Where can I get more information on Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) pricing?
There are many states that have a solar carve out in their renewable portfolio standard that has created a market for the purchasing and selling of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). The following websites contain up-to-date information on SREC pricing, auctions and facilitate the exchange of SRECs. It should be noted that these websites facilitate private exchanges. The SREC market is a distributed market and several states allow SREC exchanges from out-of-state.
What is Virtual Net Metering?
In essence, Virtual Net Metering (VNM) allows the electricity produced by a single solar installation to be credited across multiple utility meters. Examples can include multifamily housing, community systems that consumers can buy shares in, or multiple meters at a single location, such as a farm. As many ratepayers, such as renters and many occupants of multi-tenant residential and commercial buildings, are not able to host an onsite PV system, VNM provides an opportunity for them to offset their loads without requiring the system to be physically connected to their meter.
In Decision 08-10-036, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted virtual net metering (VNM) for affordable multifamily housing projects utilizing onsite solar electricity generation to offset tenant loads. Prior to this decision, installing solar energy systems to offset tenant loads required multiple systems and inverters for each tenant served. The process of developing the VNM implementation and tariff is ongoing.
What is the DOE's SunShot Initiative?
The Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative aims to make large-scale solar energy systems cost competitive without the use of subsidies by the end of this decade. The tangible goal is to acheive an installed cost of approximately $1 per watt, which is a 75% reduction from today's installed cost of utility scale solar facilities. The initiative not only addresses technological improvements but also address non-technological barriers such as permitting and installation. The SunShot Initiative will be supported by the Solar Energy Technologies Program in four areas;photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, systems integration and market transformation.
|What is the status on PV Recycling?
Typically, a PV module lasts for 25-30 years before it needs to be disposed of and a certain percentage of breakages, warranty replacements and other change-outs occurs in an ongoing basis (although in many cases there will still be a secondary after-market for these panels that are producing 70-80% of their rated capacity).. Significant volumes of PV installations started to occur in the early 1990s. In this regard, proper disposal and recycling of PV modules in large volumes is expected to occur within the next 5 to 10 years. In some instances, PV manufacturers will take back their panels at their end-of-life and recycle them (e.g. First Solar and Deutsche Solar AG's recycling programs). In other instances coalitions have been formed that work with the solar industry to address voluntary panel take back and end-of-life recycling strategies, such as PV CYCLE in Europe. In late January of 2010, PV Cycle and the European Photovoltaic Industry Association co-organized the First International Conference on PV Module Recycling. PV Recycling, LLC, on the other hand is a for-profit startup company that addresses PV manufacturing scrap and end-of-life modules. As more PV modules reach the end of their life cycle, there will be a growing market for take-back and recycling.
As a utility, how do I know that installers using our solar program are credible?
To date there is no nationally required standardized credentials that solar installers have to attain, but on a case-by-case basis state and utility incentive programs are requiring that solar companies completing the install have NABCEP certified installers on their crew. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is a voluntary professional certification program that provides solar electric training in design and installation. There are two programs, the NABCEP Entry Level Program and the NABCEP Solar PV Installer Certification. An installer that has been NABCEP certified means that they have completed the NABCEP Solar PV Installer Certification. The latter can only be achieved by highly experienced individuals who have passed a much more rigorous examination and have demonstrated the capability to supervise complete PV system installations, and who have a detailed working knowledge of the electrical codes, standards and accepted industry practice associated with PV installations. Someone who has completed the entry level program means they are starting the job with an understanding of the basic terms and operational aspects of a PV system. However, completing coursework and passing the exam does not qualify an individual to install PV systems and does not designate a certification of completion.
FIT’s seem to work well in Europe when designed correctly, why don’t states here encourage their utilities to use them?
More and more states are considering FITs, and several municipal utilities have implemented them. However, translating the European experience to the U.S. generally faces some obstacles. FITs overcome some of the barriers to the current U.S. system that is bifurcated between net metering and incentives for distributed projects and formal RFP utility procurement for centralized projects (a broad stereotype of the market that may not apply everywhere). FIT rates are often set above both the wholesale and retail costs of electricity and therein lies the crux of concern. FITs need to balance the needs of sparking the market with positive rates of return for solar projects and the overall costs of such a utility, state or national program, which ultimately will be borne by taxpayers and/or utility ratepayers. There are policy options for making FITs responsive to changing market conditions and capping the overall impacts of the program, but clearly the details find themselves part of the nuances of implementing any such new policy and the competing interests with different points of view.
