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Solar STAT Blog

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

Smart Grid, Smart Inverters for a Smart Energy Future

December 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? Continue reading

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

November 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. Continue reading

Solar Power in Manufactured Housing Communities

November 20, 2017 by Benjamin Mow

Efforts to expand solar access to harder-to-reach markets have been the focus of dedicated low- and moderate-income (LMI) solar policies and programs over the past several years. Community solar programs and various financing mechanisms have been enacted at the state and local levels to extend solar access across diverse populations. Continue reading

Cities Partner with NREL to Forge Pathways from Energy Data to Decision Making

November 13, 2017 by Megan Day

Cities are increasingly interested in pursuing a clean energy future. Many are setting ambitious goals to use clean, renewable energy or reduce air pollution from energy consumption. The challenge lies in establishing metrics, prioritizing actions, and targeting scarce resources in the most cost effective and strategic ways. Continue reading

State, Local and University Decision-Makers Dive Deep with STAT Solar Tools Workshop

November 08, 2017 by Lars Lisell

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

How Is Solar PV Performing in Hurricane-struck Locations?

October 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. 

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Call for Applications: Solar PV Training Program for City and County Staff

October 09, 2017 by Alison Holm

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

STAT Network attends NASEO's 2017 Annual Meeting to Talk Low-income Community Solar with Partners

September 25, 2017 by Alexandra Aznar

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

Solar-Ready Building Design: A Summary of Technical Considerations

September 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.

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

September 19, 2017 by Benjamin Mow

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.

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