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From Basic Information to Specific Requests, Technical Assistance Can Start Anywhere

December 19, 2014 by Sherry Stout

Sometimes state and local governments are not quite sure what type of technical assistance they need, but they know that they need credible information on how to effectively support solar market development. Often, these requests are fairly general at first and then get more specific through either the scoping process or multiple requests over time. Case in point: Michigan.

NREL's Solar Technical Assistance Team (STAT) began supporting Michigan with its solar market development in 2011. The goal of this assistance was to drive photovoltaic (PV) system installations by reducing information and policy-related barriers.  Through this effort, STAT characterized the state's solar resource, composed a memo reviewing the interconnection and net metering laws in place, and provided insights into potential improvements to facilitate market penetration of PV.

Armed with all of this information, Michigan again requested assistance in 2012. This second request centered around issues in Home Rule markets as well as standardized permitting processes. The 2011 technical assistance request had been very general, but this request was much more tailored to the specific needs of Michigan.

In 2013, Michigan again presented a request to NREL’s Solar Technical Assistance Team. This request explored community solar options in Michigan. At the time, the Michigan Public Service Commission was assisting the Michigan Energy Office in conducting a feasibility study for community solar gardens. The Michigan PSC was seeking assistance from NREL in modeling financial values for the various community solar models. NREL provided this financial modeling as well as reviewed the community solar feasibility study.

STAT assistance has helped inform decisions on multiple aspects of Michigan’s solar market. Michigan developed a report, Readying Michigan to Make Good Energy Decisions: Renewable Energy, which aims to educate Michiganders on renewable energy issues in the state. STAT and other NREL research efforts helped  inform the topics presented in this report.

Our work with Michigan demonstrates the evolution of a state's solar market through increasingly technical assistance requests. Michigan’s first request was pretty general. As Michigan’s solar market developed, so did the complexity of their requests to STAT. With multiple requests for assistance over multiple years, our work is able to get deeper into the relevant issues facing state and local jurisdictions.

Graphic showing a cartoon scuba diver swimming down with requests 1, 2, and 3 getting deeper on a blue background

Tags: Projects