How much do solar trackers increase PV system performance?
Solar trackers are becoming increasingly popular for ground mounted solar PV installations, especially on the utility side of the meter. Single-axis trackers follow the sun’s east-west movement on a daily basis, optimizing the sun’s incidence angle, while dual-axis trackers add an additional compensation for north-south seasonal changes.
Trackers are reported to increase performance 25-50% compared to fixed mount PV modules, but most commonly 25-35% (higher percentages at higher latitudes). PV Watts [http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/codes_algs/PVWATTS/version1/] includes a tracking option in its calculations. However, tracking technology adds additional capital and O&M costs over the life of the installation that needs to be factored into the project financials. PV field and racking designs that use fewer but larger motors to control multiple blocks of panel racks is one strategy to minimize risk but there is no one “right” answer.
What is the benefit of a utility owned solar system on a customer site?
There are a number of announcements by utilities for ‘distributed power plants,’ where the utility deploys and owns multiple PV systems dispersed on customer rooftops or property, most often on commercial buildings. This utility solar business model provides an incentive to the utility, through owning the solar asset, by earning a rate of return on the capital investment, i.e. a profit. This is true of any other type of capital asset the utility could own and isn’t particular to PV. (Utilities pass the costs of energy purchases onto all ratepayers but earn no profit in the transaction.) Many of these utility-driven announcements are significantly scaling up the local/regional distributed market, but not all parts of the solar value chain are impacted similarly and utility commissions need to ensure that the project is in the best interest of ratepayers and that fair competition is part of the process.
What is the value of solar electricity to utilities?
Solar technologies can provide a number of direct and indirect costs and benefits for utilities, although the
extent to which they can be calculated and monetized varies. Most value research has been on photovoltaics;
concentrating solar power follows a more traditional utility scale power path. Photovoltaics (PV) are modular, can be distributed or centralized, have low siting and permitting requirements, can be built quickly relative to other technologies, have low O&M, a long-term declining cost curve, and no operational emissions. In response to growing concerns that net metering compensation may not fully encompass the costs and benefits of solar customers for the electricity that they produce and consume, there has been an increased focus on attempting to accurately evaluate the "value of solar" to utilities, separating out the consumption transaction from the production transaction. The new analyses take into account such features as avoided fuel costs, avoided generation capacity costs, and several other financial benefits, while also accounting for the additional cost incurred to accept variable solar generation onto the grid. Austin Energy has been a pioneer of this utility strategy, implementing a 'Value of Solar Tariff' (known as VOST) for its residential customers in the Fall of 2012. For more detailed information, see http://www.austinenergy.com/energy%20efficiency/Programs/Rebates/Solar%20Rebates/proposedValueSolarRate.pdf
Levelized Cost of Energy Analysis, Lazard 2008; Renewable Energy Options, Black & Veatch 2008;
Western Renewable Energy Zones. Phase I Report, WGA 2009; Solar Advisor Model software, NREL
What are interconnection and net metering best practices?
Marketing is essentially the intelligent distribution of information:
• Before you reinvent the wheel, review other utility and state programs and “borrow” the best ideas.
• Educate your utility employees across all departments – customer service, distribution engineers, program
managers, system planning, rates and regulatory, etc.
• Talk to other utilities. Utilize SEPA’s Solar Networking Tool to find out utility peers to discuss ideas with.
• Integrate with energy efficiency, demand side management and resource planning. This assures the least
disruption to business as usual.
• Have a plan for how to manage inquiries. Most utility programs have required a level of commitment by the
customer to minimize the simply curious.
• Educate your customers
o Create a dedicated solar webpage on your utility website, one that is simple and clearly searchable,
perhaps with the environmental, energy efficiency, and/or renewable energy sections.
o Utilize the media, your consumer advisory board, and you community public speaking volunteers.
o Utilize bill inserts both dedicated to solar and on related topics like energy efficiency and the environment.
Calculator & Yellow Pages, www.FindSolar.com; North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (www.nabcep.org);
Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, www.dsireusa.org (policy summaries).
In starting a customer PV incentive program, what are some basic recommendations?
