NewEnergyNews

NewEnergyNews

Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

  • TODAY’S STUDY: “FLEXIWATTS” AND THE ECONOMICS OF DEMAND FLEXIBILITY
  • QUICK NEWS, August 31: NEW FINANCE PLAN FOR GEOTHERMAL; SUN IN MAINE; CAN CA CLIMATE BILLS GET BY FOSSIL INTERESTS?
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • Weekend Video: Pictures Of Sea Level Rise
  • Weekend Video: Change And Be Changed
  • Weekend Video: Postcards From Hawaii’s New Energy Struggle
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    GET THE DAILY HEADLINES EMAIL: CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS OR SEND YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS TO: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-PROOF OF GLOBAL SEA LEVEL RISE FROM NASA
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-ISRAEL TURNS TO THE SUN
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-INDIA FIXES WIND
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-EU BACKS WIRELESS EV CHARGING PILOT
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

    THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, August 27:

  • TTTA Thursday-A WAY TO MAKE THE PARIS DEAL WORK BETTER
  • TTTA Thursday-COST OF NO CLIMATE: $44 TRILLION – CITIBANK
  • TTTA Thursday-SHALE GAS OUTPUT DROPS
  • TTTA Thursday-THE STATUS OF SELF-DRIVING CARS
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: WHAT SUNEDISON'S BIG BUY INTO BATTERY STORAGE COULD OFFER
  • QUICK NEWS, August 26: NEW ENERGY READY TO TAKE CONTROL; THE PRESIDENT BOOSTS SOLAR; EV CHARGING ON THE GO
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: SOLAR THIS YEAR
  • QUICK NEWS, August 25: SOLAR CHEAPER THAN NAT GAS; WIND TO THE RESCUE; NUKE PLANT COSTS STILL RISING
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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    Your intrepid reporter

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • Tuesday, September 01, 2015

    TODAY’S STUDY: INTEGRATED DISTRIBUTION PLANNING – MEETING GRID NEEDS WITH DISTRIBUTED ENERGY RESOURCES

    Integrated Distribution Planning; A holistic approach to meeting grid needs and expanding customer choice by unlocking the benefits of distributed energy resources

    Ryan Hanley, August 2015 (SolarCity)

    Key takeaways

    Takeaway 1

    Integrated Distribution Planning is a holistic approach to meeting distribution needs and expanding customer choice by modernizing utility interconnection, planning, procurement, and data sharing processes.

    Takeaway 2

    Hosting Capacity analyses should be incorporated into the interconnection of distributed energy resources to streamline and eventually automate interconnection

    Takeaway 3

    Adopting Distribution Loading Order policies will encourage the procurement of cost effective distributed energy resources before conventional distribution equipment

    Background

    Designing the electrical grid for the 21st century is one of today’s most important and exciting challenges. In the face of evolving electricity needs and an aging electrical grid that relies on centralized and polluting sources of power, it is imperative to transition to a grid that actively leverages the wave of renewable distributed energy resources proliferating across the industry. Distributed energy resources offer tremendous benefits to this new grid by actively engaging customers in their energy management, increasing the use of clean renewable energy, improving grid resiliency, and making the grid more affordable by reducing system costs. Designing a grid that fully harnesses these assets is a key undertaking for all industry stakeholders, including utilities, regulators, legislatures, and DER developers.

    Current efforts to utilize DERs to support the broader electric system, however, are hampered by the systemic failure of the industry to integrate DERs into distribution planning efforts. As the figure to the right depicts, traditional distribution planning is highly siloed and planning efforts are considered independently of interconnection efforts. To fully leverage DERs to benefit the grid, utility interconnection, planning, procurement, and data sharing efforts must be modernized.

    Challenge: Existing utility interconnection, planning, procurement, and data sharing processes do not leverage DERs to benefit the grid and enable customer choice.

    Solution: Modernize distribution interconnection, planning, procurement and data sharing processes by adopting a holistic Integration Distribution Planning framework.

    Integrated Distribution Planning is a holistic approach to meeting distribution needs and expanding customer choice by unlocking the benefits of distributed energy resources. The approach expedites DER interconnections, integrates DERs into grid planning, utilizes DER portfolios as procurement resources, and ensures broad access to critical data. Ultimately, the approach reduces overall system costs while increasing customer engagement. In the following paper, we introduce four components of Integrated Distribution Planning (Interconnection, Planning, Procurement and Data) and offer recommendations for how to seamlessly integrate distributed energy resources into the modernized process.

    We offer this paper as an initial vision for a holistic process to leverage DERs to benefit the grid. However, there are many details to develop in order to realize this vision. SolarCity continues to work on developing these details for the concepts proposed in this paper, and we welcome collaboration with industry thought leaders to do so. Our ultimate goal is to help provide the concrete recommendations and justification needed by regulators, legislatures, utilities, DER providers, and industry stakeholders to create the impetus for change needed to transition to a cleaner, more affordable and resilient grid.

    Interconnection

    The utility DER interconnection process consists of rules and requirements that govern the connection and operation of distributed energy resources within a utility’s electric grid.

    Today’s utility interconnection processes often follow idiosyncratic rules and timelines that differ from utility to utility, suffer from a general lack of process automation, are subject to burdensome technical reviews or arbitrary requirements that slow or prevent DER interconnections. In many regions, the current interconnection process is not keeping pace with the local DER growth, threatening an inefficient backlog that will burden utilities until a more streamlined approach is adopted. As a result, customers who want to invest in energy infrastructure to play an active role in managing their energy usage are increasingly unable to expediently and cost effectively to do.

    Some utilities have begun reforming their practices to create a more efficient interconnection process, with several existing “best practices” serving as a guide for the industry. Overall process improvements have been limited in scope, however, and the pace of change is measured. A more comprehensive set of enhancements is needed to streamline the interconnection process, eliminate unnecessary costs, and expand allowable interconnections.

    Challenge: Existing utility interconnection processes can be avoidably slow, include unwarranted costs, and unnecessarily limit DER interconnections.

    Solution: Streamline the DER interconnection process, eliminate unwarranted costs, and expand allowable interconnection approvals. Streamline the Process

    There are four critical steps in interconnecting a system to the grid: application, construction, inspection, and permission to operate (PTO). Utilities control the timeline for critical elements of this process. While many states establish timeline requirements for the initial utility application review, these targets frequently are not met. For example, a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that most utilities routinely exceed time limits for application review by 37-58%. Similarly, EQ Research published findings showing that PTO timelines increased 68% from 2013 to 2014.

    Several states have embarked on initiatives to update aspects of the interconnection process. While positive, these developments often focus on a few low-hanging fruit, such as the creation of an online portal to submit and track application review progress, rather than a more comprehensive set of improvements. Streamlining the entire interconnection process should be considered by utility engineering organizations and regulators, especially when many of these improvements have been individually implemented by various utilities across the country. A comprehensive set of best practices and recommendations are presented in the following table.

