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What Al Gore got wrong about utilities and solar

Liberal icon Al Gore and conservative Tea Party leader Debbie Dooley both love solar, but criticize utilities for standing in the way of solar growth. But speakers at the Bloomberg New Energy Summit in New York told a different, more complex story about utilities' active role in solar market growth and grid transformation.

The key to grid integration of solar: visibility

For solar energy to be fully integrated onto the electric grid, it must first be “visible" -- so utilities and grid operators can fully manage the flow of solar power from rooftop installations as well as larger-scale projects. SEPA's upcoming Solar Integration Workshop will focus on the complex issues surrounding visibility and how utilities and solar technology firms are responding to the challenges.

51st State goes live with new visions for energy system change

Beyond coming up with visions for a 21st-century energy system from the ground up -- as if for a new state with no regulations or market structures -- the biggest challenge for groups and individuals submitting concepts for the Solar Electric Power Association's 51st State Initiative may have been getting out of their own frames of reference. Readers will now be able to judge how well they did as all papers received meeting the initiative guidelines are posted on the 51st State website.

Utility-scale solar in 2014: Unpredictable, diverse and counting down to ITC sunset

2014 was utility-scale solar’s most successful year ever, with 115 projects of 5 megawatts (MW) or more completed for a total of 3,550 MW. It was also the year when utility-scale solar stopped being predictable as the market's underlying geographic, system capacity and policy trends underwent some noticeable changes.

SEPA Opens Nominations for Solar Power Player Awards

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has opened nominations for its annual Solar Power Player Awards -- formerly the Utility Solar Awards -- to be announced at Solar Power International (SPI) in September in Anaheim.

Telling the solar story at PV America

Held March 9-10 in Boston, SEPA and SEIA's PV America solar conference was focused on New England markets and policy. But this year's event seemed to reach beyond regional boundaries, reflecting a solar industry immersed in ever-increasing and accelerating levels of technical innovation, market growth and policy sophistication -- with good stories to tell.

Utility solar's record 2014 Q4: More projects, more diversity

The utility-scale solar market, the segment that has led the dramatic growth of solar in the United States over the past few years, continued to expand in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to analysis conducted by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA). Beyond newly added solar capacity, we see signs of emerging markets for solar outside California and the Southwest, and some significant changes in the contractual structure of projects.

Expanding opportunities for solar collaboration in Minnesota -- and at SEPA

Earlier this month, Julia Hamm, SEPA's CEO, traveled to Minnesota to do something she, or any other SEPA representative, had never done before -- testify at a state legislative hearing. Her appearance at the hearing reflects the increasingly rapid transitions underway in the utility and solar industries, the resulting challenges for policy makers and SEPA’s own evolution to stay in front of these changes.

SEPA project aims to spread community solar

A $705,830 competitive award from the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative will allow the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) to launch a groundbreaking research initiative aimed at accelerating the spread of community solar energy programs across the country.

Multiple strategies needed to cut solar interconnection times

When utility customers decide to go solar, the question frequently uppermost in their minds is -- “How long will it take before my system is up and running?" The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, along with the Solar Electric Power Association and other organizations, have launched the Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative to help the solar industry cut interconnection time and costs.

51st State has space for a range of ideas for new energy system

The Solar Electric Power Association's 51st State Initiative is looking for impatient innovators, like the individuals who posted comments to articles about the nonprofit's effort to draw ideas for an energy system of the future. From energy efficiency to cut demand, to combined heat and power plants to provide electricity for local manufacture of solar panels, the 51st State is already generating a broad range of possible solutions for building a clean, affordable and sustainable energy system from the ground up.

With Climate Change Accelerating, What's the Role for Solar?

Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association, slept in Sunday, so she did not listen to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change release its final report on the current state of climate change, live-streamed from Copenhagen. Still, reading the report's Summary for Policy Makers, she makes clear connections between the IPCC findings and trends in the United State's solar industry.

Snapshots from Germany: Hold the ideology, bring on business innovation

While the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA's) five previous international fact-finding missions were filled by representatives from American utilities, this year's trip to Germany also included solar manufacturers, project developers, financial investors and regulators. Such a diverse group generated some lively and positive dynamics, and our German participants immediately recognized and appreciated the high level of interaction.

Snapshots from Germany: Transforming energy markets in FITS and starts

Feed-in tariffs are out, self-consumption is in. This is one of the latest trends from Germany, the country that changed the history of solar with its sustained commitment -- 14 years -- and counting to a feed-in tariff (FIT). But, as the Solar Electric Power Association’s (SEPA's) fact-finding mission to Germany heard on its first day of meetings between American utility and solar leaders and their German counterparts, the solar landscape in Europe’s solar powerhouse is changing.

What American utilities can learn from Germany's Energiewende

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) fact-finding mission to Germany is on the ground in Dusseldorf and already immersed in workshops with German energy leaders, talking about the country’s Energiewende, or energy transition, from fossil fuels and nuclear to renewables.

Germany's Energiewende: SEPA delegation to investigate a solar plan in transition

Depending on what you read, Germany’s historic transformation of its energy system from fossils fuels and nuclear to other renewables — the Energiewende — is either a roaring success or an economic disaster. The Solar Electric Power Association and 34 utility and solar executives from across the country will travel to Germany Sept. 14-18 on a fact-finding mission to see for themselves.

Audi, APS and utilities' role in getting more solar on the grid

If anyone still doubts the inevitability of solar power’s integration into the United States’ power supply, the Aug. 5 announcement of Audi’s plans to partner with SunPower to provide clean power for the German automaker’s new plug-in hybrid provides strong, evidence, if not all the proof needed.

Fortune 500 companies power up renewables -- are utilities in the mix?

A growing number of Fortune 500 companies are putting their dollars into energy efficiency and renewables to reduce their carbon footprints -- and getting a better return on their money than from their traditional investments. In many cases, they are looking to renewable energy to meet their carbon reduction targets, often opting for direct ownership or third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs) for wind, solar and other clean energy and leaving utilities out of the picture.