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  • 28 Sep 2016 10:36 AM | Anonymous

    2016 has been a growth year for solar in Illinois!  Incentive opportunities in Illinois have changed in recent years and will continue to evolve.  The intention of this post is to give an update on the current state of solar incentives in Illinois at this time.

     

    Rebates: Many of the 2016 tour host sites benefited from rebates offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).  Although this program  was extended until 2020, due to the budget situation in Illinois this program is currently unfunded and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

     

    Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SRECs): New solar purchasers can receive SREC’s* from the Illinois Power Agency’s(IPA) Renewable Energy Credit Program  to make their systems more affordable.  The value of the SRECs offered in this program has been equal or greater than the DCEO rebates offered in past years.  The primary difference being that the rebate was a onetime cash reimbursement and under the Renewable Energy Credit Program system owners are paid quarterly over 5 years. Many local installers have secured SRECs from the IPA’s Renewable Energy Credit Program for their prospective customers.

     

    *What is a SREC? A Solar Renewable Energy Certificate is a tool to measure the clean energy attributes that are produced from a solar array.  Every 1,000 kWh produced from solar equals 1 REC.  System owners are paid for their SRECs, generating an additional revenue stream over and above their energy savings.  


    This video will further explain RECs. 


    SREC Opportunities in 2016

    The (IPA) held three procurement auctions in 2015 and 2016 to purchase $30 million of SRECS from new or proposed systems. There were two categories in the auction - one for systems <25kW and one for systems >25kW. The <25kW category allowed solar installers to reserve speculative SRECs in bulk. Installers can “assign” new customers SRECs and registered those customers with a 3rd party aggregator who then handles the contracts with the State.

     

    The last pool of RECs must be “assigned” to customers by December 30, 2016 who will then have 12 months to install their system with a possible 6 month extension if construction is delayed.  Pricing for the SRECs was set in a competitive auction so will vary from installer to installer, prospective buyers will need to confirm the actual value with their installer. 

     

    SREC Opportunities 2017

    Prospective buyers who aren’t ready to commit before December 30th 2016, will be able to join the 2017 Illinois SREC program. Solar installation companies will once again be able to reserve SRECs for 2017 and 2018 projects. SREC values will vary from installer to installer and new buyers should ask installers for details when they are ready to shop. 

     

    Additionally, ISEA continues our ongoing work on the Clean Jobs Bill, a program that aims to provide strong policies that will grow solar and wind in Illinois as well as expand upon successful energy efficiency programs. States with stable clean energy growth have a strong Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or guidelines that encourage and enable clean energy goals and investment.  Illinois passed an aggressive RPS in 2007 but that mechanism has been broken for a number of years.   As part of the Illinois Climate Table the Illinois Solar Energy Association has been working on the development of a new RPS for Illinois as part of the Clean Jobs Bill.  Keep up to date on this and all things solar by joining ISEA or signing up for our Community Newsletter


  • 14 Jan 2016 12:03 PM | Anonymous

    Hourly Electricity Pricing

    by Anne Evens, CEO | Elevate Energy


    What goes hand in hand with a residential solar array? Hourly pricing. Hourly electricity pricing programs allow participants to pay hourly, market-based prices for electricity, with no markup. Market electricity prices vary from hour to hour and tend to be lower during off-peak times when demand is less, such as nights and weekends. With these programs, shifting electricity usage to lower priced hours can help participants save on their electric bills. For net metering customers, the opportunity to reduce electric bills is even greater. Not only could these customers pay less for the electricity they purchase, but they could also receive larger credits for their excess generation.

    Because market electricity prices increase with demand, prices tend to be highest during hot summer afternoons when people are running air conditioners. Applying those higher prices to the net kilowatthours that net metering customers provide back to the utility means higher dollar credits toward their electric bill. And during the night and on weekends when demand is low, so are the prices – which means that solar customers could pay less when they are buying electricity from the utility.

    There are two robust hourly pricing programs in Illinois: ComEd’s Hourly Pricing program and Ameren Illinois’ Power Smart Pricing program. If you have solar on your own home, or if you advise homeowners about solar or install solar arrays on residential properties, please take a few minutes to learn about the  hourly pricing options in your community.

