can be filtered by utility type and program type. For more information on community solar in particular, refer to the Utility Community Solar Handbook, which provides more detail for utilities interested in developing community solar programs.Data and Mapping >
June 25, 2013
What are value of solar (VOS) tariffs?
VOS tariffs are a financing scheme for distributed generation customers that may serve as an alternative to net metering. Using this method, the utility purchases all electricity produced from the distributed generation customers at a set rate (cents per kWh) and customers continue to purchase electricity from the utility under the original rate schedule. VOS tariffs are calculated by combining the values of the benefits and costs to the utility of distributed solar generation. VOS varies by utility due to different calculation methods, criteria examined, and available data, among other factors.More Info >
June 10, 2013
How did solar installations compare across different types of utilities in 2012?

Of the 2.4 GW of solar installed in 2012, investor-owned utilities (IOUs) were responsible for 87% of the new capacity. Municipal utilities integrated 11% and cooperative utilities 2% of new capacity. Looking at watts per customer yields more similarities among the three utility types. IOUs integrated 31 watts per customer, municipal utilities 17 watts per customer, and cooperative utilities 15 watts per customer.
For more information on the work utilities did to integrate solar energy in 2012 including detailed rankings, be sure to read SEPA's 2012 Utility Solar Rankings Report.

Link to Report >
May 27, 2013
How does the number of megawatts (MW) installed compare to the number of solar systems installed?

In 2012, more than 90,000 solar systems were installed in the United States, bringing the total number over 303,000. Compare this to the expansion of any other energy generation technology and a clear trend emerges favoring the proliferation of solar energy in terms of the number of systems. Megawatt comparisons, however, yield a different result, with the size of the average solar system a modest 20 KW compared to much larger utility-scale plants that rely on various other energy generation techniques. This indicates a trend of energy decentralization, which has important implications for utilities and how they operate.

More info >
May 13, 2013
What is the current price of US utility scale PV systems?

In the last pricing edition of SEPA's Centralized Solar Projects Bulletin, which was from Q3 of 2012, the price for large scale solar projects was calculated at $2.60/watt. The new pricing section, to be released later this week in the Q1 2013 bulletin, shows that the cost for solar projects has dropped 11%. For more information on this, look for the Q1 edition of SEPA's Centralized Solar Projects Update Bulletin. In the meantime, have a look at the

previous pricing edition of the bulletin (Q3 2012) >
April 29, 2013
What is the definition of started construction?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, developers will have to show construction commencement in one of two ways:

  • Significant work has occurred on the site and show "continuous construction."

  • At least 5% of the total project costs have been incurred and the developer must take delivery or title to services or equipment.

These definitions of construction starts are very similar to the Treasury cash grant program. They are applicable to the federal ITC and PTC incentives. For more a more in depth understanding of this, please read Chadbourne & Parke LLP's IRS Defines Start of Construction.

More info >
April 15, 2013
I've been hearing a lot about community solar initiatives around the U.S. How many programs are out there? What utilities have these programs in place?

SEPA and IREC have been keeping a close eye on community solar programs in the U.S. Our two organizations have created a community solar program matrix that tracks the progress of this growing and dynamic type of customer solar program.

Link to Matrix >
April 1, 2013
Will 2013 be another big year for large-scale solar projects?

2012 was another record breaking year for large-scale solar projects. Over 1.2 GW of projects were installed, which was a big jump from 2011's 420 MW. This year, over 3 GW of projects are expected to come online. This year will also see a large influx of concentrating solar projects coming online with an expected 750 MW of projects planned for completion. For more information about the current landscape of the solar projects, read SEPA's latest edition of the Centralized Solar Projects Bulletin the 2012 Q4 Year in Review edition.

Full Report >
March 18, 2013
What's the difference between a feed-in tariff and net energy metering?

Net energy metering (NEM) is typically defined as a grid-interconnected system that is connected behind the customer side of meter.  The system is designed to offset the on-site load and should the output exceed the consumption, the excess electricity produced is fed into the utility electric grid.  The utility, if it has a NEM program, pays for the excess generation at a specific rate, often at the retail rate.  Depending on the terms of the NEM program, an electric customer can typically roll over their surplus credits within a given time frame, usually a year. 

More Info on NEM >

A Feed-in tariff (FIT), on the other hand, is a long-term contract between the the electricity customer and the electric utility stipulating that the utility will purchase all of the electric output produced from a renewable energy system at a predetermined rate.  Usually these rates are more than the retail rate.  These contracts have a fixed length which may span up to 20 years or more.  Therefore, depending on the FIT program, the user may have the opportunity to produce more electricity than they consume, with the added benefit of being fully compensated by the utility.

More Info on FIT >