In This Issue
CPUC Report Shows Record Growth in Rooftop Solar Installs
The California Public Utilities Commission ( CPUC) issued its California Solar Initiative ( CSI) Annual Program Assessment on July 5, reporting that the rate at which Californians are installing rooftop solar energy systems to meet their electric demand is growing at a rapid PACE.
The report shows that the increasing rate of new solar installations and cumulative installed capacity provide evidence that California is well along the path of achieving the goals set forth by Senate Bill 1 in 2006, the legislation that authorized the CSI program.
The highlights include:
Weekly program demand data, including new rebate applications, installed systems and system costs can be found at www.CaliforniaSolarStatistics.ca.gov.
The California Public Utilities Commission ( CPUC) reached a decision in June with regard to Assembly Bill 920 (Huffman, 2009), the legislation that allows solar customers to receive compensation from their utility for solar energy bill credits that remain unused at the end of the customer's annual true-up period. However, exact payment details are still being determined.
Under the California Solar Initiative, solar photovoltaic systems must be sized to meet a customer's on-site energy demand. Customers are encouraged to reduce their on-site demand through energy efficiency measures prior to installing solar systems, and oversizing a system is not allowed under incentive program rules. Net energy metering allows the customer to generate credits when the system is producing that can be used by the customer when the system is not producing.
Prior to the passage of AB 920, surplus credits were cleared from the account at the end of each customer's annual true-up period. Under the new law, customers will now receive compensation for these surplus energy credits. The CPUC decision follows an "avoided cost" approach for the net surplus compensation and sets the rate equal to the 12-month average spot market price for the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the year in which the customer generated surplus power.
In other words, surplus solar producers will not be paid at a retail rate, but rather at a rate that the utility would otherwise pay for energy on the wholesale market.
Program Administrators at PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are working out details stipulated in the decision that address how customers will be paid and plan to make the details available when they file their new net surplus compensation tariffs on July 9, 2011.
A CSI spokesperson said that administrators understand that customers were expecting their payment already and apologize for the delay while the final details are resolved. Although the commission already adopted the decision, there are several steps that must be taken before the utilities can pay customers for their surplus electricity. In the meantime, Program Administrators are committed to providing solar customers with billing and account information and are working expeditiously to implement the decision.
Pacific Power CSI Program Launches in Northern California
The new Pacific Power California Solar Incentive Program (PPCSIP) began accepting applications on July 1, 2011, offering rebates for solar photovoltaic systems to more than 42,000 customers in the top sliver of California, from Crescent City on the coast east to Alturas and south to Mt. Shasta. The California Center for Sustainable Energy ( CCSE), Program Administrators for the new solar program, held a series of workshops to introduce the program at various locations throughout the service territory during June 21-28 in preparation for the launch date.
As happens with new solar rebate programs, PPCSIP received a large volume of applications in the first hour of the program's opening. With 15 nonresidential applications under review, totaling 1.160 megawatts, the program is on PACE to move into Step 4 at $0.84/watt. The residential program received 30 applications totaling 166 kilowatts. Upon project confirmation, this program sector would move into Step 2 at $1.50/watt. The program steps and incentive levels are reflected in the table below.
Want to learn more about the current status of the solar water heating industry in California? Sign up for a session at Intersolar North America on July 13 in San Francisco, titled Solar Water Heating in California: A View from All Angles. It will feature speakers representing a Solar Thermal manufacturer, a Solar Thermal installer and the California Solar Initiative Thermal Program Manager. The afternoon session is co-hosted by Pacific Gas & Electric and the California Solar Energy Industries Association and included with the Innovation Exchange exhibition entry fee (2:00 p.m., Moscone West, Level 2).
CEC Proposes Suspending Changes to NRTL Certified Requirement for Inverter-Integrated Meters
The California Energy Commission ( CEC) has proposed changes to the Senate Bill 1 Guidelines that effectively delay implementing any new accuracy requirements for performance meters until such time as the commission establishes Renewables Portfolio Standard-eligibility requirements for distributed generation systems located on the customer side of the meter. These proposed changes will be considered for adoption at the CEC's business meeting on July 13. For more information please see the CEC's SB 1 Guidelines proceedings Website at http://www.energy.ca.gov/sb1/meetings/index.html.
The immediate effect of the proposed changes would be that the requirement for all inverter-integrated meters to be tested to ±5 percent accuracy by a National Regulated Testing Laboratory (NRTL) is delayed until further notice. This would be a requirement for all photovoltaic systems applying for an expected performance-based buydown ( EPBB) incentive from any solar incentive program in California beginning July 1, 2011. Due to the proposed changes by the CEC, the CSI program will not be enforcing this requirement for any of its solar applications. However, CSI EPBB systems must continue having a ±5 percent meter on site, but the meter can be self-reported to be ±5 percent accurate to the CEC. CSI performance-based incentive ( PBI) systems must continue to have a NRTL certified ±2 percent accurate meter onsite.
California's three investor-owned utilities (IOUs) secured top rankings for solar installations nationwide, according to a report issued by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) in June. The SEPA Utility Solar Rankings identified the top 10 utilities that added the most new solar power to their systems last year and those that added the most solar on a watts-per-customer-served basis.
The top position in the country for new solar capacity added in 2010 is held by Pacific Gas & Electric ( PG&E), whose customers and suppliers installed 157 megawatts ( MW). Southern California Edison ( SCE) installed 68 MW in 2010 and ranks fourth in new installed capacity (28th in terms of watts per customer); and San Diego Gas & Electric installed 27 MW and ranks seventh in capacity among IOUs (20th on a watts per customer basis.)