  • 15 Dec 2015 12:52 PM | Anonymous

    The Illinois Solar Energy Association 2015 Annual Membership Meeting drew 60+ clean energy advocates from around the state. The attendees enjoyed networking with other like-minded solar industry experts and enthusiasts.

     

    Shannon Fulton, ISEA Board Presidents’ speech was a passionate rallying cry for the industry to raise their voices for strong, supportive renewable energy policies in the state.  ISEA Executive Director, Lesley McCain, reported on the advocacy work that ISEA has done in 2015 to advance the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill as well as other Illinois and Federal clean energy legislation.  Lisa Albrecht, ISEA Policy Committee Co-Chair, outlined of the numerous issues that the committee has driven forward in 2015, which include:

    • IL Launched a Renewable Energy Credits
      • Supplemental Procurement
      • Regular DG Procurement
    • ISEA bill for the IL DCEO Rebate & Grants - Extended to 2020!
    • Chicago Zoning Changes - garages OK

    Attendees also enjoyed a fascinating presentation on battery research and advancements from guest speaker Brian Ingram, Materials Scientist at Argonne National Laboratory.

     

              ISEA capped off the evening with the drawing for 2015 Tesla Model S!

     

    Event participants had a great time getting their Illinois Clean Jobs photo messages taken to send to Governor Rauner and our state legislators!   Check out the photo slide show of the solar advocates at the meeting below.

     

    You too can add your good energy to the #ILTeamSolar campaign by downloading one of these poster messages, snapping a photo of yourself, your coworkers, family or friends who want to see strong clean energy policies.  Then tweet the photo, tagging @ILSolarEnergy and @GovRauner to get the message across.  You can also post to the Illinois Solar Energy Association Facebook page or if you prefer email to contactisea@illinoissolar.org.

     

    Thanks for all you do!

     

    Lesley McCain

    Executive Director

    Illinois Solar Energy Association

    lesley.McCain@illinoissolar.org

     



  • 02 Nov 2015 3:50 PM | Anonymous


    Almost a month has gone by and we are reflecting back on a very successful 2015 Solar Tour!


     


    Here is the solar tour by the numbers:

     

    - 97 Host Sites

    -1000+ Individual Tour Visits

    -34 Media Hits

    -88 State Legislators Invited

    - 10 Chicago alderman and local Mayors Invited


       

               

     

    We are very proud of the 2015 Solar Tour Results.

    Thank you to everyone who completed the follow-up surveys.

    Your input will make the 2016 Solar Tour event better!


     

    Here are what some of the Tour attendees had to say:

     

    • "This was the best possible way for us to start thinking about installing solar. The tour is a great idea!"
    • "...an interesting, enjoyable, and inspiring day"
    • "Very informative, and an intro to the field for average consumer."
    • "Great service to the communities of Illinois, very pleased with your hard work!"
    • "my visit with a gentleman in East Peoria was very well organized, informed..."
    • "Looks like the industry has grown up and it is exciting to me!"

     

    Thank you to our 2015 Sponsors & Advocates!


    Sponsors:






    ISEA Media Sponsor:


     

    Solar Tour Advocates:


    Collinsville Recreational District

  • 14 Oct 2015 4:09 PM | Anonymous

    ISEA Board President Shannon Fulton discusses her passion for solar energy with Jim Browne on WGLT's Sound Ideas program, including her unique path to the clean energy workforce and how solar energy holds benefits for homeowners and businesses alike. 


    As a resident of Central Illinois and alumna of Illinois State University's Renewable Energy Program, Shannon clearly outlines how solar energy is easily integrated into the average home and how strong policy measures have supported the increasing adoption of solar and other renewable energy sources in Illinois.


    Click here to listen now!


  • 08 Jun 2015 7:32 AM | Anonymous

    Content provided courtesy of StraightUp Solar and ISEA Board President, Shannon Fulton


    A common question in solar is “Why are you installing a 260 watt (W) solar module on a 215 W microinverter?” Or for central inverters, “Why is my system a 9,000 W system on a 8,000 W inverter?”