    Eliminate Unwarranted Costs

    Many utilities worried about real and perceived impacts of DERs are specifying equipment upgrades to mitigate their concerns. However, these mitigations are often based on outdated standards or made without regard to the advanced capabilities of modern DERs, which can often preempt the concerns underlying the proposed mitigations. The result is that utilities are requiring overly conservative and often unnecessary upgrades as a condition of interconnection.

    Sourced from SolarCity’s interconnection efforts across the United States, we identify below the most common utility mitigation requirements. Based on the latest body of technical research and standards available, as well as our own research into many of these topics in collaboration with utilities and national laboratories24 , we offer cost effective, safe and reliable alternatives to these upgrades when applicable, with the goal of reducing overall system costs to all customers.

    Expand Allowable Approvals…High and Low DER penetrations…Planning…Procurement…

    While DERs – or any grid resource – voluntarily responding to price signals may respond less consistently than an asset under direct utility control, utilities can quantify the expected availability of such assets. While perhaps a new concept in the distribution context, methodologies exist for assessing availability-based resources, such as Effective Load Carrying Capability (ELCC) and other probabilistic methods currently used in demand response programs.

    Data Transparency and Access…

    Conclusion

    Electricity demands across the world are growing, yet our outdated electrical grids rely on centralized, finite sources of power. Transitioning the grid to one that leverages the wave of distributed energy resources proliferating across the industry is imperative to meet this need. Distributed energy resources offer tremendous benefits in the form of lower system costs, improved grid resiliency, and increased use of clean energy. DERs empower customers to become active participants in their energy management and fuel job creation as we collectively modernize the grid for the 21st century.

    Evolving utility interconnection and planning processes into a holistic and proactive Integrated Distribution Planning process is essential to unlocking the promise of distributed energy resources. We offer this paper as an initial vision for a holistic process to leverage DERs to benefit the grid. However, there are many details to develop in order to realize this vision. SolarCity continues to work on developing these details for the concepts proposed in this paper, and we welcome collaboration with industry thought leaders to do so. Our ultimate goal is to help provide the concrete recommendations and justification needed by regulators, legislatures, utilities, DER providers, and industry stakeholders to create the impetus for change needed to transition to a cleaner, more affordable and resilient grid.

    QUICK NEWS, September 1: NEW ENERGY DEAL GETS BETTER; PLUG-IN CARS GAIN MARKET TRACTION; BIGGEST NAMES IN HOME ENERGY MGMT

    NEW ENERGY DEAL GETS BETTER IEA, NEA study shows renewables LCOE keeps falling

    Tsvetomira Tsanova, August 31, 2015 (SeeNews)

    “…[T]he low-end levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) for some renewable energy technologies is the same or even below that for baseload power plants [according to Projected Costs of Generating Electricity from the IEA (International Energy Agency) and the NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency)]…[T]he high-end renewables LCOE remains far above the cost of nuclear, coal or natural gas power generation, but the progress green energy has made towards becoming more competitive is notable. The LCOE for nuclear, coal and gas has increased a bit since 2010, while for renewables such as wind and solar, it keeps falling…[O]nshore wind remains the cheapest renewable energy option…[T]he cost of utility-scale solar photovoltaics (PV) and onshore wind is comparable and often lower in countries featuring plentiful resources and appropriate market and regulatory frameworks...” click here for more

    PLUG-IN CARS GAIN MARKET TRACTION Electric Vehicles Continue Gaining Consumer Acceptance

    Andrew Balazer, August 31, 2015 (National Law Review)

    “…[The August 2015 Uptake of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles… shows] electric vehicles gaining a loyal finding, with the vast majority of electric vehicle owners saying that they were satisfied with their car and would recommend electric vehicles to others. While range anxiety remains an issue…private owners appear to have happily adopted their use for shorter trips, like commuting or running nearby errands…[W]here an electric car is part of a multi-car household, the electric car is used for the majority of trips…[indicating] the electric car is the primary car…Electric cars have so far been more expensive than comparable fossil fuel-powered cars; however, subsidies and tax breaks appear to be doing their job of getting people to at least consider electric cars. And once they are driving these cars regularly, consumers appear to be very satisfied…As prices for these cars fall with production costs, we can expect to see these cars taking a greater and greater share of the market…” click here for more

    BIGGEST NAMES IN HOME ENERGY MGMT Navigant Research Leaderboard Report: Home Energy Management; Assessment of Strategy and Execution for 16 HEM Vendors

    3Q 2015 (Navigant Research)

    “Home energy management (HEM) is a broad market segment covering technologies and services that consumers use to help them better manage and control their home energy consumption…In the 2 years since the last iteration of this report, the HEM market has seen tremendous change…Navigant Research expects steady growth for HEM products and services through 2023. The HEM market has struggled to gain traction in the past, particularly from a utility standpoint. However, it began picking up momentum in 2014, when non-utility stakeholders started making bolder moves. The initial jolt came from Google’s early 2014 purchase of Nest Labs…According to Navigant Research, the global HEM revenue is expected to peak at a little over $3 billion in 2020…” click here for more

    Monday, August 31, 2015

    TODAY’S STUDY: “FLEXIWATTS” AND THE ECONOMICS OF DEMAND FLEXIBILITY

    The Economics Of Demand Flexibility; How “Flexiwatts” Create Quantifiable Value For Customers And The Grid

    August 26, 2015 (Rocky Mountain Institute)

    Executive Summary

    Electric utilities in the United States plan to invest an estimated $1+ trillion in traditional grid infrastructure— generation, transmission, and distribution—over the next 15 years, or about $50–80 billion per year, correcting years of underinvestment. However, official forecasts project slowing electricity sales growth in the same period (less than 1% per year), coming on the heels of nearly a decade of flat or declining electricity sales nationwide. This is likely to lead to increasing retail electricity prices for customers over the same period.

    Meanwhile, those customers enjoy a growing menu of increasingly cost-effective, behind-the-meter, distributed energy resource (DER) options that provide choice in how much and when to consume and even generate electricity. These dual trends and how customers might respond to them—rising prices for retail grid electricity and falling costs for DER alternatives that complement (or in extreme cases even supplant) the grid—has caused considerable electricity industry unrest. It also creates a potential for overinvestment in and duplication of resources on both sides of the meter.

    Yet utility and customer investments on both sides of the meter are based on the view that demand profiles are largely inflexible; flexibility must come solely from the supply side. Now, a new kind of resource makes the demand side highly flexible too. Demand flexibility (DF) evolves and expands the capability behind traditional demand response programs. DF allows demand to respond continuously to changing market conditions through price signals or other mechanisms. DF is proving a grossly underused opportunity to buffer the dynamic balance between supply and demand. When implemented, DF can create quantifiable value (e.g., bill savings, deferred infrastructure upgrades) for both customers and the grid.

