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.

Research and Analysis Demonstrate the Lack of Impacts of Glare from Photovoltaic Modules

July 31, 2018 by Megan Day and Benjamin Mow

Local objections to proposed solar photovoltaic (PV) installations sometimes include concerns that the modules will cause glare that could impact neighbors or aviation. Research on this subject demonstrates that PV modules exhibit less glare than windows and water.

Solar Sheep and Voltaic Veggies: Uniting Solar Power and Agriculture

June 6, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

Sheep grazing in a field of solar panels is becoming an increasingly common sight as both farmers and solar developers are starting to experiment with co-locating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems and agriculture. Small-scale, off-grid PV systems located on farm land was one of the first applications of solar power. The arrangement made sense for low-power agricultural needs in locations where running distribution lines was too expensive or not possible. More recently, the idea of solar systems on farm land has expanded to large-scale, grid-connected systems that have vegetation growing around and under the panels and/or livestock grazing on the same parcel of land.

STAT FAQs Part 2: Lifetime of PV Panels

April 23, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

The Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) receives many interesting and broadly applicable questions from state and local governments. The STAT FAQs blog series will highlight pertinent information as it relates to questions STAT receives. The focus of Part 2 in the series is the productive lifetime and degradation rate of solar PV panels.

STAT FAQs Part 1: Floating Solar

April 4, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

The Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) receives many interesting and broadly applicable questions from state and local governments. The STAT FAQs blog series will highlight pertinent information as it relates to questions STAT receives. The focus of Part 1 in the series is floating solar.

When Does Energy Storage Make Sense? It Depends.

Feb. 25, 2018 by Lars Lisell

Energy storage can be confusing. The technology adds value to electrical systems by charging when there is excess energy on the system, storing the power until it is required, then discharging when the energy system requires additional energy. Unlike traditional generators that turn fuel into electricity, an energy storage system is used to move energy around. A few common applications for energy storage include moving energy use from a period of low consumption to a period of high consumption, storing renewable generation to be used at night, or storing grid power to be used during periods of grid outage. For an energy storage system to make economic sense, the value of providing this service to a facility or the electrical system must exceed the cost of the energy storage system. How can a consumer determine if an energy storage system makes sense for a facility? The answer often lies in the utility bill.

The Solar Energy Trifecta: Solar + Storage + Net Metering

Feb. 12, 2018 by Benjamin Mow

Pairing solar-plus-storage with net metering has received minimal policy attention to-date because energy storage has, until recently, seen limited deployment. While this policy question may seem obscure, it is starting to pop up in other states as pairing energy storage with solar energy systems becomes more economical.

Smart Grid, Smart Inverters for a Smart Energy Future

Dec. 14, 2017 by Benjamin Mow

Smart grid infrastructure can provide the technology necessary to reliably attain high levels of solar integration in the United States’ electric grid—so what, exactly, is a smart grid?

Back to Basics: Unraveling How Distributed Generation is Compensated and Why It's Important

Nov. 28, 2017 by Alexandra Aznar

Amid the surge of recent net-metering evaluations and proposed program changes at the state level (e.g. Nevada, Utah, New York), it can be useful to step back and consider some fundamental issues at play. What is net metering?—seems like such an easy question to answer, but there is a surprising amount of diverse terminology and parlance surrounding this concept.

How Is Solar PV Performing in Hurricane-struck Locations?

Oct. 24, 2017 by Eliza Hotchkiss

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. 

Solar-Ready Building Design: A Summary of Technical Considerations

Sept. 22, 2017 by Alison Holm

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.