    Solar modules don't produce their nameplate (DC) rating even with perfect sunlight that is perfectly oriented to the modules -- and even when this is approached, it's for very limited times in very specific, short-term situations.


    When a solar module's nameplate says 300 watts, this means that in perfect conditions the module will produce 300 watts of power. In controlled conditions with a constant irradiance of 1,000 watts/sq. meter at 25 degrees Celsius or 77 degrees Fahrenheit, a manufacturer will measure how much power comes out of the module. This measurement is called Standard Test Conditions (STC for short), thus the nameplate rating is known as STC watts.


    In the real world, the irradiance is usually lower and the temperature of the module is higher. The module production decreases with increase in temperature and decrease in irradiance. Dirt and soil covering the module will further reduce its production. The characteristics of each module in an array are never rigorously identical. Electrical losses occur due to slight differences caused by manufacturing imperfections, referred to as array mismatch loss.


    The temperature loss, irradiance loss, dirt/soil loss and mismatch loss typically reduce an array's production by 20%. This is why the inverter is usually sized 80% of the array capacity.  There will be a few days in a year when the modules will receive bright sunlight on a cool day. On such days the array will exceed the maximum input power capacity of the inverter and the system will experience minimal power clipping on the inverter monitoring as shown below.




    This only occurs a few times and over the short and long-term, driving the inverters to their maximum production maximizes financial return and keeps the customer's up-front costs down by not buying more inverter capacity than is actually needed.


  • 31 Oct 2014 12:20 PM | Anonymous

    Pop Quiz: What do You Get When You Install Solar on Schools?


    By Amy Antoniolli, ISEA Board Member


    If you answered smaller electricity bills, fewer greenhouse gases, and energy-savvy students, you are correct. On September 18, 2014, The Solar Foundation released the first of its kind review of solar in schools across the United States. The assessment, entitled Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools, [1] shows that schools are installing solar, cutting utility bills, and using the savings to pay for teacher salaries and textbooks. 


    Brighter Future identified 3,752 schools in the United States that have already installed solar energy systems, and according to the report, the potential for more is tremendous. The 3,752 schools with solar represent 3 percent of public and private K-12 schools and 5 percent of K-12 students in the U.S. [2]


    The large, flat rooftops that typically characterize k-12 school buildings are excellent platforms for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar thermal systems. The study estimates that more than 72,000 schools could potentially be candidates for cost-effective investment in solar. Solar installations on schools are a valuable opportunity for students to see science at work. They also provide hands-on tools for teachers to demonstrate scientific, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts and inspire students to understand the value of renewable sources of energy.


    Nationwide, the installed school PV systems have a combined capacity of 489,791 kW and are estimated at generating more than 642,000 MWh of electricity each year. To put this in context, the average American household uses 10.7 MWh of electricity each year. Generation from the PV systems currently in place on schools offsets the purchase of roughly $77.8 million worth of electricity per year. This combined energy value is roughly equivalent to 155,000 tablet computers or nearly 2,200 new teachers’ salaries per year. [3]


    Illinois is listed as third in the number of photovoltaic installations on k-12 schools. However, Illinois ranks 22 in solar capacity. This seems to indicate that many of the installations on schools in Illinois are smaller and are likely used as demonstration and education systems.


    The Solar Foundation performed an outstanding review of available information to produce this extensive and well-researched assessment. Note, however, there are some data errors.


    Brighter Future listed my childrens’ elementary school as having a 10kW array installed in 2014, but the 10kW array was actually installed in 2002. The Solar Foundation recognizes that the information may not be complete and hopes to update it on a regular basis.


