Archive for Solar Performanc

FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’

If anybody doubts that federal energy regulators are aware of the rapidly changing electricity landscape, they should talk to Jon Wellinghoff, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.

“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,” he said.

Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.” Advanced storage technologies also promise lower costs, he said. “Once it is more cost-effective to build solar with storage than to build a combustion turbine or wind for power at night, that is ‘game over.’ At that point, it will be all about consumer-driven markets.”

If FERC does not ensure the grid is ready to integrate the growing marketplace demand for distributed solar and other distributed resources, Wellinghoff said, “We are going to have problems with grid reliability and overall grid costs.”

Transmission infrastructure will be able to keep up with solar growth. The big changes will be at the distribution level where FERC has less influence, he explained. But the commission has been examining the costs and benefits of distributed generation (DG) in wholesale markets.

“Rate structures need to be formulated in ways that fully recognize the costs and benefits of distributed resources,” Wellinghoff said. “In many utility retail rates, a disproportionate amount of the fixed costs are recovered through a variable rate. That is problematic when a lot of people go to distributed generation.”

The net metering controversy this has caused at utilities like Xcel and Arizona Public Service, he said, can only be resolved by “the fully allocated, fully analyzed cost and benefit study of distributed resources.”

Tea Party Joins with the Sierra Club to Promote Solar in Georgia

As Debbie Dooley co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party explains, “I’m a grandmother, and I want to be able to look my grandson in the eyes and tell him I’m looking out for his future. Conservation is conservative, and protecting our children and our natural resources is a conservative value.” Those who believe in the free market need to reexamine the way our country produces energy. Giant utility monopolies deserve at least some competition, and consumers should have a choice. It’s just that simple, and it’s consistent with the free-market principles that have been a core value of the Tea Party since we began in 2009.

“In Georgia, we have one company controlling all of the electricity production, which means consumers have no say in what kind of power they must buy. A solar company could not start up and offer clean power to customers because of restrictions in state law. Our Constitution does not say that government should pick winners and losers, but that is what government is doing when it protects the interests of older technologies over clean energy that’s now available at competitive prices. I say, let the market decide” says Debbie.

She goes on to explain, “Georgians are currently and unjustly denied this opportunity, and will continue to be unless a law is passed to change the system. That is why the Atlanta Tea Party supported Senate Bill 401 in the past legislative session. Georgia Power opposed it and it never made it out of committee. We will try again when the Georgia legislature reconvenes in January 2014. All states should allow their citizens the opportunity to generate and sell their own solar power.”

So I ask our elected state and federal officeholders, “Why hesitate in voting for extending the Master Limited Partnership to renewables?” Level the energy playing field. Here in Tennessee, our citizens have the same demands as our neighbors in Georgia. TVA board serves the people in the valley, why not listen to their demands for cleaner energy?

Postscript: Americans for Prosperity, which like the Tea Party have been nurtured and sponsored by the Koch brothers oil billionaires, is dismissing the Georgia faction as an aberration, or even more damming, as a “green Tea Party.” It has sought to turn the issue of rights on its head by arguing that rooftop solar will “infringe upon the territorial rights to the distribution grids” of the network operators.

Campbell County, TN, Public Schools to Generate nearly $1M With Solar

The majority of public schools in Campbell County, Tenn., are going solar in a bid to make $960,000 over 20 years, without raising any additional taxes. That’s under a new partnership with residential and commercial solar installer Efficient Energy of Tennessee (EETN), which is installing solar at 12 of the county’s 21 schools.

The 12 schools in the program are installing 50-kilowatt solar systems, which will sell the power generated to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) through its local power distributor. Already, nine of the installations are complete and the remaining three are currently under construction, according to EETN. Under TVA’s Green Power Providers program, the TVA purchases all the output of the arrays at a premium of 9 cents per kilowatt-hour on top of the retail electricity rate. For years 11 through 20, participants are paid at the applicable retail rate.

“Not only are the solar installations at Campbell County’s elementary, middle and high schools a great STEM teaching tool but, they are generating funds for education without raising taxes,” said EETN President Robbie Thomas. “This financial model, of raising funds for education with solar energy, can be duplicated at school systems across the state of Tennessee.”
The school district, EETN and the Campbell County Finance Department were able to make the installations possible by issuing 15-year bonds. The bonds were used to finance the arrays and their installation. For the first 15 years, the installations are anticipated to produce between $12,000 and $14,400 in annual earnings, after paying all bond interest and principals. After the bonds are repaid, “Each installation will generate approximately $13,000 to $15,000 per year for Campbell County for years 16 through 20 of the power purchase agreement,” EETN said.

In all, the arrays can generate more than $960,000 over the 20 year contracts. The systems are expected to last between 30 and 35 years and could provide additional revenue or cost savings for the schools.