    Here, we analyze demand flexibility’s economic opportunity. In the residential sector alone, widespread implementation of demand flexibility can save 10–15% of potential grid costs, and customers can cut their electric bills 10–40% with rates and technologies that exist today. Roughly 65 million customers already have potentially appropriate opt-in rates available, so the aggregate market is large and will only grow with further rollout of granular retail pricing.

    Demand Flexibility Defined

    Demand flexibility uses communication and control technology to shift electricity use across hours of the day while delivering end-use services (e.g., air conditioning, domestic hot water, electric vehicle charging) at the same or better quality but lower cost. It does this by applying automatic control to reshape a customer’s demand profile continuously in ways that either are invisible to or minimally affect the customer, and by leveraging more-granular rate structures that monetize demand flexibility’s capability to reduce costs for both customers and the grid.

    Importantly, demand flexibility need not complicate or compromise customer experience. Technologies and business models exist today to shift load seamlessly while maintaining or even improving the quality, simplicity, choice, and value of energy services to customers.

    The Emerging Value Of Flexiwatts: The Broader Opportunity For Ders To Lower Grid Costs

    Electric loads that demand flexibility shifts in time can be called flexiwatts—watts of demand that can be moved across the hours of a day or night according to economic or other signals. Importantly, flexiwatts can be used to provide a variety of grid services (see Table ES1). Customers have an increasing range of choices to meet their demand for electrical services beyond simply purchasing kilowatt-hours from the grid at the moment of consumption. Now they can also choose to generate their own electricity through distributed generation, use less electricity more productively (more-efficient end-use or negawatts), or shift the timing of consumption through demand flexibility (see Figure ES1). All four of these options need to be evaluated holistically to minimize cost and maximize value for both customers and the grid.

    Findings

    Residential demand flexibility can avoid $9 billion per year of forecast U.S. grid investment costs— more than 10% of total national forecast needs—and avoid another $4 billion per year in annual energy production and ancillary service costs.

    While our analysis focuses primarily on demand flexibility’s customer-facing value, the potential gridlevel cost savings from widespread demand flexibility deployment should not be ignored. Examining just two residential appliances—air conditioning and domestic water heating—shows that ~8% of U.S. peak demand could be reduced while maintaining comfort and service quality. Using industry-standard estimates of avoided costs, these peak demand savings can avoid $9 billion per year in traditional investments, including generation, transmission, and distribution. Additional costs of up to $3 billion per year can be avoided by controlling the timing of a small fraction of these appliances’ energy demands to optimize for hourly energy prices, and $1 billion per year from providing ancillary services to the grid. The total of $13 billion per year (see Figure ES2) is a conservative estimate of the economic potential of demand flexibility, because we analyze a narrow subset of flexible loads only in the residential sector, and we do not count several other benefit categories from flexibility that may add to the total value.

    Demand flexibility offers substantial net bill savings of 10–40% annually for customers. Using current rates across the four scenarios analyzed, demand flexibility could offer customers net bill savings of 10–40%. Across all eligible customers in each analyzed utility service territory, the aggregate market size (net bill savings) for each scenario is $110–250 million per year (see Figure ES3). Just a handful of basic demand flexibility options—including air conditioning, domestic hot water heater timing, and electric vehicle charging—show significant capability to shift loads to lower-cost times (see Figure ES4), reduce peak demand (see Figure ES5), and increase solar PV on-site consumption (see Figure ES6). In Hawaii, electric dryer timing and battery energy storage also play a role in demand flexibility.

    Utilities should see demand flexibility as a resource for grid cost reduction, but under retail rates unfavorable to rooftop PV, demand flexibility can instead hasten load defection by accelerating rooftop PV’s economics in the absence of net energy metering (NEM).

    Some utilities and trade groups are considering or advocating for changes to traditional net energy metering arrangements that would compensate exported solar PV at a rate lower than the retail rate of purchased utility energy (similar to the avoided cost compensation case discussed above). We build on the analysis presented in RMI’s The Economics of Load Defection and show that, if export compensation for solar PV were eliminated or reduced to avoided cost compensation on a regional scale in the Northeast United States, DF could improve the economics of non-exporting solar PV, thus dramatically hastening load defection—the loss of utility sales and revenue to customer-sited rooftop PV (see Figure ES7).

    Implications

    Demand flexibility represents a large, cost-effective, and largely untapped opportunity to reduce customer bills and grid costs. It can also give customers significant ability to protect the value proposition of rooftop PV and adapt to changing rate designs. Business models that are based on leveraging flexiwatts can be applied to as many as 65 million customers today that have access to existing opt-in granular rates, with no new regulation, technology, or policy required. Given the benefits, broad applicability, and cost-effectiveness, the widespread adoption of DF technology and business models should be a nearterm priority for stakeholders across the electricity sector.

    Third-party innovators: pursue opportunities now to hone customer value proposition

    Many different kinds of companies can capture the value of flexiwatts, including home energy management system providers, solar PV developers, demand response companies, and appliance manufacturers, among others. These innovators can take the following actions to capitalize on the demand flexibility opportunity:

    1. Take advantage of opportunities that exist today to empower customers and offer products and services to complement or compete with traditional, bundled utility energy sales.

    2. Offer the customer more than bill savings; recognize that customers will want flexibility technologies for reasons other than cost alone.

    3. Pursue standardized and secure technology, integrated at the factory, in order to reduce costs and scale demand flexibility faster.

    4. Partner with utilities to monetize demand flexibility in front of the meter, through the provision of additional services that reduce grid costs further.

    Utilities: leverage well-designed rates to reduce grid costs

    Utilities of all types—vertically integrated, wires-only, retail providers, etc.—can capture demand flexibility’s grid value by taking the following steps:

    1. Introduce and promote rates that reflect marginal costs, in order to ensure that customer bill reduction (and thus, utility revenue reduction) can also lead to meaningful grid cost decreases.

    2. Consider flexiwatts as a resource for grid cost reduction, and not solely as a threat to revenues.

    3. Harness enabling technology and third-party innovation by coupling rate offerings with technology and new customer-facing business models that promote bill savings and grid cost reduction.

    Regulators: promote flexiwatts as a least-cost solution to grid challenges

    State regulators have a role to play in requiring utilities to consider and fully value demand flexibility as a lowcost resource that can reduce grid-level system costs and customer bills. Regulators should consider the following:

    1. Recognize the cost advantage of demand flexibility, and require utilities to consider flexiwatts as a potentially lower-cost alternative to a subset of traditional grid infrastructure investment needs.

    2. Encourage utilities to offer a variety of rates to promote customer choice, balancing the potential complexity of highly granular rates against the large value proposition for customers and the grid.

    3. Encourage utilities to seek partnerships that couple rate design with technology and thirdparty innovators to provide customers with a simple, lower cost experience.

    QUICK NEWS, August 31: NEW FINANCE PLAN FOR GEOTHERMAL; SUN IN MAINE; CAN CA CLIMATE BILLS GET BY FOSSIL INTERESTS?