    The cost of PV systems has dropped dramatically in recent years. Brighter Future shows that decreases in the average installed cost of solar have resulted in larger systems that not only provide educational value for students, but also significant cost savings for school districts. It is well-recognized that funding is the biggest obstacle for schools to go solar. The report shows, however, that schools are creative. The interviews of 15 representatives from solar schools showed that no school relied solely on direct cash payments for their systems. Any cash put into the project by the school – from bond measures, capital or operating budgets, or other means – were combined with other key forms of financial support, such as grants, loans, rebates, and SRECs. In Illinois, the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation and Climate Cycle are two Chicago-based organizations that offer funding opportunities for solar installations on schools in Illinois. These groups are led by engaging and knowledgeable individuals dedicated to advancing the use of solar in schools.


    Overall, Brighter Future is a great first nationwide assessment and shows that the future for solar in U.S. schools is indeed bright.



    [1] Brighter Future: A Study on Solar in U.S. Schools Report, Solar Energy Industries Association, Sept. 18, 2014 (“Brighter Future”).

    [2] Of those, 3,727 were PV systems that turn sunlight into electricity. The remainder were solar heating and cooling systems that turn sunlight into heat which is typically used to heat water or air.

    [3] Assuming an average tablet cost of $500 each and the 2011-2012 national average starting teacher salary of $35,672 (www.nea.org).    



    About Amy Antoniolli


    Amy Antoniolli is an attorney practicing environmental law at the national law firm Schiff Hardin LLP.  Amy routinely advises clients on compliance with environmental laws and regulations and represents clients before the Illinois Pollution Control Board.  Before coming to Schiff, Amy served as an attorney at the Illinois Pollution Control Board for five years where she advised board members on interpretations of Illinois environmental statutes and regulations, served as a hearing officer in regulatory matters, and wrote legal opinions in enforcement cases, permit appeals, and requests for relief from regulations.  Earlier in her career, she served as assistant counsel for the Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives.  She volunteered with the k-12 education subcommittee in 2013 to help organize the first teacher’s workshop for fourth to sixth grade teachers and hopes to continue to expand ISEA’s educational resources in the future.

  • 18 Sep 2014 11:07 AM | Anonymous

    It Pays to Know Your Electric Supplier


    by Michelle Knox, ISEA Board Member and daughter, Mikella Marley


    Henry Wallace said, “In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.” Fortunately, one of government’s roles is to preserve democratic rights, and Illinois took strides to dissolve a perceived monopoly by deregulating the electricity market. 


    Illinois’ journey to electricity deregulation began before many citizens may realize. Over a decade ago, in 1997, state legislators passed the Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law. These measures deregulated Illinois’ public utility providers (Ameren Illinois Utilities and Commonwealth Edison Co.), and presented customers with the option to procure electricity from approved Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers (ARES). 


    Residential customers remained unaffected by these actions until 2006, when the General Assembly passed the Retail Electric Competition Act. This act promoted temporary, fixed-discount programs. It took several years for ARES to gain popularity with residential customers, lured by substantially lower rates than those offered by Ameren and ComEd since their rate caps had expired.


    What many customers failed to realize was the transient nature of these enticing rates; as the temporary incentives expire, residential consumers have found themselves saddled with bills heftier than those they were attempting to escape by resorting to ARES in the first place. 


    As a personal example, I converted from a public utility to an ARES in July of 2010 at a substantially lower rate. In 2012, the fleeting period during which I paid this reduced rate expired, and I began noticing gradual increases in my electric bill. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that reinstating my business with my public utility provider would actually save me a considerable amount of money (a reduction from $.1199/kWh to $.04657/kWh).


    It’s worth noting the glaring irony of this deregulated marketundefinedpatrons resorted to ARES in an attempt to abscond from the financial confines of Illinois’ high public utility rates, only to ultimately find those very companies may now be offering the most competitive rates due to new procurement contracts they have entered into that allow them to purchase wholesale electricity at a less expensive rate and pass that savings on to consumers.


    Before being blinded by sequins in your eyes skillfully placed in your field of vision by electricity providers in the form of dazzlingly low rates, take care to not only research that provider, but also gain a thorough understanding of your contract terms before you are locked into an agreement that will do anything but financially behoove you. 


