Skip to main content

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.

Fuel Cell Electric Buses in the USA

June 25, 2019 by Laura Beshilas, NREL

Continue reading

Community Energy Storage: A New Revenue Stream for Utilities and Communities?

September 24, 2018 by Kyle Flanegin

Although "it depends" is often the correct answer when asking whether energy storage makes sense in a particular context, utilities are exploring opportunities to incorporate community energy storage (CES) systems into the local grid. Utility-owned CES systems are a collection of two or more battery storage units connected to the low-level transformers that serve houses or small businesses. Continue reading

Can Low-and-Moderate Income Households Play a Role in Realizing U.S. Rooftop Solar Technical Potential?

September 12, 2018 by Kyle Flanegin

Until recently, the technical potential—or the maximum generation potential from DPV systems—for LMI residential rooftops was not well understood. However, a recent NREL report, “Rooftop Solar Technical Potential for Low-to-Moderate Income Households in the United States” explores this issue by evaluating DPV potential on residential rooftops by income levels. Continue reading

PV Survivability from Hurricanes: Lessons Learned

September 06, 2018 by Eliza Hotchkiss

Last year, two Category 5 storms, Hurricanes Irma and Maria, ripped through the Caribbean within a two-week period, devastating island communities.  Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) on September 6th, 2017, with the eye passing over St. Thomas and St. John. On September 20th, the eye of Hurricane Maria swept near St. Croix with maximum winds of 175 mph. The USVI estimate uninsured losses at close to $7.5 billion, including damages to roughly 80-90% of the power transmission and distribution systems and a number of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation systems.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Community Solar: Lifting the Energy Burden on Low-Income Households

July 02, 2018 by Douglas Gagne

For many households, utility bills represent a disproportionate share of their household expenses. The Colorado Energy Office (CEO) defines households as energy burdened if they spend more than 4% of their annual income on utility bills (CEO 2015). Based on research performed by the U.S. Census Bureau and compiled by the CEO, roughly 30% of households in Colorado are energy burdened (Figure 1), and many of these households have expenditures that exceed 10% of their income. State energy offices, such as the CEO, are exploring approaches to reduce energy burden across the U.S. NREL’s Solar Technical Assistance Team worked with the CEO to evaluate their innovative approach: a low-income community solar program. Continue reading

Solar on Every Home? Roadmap Outlines Pathways to Ultra-Low Cost Residential Solar

June 19, 2018 by Jeffrey J. Cook

If the solar industry reaches this DOE target, it could dramatically alter the energy market and present a future where residential PV becomes a standard, cost-effective home installation, versus a luxury or long-term investment. A recent NREL report models a set of pathways that the industry could follow to realize this future. The analysis focuses on two key markets for residential PV cost reduction: installing PV at time of roof replacement and installing PV at time of new construction. These two market segments were selected because each offers significant cost reduction opportunities while representing a 30 gigawatt (GW) annual market nationwide. Continue reading

Solar Sheep and Voltaic Veggies: Uniting Solar Power and Agriculture

June 06, 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. Continue reading

Communities Are Becoming "SolSmart" (With Some Help From Their States)

May 23, 2018 by Alexandra Aznar and Megan Day

Two years ago, STAT profiled the launch of our sister program, SolSmart, a U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office designation and technical assistance program that aims to help local governments reduce solar soft costs (i.e. non-hardware costs) and become solar leaders. Since then, over 200 communities nationwide have become designated “SolSmart”. Designated communities have improved their policies and practices in areas such as planning, zoning, permitting, inspection, and community engagement that influence local solar market development. Continue reading

Reducing Energy Burden with Solar: Colorado's Strategy and a Roadmap for States

May 14, 2018 by Jeffrey J. Cook

Low-income residents suffer from a higher energy burden, or ratio of energy expenditures to overall household income, than higher-income households. This higher burden can result in a scenario where residents must choose between paying energy bills and purchasing other necessities. In some circumstances, solar photovoltaics (PV) can reduce this energy burden, but low-income residents face a variety of barriers to solar deployment such as homeownership status, housing assistance, and lack of financing. Some states have taken steps to address these barriers and a recent NREL report details Colorado’s low-income PV strategy and offers a blueprint for other states considering this approach. Continue reading