    NEW FINANCE PLAN FOR GEOTHERMAL Geothermal Community Could Be a Game Changer

    August 27, 2015 (RenewablesBiz)

    “…[T]hermal service providers…[may be like solar leasing and] sell thousands of new homeowners on geothermal heating and cooling…[The key] is taking the highest cost of geothermal loop off the table: excavating and drilling to install the ground loop…In Orca Energy’s plan,] Orca owns (and maintains) the ground loop, while the other equipment, heat pumps and so on, are amortized over the 20-year home mortgage…[There] is little impact on their monthly mortgage, but ongoing savings on energy use for the life of the home…Orca meters the thermal BTU of the ground loop and charges [the homeowner] a rate that's lower than the local electrical rate, [creating as much as 30 percent lower heating or cooling bills…” click here for more

    SUN IN MAINE Solar advocates see bright opportunity in northern Maine

    Anthony Brino, August 30, 2015 (BDN News)

    “…[Counterintuitively,] northern Maine may be one of the best places on the East Coast to turn sunlight into electricity, and it can be affordable for the middle class…On average, across winter, spring, summer and fall, northern Maine gets 4.2 hours of daily usable solar radiation that can be converted into electricity. Mid-Atlantic states such as Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania might be warmer, but they have more smog and less usable sunlight — about 3.5 hours on average…The cold also is an advantage…[because] silicon wafers and electrical conductors in solar panels thrive in the cold and run more efficiently in the winter, even though there are fewer hours of sunlight…According to Efficiency Maine, a 4.5-kilowatt (or 4,500-watt) photovoltaic system costs about $17,000 in total to purchase and install…[but] it’s a good investment for a long-term homeowner that almost certainly will pay off within 10 years…[and] is expected to [provide power for] 25 years…” click here for more

    CAN CA CLIMATE BILLS GET BY FOSSIL INTERESTS? Historic climate-change bills in California Legislature go down to the wire

    Jessica Calefati, August 29, 2015 (San Jose Mercury News)

    “With the deadline for lawmakers to finish their work less than two weeks away, Gov. Jerry Brown and state Senate leader Kevin de León are working feverishly to pass what they call the year's most important legislation…The bills, which would dramatically reduce the state's reliance on oil and help to combat climate change, have been praised by everyone from Pope Francis to President Barack Obama to the world's leading scientists…If enacted, the legislation would set international precedent and cement California's reputation as a leader in the fight against global warming…But standing in the way is one of Sacramento's most powerful lobbies, the oil and gas industry, which has spent millions of dollars on advertising that paints a dystopian vision of the future: an out-of-control bureaucracy that would have the power to ration gasoline, punish SUV owners and limit the number of miles Californians drive…After passing the Senate by a wide margin in June, the bills face a much tougher test in the Assembly, which is expected to take them up as early as this week…” click here for more

    Saturday, August 29, 2015

    Pictures Of Sea Level Rise

    Clearly the ocean is getting too big for its beaches. From NASA

    Change And Be Changed

    From a courageous new documentary based on a controversial book: The best chance to demand and build a better world? Yes. Change or be changed? No, that opportunity has passed. Now it is change AND be changed. From AtlanticFilmDotCom via YouTube

    Postcards From Hawaii's New Energy Struggle

    Hawaii has set its sights on 100% renewables by 2045 and its leaders and people don’t believe the proposed $4.3 billion takeover of its utility will get the state there. Here’s why. From Institute for Local Self-Reliance via YouTube

    Friday, August 28, 2015

    PROOF OF GLOBAL SEA LEVEL RISE FROM NASA

    Nasa: sea levels rising as a result of human-caused climate change

    27 August 2015 (NASA)

    “Josh Willis of NASA explains the space agency’s announcement that a long-term satellite imaging study has shown a dramatic rise in sea levels due to climate change. He says the findings that sea levels worldwide rose an average of nearly 3 inches (8 cm) since 1992 could indicate how strongly impacted coastal populations will be in the coming century [an if, as he says, a cm of rise equals 3 feet of beach loss, 24 feet of beach loss has already occurred].” click here for more

    ISRAEL TURNS TO THE SUN

    Israeli Solar Warms Up; The country has embraced technological innovation—except in renewable energy. Is that finally changing?

    Daniel Gross, August 7, 2015 (Slate)

    “…[After six years of development, the first utility-scale solar plant to be built in Israel went online last month. A 40-megawatt solar power plant, it is a joint venture of Arava Power and a subsidiary of Électricité de France. Though modern Israel has become known as ‘startup nation’ for the ability of its nascent tech firms to balloon to global scale in a matter of months and the country’s immense solar resources, the government-owned Israel Electric Corporation has preferred to rely on coal, natural gas, and diesel. Last year, Israel derived less than 2 percent of its power from renewable sources.] The reasons for this aversion to solar-energy innovation are very Israeli—nationalized ownership of significant resources, endemic bureaucracy, fractious politics, and a legacy of socialism…[But in] spite of the bureaucracy and the speed bumps, Israel’s desert is slowly beginning to bloom with silicon panels that help convert the sun’s rays into electrons. Arava Power’s plant won’t hold its title as Israel’s largest solar generating facility for long. Earlier this summer, construction on one of the long-delayed, 110-MW Ashelim plants began.” click here for more

    INDIA FIXES WIND

    Wind forecast to help tap more power

    U. Tejonmayam, August 28, 2015 (Times of India)

    “Tamil Nadu has the enviable status of being one of the largest wind power-producing states; it also possesses more around 7,800MW installed capacity of this renewable power. Now to reap the most of this resource, the state is utilising a new wind power forecasting service…[Wind’s variability] can be rectified if the energy can be estimated beforehand for its effective management. The new prediction system developed by National Institute of Wind Energy (NIWE) in collaboration with Vortex Factoria De Calcul SL, a Spanish-based company, requires availability-based tariff (ABT) metres in wind energy pooling sub-stations. So far, these meters have been installed in 80 sub-stations in the state and by the end of this month another 40 sub-stations will have them…The system will provide the forecast every 15 minutes for up to 10 days in advance. This will help Tangedco in scheduling and dispatching electricity from wind turbine generators…” click here for more

    EU BACKS WIRELESS EV CHARGING PILOT

    EU-funded project develops wireless recharging solutions for electric cars

    2015 August 28 (Xinhua)

    “The European Union-funded FASTINCHARGE [wireless electric vehicle recharging project aimed at making EVs] more appealing to consumers…[is] due for completion this year…[R]esearchers have completed the design of a new wireless charging station, with key features including simplicity of use, easy maintenance, accessibility and clear visual indications on how to position the car…The new station is also equipped to exchange charging data with the vehicle, including user ID, supplier ID, duration of charge and energy meter information, and provide communication and guidance throughout the charging process…The project also investigated en route wireless charging technologies, which have the potential to significantly increase vehicle range and reduce the size of on-board energy storage systems…The project team [is] running a series of demonstration tests of the panels in the northern French city of Douai…[to] assess the efficiency and viability of wireless charging, the benefits to EV users and the impact on the electric grid.” click here for more