    Of course, there’s always the renewable energy option! Despite an obligatory flat rate “supply” fee applied to each month’s electric bill for all grid-tied customers, regardless of supplier and proportionate to usage (typically ranging from $30-70), renewable energy can help to offset this fluctuating market by allowing the system owner to supply all or a portion of their own power at a fixed cost over the lifetime of their system.



    About Michelle Knox


    Michelle is the founder and owner of WindSolarUSA, Inc., a turn-key renewable energy company located in Central Illinois, and a founding partner of American Solar Designs based out of Memphis, TN. She began research and development of WSU in September of 2008 with a goal of helping the residential, commercial, and agricultural markets to invest in their own clean energy future while attaining a desired level of self-sufficiency. Michelle received her training through the Midwest Renewable Energy Association in Custer, WI and is a Certified Site Assessor for both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal and has completed all phases of wind training. Prior to pursuing her renewable energy career, she was the Development Director (fundraiser/grant writer) for a private, east-side elementary school in Springfield and a Montessori teacher of 6-9-year-olds. Michelle is an advocate and promoter of renewable education and hopes to use her teaching and fundraising skills to further the advancement of the solar market statewide through her role on the board of the ISEA.

    Henry Wallace said, “In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.” Fortunately, one of government’s roles is to preserve democratic rights, and Illinois took strides to dissolve a perceived monopoly by deregulating the electricity market.

    Illinois’ journey to electricity deregulation began before many citizens may realize. Over a decade ago, in 1997, state legislators passed the Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law. These measures deregulated Illinois’ public utility providers (Ameren Illinois Utilities and Commonwealth Edison Co.), and presented customers with the option to procure electricity from approved Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers (ARES).

    Residential customers remained unaffected by these actions until 2006, when the General Assembly passed the Retail Electric Competition Act. This act promoted temporary, fixed-discount programs. It took several years for ARES to gain popularity with residential customers, lured by substantially lower rates than those offered by Ameren and ComEd since their rate caps had expired.

    What many customers failed to realize was the transient nature of these enticing rates; as the temporary incentives expire, residential consumers have found themselves saddled with bills heftier than those they were attempting to escape by resorting to ARES in the first place.

    As a personal example, I converted from a public utility to an ARES in July of 2010 at a substantially lower rate. In 2012, the fleeting period during which I paid this reduced rate expired, and I began noticing gradual increases in my electric bill. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that reinstating my business with my public utility provider would actually save me a considerable amount of money (a reduction from $.1199/kWh to $.04657/kWh).

    It’s worth noting the glaring irony of this deregulated marketundefinedpatrons resorted to ARES in an attempt to abscond from the financial confines of Illinois’ high public utility rates, only to ultimately find those very companies may now be offering the most competitive rates due to new procurement contracts they have entered into that allow them to purchase wholesale electricity at a less expensive rate and pass that savings on to consumers.

    Before being blinded by sequins in your eyes skillfully placed in your field of vision by electricity providers in the form of dazzlingly low rates, take care to not only research that provider, but also gain a thorough understanding of your contract terms before you are locked into an agreement that will do anything but financially behoove you.

    Of course, there’s always the renewable energy option!  Despite an obligatory flat rate “supply” fee applied to each month’s electric bill for all grid-tied customers, regardless of supplier and proportionate to usage (typically ranging from $30-70), renewable energy can help to offset this fluctuating market by allowing the system owner to supply all or a portion of their own power at a fixed cost over the lifetime of their system.

    Henry Wallace said, “In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.” Fortunately, one of government’s roles is to preserve democratic rights, and Illinois took strides to dissolve a perceived monopoly by deregulating the electricity market.

    Illinois’ journey to electricity deregulation began before many citizens may realize. Over a decade ago, in 1997, state legislators passed the Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law. These measures deregulated Illinois’ public utility providers (Ameren Illinois Utilities and Commonwealth Edison Co.), and presented customers with the option to procure electricity from approved Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers (ARES).

    Residential customers remained unaffected by these actions until 2006, when the General Assembly passed the Retail Electric Competition Act. This act promoted temporary, fixed-discount programs. It took several years for ARES to gain popularity with residential customers, lured by substantially lower rates than those offered by Ameren and ComEd since their rate caps had expired.