If this is your first solar incentive program, you should start with a modest budget and kilowatt goal, but
have a vision to the long-term. Building a local or regional solar market takes time, as consumers become educated
and solar installers develop and grow. A five year program with a set budget and incentive would be favored over a
two-year program. The longer term program is more cost effective and provides market stability to both the
consumer and the installers.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel; look at peer utilities’ programs, paperwork, processes, guidelines, and design. In
comparing them, take the best design ideas from each and simplify them as much as possible - consider the
transaction costs of helping customers through their inevitable confusion. The review and approval process should
be designed to only take a few days.
To simplify things, some utility incentive programs utilize an existing state incentive program as a proxy for the
initial application review and approval process, while others outsource administration to third-parties companies that
specialize in this area.
Contact your SEPA Regional Director to discuss your particular situation.
Database of State Incentives for Renewable and Efficiency; Designing PV Incentives to Promote Performance, BL & CESA 2006;
Photovoltaic Incentive Design Handbook, NREL 2006.
How can we make solar more accessible to low-income communities?
There are several different models for how a utility can make solar more accessible among low-income communities.
For example, PG&E, in partnership with a solar installer, has donated and installed 1kW PV systems to schools in
underserved low-income communities. This partnership has provided an opportunity to educate the community about
renewable energy and provide hands-on classroom learning. Another option is to provide a solar lease program for
low income residents, which the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund once provided. (For more information on this, see http://www.ctsolarlease.com) Yet another example is an incentive program similar to the one that the California Solar Initiative has begun, offering low-income residents additional incentives based on their federal tax liability. Finally, California set up a Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (or 'MASH') program, which allowed third parties (primarily non-profits) to install solar on affordable housing buildings (for more information, see http://energycenter.org/index.php/incentive-programs/multifamily-affordable-solar-housing); similarly, partnerships with a local Habitat for Humanity, or similar organizations, are occurring (or have occurred) in other states.
Low-Income Policy Recommendation, Solar Alliance.
What kind of procurement options does a utility have for acquiring solar power projects?
Solar procurement options range from the traditional resource procurement options to more innovative
and aggregated techniques. Below is a list of options. These are discussed in more detail in SEPA publications, including
“Utility Procurement Study: Solar Electricity in the Utility Market” and "Changing Ownership of Distributed Photovoltaics", both of which are found on our website.
• Traditional: Issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) and after selecting the best option among the respondents,
negotiate a power purchase agreement (PPA). This can either be an all source solicitation or solar only;
• Utility owned, built as a turnkey project by a third-party or the utility itself;
• Non-traditional methods include:
o Joint procurement with other utilities, either a PPA or utility owned;
o Electronic auctions;
o Standard offers;
o Franchise bidding;
o Combined purchasing;
o Reverse auctions; and
o Forward pricing with volume guarantees
Changing Ownership of Distributed Photovoltaics, SEPA 2012; Utility Procurement Study, SEPA 2008; Utility Solar Business Models, SEPA 2008
What are the storage characteristics for CSP?
There are several CSP or concentrating solar power technologies. Generally CSP refers to solar thermal generating plants. Because of the thermal nature of this type of solar plant, the energy can be stored thermally, increasing the dispatchability for grid operators.
Central receiver, also known as power towers, are a CSP technology where a large field of sun-tracking mirrors, or heliostats, redirect and concentrate sunlight onto a tower mounted central thermal receiver. The heat transport fluid within the tower is either water/steam or
nitrate salt (molten salt); the latter systems typically include storage. The storage design can be designed to meet the needs of the utility grid and 3-16 hours of full turbine load are practical. Parabolic trough systems use a field of linear parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto a vacuum tube receiver. The heat transport fluid is usually synthetic oil and because of the large volume of fluid in the field, this technology has approximately 30 minutes of inherent storage. However, a two tank molten salt storage system can be added to achieve several hours of storage. Dish/engine and Compact linear Fresnel systems do not have inherent storage and are not currently considered as practical technologies to include storage, if and when they become commercially viable generators.
Assessment of Parabolic Trough and Power Tower Solar Technology Cost and Performance Forecasts, NREL 2003
How much land is required to build a solar power plant?