    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    A WAY TO MAKE THE PARIS DEAL WORK BETTER

    The sense in Republican climate-change nonsense

    Stephen Stromberg, August 25, 2015 (Washington Post)

    "Conservatives often insist that it’s pointless to cut climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions: It would amount to unilateral economic disarmament; China and the rest of the world wouldn’t reduce pollution…This is a poor argument, mostly…It doesn’t consider the risks of not trying to fight climate change…But there’s still a nugget of wisdom buried in all the nonsense: As world negotiators meet in Paris later this year to construct a global emissions-cutting pact, they must recognize that countries will have incentives to lie and cheat the system, and they must agree on mechanisms to expose emissions-cutting fraud and other types of climate deceit…[ Perverse Effects of Carbon Markets… underscores this crucial point. Swedish researchers found that people in Russia and Ukraine took wanton advantage of a poorly implemented European emissions program…[T]he underlying lesson is a global one: You can’t just assume that various national and subnational officials will comply with their commitments in good faith…This will not be easy. The United States and Europeans will probably push hard for some kind of international emissions monitoring, review and verification at the Paris climate talks…Accountability can’t be a side issue in Paris…” click here for more

    COST OF NO CLIMATE: $44 TRILLION – CITIBANK

    Cost of not acting on climate change $44 trillion: Citi

    Anmar Frangoul, 18 August 2015 (CNBC)

    “Up to $44 trillion could be going up in smoke if the world does not act on climate change, according to [ Energy Darwinism II: Why a Low Carbon Future Doesn't Have to Cost the Earth from CitiGroup, which forecasts] that spending on energy will hit around $200 trillion in the next 25 years…The study then examines two scenarios: one that Citi describe as an 'inaction'…and another that looks at what could happen if a low carbon, ‘different energy mix’ is pursued…[The central case in the report is that the costs in terms of lost (gross domestic product) GDP from not acting on climate change can be $44 trillion dollars by the time we get to 2060…[The report authors see December's crucial United Nations COP21 meeting in Paris] as hugely significant, with the aim of reaching an agreement to keep global warming below two degrees centigrade…[because] all of the players are arriving with positively aligned intentions, including the big emitters: the US and China...” click here for more

    SHALE GAS OUTPUT DROPS

    EIA expects near-term decline in natural gas production in major shale regions

    August 26, 2015 (U.S. Energy Information Administration)

    “Natural gas production across all major shale regions in EIA's Drilling Productivity Report (DPR) is projected to decrease for the first time in September. Production from these seven shale regions reached a high in May at 45.6 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) and is expected to decline to 44.9 Bcf/d in September. In each region, production from new wells is not large enough to offset production declines from existing, legacy wells…Given the substantial drop in rig counts since the fourth quarter of 2014 in each of the DPR regions and growing declines in production from legacy wells, productivity increases are less able to completely offset lower rig counts and legacy-well declines…Several external factors could affect the estimates, such as bad weather, shut-ins based on environmental or economic issues, variations in the quality and frequency of state production data, and infrastructure constraints. These factors are not accounted for in the DPR…” click here for more

    THE STATUS OF SELF-DRIVING CARS

    Autonomous Vehicles; Advanced Driver Assistance Systems and the Evolution of Self-Driving Functionality: Global Market Analysis and Forecasts

    3Q 2015 (Navigant Research)

    “The first combinations of advanced driver assistance features, now available in some 2016 vehicle models, offer semi-autonomous driving under specific circumstances. Cars will soon have the ability to cruise on freeways and safely navigate traffic jams with minimal driver input…[because] it is now feasible to install the multiple sensors necessary for such capability…[M]ore comprehensive self-driving features will be brought to market by 2020…While more [technology] testing is still needed to develop robustness, the biggest practical hurdles to clear before the rollout of self-driving vehicles to the public are related to liability, regulation, and legislation. In the long term, though, autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to institute major change in personal mobility, particularly in large cities. According to Navigant Research, 85 million autonomous-capable vehicles are expected to be sold annually around the world by 2035…” click here for more

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: WHAT SUNEDISON'S BIG BUY INTO BATTERY STORAGE COULD OFFER

    What SunEdison's big buy into battery storage could offer utilities; Inside the biggest global renewables developer’s acquisition of Solar Grid Storage

    Herman K. Trabish, March 9, 2015 (Utility Dive)

    SunEdison, the world’s biggest developer of large-scale solar and wind projects, has acquired the assets of Solar Grid Storage, one of the most promising start-ups among energy storage providers.

    That follows last year’s announcements of a gigawatt-scale battery factory to serve Tesla and SolarCity and Southern California Edison’s 261 MW storage capacity procurement. U.S. deployments in energy storage were up 40% in 2014 and are gathering a momentum that recalls the emergence of solar a few years ago.

    “We got out in front and created a business model and got projects in the ground,” explained Solar Grid Storage (SGS) CEO Tom Leyden. “We now have data that shows a way to make the numbers work. And we intend to expand it.”

    Leyden declined a prediction for what backing from SunEdison’s balance sheet will mean but noted IHS forecasts for 775 MW of grid connected photovoltaic (PV) solar plus storage globally by the end of this year and for a 40 GW cumulative installation of grid-connected energy storage in the U.S. by 2022.

    The U.S. added almost 62 MW of energy storage in 2014 and is expected to add 220 MW in 2015, more than three times the 2014 installations, according to GTM Research.

    “Like most solar companies, SunEdison had been looking at storage for the last year or so,” Leyden said. SGS was looking for money to ramp up operations and had several options when SunEdison approached last summer. The final deal structure was an asset transfer. “SunEdison bought everything. All the operating assets and the pipeline.”

    Storage will make more of SunEdison’s 8.1 GW global pipeline of wind and solar projects grid-available. “Storage is a perfect complement to our business model,” explained SunEdison's Advanced Solutions General Manager Tim Derrick. “With this acquisition we have added the capability to pair energy storage with solar and wind projects, thereby creating more valuable projects."

    The breakthrough business model

    Leyden and his team approached the storage business like they had the solar business earlier in their careers. They went looking for a viable market. They saw opportunity in the PJM frequency regulation market and stayed focused on it. “We got four projects in the ground,” Leyden said. “Three have solar attached.”

    The breakthrough was that SGS gave the storage to the PV developers. “They could offer their customers emergency back-up power free because we derived revenues from bidding the excess capacity of the inverter into the PJM frequency regulation market,” Leyden explained.

    In frequency regulation, power from the battery is used temporarily to balance the system and then returned to the battery. “The work is done by the inverter,” Leyden said. That requires a dual-use inverter to perform both the PV functions and the battery charge-discharge function. Two manufacturers, Princeton Power and DynaPower, supply the advanced inverters. “Conventional inverter companies have not previously provided this kind of inverter but they are all working on one now.”

