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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.

April 2015

Energy Department's Wind Vision Report Analyzes the Future of Wind Power through 2050

The cover of the Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States report.

The Energy Department recently released a new report that analyzes the future of wind power through 2050. The report, Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, confirms that with technological advancements driving projected cost reductions, in combination with continued siting and transmission development, wind power can be economically deployed to provide renewable power in all 50 states. The Wind Vision report is the product of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Program's comprehensive analysis to evaluate future pathways for the wind industry.

Key findings of the report include:
  • Wind energy is available nationwide.
  • Wind supports a strong domestic supply chain.
  • Wind is affordable.
  • Wind reduces air pollution emissions.
  • Wind energy preserves water resources.
  • Wind deployment increases community revenues.

The Wind Vision report is a collaboration between industry, environmental organizations, academic institutions, and national laboratories, including NREL. For more information on the Wind Vision, read the White House fact sheet.

Reimagining What's Possible: How NREL is Guiding Energy Systems Transformation at Home and Around the World

The cover of the Reimagining What's Possible brochure.

A new brochure illustrates how NREL is reimagining what's possible for renewable energy. The brochure, Reimagining What's Possible, highlights NREL's body of analysis and decisions support work in areas such as the energy/water/ land nexus, climate change, grid integration, and clean energy access in the U.S. West and around the world. NREL's collective body of analysis work illuminates what is feasible for renewable energy today and where changes could lead to enhanced prospects for cleaner energy systems over time.

A companion publication, NREL Analysis Insights, showcases how NREL analysis helps redefine what's possible for renewable energy on the grid and supports the transition to power systems that are cleaner and more reliable than ever before.

For more information on NREL's analysis and decision support capabilities, visit

Solar Best Practices Guides Aim to Lower Financing Costs

A man in a hardhat is looking over a solar panel in an array under a blue sky.

The Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) working group recently released new best practices guidelines for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, with the goal of increasing investor confidence in the long-term viability of PV systems. Best Practices in PV System Operations and Maintenance and Best Practices in PV System Installation were developed by SAPC subcommittees comprised of representatives from the solar industry, capital providers, and rating agencies. The guides are designed to improve solar asset transparency for investors and rating agencies, provide an industry framework for quality management, and reduce transaction costs in the solar asset securitization process. The guides include recommended contractor and provider qualifications, key performance indicators, links to external resources, and additional best practices.

The guides debuted at the Fourth Annual North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals (NABCEP) Continuing Education Conference in Albany, New York on March 30. In April, NREL technical lead Mike Mendelsohn traveled to China to work alongside its solar energy stakeholders as they create their own working group to develop best practices and open capital market investment.

NREL Analysis and Analysts in the News

Kate Young was mentioned in a Renewable Energy World article about the 2015 State of the Geothermal Industry Briefing and the GEO Act.

"The work that's being done in [the SunShot Catalyst Prize]
hackathon is really work that's being utilized to advance
the solar industry as a whole."

— Debbie Brodt-Giles quoted in the Engineering-News Record

A report by Kristen Ardani, Carolyn Davidson, Robert Margolis, and Erin Nobler was the subject of an Electrical Construction & Maintenance article titled "NREL Compares States' Timelines for PV Interconnection." The study was also the focus of a Denver Post article.

The Energy Collective cited a report by Paul Denholm and Robert Margolis in its article "Sometimes it Takes a Community to Go Solar."

The BeOPT tool was mentioned in Money News's article "PHIUS to launch North American passive building standard at March 25 event at the Bullitt Center (Seattle)." made mention of the JEDI model and NREL wind analysis in "U.S. Wind Energy to Employ 600,000 People by 2050."

Photovoltaic System Pricing Trends was mentioned in Forbes's article "Dirty Energy Taxes And Clean Energy Innovation."

A map created by Billy Roberts is featured in an Ethanol Producer Magazine article.

A report by David Feldman and Robert Margolis was the subject of an article on Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration News.

The Solar Access to Public Capital (SAPC) documents were mentioned in a Greentech Solar article and a RenewablesBiz article.

HOMER was mentioned in a PRWeb article.