Depending on the technology and configuration, there will be varying size requirements of a solar power plant. Below is a summary of the land requirements measured in kilowatts per acre (kW/acre) that have been pulled from several NREL sources. - CSP Parabolic Trough: 100-200 kW/acre. - PV Flat (rooftop): 405-809 kW/acre, PV 10-degree tilt, south facing: 354-707 kW/acre. - PV 25-degree tilt, south facing: 195-390 kW/acre. - PV 1-axis tracking: 144-288 kW/acre. - PV 2-axis tracking: 60-120 kW/acre.
As more rooftop solar installation are occurring, is there a growing concern with fire safety issues on buildings with PV systems?
There are many states that have a solar carve out in their renewable portfolio standard that have created a market for the purchasing and selling of Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs). The following websites contain up-to-date information on SREC pricing, auctions and facilitate the exchange of SRECs but it should be noted that these are private exchanges. SREC Trade contains current auction prices and information on states eligible to sell into other state SREC markets.
Does a roof mounted solar array affect the fire class rating of roof coverings? Especially if the fire rating of the module is lower than the fire rating of the roof material.
The Solar America Board for Codes and Standards has released a report on their initial findings of this inquiry. According to the report, there is no urgent need to revise current practices on code requirements. But in certain scenarios, the presence of roof-mounted solar modules have caused roof materials to fail its given fire rating.
How does a solar hot water system work?
There are varying designs of solar hot water systems, but they work on a similar premise. A solar hot water system has two main parts, including a solar collector and a storage tank. A solar collector, typically installed on a roof, has a series of tubes that run through the collector that carries the fluid. The heated fluid is then transported into an insulated storage tank. In some cases, the heated fluid is used to heat up the potable water that is in the storage tank. This is typically used in cold weather climates that could freeze water. Therefore, anti-freeze fluid is used instead of water. Solar water heating systems can be active or passive, in which active systems use pumps to circulate water through the system.
What is community solar and what are some key advantages?
In its most basic form, a utility community solar program consists of one or more medium-to-large-scale utility-managed photovoltaic projects from which customers can purchase a fractional share of the electricity output to virtually offset their electric bill, as if the solar system were on their property (i.e. net metered). An alternative financial vehicle often used is a fixed-rate solar tariff, which, over time, offers Community Solar customers a lower electricity rate over the life of the program (e.g. the solar tariff is initially set at a rate higher than the existing retail electricity rate, but becomes cheaper over time as the retail electricity rate increases). A community solar program allows a broader range of customers to participate and economically benefit from solar, and also often enables utilities to lower costs and retain some revenue typically lost under traditional net metering. Additionally, there is a clear link between the customer and a specific solar installation that offers benefits to the customer via a fixed-rate solar tariff or net metering. Note: A number of utility programs have 'community' in the program name but do not represent community solar programs as defined here.
What is Virtual Net Metering?
In essence, Virtual Net Metering (VNM) allows the electricity produced by a single solar installation to be credited across multiple utility meters. Examples can include multifamily housing, community systems that consumers can buy shares in, or multiple meters at a single location, such as a farm. This is an ideal strategy for community solar projects with multiple subscribers/owners.
What is an alternative strategy to first come, first served solar incentive programs?
A lot of solar incentive programs sell out quickly, this is especially true for performance based incentives such as feed-in tariffs. In the case of Oregon's Pilot Solar Volumetric Incentive Rate & Payments Program, the first iteration of the program was first-come, first-served and sold out quickly. Starting in October of this year, customers interested in enrolling in the program can register to be enrolled and will be selected through a lottery system.
As a utility, how do I know that installers using our solar program are credible?
To date there are no nationally required standardized credentials that solar installers have to obtain, but on a case-by-case basis state and utility incentive programs are requiring that solar companies completing the install have NABCEP certified installers on their crew. The North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) is a voluntary professional certification program that provides solar electric and thermal training in design and installation. There are two programs, the NABCEP Entry Level Program and the NABCEP Solar PV Installer Certification. The latter can only be achieved by highly experienced individuals who have passed a much more rigorous examination and have demonstrated the capability to supervise complete PV system installations, and who have a detailed working knowledge of the electrical codes, standards and accepted industry practices associated with PV installations. The entry level certification means a recipient has an understanding of the basic terms and operational aspects of a PV system. However, completing coursework and passing the exam does not qualify an individual to install PV systems and does not designate a certification of completion. NABCEP has also recently announced a Solar Heating Entry Level Exam.
Are there any federal incentives available for solar hot water?