    SGS delivers a 10 foot by 20 foot container with inverter, control systems, safety devices, and “everything necessary to be a plug and play system,” Leyden said. “It replaces the standard inverter.”

    SGS batteries use lithium ion phosphate chemistry. “We don’t anticipate using anything else,” Leyden said. “But there are other chemistries and technologies. We are technology agnostic. We are about deployment. If flywheels were the way to go, we would do flywheels. It is really about enhancing our solar and wind projects and bringing more value to customers and investors.”

    After Superstorm Sandy, the PJM region’s heightened focus on energy response “put us on steroids,” Leyden said. “Buyers were interested and policymakers and regulators were pressured to make systems more resilient.”

    Markets

    Selling frequency regulation is, however, a merchant operation. Leyden wants to open new opportunities for storage by including it into a viable product forSunEdison’s Terraform Power YeildCo.

    “YieldCos are conservative instruments,” Leyden said. “We are working on a way to put our PV plus storage or wind plus storage projects into a form that offers the comfort they need. Someone, a hedge fund or an insurance company, needs to guarantee a floor price.

    It is key to scalability. That is where solar companies are going.”

    In markets where mandates require utilities to acquire storage, a lease payment agreement with a utility might adequately secure revenue that could be monetized through the Yieldco, he added.

    Leyden expects to first work the PJM frequency regulation market and the California storage mandate for SunEdison. He is also interested in other grid operators like ERCOT, MISO, NE ISO, and NY ISO. As the utility sector evolves toward more distributed generation, he said, utilities can and should play a constructive role in the storage market.

    “Very much like solar ten years ago, there are a lot of emerging battery markets and it will be creative chaos for a while because everyone wants a piece of the action,” Leyden said. “Market by market it will be different because storage can be used a lot of different ways.”

    The key will be finding markets where the numbers work. “They are still relatively limited but we are just at the beginning of this and what happened in the solar industry is going to happen in storage. The prices are going to come down.”

    The weighted average storage system price in 2014 was $2,064 per kW, according to GTM Research. But the cost depends on how the system is used and how much battery there is, Leyden said. For frequency regulation, “you don’t need a lot of battery. It is not an energy market, it is a power market.”

    The SGS battery is about $1 per watt and, with the inverter and the balance of system, “we are seeing systems at between $1.20 and $2.50 per watt,” Leyden said. A “significant revenue opportunity” is necessary to justify adding that cost to a $2 per watt PV system, which is why storage is not yet widespread.

    “When the costs come down, new markets will open up,” Leyen said. SunEdison’s balance sheet and project pipeline will make for volumes that will reduce the SGS costs for goods and capital. “A 30% price reduction is possible in the next couple of years and as much as a 50% to 60% reduction in the couple of years after that,” Leyden predicted. “Price is on a downward trajectory. Tesla’s gigafactory will drive prices down even more. Just the announcement of it drove prices down.”

    How utilities can play

    Storage needs to be a part of the utility move into distributed generation because that is “the missing link” to much greater penetration of renewables on the grid, Leyden said. “We have spent a fair amount of time with utilities and we think they can play a constructive role.”

    SGS has talked to Dominion, PSE&G, and all the utilities in PJM. There were also talks with New England utilities such as National Grid, United Illuminating, JCP&L, and Atlantic City Electric. “There are a lot of things they could do with batteries, like smoothing peak demand, providing volt-var support, helping with black start, and backing up substations,” Leyden said.

    Regulated utilities see the opportunity to add such capabilities and are less concerned with cost because they can rate base storage, Leyden explained. Unregulated utilities like Constellation and NextEra want to seize the business opportunity.

    “Utility executives definitely recognize change is coming and storage is part of their future,” Leyden said. “They may, though, have work to do internally because the utility culture is built on having central power plants, not distributed ones, and distributed generation with storage has new challenges.”

    SGS got “fairly significant pushback” on PV plus storage from a New Jersey utility, he recalled. “There is no rational reason for it. It is just emotional.”

    Utility engineers are often intrigued by storage as an elegant way to allow more renewables on overloaded circuits, Leyden said. “Atlantic City Electric was shutting down some of their circuits to solar because of concerns it would destabilize them but by adding storage that was solved.”

    Aggregated residential solar and virtual storage

    Leyden is also thinking about the residential solar market and SunEdison’s newly instituted residential solar division. Residential battery storage systems are expensive because their stored energy doesn’t have value except as little-used backup power. “We are working on aggregating residential and commercial systems into a big virtual storage asset and we hope to have that capability by the end of the year,” Leyden said.

    For frequency regulation, the storage can be anywhere in a grid operator’s territory. “We can aggregate residential systems in New Jersey with a commercial system in Maryland for PJM. The more aggregated, the more frequency regulation we can market.”

    QUICK NEWS, August 26: NEW ENERGY READY TO TAKE CONTROL; THE PRESIDENT BOOSTS SOLAR; EV CHARGING ON THE GO

    NEW ENERGY READY TO TAKE CONTROL Wind Energy Could Blow U.S. Coal Industry Away

    Henry Hewitt, 23 August 2015 (OilPrice)

    “…Wind leads solar energy in capacity installed as well as output (world solar capacity passed 200 GW this year); and other than a few welcome cases (so far) where PV comes in under 5 cents per kWh, wind is generally cheaper…[S]ome of the world’s industrial giants have not only taken a keen interest in wind energy but have also taken the lead in sticking turbines in the ground…Passing the 400 GW mark this year, world wind capacity already exceeds U.S. coal capacity and will likely pass natural gas power capacity in the U.S. this year. It topped U.S. nuclear capacity many years ago, and has now caught up worldwide…[W]ind not only can but will replace nuclear as a source of carbon free, risk free energy, with no fuel cost and no externalities…[The Old Guard will…[argue] wind is intermittent, so the capacity factor is far below that of coal, gas or nuclear…[but the] National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recently released data showing that the Capacity Factor (CF) for wind power can reach 65%, which is comparable to that of fossil fuel based generation…” click here for more

    THE PRESIDENT BOOSTS SOLAR Obama Flies to the Nevada Desert to Promote Solar Energy

    Gardiner Harris, August 24, 2015 (NY Times)

    “President Obama flew west into the blistering sun of this desert oasis…to speak with great hope about solar and other renewable forms of energy… The speech, at the National Clean Energy Summit, came as his administration announced a series of measures to encourage solar power construction, including making an additional $1 billion in loan guarantee authority available in a federal program for innovative versions of residential rooftop solar systems…With the nation’s electrical needs growing only modestly, executives in the renewable power industry are depending on electric utilities to retire their aging coal-fired power plants and replace them with renewable power sources. The administration’s power plan is expected to accelerate that process…” click here for more

    EV CHARGING ON THE GO England will test electric car charging lanes

    Bianca Seidman, August 25, 2015 (CBS News)