Recent Publications

Journal Article: Analysis of distributed-generation photovoltaic deployment, installation time and cost, market barriers, and policies in China
Authors: Fang Zhang, Tsinghua University; Hao Deng, Yale University; Robert Margolis, NREL; Jun Su, Tsinghua University

The authors review distributed-generation PV (DG PV) policy changes in China since 2013 and examines their effect on the country's DG PV market. Based on a 2014 survey of DG PV market and policy participants, cost and time breakdowns for installing DG PV projects in China are presented as well as the main barriers to DG PV installation. The authors also use a cash flow model to determine the relative economic attractiveness of DG PV in several eastern provinces in China and address policy implications and suggestions in the context of DG PV policy changes the Chinese government implemented in September 2014.

Journal Article: Economic Measurements of Polysilicon for the Photovoltaic Industry: Market Competition and Manufacturing Competitiveness
Authors: Ran Fu, NREL; Ted James, PG&E; Mike Woodhouse, NREL

The authors present several economic metrics for polysilicon in the solar photovoltaics (PV) industry; they also quantify the overall level of market competition through exploration of the Herfindahl-Hirschman index and consolidation for the current polysilicon industry. The most recent results in bottoms-up manufacturing cost and price modeling are shown for Siemens hydrochlorination (solar-grade), Siemens hyperpure, and fluidized bed reactor production of polysilicon for several international manufacturing locations. Finally, the entry barrier is quantified for today's polysilicon industry.

Journal Article: Evaluating the availability of gallium, indium, and tellurium from recycled photovoltaic modules
Authors: Michael Redlinger and Roderick Eggert, Colorado School of Mines; Mike Woodhouse, NREL

This article investigates the future role of photovoltaic (PV) recycling in supplying gallium, indium, and tellurium, examining the quantities available from recycling over the next century and the associated costs for recycling modules and reusing each element in PV manufacturing. The findings indicate that, in terms of technical potential, there may be considerable quantities of each element available from recycling copper indium gallium (di)selenide (CIGS) and cadmium-telluride (CdTe) modules. Though the estimated cost of recovering each element from end-of-life PV modules and reusing it in PV manufacturing is higher than current raw mineral costs, learning and economies of scale may reduce the reported early estimates of recycling costs.

Journal Article: Exploring the market for third-party-owned residential photovoltaic systems: insights from lease and power-purchase agreement contract structures and costs in California
Authors: Carolyn Davidson, Dan Steinberg, and Robert Margolis

This study utilizes a sample of 1,113 contracts for residential PV systems installed in 2010–2012 under the California Solar Initiative to evaluate how the timing of payments under a third-party-owned (TPO) contract impacts the ultimate cost of the system to the customer. The authors evaluate how this cost has changed through time and the degree to which contract costs have tracked trends in the installed costs of a PV system. They find that the structure of the contract and the timing of the payments have financial implications for the customer: (1) power-purchase contracts, on average, cost more than leases, (2) no-money-down contracts are likely more costly than prepaid contracts, and (3) contracts that include escalator clauses cost more, for both power-purchase agreements and leases, at most plausible discount rates.

Journal Article: Informing Electricity Systems of the Future: Key Analysis Needs
Authors: Karlynn Cory and Alexandra Aznar

As new technologies challenge traditional utility business models, industry researchers, including the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, are analyzing potential changes to the Electric System of the Future (ESF). This article synthesizes priority challenges identified by utilities and regulators and identifies key analysis needed to inform decisions on the ESF; NREL's current analyses and remaining gaps are also examined.

Journal Article: Power Systems of the Future
Authors: Owen Zinaman, Mackay Miller, Ali Adil, Doug Arent, Jaquelin Cochran, Ravindra Vora, NREL/21st Century Power Partnership/JISEA; Sonia Aggarwal, Energy Innovation, Policy, & Technology, LLC; Minnesh Bipath, South African National Energy Development Institute; Carl Linvill, Regulatory Assistance Project; Ari David, Columbia University; Matthew Futch, National Grid; Richard Kaufman, Office of the Governor of New York State; Efraín Villanueva Arcos and José María Valenzuela, Secretaría de Energía, Mexico; Eric Martinot, Beijing Institute of Technology; Daniel Noll, DOE, Office of Internal Affairs; Morgan Bazilian, Columbia University; Reji Kumar Pillai, India Smart Grid Forum

In this article, the authors suggest five illustrative pathways for power systems of the future, identified by an international team of leaders convened under the 21st Century Power Partnership, an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial. They address recent developments, synthesize the critical frameworks for decision making on transformation pathways, and discuss steps that can be taken to foster positive transformation.