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MAJOR FUNDING Through Micro-Investments

The new July/August issue of Solar Today contains an article by TSEAs Technical Director offering a new idea for a solar program within TVA. Micro-investments allow anyone to invest in a project because the cost of a single share is affordable. A recent micro-investment concept was developed by Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi banker who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work in creating economic and social development for the poor. A similar concept, savings bonds, was used in the United States and other countries to finance costs for World War I and World War II. During World War II, half the U.S. population purchased approximately $186 billion in savings bonds. This investment accounted for nearly three-quarters of total federal spending from 1941 to 1945 — all from families whose average wage was $50 per week.

The Tennessee Solar Energy Association (TSEA), an ASES chapter, has as its mission the promotion of the widespread use of solar energy in the state of Tennessee. Unlike most states, Tennessee is served entirely by electric distribution companies who purchase power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The TSEA will use the concept of micro-investment to provide opportunities to all ratepayers to invest in solar projects in Tennessee. The success of our endeavors in Tennessee will mean that the concept can easily be duplicated in other states.

Financing solar projects through micro-investments offers many advantages. First, consumers and businesses would neither have to finance nor build their own solar projects on their properties. This eliminates three barriers they often face: (a) unsuitable properties for solar because of trees or rooftop alignments; (b) building permits and grid interconnections; and (c) large financial investments with long payback periods. Second, by opening investment opportunities for all ratepayers, a micro-investment plan should attract customers who otherwise would or could not have considered their own solar projects. Third, micro-financing can be used for large solar projects to benefit entire communities, taking advantage of the lower overall costs of large-scale projects. Finally, micro-investments would provide large sums to utilities and other solar companies who might otherwise not be able to finance a solar project.

Proving the Model at TVA
In the Tennessee Valley, TVA is a closed system in which all 155 distributors buy power from TVA, making it an ideal utility for studying this micro-investment model. Moreover, as a federal power authority, TVA plays an important role in the Tennessee Valley as the regional stewardship agency and supplier of public power. TSEA envisions that TVA would establish a micro-investment program, achieving even greater economies of scale than the individual distributors could achieve.

A 2012 Hart Research survey, funded by the Solar Energy Industries Association, found that 92 percent of voters “believe it is important for the United States to develop and use solar power.” TVA, serving 9 million people in the Tennessee Valley, can play a large role in finding the relationship between how much the public says it wants solar energy and how much the public is willing to invest.

TVA’s aging coal-fired plants are more than 50 years old and are depleting TVA funds to meet increasingly strict air-quality standards. As a result, the TVA has little funding available for solar energy. Although TVA has a renewable energy program known as Green Power Providers, which provides long-term power purchase agreements, the program has not produced a bankable level of funding that has resulted in loss of jobs and statewide solar installers to look elsewhere for work. The small amount of funds allocated for the program were absorbed in the first trimester of this year.

As a federal authority, TVA is in an ideal position to undertake a micro-investment program. Under the TVA charter, the president can direct the U.S. Department of Energy to provide support and resources as requested by the TVA board, which is directed to make studies “in the application of electric power and a better balanced development of the resources of the region” (Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933, Section 10). Furthermore, TVA pays no property tax, has a plethora of sites where large solar installations can be located, knows where in its power system to best locate large solar farms to provide the greatest ROI, has the staff to manage the program, can handle the procurement actions and can set aside a percentage of the installations for local installers. Thus TVA can avoid all the soft costs that ordinarily burden solar purchasers. In addition, its purchasing power, backed by the aggregated micro-investments, will produce the lowest cost through competitive bidding.

I suggest to all our members and readers of this column to join ASES and help promote solar energy in their region.

Read the article and the entire Solar Today magazine

A Second California City Establishes a Solar Mandate

SLevy: The price of electric power in parts of California is as high as 35 cents per kilowatt-hour. A strong motivation for solar whereas Tennessee has a lower price of electricity at the present. The motivation here in Tennessee is improved air quality and a buffer against future costs with other forms of electric power generation.

The town of Sebastopol, in the apple- and grape-growing rolling hills of western Sonoma County, is following suit with a much more aggressive ordinance, suggesting that solar-by-fiat might be more viable as policy. In Sebastopol, a system would also qualify if its output meets three-quarters of the building’s electrical load on an annual basis. The ordinance also includes a provision that allows officials to exempt buildings from the requirement if a site isn’t conducive to solar, but a fee or other energy-saving measures could be required.

Mayor Michael Kyes told the Press-Democrat in nearby Santa Rosa that Sebastopol, with a population of around 7,500, already had some 1.2 megawatts of installed solar capacity. “This ordinance will add to it,” the mayor said. According to the Press-Democrat, there was a citizen objection to the solar requirement registered at the Sebastopol Council meeting; someone said “mandatory sort of implies coercion” (a sentiment it’s hard to argue with). But of course all manner of building requirements are essentially coercive, and Councilman Robert Jacob seemed to capture the sentiment of the town leaders when he said that “this ordinance is not only cost-saving…it’s the responsible thing to do.”

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Why is SunPower Doing So Well While Others Fail?