    “Some roads in England…could make electric vehicles a more feasible form of transportation if a new trial of wireless charging lanes is successful…The goal is to allow ultra-low emission vehicles to travel longer distances without the need to stop and charge…in a way that governments can afford…Later this year, Highways England will begin off-road tests of charging lanes for electric and hybrid vehicles. They will create mock roads built with charging coils under the pavement, which correspond to special receivers that will be fitted to electric vehicles. If the trials are successful after 18 months, the agency will conduct trials on working roadways. The UK government has committed £500 million ($784 million) over the next five years to advancing this technology…Similar projects are in progress in the United States…Highways England says that, in addition to testing the wireless and in-road charging solutions for electric vehicles, they are committed to installing plug-in electric charging stations every 20 miles on the highway.” click here for more

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    TODAY’S STUDY: SOLAR THIS YEAR

    Tracking the Sun VIII: The Installed Price of Residential and Non-Residential Photovoltaic Systems in the United States

    Galen Barbosde and Naim Darghouth, August 2015 (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

    Executive Summary

    Now in its eighth edition, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)’s Tracking the Sun report series is dedicated to summarizing trends in the installed price of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States. The present report focuses on residential and nonresidential systems installed through year-end 2014, with preliminary trends for the first half of 2015. As noted in the text box below, this year’s report incorporates a number of important changes and enhancements. Among those -changes, this year's report focuses solely on residential and nonresidential PV systems; data on utility-scale PV are reported in LBNL’s companion Utility-Scale Solar report series.

    Installed pricing trends presented within this report derive primarily from project-level data reported to state agencies and utilities that administer PV incentive programs, solar renewable energy credit (SREC) registration systems, or interconnection processes. In total, data were collected for roughly 400,000 individual PV systems, representing 81% of all U.S. residential and non-residential PV capacity installed through 2014 and 62% of capacity installed in 2014, though a smaller subset of this data were used in analysis.

    Important to note is that the data analyzed within this report:

    • Represent the up-front price paid by the PV system owner, prior to receipt of incentives

    • Are self-reported data provided by PV installers to program administrators • Differ from the underlying cost borne by the developer and installer

    • Are historical and therefore may not be indicative of prices for systems installed more recently or prices currently being quoted for prospective projects

    • Exclude third-party owned (TPO) systems for which reported installed prices represent appraised values, but include TPO systems for which reported prices represent the sale price between an installation contractor and customer finance provider (see Text Box 2 within the main body of the report for further details)

    Key findings from this year’s report are as follows, with all numerical results denoted in real 2014 dollars and DC watts:

    Installed Prices Continued their Rapid Descent through 2014 and into 2015. National median installed prices in 2014 declined year-over-year by $0.4/W (9%) for residential systems, by $0.4/W (10%) for non-residential systems ≤500 kW, and by $0.7/W (21%) for non-residential systems >500 kW. Preliminary data for the first half of 2015 indicate that installed price declines have persisted into 2015 and are on pace to match those witnessed in recent years.

    Recent Installed Price Reductions Have Been Driven Primarily by Declines in Soft Costs. Installed price reductions over the 2008 to 2012 period were a steep drop in global prices for PV modules. Since then, however, module prices have generally flattened, while installed prices have continued to fall as a result of a steady decline in non-module costs. From 2013 to 2014 specifically, residential non-module costs fell by $0.4/W, representing virtually the entire year-over-year decline in total installed prices. Recent non-module cost declines can be partly attributed to reductions in inverter and racking equipment costs, but are primarily associated with reductions in PV soft costs, which include such items as marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, permitting and inspection costs, and installer margins. Soft cost reductions are partly due to steady increases in system size and module efficiency, though likely also reflect a broad and sustained emphasis within the industry and among policymakers on addressing soft costs.

    Installed Price Declines Have Been Partially Offset by Falling Incentives. Cash incentives (i.e., rebates and performance-based incentives) provided through state and utility PV incentive programs have fallen substantially since their peak a decade ago. Depending on the particular program, reductions in cash incentives over the long-term equate to roughly 70% to 120% of the corresponding drop in installed prices. This trend is partly a response to installed price declines and the emergence of other forms of incentives, but it has also been a deliberate strategy by program administrators to provide a long-term signal to the industry to reduce costs, and is likely among the many drivers for recent declines in solar soft costs.

    National Median Installed Prices Are Relatively High Compared to Other Recent Benchmarks, Particularly for Residential and Smaller Non-Residential Systems. Across all systems in the data sample installed in 2014, the median installed price was $4.3/W for residential systems, $3.9/W for non-residential systems ≤500 kW in size, and $2.8/W for non-residential systems >500 kW. By comparison, a number of other recent benchmarks for PV system prices or costs range from $2.8/W to $4.5/W for residential systems, and from $1.7/W to $4.1/W for non-residential systems. Differences between national median prices and these other benchmarks reflect the diversity of underlying data sources, methodologies, and definitions. For example, national median prices are historical in nature, represent prices not costs, are heavily impacted by several large and relatively high-priced state markets, and in some instances may be subject to inconsistent reporting practices across installers. These national median prices presented in this report thus should not necessarily be taken as indicative of “typical” pricing in all contexts, and should not be considered equivalent to the underlying costs faced by installers.

    Installed Prices in the United States Are Higher than in Most Other Major National PV Markets. Compared to median U.S. prices, installed prices reported for residential systems and nonresidential systems ≤500 kW in size are substantially lower in a number of other key solar markets – most notably Germany, China, and Australia. These pricing disparities are primarily attributable to differences in soft costs.

    Installed Prices Vary Widely Across Individual Projects. Although installed price distributions have generally narrowed over time, considerable pricing variability continues to persist. For example, among residential systems installed in 2014, roughly 20% of systems were priced below $3.5/W (the 20th percentile value), while 20% were priced above $5.3/W (80th percentile). Nonresidential systems ≤500 kW exhibit a similar spread, while the distribution for non-residential systems >500 kW is somewhat narrower. The potential underlying causes for this variability are numerous, including differences in project characteristics, installer characteristics, and local market or regulatory conditions.

    Economies of Scale Occur Among Both Residential and Non-Residential Systems. For residential systems installed in 2014, median prices for systems in the 8-10 kW range are roughly 15% lower than for smaller 2-4 kW systems. Among non-residential systems installed in 2014, median installed prices for the largest class of systems >1,000 kW in size were 36% lower than for the smallest set of non-residential systems ≤10 kW. Even greater economies of scale may arise when progressing to utility-scale systems, which are outside the scope of this report.

    Installed Prices Differ Among States, with Relatively High Prices in Some Large State Markets. For residential systems installed in 2014, median installed prices range from a low of $3.4/W in Delaware and Texas to a high of $4.8/W in New York. Some of the largest state markets – California, Massachusetts, and New York – are relatively high-priced, which tends to pull overall U.S. median prices upward; pricing in most states is below the aggregate national median price. Cross-state installed pricing differences can reflect a wide assortment of factors, including installer competition and experience, retail rates and incentive levels, project characteristics particular to each region, labor costs, sales tax, and permitting and administrative processes.

