What are the cash flow and performance predictions associated with a proposed solar project? What combination of energy technologies and storage options will help my community meet its energy goals? How many people might adopt distributed energy technologies in my jurisdiction under different policy scenarios? These are just some of the questions that state and local decision-makers are grappling with in evaluating solar energy development strategies. Continue reading
NREL Conduit Blog
The NREL Conduit Blog discusses research relevant to state, local, and tribal governments. Contributing authors provide posts related to events, policy analysis, and decision support outcomes to inform the market in a credible and timely fashion.
November 08, 2017
October 24, 2017
The ongoing 2017 Atlantic hurricane season has already been the most active since 2005. Hurricane Harvey, classified as a Category 4 storm, made landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast on August 25th with winds topping 130 mph and inundating the City of Houston with over 50 inches of rain in some areas, claiming upwards of 30 lives. Seventy percent of surrounding Harris County was covered with more than a foot of water, which flooded roughly 136,000 buildings.Continue reading
October 09, 2017
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, is launching a training program for city and county staff to learn about putting solar on their facilities, whether it’s on municipal buildings or owned land. Continue reading
September 25, 2017
States are continually innovating on the solar policy and program front, with one of the more popular recent topics being community solar applications for low- and moderate income (LMI) populations. (See previous STAT blogs on community solar policies and efforts to expand solar access to LMI populations for additional background.) Over the past year, NREL’s Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) Network partnered with the Colorado Energy Office (CEO) and Lotus Engineering and Sustainability (Lotus) to analyze CEO’s Low-Income Community Solar Demonstration Project. The trio presented an overview of the analysis and lessons learned from the project at the annual meeting of the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) in New Orleans, Louisiana (agenda) last week. Continue reading
September 22, 2017
We are seeing rapid transformation in the rooftop solar market with falling costs and increased deployment, but these changes don’t mean that every new building will suddenly be outfitted with a solar energy system tomorrow, or next week, or even next year. However, there are building design options that can be leveraged today in order to take advantage of potential solar installations in the future.
Solar-ready building design, as the name suggests, refers to designing and constructing a building in a way that facilitates and optimizes the installation of a rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) system at some point after the building has been constructed. Solar-ready design can make future PV system installation more cost-effective by reducing the need for infrastructure upgrades, ensuring solar technical feasibility, and planning for PV system optimization. Solar-ready design is not a new concept—several states and municipalities, including California and Tucson, Arizona, have already started including solar-ready design mandates in their building ordinances and policies*—but it is still a relevant one, particularly in areas experiencing new urban development.Continue reading
September 19, 2017
Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is becoming a more prevalent method for local communities to source electricity. Under CCA programs, cities and local governments generate or buy electricity, usually from renewable energy sources, based on the needs of their residents.
CCAs are a hybrid between municipal utilities and standard investor-owned utilities (IOU), as depicted in Figure 1. Typically, utilities (whether investor-owned or municipal) are responsible for purchasing and distributing power, grid maintenance, and customer service. Under a CCA program, the CCA, which is administered by the local government, purchases the power, while the incumbent IOU maintains the grid and provides customer service. Because the local government is involved in some of the standard utility functions, the CCA could be considered a middle ground between an IOU and a municipal utility.Continue reading
September 14, 2017
New research shows that more than 25 percent of all commercial customers across the continental United States may be able to further reduce their electricity bills by adding battery storage in conjunction with solar installations. And perhaps surprisingly, some of the best economic opportunities for customer-sited storage are in states like Colorado, Michigan, and Georgia.
These findings are detailed in a new paper released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Clean Energy Group (CEG), Identifying Potential Markets for Behind-the-Meter Battery Energy Storage: A Survey of U.S. Demand Charges. It represents the first comprehensive analysis of commercial battery storage market opportunities across the U.S., finding that about 5 million customers nationwide may have the potential to cost-effectively invest in storage technologies today.Continue reading
August 01, 2017
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), is initiating a three-year analytical support program for state public utility commissions (PUCs). PUCs will have access to in-depth analytical support from the national laboratories on topics related to distribution system planning and regulatory, policy, programmatic, and technology assessments of distributed energy resources (DERs). Continue reading
June 16, 2017
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) Network is hosting a one-day training for state decision-makers on how to use NREL’s portfolio of solar tools to inform decisions. The meeting will focus primarily on the System Advisor Model (SAM); Jobs and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) models, the Distributed Generation Market Demand (dGen) model and the Renewable Energy Planning and Optimization (ReOpt) platform. This training session will provide state energy office staff an opportunity to learn about the solar policy questions these tools can help answer and how NREL’s solar tools can contribute to more robust energy policy analyses. In addition, participants will benefit from in-depth, hands-on training using their own state-specific data to address targeted policy questions. Continue reading
June 06, 2017
Distributed solar capacity in the United States is on the rise: approximately 2,580 megawatts (MW) of new residential solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity was brought online in 2016, and installed capacity increased more than 50% every year between 2012 and 2015. Continue reading