SLevy: Every solar investor wants to maximize its return on investment. In my judgement the reason for Sun Power’s success is they provide a product with the greatest return on investment over the long term. What I mean by long term is tens of years and beyond. Their panels produce the highest output power per area of any other manufacturer. We know that the life of the premiere monocrystalline panels is beyond 40 years. Using 40 years in computing the Levelized Cost of Energy results in more realistic results in cost per kilowatt-hour.

PV energy provider (PVEP) SunPower has revealed that demand exceeded its ability to supply product and services in the first quarter of this year.

The PVEP reported that it had exceeded revenue, gross margin and earnings forecast for the first quarter of 2013, while generating significant free cash flow of US$216 million, including lease financing, which was sold out in the quarter.

SunPower noted that due to several massive PV power plant projects in full swing in the US, strong demand for lease financing rooftop business in the US and ongoing PV module partnership success in Japan that was set to continue throughout the year, it was sold out for the year.
Management noted that its project development business was on course to provide US$3.5 billion in revenue and approximately US$1 billion in gross margin from 2013 through 2016.
Importantly, SunPower said that during the first quarter, the company was awarded 65MW of rooftop projects in France during a recent tender process, which had been supported by majority company owner, Total.

With demand increasing, SunPower said that it increased cell production in the quarter to 208MW, up 36% from the previous quarter. SunPower recognised 172MW of sales, while it shipped 186MW. Total module production capacity remained at 1.2GW. Full capacity was expected to be reached in the second half of the year.

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New Music City Center Solar Project

LightWave installs 211 kW Solar on New Music Center

Construction on the $585 million facility began in January 2010 and was completed on April 30, 2013. The Music City Center totals 2.1 million square feet, double the space available in the current convention center. Already more than 100 meetings and 800,000 room nights have been booked.

Project completion will be celebrated on May 19 and 20 at the Music City Center Grand Opening with Nashville Mayor Karl Dean. Celebration includes open house tours, free street party and concert featuring Sheryl Crow, The Time Jumpers with Vince Gill, Fisk Jubilee Singers, and more. Major Dean will give his State of Metro address on Monday, May 20 at 10 a.m.

LightWave Solar recently completed the installation of a 211 kilo-watt (kW) solar system for the Music City Center, and it is the largest solar installation in Nashville.

Installed within the guitar shaped structure on the roof, the system consists of 845 solar panels and four inverters weighing 1,800 pounds each. The system will generate approx. 271,000 kilowatt-hours per year, enough electricity to power the electric vehicle charging stations and lighting for the building. Over 25 years, the clean electricity will offset nearly 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of taking 920 cars off the road.

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Retail Electric Business Predicted to Loose Market Share

The Edison Electric Institute has issued a report predicting that there will be a change in the market share for retail electric business if the present trend towards distributed renewable energy continues at it’s rapidly changing mix of standard electric power production and the increasing percentage of renewable energy sources, particularly solar PV continues to evolve. The report dated January 2013 entitled “Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Responses to a Changing Retail Electric Business” was authored by Peter Kind of Energy Infrastructure Advocates. The key premise is that the increasing inclusion of solar PV will reduce market share for the electric power industry which will lead to higher risk for investors. The result of a higher risk will be increased cost for borrowing money for the power industry. The report sites two similar industries that were drastically changed by market forces and regulatory changes: the airlines and the telephone (AT&T) industry. The report concludes that near term actions are to “institute a monthly customer service charge”, develop a tariff structure to reflect the cost of service and value provided to DER (solar PV) customers and to “analyze revision of net metering programs in all states so that self-generated DER (solar PV) sales to utilities are treated as supply-side purchases at a market-derived price.”

It is my suggestion that the industry adapt itself to incorporate solar PV in such a way as to improve its retail electric business position. My advice to the industry: constructively adapt renewables into your energy mix: it is not a curse but a blessing.

The full report is available on the web at: http://www.eei.org/ourissues/finance/Documents/disruptivechallenges.pdf

City to Require Solar in New Construction

Every new housing development must average 1 kilowatt per house. Not here, but in California. California is a light-year ahead of Tennessee and most of the country when it comes to solar acceptance.

The Lancaster, California City Council unanimously approved changes to the city’s zoning code that require housing developers to install solar with every new home they build.
This is the latest piece in what Republican Mayor R. Rex Parris described at the City Council meeting as a plan to make Lancaster “the solar capital of the universe.”
Lancaster’s now official Residential Zones Update specifies, along with a range of green building provisions, that new single family homes meet minimum solar system requirements in the same way that they must meet minimum parking space requirements.
“The purpose of the solar energy system standards,” it reads, “is to encourage investment in solar energy on all parcels in the city, while providing guidelines for the installation of those systems that are consistent with the architectural and building standards of the City.” It is further intended “to provide standards and procedures for builders of new homes to install solar energy systems in an effort to achieve greater usage of alternative energy.”
Residential homes on lots of 7,000 square feet or more must have a solar system of 1.0 kilowatts to 1.5 kilowatts. Rural residential homes of up to 100,000 square feet must have a system of at least 1.5 kilowatts.

International Association of Electrical Inspectors Tennessee Solar PV Workshop