Presentation: Impact of Direct Financial Incentives in the Emerging Battery Electric Vehicle Market: A Preliminary Analysis
Authors: Bentley Clinton, CU-Boulder; Austin Brown, Carolyn Davidson, and Dan Steinberg, NREL

This study examines the emergence of the battery electric vehicle (BEV) market, focusing on the impact of state-level incentives on new BEV registrations. Using a data set for the United States spanning the 2011-2013 period, the authors find evidence that state financial incentives correlate with additional vehicle registrations, though understanding the impact of other policies, such as charging infrastructure, will require additional study as the market develops.

Presentation: Reducing Subjectivity in Geothermal Exploration Decision Making
Authors: Sertać Akar and Kate Young

The goal of this project is to develop a methodology for more objective geothermal exploration decision making at a given location, including go/no-go decision points to help developers and investors decide when to give up on a location. Two different approaches are investigated: 1) value of information analysis (VOIA), which is used for evaluating and quantifying the value of data before they are purchased, and 2) enthalpy-based exploration targeting (ETA) based on reservoir size, temperature gradient estimates, and internal rate of return (IRR).

NREL Report: 2013 Cost of Wind Energy Review
Authors: Christopher Moné, Aaron Smith, Ben Maples, and Maureen Hand

This report uses representative project types to estimate the levelized cost of wind energy (LCOE) in the United States for 2013 and is intended to provide insight into current component-level costs and an understanding LCOE variability across the industry. Scheduled to be published on an annual basis, it relies on both market and modeled data to maintain a current understanding of wind generation cost trends and drivers; data and tools developed from this analysis are used to inform wind technology cost projections, goals, and improvement opportunities.

NREL Report: Concentrating Solar Power and Water Issues in the U.S. Southwest
Authors: Nathan Bracken, Western States Water Council; Jordan Macknick and Angelica Tovar-Hastings, NREL; Paul Komor, University of Colorado-Boulder; Margot Gerritsen and Shweta Mehta, Stanford University

This report provides an overview of concentrating solar power (CSP) development in Arizona, California, and Nevada (or the ‘Southwest' for the purposes of this discussion), with a particular focus on the water supply issues associated with CSP. It builds upon earlier work conducted by NREL, the University of Colorado-Boulder, and Stanford University (supported by JISEA), and presents information gathered through extensive research and literature reviews, as well as interviews and outreach with state water administrators and energy regulators, WECC, and other experts familiar with CSP development in the Southwest.

NREL Report: Credit Enhancements and Capital Markets to Fund Solar Deployment: Leveraging Public Funds to Open Private Sector Investment
Authors: Michael Mendelsohn and Marley Urdanick, NREL; John Joshi, Capital Fusion Markets

Perceived risks within solar assets—including those related to technology, offtaker creditworthiness, and regulatory policy—can increase the required yield, increase probability of investor loss of interest and/or principal, or both. In many cases, this is a cyclical phenomenon: risk perception is driven by lack of historical knowledge, which is in turn driven by risk perception. Therefore, successful access to capital market investment in order to spur low-cost solar deployment depends on the success of this first fledgling period.

NREL Report: Economic Impact of Large-Scale Deployment of Offshore Marine and Hydrokinetic Technology in Oregon Coastal Counties
Authors: Tony Jimenez, Suzanne Tegen, and Philipp Beiter

The analysis examines two deployment scenarios for marine and hydrokinetic technology off the coast of Oregon during a 2026-2045 timeframe. The coastal counties in Oregon—Clatsop, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Lane, Lincoln, and Tillamook—are analyzed; estimates of jobs and other economic impacts are specific to this coastal county area.

