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Solar STAT Blog

The Solar STAT blog discusses state and local efforts to develop solar markets in the United States. With support from the Energy Department’s SunShot Initiative, NREL’s Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) authors weekly posts related to events, solar policy analysis, and technical assistance outcomes for the purpose of informing the market in a credible and timely fashion.

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Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) Helping Communities Reach Renewable Energy Goals

September 19, 2017 by

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

Customers in Most States Could Cut Energy Costs by Adding Battery Storage to Solar

September 14, 2017 by

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

Call for Applications: Analysis Support for State Public Utility Commissions (Due Sept. 1)

August 1, 2017 by Alison Holm

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

Join NREL Experts in a full-day solar decision-making tools workshop

June 16, 2017 by Alison Holm

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); 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

Solar Access: Issues and Policy Options

June 6, 2017 by

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. This growth in distributed PV has been the source of numerous and wide-ranging policy discussions on interconnection, net metering, and utility integrated resource planning. Another topic that has received considerably less attention in the distributed solar conversation is solar access—i.e., ensuring access to the amount of sunlight needed for a solar energy system to operate at its planned capacity. What happens, for example, if a property owner installs a rooftop PV system and his or her neighbor wants to build a second-story addition that would potentially shade the neighboring PV system, reducing its power output? To date, there have been relatively few documented solar access cases to offer guidance on potential approaches, and states and municipalities are beginning to consider the policy options to address these issues. Continue reading

STAT Discusses Opportunities for Solar on Brownfield Sites at the ASTSWMO–EPA RE-Powering Workshop

May 26, 2017 by

There are over 450,000 known brownfield sites across the United States, and many of these are in urban or suburban areas. As real estate in urban environments becomes more competitive and as the demand for clean energy increases, unproductive, abandoned, or contaminated sites present abundant opportunities for clean energy. Decommissioned solid waste landfills, in particular, can play host to new solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays.

An NREL Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) subject matter expert recently attended and spoke at the meeting of the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Operators (ASTSWMO) that was held in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) RE-Powering America’s Land Initiative. Speakers from across the country presented the opportunities and successes of siting solar arrays on closed landfills and other contaminated sites to a diverse set of workshop participants, ranging from state energy offices and city planning departments to solar developers. Project case studies featured hundreds of megawatts of successful projects. Clarkstown, New York, for example, turned its closed landfill site into a valuable revenue generator for the city by implementing a 2.4-megawatt (MW) solar array. The message was clear: attendees are looking for ways to facilitate the re-use of contaminated lands for solar. Continue reading

Best Practices in Zoning for Solar

April 21, 2017 by

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. Continue reading

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

March 23, 2017 by

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

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

March 23, 2017 by

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

Are Cities Codifying Clean Energy Policy? The Answer is Yes

January 24, 2017 by

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

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