There are several federal incentives available for solar hot water. The listed incentives below also include PV systems as eligible systems: Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit - Along with solar electric systems, this personal tax credit (PTC) includes solar hot water heaters as an eligible system. Therefore a tax credit is awarded up to 30% of the total installed cost of the solar hot water system. Business Energy Investment Tax Credit - This federal incentive is similar to the PTC, but is aimed for commercial, industrial, utility and agrictultural owners. Renewable Energy Grants - Similar to the ITC, this cash grant is awarded up to 30% of the total installed cost of the solar hot water system. Should the owner have a tax appetite that is unable to take full advantage of the ITC, a renewable energy grant would be a better federal incentive.
I want to get into the solar industry but what kind of solar jobs are out there?
Green jobs have been a very hot topic over the last several years. In fact, solar jobs has increased almost ten times the job growth rate of the rest of the economy over the past year. So what are solar jobs? These jobs span the entire solar supply chain, which includes the manufacturing of solar cells to lawyers that represent solar clients. The Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative has divided up solar energy occupations into four categories, component production, system design, marketing/sales/permitting, and installation/operations. Within these categories are the many typical solar positions from entry level to advanced level. To see a detailed breakdown of these jobs, please refer to SunShot Initiative's Solar Career Map.
What are some challenges in developing solar on closed landfills?
Developing solar projects on closed landfills and contaminated land, in general, can be advantageous. For example, the fact that such land is unsuited for commercial and residential development means that there are significant amounts of open land currently being under-utilized. That said, since this land is contaminated with potentially hazardous materials, there do tend to be technical and regulatory hurdles. Some technical challenges include avoiding penetrating any underground cover material as well as weight considerations. Since landfills are typically not flat, side slope stability can also be a design challenge. Capped landfills will undergo routine cap maintenance, height and solar array placement will need to accommodate this fact.
The EPA has recently compiled a large amount of research, both in data and report format, on the topic of solar on contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites. These resources, which provide a wealth of information, can be accessed at the following links: http://www.epa.gov/oswercpa/docs/best_practices_siting_solar_photovoltaic_final.pdf http://www.epa.gov/oswercpa/docs/repowering_trackingmatrix_oct12.pdf
What's the difference between a solar lease and a solar power purchase agreement?
A power purchase agreement (PPA) is a contract between the asset owner and the end user. The PPA charges the user an electrical rate of the output of the solar energy system to the end user, which is over a set period of time, typically 15-20 years. The owner of the solar electric system maintains and monitors the system. A lease on the other hand does not charge the end user the output of the system but rather charges him/her a monthly fixed lease payment. Similar to a PPA, the asset owner also maintains and monitors the solar electric system. Both of these contracts typically have buy-out options and should Both of these contracts typically have buy-out options and should transferable to the new owner. Even though these contracts have different strategies for payment, they both address the issue of high upfront capital costs and ideally, the monthly payments plus the utility bill will be lower than a utility bill without a solar electric system in the long run.
What's the difference between multicrystalline silicon and monocrystalline silicon PV?
Monocrystalline silicon cells are made from wafers cut from a single, cylindrical crystal of silicon material. Multicrystalline silicon wafers are made from a solid silicon ingot, but the ingot is formed in a rectangle mold. Each of these wafers consists of many small silicon crystals. The manufacturing of mono c-Si is a little more energy intensive thus costs slightly more than multi c-Si. The greatest advantage of mono c-Si is the slightly greater PV cell efficiency to multi c-Si. The major counterpoint to decrease in efficiency of multi c-Si is the lower overall cost of manufacturing. For more information on PV technology and manufacturing processes, please refer to SEPA's Photovoltaic Technology Characterization Review.
In which area of costs is there currently the most potential to reduce the overall costs of solar?
When one views a comparison of solar costs in the U.S. versus Germany, the country with the most installed solar, it becomes readily apparent that so-called "soft costs," or "balance of systems" is a key aspect that sets domestic solar costs above (and significantly so) those of other nations. The Department of Energy has recognized this key attribute and, as such, as part of its 'Sunshot Initiative,' the agency has set ambitious, yet achievable, goals for cost reductions in these areas---which include, according to their specifications, customer acquisition, financing and contracting, permitting, interconnection, and inspection, installation and performance, and operations and maintenance---by 2020. For more information, see http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/sunshot/nonhardware_costs.html