    Installed Prices Reported for Third-Party Owned Systems Are Generally Similar to Those for Customer-Owned Systems. This report does not evaluate lease terms or power purchase agreement (PPA) rates for TPO systems; however, it does include data on the dollar-per-watt installed price of TPO systems that are sold by installation contractors to non-integrated customer finance providers. Although prices for these TPO systems are not perfectly comparable to purchase prices paid for customer-owned systems, median prices for the two classes of systems are, in fact, quite similar, at least when comparing nationally. Within individual states, however, median prices for TPO and customer-owned systems can differ, in some cases substantially.

    Prices Vary Considerably Across Residential Installers Operating within the Same State. In examining four large residential markets (Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey), installer-level median prices within each state differ by anywhere from $1.1/W to $1.4/W between the upper and lower 20th percentiles, suggesting a substantial level of heterogeneity in pricing behavior or underlying costs. Low-priced installers in these states – e.g., 20% of installers in Arizona have median prices below $3.0/W – can serve as a benchmark for what may be achievable in terms of near-term installed price reductions within the broader market. Interestingly, however, no obvious or consistent relationship is observed between installer volume and prices – i.e., highvolume installers are not associated with lower-priced systems.

    Residential New Construction Offers Significant Installed Price Advantages Compared to Retrofit Applications. Within California, systems installed in residential new construction have been consistently lower-priced than those installed on existing homes, with a median differential of $0.7/W in 2014, despite the significantly smaller size and higher incidence of premium efficiency modules among new construction systems. If comparing among systems of similar size and module technology, the installed price of new construction systems was $1.4/W lower than for retrofits.

    Installed Prices Are Higher for Systems at Tax-Exempt Customer Sites than at For-Profit Commercial Sites. Tax-exempt site hosts include schools, government facilities, religious organizations, and non-profits, and these customers collectively represent a substantial share of the non-residential data sample. Systems at tax-exempt customer sites are consistently higher priced than similarly sized systems at for-profit commercial customer sites. In 2014, the median differential was roughly $0.3/W for systems ≤500 kW and $0.6/W for >500 kW systems. Higher prices at tax-exempt customer sites reflect potentially lower negotiating power and higher incidence of prevailing wage/union labor requirements, domestically manufactured components, and shade or parking structures.

    Installed Prices Are Substantially Higher for Systems with High-Efficiency Modules. Roughly one-quarter of the 2014 systems in the data sample have module efficiencies greater than 18%, and installed prices for systems in this class have consistently been higher-priced than those with loweror mid-range module efficiencies (<18%). In 2014, the median differential was roughly $0.8/W within both the residential and ≤500 kW non-residential segments. These trends suggest that the price premium for high-efficiency modules in many cases has outweighed any offsetting reduction balance-of-system (BOS) costs associated with a smaller array footprint.

    Microinverters Have a Seemingly Small Effect on Installed Prices. Microinverters have made significant gains in market share in recent years, representing more than 35% of residential systems and roughly 20% of smaller (sub-500 kW) non-residential systems in the data sample installed in 2014. Microinverter costs are higher than standard string inverters, though the data suggest that the net impact on total system prices is smaller, potentially as a result of offsetting reductions in noninverter BOS and soft costs.

    Installed Prices for Large Non-Residential Systems Vary with the Use of Tracking Equipment. Many of the large non-residential systems in the data sample have tracking equipment, including roughly 20% of systems installed in 2014. The median installed price of those systems was $0.4/W (15%) higher than fixed-tilt, ground-mounted systems and $0.5/W (19%) higher than roof-mounted projects. Although these pricing differentials are based on a relatively small underlying data sample, they are generally of a similar magnitude to the increased electricity generation associated with single-axis tracking equipment.

    QUICK NEWS, August 25: SOLAR CHEAPER THAN NAT GAS; WIND TO THE RESCUE; NUKE PLANT COSTS STILL RISING

    SOLAR CHEAPER THAN NAT GAS SunEdison Solar Farm Beats Gas With Biggest Colorado Project

    Chris Martin, August 20, 2015 (Bloomberg News)

    SunEdison, the world’s biggest renewables developer, began construction in Colorado on the 156 MW Comanche solar installation. Its output will go to Xcel Energy subsidiary Public Service of Colorado (PSC), the state’s dominant electric utility. The project’s 25 year power purchase agreement (PPA) with PSC was won through a 2013 open solicitation. SunEdison’s undisclosed bid price beat bids for natural gas generation at $5.90 per million British thermal units (MMbtu) for 20 years and at $5.96 per MMbtu for 25 years. Natural gas was $2.71 on August 21 but forecasted by PSC to be over $6 by 2020. Record low prices for solar are coming in across the country. Austin Energy's most recent bid came in at under $40 per MWh (less than $0.04 per kWh). NV Energy signed a PPA for the 100 MW output of First Solar’s Playa Solar 2 installation at $0.0387 per kWh, which is thought to be the lowest rate for solar yet made public. click here for more

    WIND TO THE RESCUE A mighty optimistic wind estimate fuels EPA rule

    Peter Behr, August 7, 2015 (E&E Publishing)

    The Clean Power Plan relies on obtaining its 32% reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 through increasing to 28% the share of total U.S. power generation from wind and other renewables. Wind’s capability for meeting its share of that generation hinges on Congress renewing the $0.023 per kWh federal production tax credit (PTC). A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory analysis showed that despite wind’s falling price, the tax incentive is vital to its growth. The EPA’s analysis shows wind can meet the CPP need without it. If the PTC is not renewed and wind’s growth falters, each state’s CPP implementation will have to find a way to replace it with natural gas, solar, energy efficiency and/or conservation. A Senate subcommittee recently passed a two-year extension of the PTC and its companion investment tax credit 23-3 but prospects in the full Senate are not promising for the $10.5 billion (over 10 years) budget item. click here for more

    NUKE PLANT COSTS STILL RISING Fitch: 'Failure' of new nuke construction means fewer plants

    Matthew Bandyk, August 20, 2015 (SNL)

    The under-construction Vogtle nuclear facility in Georgia and V.C. Summer nuclear facility in South Carolina are both about three years behind schedule and each is expected come in billions of dollars over their original budgets. These poor performances are expected to discourage further U.S. investment in nuclear power in the near term. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast of nuclear generation falling by 10,800 MW through 2020 could be understated because political pressure and the higher-than-expected cost of operations and maintenance is forcing plant retirements. Longer term hope for nuclear advocates comes from The EPA Clean Power Plan’s assignment of compliance to states that use new nuclear plants and existing facility upgrades that add new capacity. And the Department of Energy last year announced it would accept applications from nuclear developers for $12.5 billion in loan guarantees. click here for more