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The Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter highlights the lab's analysts and analysis activities in renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies are having an impact on U.S. energy goals. The newsletter features recent publications and websites, updates to our models and tools, and staff activities. You can subscribe to receive the newsletter monthly by email.

October 2014


Solar Energy Prices See Double-digit Declines in 2013

Report Provides Methods for Analyzing the Benefits and Costs of Distributed PV to the U.S. Grid


Distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices dropped by 12–19 percent nationwide in 2013, according to Photovoltaic System Pricing Trends: Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections, the third edition of a jointly written report on PV pricing trends from NREL and Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL). The report, utilizing data from several ongoing research activities at NREL and LBNL, provides a high-level overview of PV system pricing trends in the United States.

A chart showing the range of PV prices from 2011 at $1.34 per watt installed out until 2013 where prices drop to $0.67. The chart extends to project a very moderate range of $0.64-$0.59 per watt installed from 2014 through 2016

Downward trend: median and range of expectations of global PV module average selling price

"There appears to be an emerging consensus that the DOE SunShot Initiative's price reduction targets are within reach and more and more likely to be realized," said NREL's David Feldman, a lead author of the report. Other authors included Robert Margolis, Ted James, Ran Fu, Carolyn Davidson, and Sam Booth. The report received coverage in Denver Business Journal, Denver Post, Denver's 9News.com, Politico's Morning Energy report, PV Magazine, EERE's Facebook site, and other venues. See the NREL press release here.

Lower prices could encourage more adoption of distributed PV systems. A separate NREL report—targeted to utilities commissions, policymakers, and regulators—describes methods, data, and tools used to quantify the benefits and costs of distributed PV from a utility or electricity generation system perspective. The report also identifies gaps in current benefit-cost analysis.

NREL Report: Methods for Analyzing the Benefits and Costs of Distributed Photovoltaic Generation to the U.S. Electric Utility System
Authors: Paul Denholm, Robert Margolis, Bryan Palmintier, Clayton Barrows, Eduardo Ibanez, and Lori Bird, NREL; Jarett Zuboy, Independent Consultant.


NREL Supports Clean Energy Ministerial Initiatives in Copenhagen, Caribbean


The NREL-led 21st Century Power Partnership—a Clean Energy Ministerial initiative to advance integrated policy, regulatory, financial, and technical solutions for the large-scale deployment of renewable energy—led a session on "Power System Transformation" at the fourth Global Green Growth Forum (3GF) in Copenhagen on October 20. The Power Partnership session focused on collaboration between similar public-private partnerships to move toward shared goals of green growth. At the 3GF event, the Power Partnership debuted new fact sheets highlighting key research papers: Integrating Variable Renewable Energy in Electric Power Markets: Best Practices from International Experience, Flexibility in 21st Century Power Systems, and Variable Renewable Energy: a Regulatory Roadmap. Also in October, the Power Partnership hosted delegations from South Africa, India, and Mexico at a series of workshops in San Antonio, Texas. Delegates shared experiences in economically and reliably integrating renewables into power systems.

NREL's Vickie Healey represented the Clean Energy Solutions Center at the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum held in Miami, Florida October 6–8. The forum resulted in a potential collaboration between Caribbean governments and the Clean Energy Solutions Center, a separate Clean Energy Ministerial initiative, on developing a renewable energy and energy efficiency policy database for the Caribbean region.


NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News


Jordan Macknick discusses power plants and cooling towers in a Wall Street Journal article titled "New York State, Indian Point Nuclear Plant Operator Clash Over Fate of Fish."

"Natural gas can be a bridge to a sustainable energy future, but that bridge must be traversed carefully."
— Garvin Heath quoted in The Washington Post regarding NREL's article published in the February 14 issue of the journal Science, "Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems."

NREL's Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study was mentioned in a Scientific American article titled "Study of Eastern U.S. Shows Wind Energy Could Stabilize the Grid." Through modeling the Eastern Interconnection, the study helped determine that, when equipped with suitable plant controls, wind applications can significantly augment grid resiliency.

"Every year that we move along, the economics [of wind energy storage] look more favorable."
— Paul Denholm quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune's article "Renewable energy plan hinges on huge Utah caverns" and in PennEnergy's article "Major renewable energy plan hinges on huge Utah caverns."

Photovoltaic (PV) System Pricing Trends: Historical, Recent, and Near-Term Projections–2013 Edition was mentioned in an Electric Light & Power article, "Businesses, Now is the Time to Reconsider Solar."