    What many customers failed to realize was the transient nature of these enticing rates; as the temporary incentives expire, residential consumers have found themselves saddled with bills heftier than those they were attempting to escape by resorting to ARES in the first place.

    As a personal example, I converted from a public utility to an ARES in July of 2010 at a substantially lower rate. In 2012, the fleeting period during which I paid this reduced rate expired, and I began noticing gradual increases in my electric bill. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that reinstating my business with my public utility provider would actually save me a considerable amount of money (a reduction from $.1199/kWh to $.04657/kWh).

    It’s worth noting the glaring irony of this deregulated marketundefinedpatrons resorted to ARES in an attempt to abscond from the financial confines of Illinois’ high public utility rates, only to ultimately find those very companies may now be offering the most competitive rates due to new procurement contracts they have entered into that allow them to purchase wholesale electricity at a less expensive rate and pass that savings on to consumers.

    Before being blinded by sequins in your eyes skillfully placed in your field of vision by electricity providers in the form of dazzlingly low rates, take care to not only research that provider, but also gain a thorough understanding of your contract terms before you are locked into an agreement that will do anything but financially behoove you.

    Of course, there’s always the renewable energy option!  Despite an obligatory flat rate “supply” fee applied to each month’s electric bill for all grid-tied customers, regardless of supplier and proportionate to usage (typically ranging from $30-70), renewable energy can help to offset this fluctuating market by allowing the system owner to supply all or a portion of their own power at a fixed cost over the lifetime of their system.

    Henry Wallace said, “In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.” Fortunately, one of government’s roles is to preserve democratic rights, and Illinois took strides to dissolve a perceived monopoly by deregulating the electricity market.

    Illinois’ journey to electricity deregulation began before many citizens may realize. Over a decade ago, in 1997, state legislators passed the Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law. These measures deregulated Illinois’ public utility providers (Ameren Illinois Utilities and Commonwealth Edison Co.), and presented customers with the option to procure electricity from approved Alternative Retail Energy Suppliers (ARES).

    Residential customers remained unaffected by these actions until 2006, when the General Assembly passed the Retail Electric Competition Act. This act promoted temporary, fixed-discount programs. It took several years for ARES to gain popularity with residential customers, lured by substantially lower rates than those offered by Ameren and ComEd since their rate caps had expired.

    What many customers failed to realize was the transient nature of these enticing rates; as the temporary incentives expire, residential consumers have found themselves saddled with bills heftier than those they were attempting to escape by resorting to ARES in the first place.

    As a personal example, I converted from a public utility to an ARES in July of 2010 at a substantially lower rate. In 2012, the fleeting period during which I paid this reduced rate expired, and I began noticing gradual increases in my electric bill. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that reinstating my business with my public utility provider would actually save me a considerable amount of money (a reduction from $.1199/kWh to $.04657/kWh).

    It’s worth noting the glaring irony of this deregulated marketundefinedpatrons resorted to ARES in an attempt to abscond from the financial confines of Illinois’ high public utility rates, only to ultimately find those very companies may now be offering the most competitive rates due to new procurement contracts they have entered into that allow them to purchase wholesale electricity at a less expensive rate and pass that savings on to consumers.

    Before being blinded by sequins in your eyes skillfully placed in your field of vision by electricity providers in the form of dazzlingly low rates, take care to not only research that provider, but also gain a thorough understanding of your contract terms before you are locked into an agreement that will do anything but financially behoove you.

    Of course, there’s always the renewable energy option!  Despite an obligatory flat rate “supply” fee applied to each month’s electric bill for all grid-tied customers, regardless of supplier and proportionate to usage (typically ranging from $30-70), renewable energy can help to offset this fluctuating market by allowing the system owner to supply all or a portion of their own power at a fixed cost over the lifetime of their system.

