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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.

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.

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...

The NEM Stalemate

In Samuel Beckett’s seminal play Waiting for Godot, two vagabonds named Estragon and Vladimir spend the better part of two days waiting – somewhat impatiently – for the arrival of a mysterious man named Godot. They generate verbal diversions to pass the time, vacillating between periods of heated discussion and long stretches of quiet deliberation. At many points, Estragon forgets where they are and what they are waiting for, only to be reminded by Vladimir that they simply wait for Godot.

Solar is from Mars, Utilities are from Venus - Finding a Common Language for Net Energy Metering

Have you noticed increasing attention being paid to potential impacts from higher levels of solar distributed generation (DG)? Does the conversation sound like productive dialogue or an excerpt for a daytime drama? What is that sausage making they call ratemaking? What should be considered when valuing the costs and benefits of DG? What costs are fixed for the electrical system? And what, exactly, is net-energy metering (NEM)?