In the watts-per-customer ranking, Santa Clara-based Silicon Valley Power, a municipal utility that interconnected just over 1.8 MW of PV from 74 distributed customer systems in 2010, ranked first nationally with nearly 40 watts per customer
In terms of cumulative installed capacity, the top two positions are held by SCE (578 MW) and PG&E (477 MW); SDG&E holds the sixth position with 90 MW. For cumulative watts-per-customer rankings, SCE holds the top position, with 119 watts-per-customer. PG&E ranks sixth with 91 watts-per-customer and SDG&E ranks tenth with 65 watts-per-customer.
Overall, the report found significant growth in the addition of solar power owned by utilities – up 100 percent from the prior year. It also found that utility solar power is rapidly expanding beyond the Southwest, suggesting that solar power is becoming recognized as a critical source in energy supply planning and customer energy management for the nation's utilities. For more information about the rankings and report, visit www.sepatop10.org.
CSI Shines at West Coast EMC
Networking was the central focus of the annual West Coast Energy Management Congress (EMC) held June 15-16 at the Long Beach Convention Center. The convention brought together experts and leaders in energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy management for seminars, workshops and an exposition. More than 11,000 attendees from 70 countries attended the event.
CSI's "Go Solar, California!" display booth was among the more than 200 exhibitors, including industry leaders in solar tracking, monitoring and design. CSI staff ambassadors from Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company and the California Center for Sustainable Energy were there to answer questions about solar photovoltaic and water heating programs.
The 30th annual West Coast EMC is scheduled to take place next May in Seattle, Washington.
The residents of Las Serenas, a 108-unit affordable housing community in San Diego, recently celebrated the completion of 67.5 kilowatt solar photovoltaic ( PV) system installed in collaboration between Community HousingWorks (CHW) and Heliopower of Murrieta, Calif.
Along with the PV system, 100 percent of which will benefit the residents, the community also received upgrades to the units to save water and energy as well as provide a more comfortable living environment. Funding for the upgrades included a $412,000 CSI Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing ( MASH) Track 2 for the PV system installation and a $475,000 federal NeighborWorks America grant for green apartment rehabilitation.
Solar integrator Heliopower provided job training and education programs to the community residents as part of the grant programs. Agnes Stupak, California Center for Sustainable Energy's MASH program manager said, "The project features not only economic benefits, such as reduced utility costs, but also offers education and outreach as well as providing employment opportunities for several tenants during the installation."
Young Adults Learn Solar with the SASH Program
GRID Alternatives and the Single-family Solar Affordable Homes ( SASH) Program celebrated the days leading up to SolarDay 2011 by supporting hands-on education in solar for young adults.
Students aged 16-24 from the LA CAUSA YouthBuild team engaged with GRID Alternatives, the SASH Program and the Enterprise East Los Angeles Green Grant Program to retrofit homes with solar panels in East Los Angeles. Through the program, students will install photovoltaic systems on 22 homes in their communities, gaining experience to help prepare them for work in California's green economy.
LA CAUSA is an organization based in East Los Angeles that trains young people in vocational skills and encourages them to positively impact social and physical conditions in their communities. Through LA CAUSA's partnership with YouthBuild, a national nonprofit organization that works with young adults, many young people learn "green" construction techniques, which they are applying and developing on the SASH photovoltaic installations.
Gilbert Gonzalez graduated from the LA CAUSA YouthBuild training in 2004 and is now a green construction trainer on the LA CAUSA’s “Green Team.” He said, “When it comes to new students, they don’t know much about solar. With GRID Alternatives and the SASH Program they get to learn how everything works, from conduit bending to an understanding of electrical systems. Every time there was an opportunity to participate in a [solar electric] installation, the whole class signed up.”
Designing Solar PV Systems for Firefighter Safety
The proliferation of rooftop solar photovoltaic ( PV) systems throughout California presents growing challenges to firefighters for safe operations at fire scenes. Potential hazards, such as tripping on conduits and electrical shocks, can be effectively dealt with, said Fire Captain Matthew Paiss, if the fire service understands the particular hazards they face when fighting a fire in a PV-equipped structure.
A fifteen-year member of the San Jose Fire Department, Paiss offers seminar nationwide on solar electric safety for firefighters, building code officials and solar contractors. In June, the California Center for Sustainable Energy hosted Paiss for two seminars, one at its Energy Resource Center in San Diego and the other at the City of Chula Vista Police Department, both buildings with PV systems for attending firefighters to examine.
In his seminar, Captain Paiss focused on how to recognize the presence of a PV system, how to identify system components and how to operate safely around a PV system. An emphasis was placed on the various switches involved in successfully disconnecting systems and how systems are wired. He referred extensively to the Solar Photovoltaic Installation Guideline established by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, local fire departments and the solar photovoltaic industry in 2008.
Paiss's main point: While PV systems do not increase the risk of fire, if a PV system is on fire, put it out with water and then slow down – you now have a hazardous materials situation. An article by Paiss can be read at the Fire Engineering Website.
PG&E Streamlines Solar-Related Calls
Starting in July, Pacific Gas & Electric ( PG&E) initiated a central phone number for all solar-related calls, serving the Solar Customer Service Center and California Solar Initiative inquiries. When customers call the number they can choose from a menu that includes these categories: general solar questions, solar application-related inquiries, interconnection and net energy metering. PG&E hopes this change provides customers with a simpler and faster way to get their solar questions addressed. The number is (877) 743-4112.
Call for Photos and Stories of CSI-Funded Solar Systems