    Supplier
  • 03 Sep 2014 4:51 PM | Anonymous

    Moving Towards a Flexible Grid


    By David Brochu, ISEA Board Member and Secretary

     

    The electric power grid is an incredible feat of engineering. It connects thousands of generators to millions of customers, reliably delivering electricity to our homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure – flowing energy, from centralized generating resources such as coal plants, wind farms, nuclear and solar power plants. We take this nearly century-old system for granted and it rarely factors into conversations about how best to build a clean energy future. But this is a mistake.

     

    A Gallup poll from April 2013 found that three-in-four Americans want the United States to pursue more solar energy and another 71 percent favor further development of wind power. Achieving a clean energy future will require modifying the current grid to be “flexible” so that it can accommodate more solar, wind, storage, and demand-side resources. Moving to a “flexible” grid means moving our existing grid infrastructure from the centralized generating resource model to a decentralized model – meaning a grid that optimally aligns energy consumers and generators, utilizing variable clean resources like solar and wind. Americans are already moving forward by installing solar on their homes and calling for further development of wind power. We’ve been moving forward towards our clean energy future, while the grid is not set up to utilize the power being generated most efficiently.

     

    Historically, the reasons given for not pursuing higher levels of renewables are two-fold: cost and reliability. With regards to cost, renewables have made significant progress such that solar is now able to compete in Texas’ deregulated ERCOT market. In fact, across the country there are numerous examples of utilities requesting approval from their regulators to purchase wind and solar on the basis of economics rather than policy. More so, renewable energy isn’t subject to the volatile pricing that fuel based energy sources are, such as coal and natural gas, making more attractive to utilities and offtakers across the country.

     

    On the reliability front, we have seen in practice that markets with a higher percent of renewable generation like CAISO are indeed able to ensure reliability and balance variability from renewables while preventing overgeneration, even with one fifth of the system’s power currently coming from renewables. While variable renewable resources of around 20% are shown to operate successfully, in order to move forward the grid will need to be more flexible to accommodate energy flowing two ways, from more sources, and with a higher percentage of variable resources. We are also now seeing IOUs stepping forward, after a 30 year hiatus, to invest in new infrastructure to address the coming waves of renewable generation and to address aging resources and the ability to remain resilient during natural disasters. As we reinvest in the old infrastructure, doesn’t it make sense to further strengthen our grid and ensure accommodation of more variable resources?

     

    Investing in a “flexible grid” – one that can enable dynamic, two-way variable power flow and connect devices for dispatch and performance measurement - is critical for affordably and reliably integrating high levels of clean energy resources. Some examples of infrastructure that enables grid flexibility include technologies like energy storage and smart inverters; demand-side tools to help system operators to better reduce, forecast and control overall load; markets that value flexible generation capable of ramping up and down quickly; and more efficient regional integration. These flexibility resources will allow us to affordably and reliably deploy more renewable generation. 

     

    Building a flexible grid won’t happen overnight. These updates to our grid system will be incremental and will involve technical, market, and regulatory complexities. But there’s no time like the present. The majority of Americans want a clean energy future, and a flexible grid is key to achieving it. 


    About David Brochu


    David Brochu is the Chief Operating Officer of Recurrent Energy, leading all project development, engineering, procurement, construction, operations and origination activities. Before assuming the role of Chief Operating Officer in June 2014, he served as Recurrent Energy’s Senior Vice President of Development for four years, where he oversaw all development activities. Prior to Recurrent Energy, David was President and CEO of UPC Solar, a Chicago-based solar PV developer with a pipeline of projects in Ontario, Canada and the United States.

    His past experience includes Vice President of Sales and Marketing at SmartSignal Corporation (now a GE Company), where he negotiated turbine and power plant monitoring agreements with major US utilities; Executive Vice President at Acumence, a business intelligence software company; and Director of Sales at Wonderware Corporation, a leader in industrial automation software.

    He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1985, and earned a Masters of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University in 1986.


  • 04 Aug 2014 12:30 PM | Anonymous

    What the PV Value® Assessment Tool Doesn’t Assess


    By Peter Gorr, ISEA Board of Directors Member       

      

    The added value to a home that a Solar PV system contributes is a very important component that can help offset the concern regarding the initial capital outlay required to purchase a solar system. I have always been a critic of anyone who presented a financial case for purchasing solar equipment that consisted of illustrating a payback period determined by dividing the cash outlay by the annual energy savings and nothing else. 


