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Looking for solar in an oil boom state

Solar may be making news in many states, but not in North Dakota – home to the Bakken formation and 10,000 wells pumping oil and natural gas. Yet that's where I headed recently to talk to a group of electric co-op utilities about opportunities in solar.

Can we find a common framework for solar cost-benefit studies?

When the general, electric-bill-paying public hears about cost-benefit studies on the value of solar energy and its impacts on the power grid or the bills of non-solar utility customers, many of them probably envision a straightforward, ledger-sheet kind of tally. Costs go on one side, benefits on the other; total up the columns and you’ll see if the sides are in or out of balance. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Net metering: Many directions for national debate

The recent announcement of the Massachusetts compromise on net metering reform — hammered out by solar industry, utility and state regulatory representatives — has turned public attention to what’s happening on the issue nationwide. The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has been tracking state-by-state developments on net metering, which range from initial cost-benefit studies on customer, utility and social impacts to full legislative and regulatory reform proposals.

Energy storage: A different view from Germany

Germany leads the world in solar photovoltaic generation, so it would seem to follow that the country’s interest in energy storage would also be soaring. But when Ben Kaun, an expert storage specialist with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), traveled to an international energy storage conference in Dusseldorf earlier this year, he found that storage is viewed somewhat differently there than in the U.S.

Doubling global renewable energy: More opportunities for utility solar leadership

My reading on my Wednesday morning commute included the Executive Summary of a new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency -- IRENA -- which I now intend to dig into more thoroughly on subsequent rides to and from work.

Bringing the Green to Customers

The Utility Solar Conference is one of the best organized events throughout the year. USC brings together the technology and thought leaders across both the solar and the utility industries to share ideas and collaborate on problem solving. As an attendee, the value comes with the opportunities to listen, interact and exchange ideas with key players working to incorporate more solar in a sustainable way into the grid. As a speaker, I’m excited to be able to share some of the things we are doing at Duke Energy to help our customers meet their renewable goals.

Low Cost Solar Signaling Dynamic Shift for Utility Planning

Recent news that Austin Energy is looking to sign a 25-year solar energy PPA for less than 5 cents per kilowatt-hour is not just solar notable, it’s utility notable. The two projects totaling 150 megawatts are admittedly larger than typically seen for PV, creating obvious economies of scale, but we must take note as most other aspects are replicable by utilities across the U.S.

Customer Choice and the Emerging Utility Business Model

With the explosion in available information (and the technology to use it), the age of the customer is upon us. Conventional business models are being challenged in industries all around us. Consumers can now go to brick and mortar stores, test out a product, and then shop and purchase on-line, completely disconnecting the revenue stream. Similarly, in a matter of minutes, while in route, we can survey restaurant options and their reviews, phone a friend, and even find out what today’s special is before making a decision. Or we can simply order take out and pick it up on the way home.

Sea Change

This September, SEPA will lead a group of executives from the U.S. energy industry to Germany on what we call a fact finding mission. The focus will be on the big picture of energy markets in transition and how to adapt to and thrive in a climate of rapid change.

New Year Cheer: How Utilities and Solar Companies Can Innovate Together

These are interesting solar times. On one hand, there is a LOT of solar being installed, in all market segments. (Oh the joy!) On the other hand, acrimony hangs over net metering as utilities and the solar industry butt heads in state regulatory commissions, trade outrageous TV ads and engage in hand-to-hand combat in newspaper stories. (Woe to all!) This blog will NOT solve that…

How The Inverter Got “Smart” and What That Means for the Growth of Solar

The inverter performs the essential job of turning the DC power generated by a photovoltaic array into the AC power utilized by the electric grid. Much like the grid itself, we’re hearing that inverters are becoming smart, and that smart inverters can enhance the value of solar, for the utility and the customer.

Con Edison makes a solar leap

Con Edison has worked with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other partners for a decade to encourage solar energy in New York City and Westchester County, N.Y . Adding a few kilowatts here and a few there with residential installations and moderate-sized commercial projects drove solar production from 8.5 megawatts in 2010 to 30 megawatts today.

How the Utility Solar Database will make your work life easier

I think by now, just about everyone in the renewable energy industry is familiar with the DSIRE database (and if you’re not, you’re living on a different planet). DSIRE has become a go-to source for the renewable industry whenever you need to quickly locate information about federal or state renewable energy policies and incentives. Personally, I find myself using DSIRE on at least a weekly basis. But sometimes I’m looking for a little more...

Energy Storage and Solar: "Any More Questions?"

Reliable, cost-effective energy storage is repeatedly cited by energy industry observers as the final barrier to realizing the full potential of solar. “Everyone agrees that solar by itself is a fine energy source, but solar does pose operational issues for electric utilities as penetration increases”, says Jurgen Krehnke, President of Technologies at Eden Energy Group, and a member of the SEPA Board of Directors. “These issues are all addressed by storage. Add storage to solar, and one can say, ‘Any more questions?’ ”