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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.

Best Practices in Zoning for Solar

April 21, 2017 by Megan Day

The price of solar energy generation has plummeted in recent years, with the average installed cost for residential solar photovoltaics (PV) dropping 43% between 2010 and 2015.[1] Most of this decline has come from falling equipment prices, with the non-equipment costs, also known as soft costs (Figure 1), remaining fairly consistent.

Local communities have a big role to play in reducing the soft costs associated with installing solar energy systems. In addition to permitting and inspection practices, local zoning ordinances can either inhibit or support distributed solar deployment within jurisdictions. Identifying and addressing barriers to solar energy installations in the local zoning code is a baseline strategy for reducing solar soft costs. Below are several factors that communities might consider in evaluating their local zoning practices to enable solar deployment.

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A Road Trip to Cheyenne: STAT Talks Solar with Wyoming State Agencies

March 23, 2017 by Alexandra Aznar

Solar is not a major contributor to the energy economy in Wyoming. The  state generates 88% of its electricity from coal and 11% from wind , with small amounts coming from pumped hydro-electric and natural gas (Figure 1). As the least populous state in the nation, Wyoming uses a fraction of the electricity it generates,  exporting nearly two-thirds across state lines . With abundant land, access to transmission, and a culture of revenue-generating electricity sales, could there be a pathway for solar technologies to contribute to the Wyoming energy economy? NREL  Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) Network  experts recently took a short road trip from  Golden, Colorado  to Cheyenne to talk solar with Wyoming state agencies, local planning departments, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) representatives (Figure2). What might make Wyoming take a look at solar? Continue reading

Surveying the States: Policy Strategies for Fostering Clean Energy-related Economic Development

March 23, 2017 by Jeffrey J. Cook

To date, no one source has collected all of the clean energy-related economic development policies that states have adopted to spur growth. This has made it difficult to answer this important question: what policies foster the most job development and offer the best return on investment? A recent National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report serves as a foundation to answer this question. Continue reading

Floating Solar Photovoltaics Gaining Ground

January 24, 2017 by Alison Holm

Floating solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, so-called flotovoltaics (a trademarked term) or floating solar, represent an emerging application in which PV panels are sited on bodies of water. The PV panel technology used for floating solar applications is very similar to traditional ground-mounted PV, the primary difference being the platforms that the PV technology rests on float in water. Continue reading

Are Cities Codifying Clean Energy Policy? The Answer is Yes

January 24, 2017 by Jeffrey J. Cook

Cities, or municipalities, account for over 70% of worldwide energy consumption. In the United States, city governments have authority over functions such as land-use, building development, transportation, and a variety of other policy areas that can impact energy use. Cities have used this authority to create incentives for the development of clean energy within their jurisdictions through planning, programming, and codification. Codification refers to the process whereby cities establish city ordinances, or laws. Codification can offer more certainty that policy goals will be achieved, given that repealing ordinances typically requires a vote by city government. Continue reading

Solar Insights from the 2016 RPS Summit

January 02, 2017 by Samantha Donalds

Over the past decade, state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPSs) have been one of the most effective ways to advance solar and other clean energy technologies at the state level. Twenty-nine states plus the District of Columbia have RPS policies, which require utilities and other electricity suppliers to procure a specified portion of their electricity supply from renewable energy. The Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) has worked with many of the RPS program managers as part of the RPS Collaborative. Continue reading

New Report Estimates the Carbon Abatement Potential of City Energy Actions

December 27, 2016 by Eric O’Shaughnessy

Cities, as the primary enforcers and implementers of policy at the local level, are uniquely positioned to drive reductions in energy costs and local greenhouse gas pollution within the building and transportation sectors. U.S. cities are already taking action to reduce energy consumption, expenditures, and associated greenhouse gas pollution. Now, in a new report, Estimating the National Carbon Abatement Potential of City Policies: A Data-Driven Approach , NREL estimates the carbon abatement potential of six commonly implemented city actions: building codes, building energy efficiency programs, smart growth, public transit, solar photovoltaics (PV), and municipal “lead-by-example” actions (see descriptions in Figure 1). Continue reading

FERC Ruling Paves Way for Increased Local Renewable Energy Generation

December 26, 2016 by Alison Holm

In June 2016 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued a ruling that paves the way for municipal and cooperative utilities to procure additional, local renewable energy generating capacity. Continue reading

State RPS Policies in Focus: Assessing RPS Policy Activity during the 2015-2016 Legislative Session

December 07, 2016 by Jeffrey J. Cook

The 2015-2016 legislative sessions are coming to a close across the states and Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) have had renewed policy activity (See Figure 1). Since the start of 2015, six states have enacted new or more stringent RPS policies, including California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont (See Figure 1). Continue reading

Three Things State and Local Governments Could Do To Grow Midscale (100kW-2MW) Solar PV

December 07, 2016 by Jenny Heeter

The midscale market for solar photovoltaics (PV), defined as behind-the-meter systems between 100 kilowatt (kW) and 2 Megawatt (MW), has grown more slowly than other PV market segments in recent years. However, there is room for significant expansion of the midscale solar market, with a new NREL analysis showing that offices, hotels, and warehouses offer more than 100 Gigawatt (GW) of techno-economic potential (Figure 1).[1] Continue reading