    While the energy savings is important and perhaps the most obvious component to offset the cost of the system, real tangible value has been added to the home that will be recovered to some degree when the home is sold. These 2 items are a certainty so it is important to calculate them accurately. Additional items that can generate value but with less certainty and accuracy are the sRECs that the system will generate and potentially be sold and, perhaps the hardest to quantify, the importance (or premium) a potential owner places on using clean energy. For me and many people I meet, this last point is a significant driving force that led us to consider and eventually purchase a Solar PV system.    

    Determining a home’s added value has been a challenge so I was happy to see an assessment tool developed, PV Value® (http://energy.sandia.gov/?page_id=8047). Unfortunately I was extremely disappointed to see how this model assessed the value of my system. Valuing a PV system with this tool is done using a discounted cash flow approach, which primarily considers the present value of projected future energy production. While I have no argument with this approach, to peg the total added value to the home using just this computation is incomplete. What is missing is indeed difficult if not impossible to model but should not be ignored.


    As someone with a math degree and a MBA with a concentration in statistics, I certainly understand and respect the power of number crunching.  But my MBA also came with a concentration in Marketing and with over 30 years of sales and marketing experience I also understand and respect that there are some things you can’t input into a pricing model but if you ignore them you will leave serious money on the table if not lose the sale completely.  This something is called “perceived value”. Real or perceived, value is what people seek and determines what they are willing to pay. A skilled salesperson knows how to identify any and all value a system offers a prospective customer. And that’s my issue with PV Value®. It misses some real value and all of the perceived value that the system offers.


    First let’s start with the missed real value namely potential SREC sales. While selling sRECs are far from certain as well as the price one might receive, sRECs do provide a potential source of income. Since my system was installed over 3 years ago, I have average $70/month in SREC sales income. PV Value® offers no way to account for this which undervalues my system in my opinion. With my energy savings almost the same ($68/mo),  PV Value® is undervaluing my system by more than one half. A way to add some value to the system for the income potential it offers the owner should be included. Certainly this should be the case in a state where there is a SREC market or potential to have one. I hate to state a problem and no solution, but I don’t know how to account for this value yet it has been real and I expect it to continue to generate some income.


    Second is the perceived value of the system. Most people interested in Solar PV systems are motivated by a concern over climate change and want to lower their carbon emissions. This motivation is so great with some people, like me, that there is a willingness to pay a premium. How much of a premium is certainly subjective and again impossible to input into a model. But it is real enough to add value to the home. Studies indicating homes with solar systems sell faster suggest these homes offer something of higher value to set them apart and this desirable point of differentiation should command a premium.


    In conclusion, PV Value® has a place in helping to determine the added value to a home of a Solar PV system but it offers only a part of the total assessment. It basically sets the minimum added value. The current and projected SREC income potential in a given state needs to be added in some fashion as well as the premium justified with a home that has significantly lower carbon and pollution emissions. These additional two other value generators push that assessment up, how high is primarily dependent on the potential buyer. When I add up all the real and perceived value I have received from installing a Solar PV system and compare it to the investment I made, I have always stated and will continue to state “It made me wealthier the day I flipped the switch”. This assessment is accurate, at least to me, and that’s what counts.


    About Peter Gorr

     

    Peter Gorr is a retired Director of Marketing, Product Management, and Business Development. He holds aMBA in Marketing and Statistics from the U of Chicago. He is currently the Chair for the NW Cook County Group of the Sierra Club and was recently elected to the state chapter Executive Committee.  He is active in local habitat restoration and is on the Board of Directors for Friends of Busse Woods and a founding member of Friends of Deer Grove East. He has been an active member of ISEA assisting the organization with promoting and hosting the Solar Tour, hosting 2012 Summer Social, as well as assisting at several events. His home features a 6.72kw Solar PV system which he has used as a platform to promote the benefits of clean renewable energy throughout the area with speaking engagements and advocating for pro-solar legislation with state representatives

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