Recent Publications


NREL Report: Status of Net Metering: Assessing the Potential to Reach Program Caps
Authors: Jenny Heeter, Rachel Gelman, and Lori Bird

As several U.S. states are addressing the issue of net metering program caps, which limit the total amount of net metered generating capacity that can be installed in a state or utility service territory, the authors examine net metering caps to gain perspective on how long net metering will be available in various jurisdictions under current policies. They also surveyed state practices and experience to understand important policy design considerations.


NREL Report: PVWatts Version 5 Manual
Author: Aron Dobos

The PVWatts calculator web application estimates the electricity production of a grid-connected photovoltaic system. It combines a number of sub-models in order to predict overall system performance, and includes several built-in parameters that are hidden from the user. This technical reference describes the sub-models, details assumptions and hidden parameters, and explains the sequence of calculations that yield the final system performance estimate; it applies to the significantly revised version of PVWatts released by NREL previously in 2014.


NREL Report: Advancing Development and Greenhouse Gas Reductions in Vietnam's Wind Sector
Authors: Daniel Bilello, Jessica Katz, and Sean Easterly, NREL; Matthew Ogonowski, U.S. Agency for International Development

Vietnam has significant wind energy resources that, if developed, could help the country reach its Green Growth Strategy target (reduce greenhouse gas [GHG] emissions from domestic energy activities by 20-30 percent by 2030 relative to a business-as-usual scenario) while providing economic, social, and environmental benefits. Given the country's ambitious clean energy goals and the relatively nascent state of wind energy development in the country, this paper seeks to: 1) distill timely and useful information for provincial-level planners, analysts, and project developers as they evaluate opportunities to develop local wind resources, and 2) provide insights for policymakers on how coordinated efforts may help advance large-scale wind development, deliver near-term GHG emission reductions, and promote national objectives in the context of a low emission development framework.


Brochure: Community Shared Solar: Policy and Regulatory Considerations
Author: Joyce McLaren

This brochure explores ways the shared solar business model interacts with existing policy and regulations, including net metering, tax credits, and securities regulation. It presents some of the barriers that shared solar project developers may face and provides suggested actions for creating a supportive policy environment.


Brochure: Distributed Solar Photovoltaics for Electric Vehicle Charging: Regulatory and Policy Considerations
Author: Joyce McLaren

Though it presents an opportunity for market expansion, a major barrier to the current deployment of solar technology for electric vehicle (EV) charging is a lack of clear information for policymakers, utilities, and potential adopters. This brochure introduces EV charging during the day versus at night, summarizes the benefits and grid implications of combining solar and EV charging technologies, and offers some regulatory and policy options available to policymakers and regulators wanting to incentivize solar EV charging.


Fact Sheet: Electronic Submersible Pump (ESP) Technology and Limitations with Respect to Geothermal Systems
Author: Scott Jenne

This fact sheet aims to explain the research to date regarding the capabilities and limitations of ESPs in geothermal electricity production. Current geothermal technology has limitations that hinder the expansion of utility-scale power generation, such as artificial lift. Another is that, with the exception of a few geothermal fields, line shaft pumps (LSPs) dominate the production of artificial lift.


Presentation: Open Data Catalog on OpenEI Being Utilized for the EERE Data Catalog
Author: Jon Weers and Debbie Brodt-Giles

This live demonstration for the EERE Web Coordinators Meeting participants on October 16 helped educate the web coordinators about how OpenEI is utilizing CKAN for its datasets section, encourage data submissions on the platform, encourage opportunities for data federation with other data repositories, and explain how this instance will be the foundation for the new EERE Data Catalog, which will help DOE meet the open data policy goals.


Presentation: Powering Data Centers With Renewable Energy
Authors: Austin Brown, NREL; Bethany Gorham, Harvard University

Based on interviews with companies and analysis of publically available data, this presentation covers success stories, challenges still facing the industry, and a synthesis of the past and potential future impact on renewable energy in making renewables a key part of corporate strategies.


Presentation: NREL Activities to Open Capital Market Investment and Bank Lending for Solar Deployment
Authors: Michael Mendelsohn, NREL; John Joshi, Capital Fusion Partners

This briefing for White House personnel and members of various agencies (HUD, USDA, etc.) on the Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) process aims to identify efficiencies and improvements that can be brought to federal contracting procedures.


Presentation: DR Resources for Energy and Ancillary Services
Author: Marissa Hummon

This presentation focuses on the co-optimization of demand response (DR) resources to provide energy and ancillary services in a production cost model of the Colorado test system. The results include the system-wide avoided fuel and generator start-up costs as well as the composite revenue for each DR resource by energy and operating reserves.


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The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) aims to provide credible, objective data and insights that inform policy and investment decisions as energy efficient and renewable energy technologies advance from concept to commercial application. NREL analysis encompasses a broad range of scientific research and reporting activity in support of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), NREL programs and initiatives, and the analysis community.