NREL Report: Evaluation of Methods for Comparison of Spatiotemporal and Time Series Datasets
Authors: Dan Getman, Brian Bush, Danny Inman, and Ryan Elmore

The approach described in this report can be used to compare the results of different analysis methods to determine the impact of using fewer or different data sets, thereby addressing the question of minimally sufficient data and reducing the cost of unnecessarily high temporal or spatial resolution in data collection and acquisition. The objective of the research related in this report is to develop statistical methods for the cross-comparison and relative-quality evaluation of large spatiotemporal data sets, and it offers several methods that can be used to facilitate interpretation of analytical results and perform validation of modeled data through comparison to known or source data sets.

NREL Report: Integration of Rooftop Photovoltaic Systems in St. Paul Ford Site's Redevelopment Plans
Authors: Dan Olis and Gail Mosey

The objective of this analysis is to estimate how much electricity the redeveloped Ford Motor Company assembly plant site in St. Paul, Minnesota, might consume under different development scenarios and how much rooftop PV generation might be possible.

NREL Report: Renewable Electricity: Insights for the Coming Decade
Authors: Camila Stark, Jacquelyn Pless, Jeffrey Logan, Ella Zhou, and Doug Arent, JISEA

This report evaluates the current and future cost estimates for RE options and compares them with conventional options in three distinct regions of the world. The authors explore innovations driving RE growth, outline environmental drivers (GHG and water attributes especially) that add further weight to the growing benefits of RE, and discuss some best practices for integrating variable RE into the grid.

NREL Report: Shared Solar: Current Landscape, Market Potential, and the Impact of Federal Securities Regulation
Authors: David Feldman, NREL; Anna Brockway and Elaine Ulrich, DOE; Robert Margolis, NREL

This report provides a high-level overview of the current U.S. shared solar landscape, the impact that a given shared solar program's structure has on requiring federal securities oversight, and an estimate of market potential for U.S. shared solar deployment.

NREL Report: Value of Solar: Program Design and Implementation Considerations
Authors: Mike Taylor, Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA); Joyce McLaren and Karlynn Cory, NREL; Ted Davidovich, John Sterling, and Miriam Makhyoun, SEPA

The use of net energy metering as a rate mechanism for distributed solar transactions has been increasingly discussed; one of the most commonly cited alternatives is the value of solar (VOS) mechanism. This analysis focuses on program design options and how a VOS rate may impact future development of distributed solar projects. This report serves as a resource to utilities, regulators, and stakeholders who are interested in VOS program design and implementation, and sets the groundwork for a discussion of specific VOS program design elements and decisions, such as how the VOS rate is applied, how VOS rate adjustments are made, and potential interactions with other solar incentives.

Brochure: Insight on Transforming Our Global Economy: JISEA 2015 Annual Report
Author: Patricia Statwick

From its inception, JISEA has provided clarity and insights to inform decision making through leading-edge interdisciplinary research and objective, credible, cross-functional analysis. JISEA continues to inform the landscape of transformation, drawing on the unique capabilities of its founding institutions and research affiliates around the world.

Poster: A Framework for Comparison of Spatiotemporal and Time Series Data Sets
Authors: David Biagioni, Brian Bush, Ryan Elmore, Dan Getman, Danny Inman

This poster summarizes the related NREL report which provides a framework for comparison of spatiotemporal and time series data sets.

Fact Sheet: Mexico and the 21st Century Power Partnership: Paving the Way to a Greener, Smarter, More Flexible Grid
Author: Ricardo Bracho

The 21st Century Power Partnership's program in Mexico (21CPP Mexico) is an initiative of the Clean Energy Ministerial, carried out in cooperation with government and local stakeholders and drawing upon an international community of power system expertise. The program goal is to support Mexico's power system transformation by accelerating the transition to a reliable, financially robust, and low-carbon system. 21CPP Mexico activities focus on realizing positive outcomes and addressing critical questions and challenges facing policymakers, regulators, and system operators; the program taps into deep networks of expertise and professional connections to achieve these goals.

For the latest updates on information regarding energy analysis, visit the Energy Analysis website. You can also subscribe to the Energy Analysis at NREL newsletter using our simple online form.

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.