Tag Archives: Local Solar Generation

PG&E Free: Revolutionary Energy at Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma, California

By Jonah Raskin, CounterPunch

Pacific Gas & Electric has never had many loyal friends, not since 1905 when the San Francisco Gas and Electric Company and the California Gas and Electric Corporation merged to form the utility giant usually referred to as PG&E.

The company has been increasingly unpopular ever since gas leaks led to a big explosion and the death of consumers— eight people in San Bruno just south of San Francisco. Nor has the company made new friends ever since its power lines were found to have caused wild fires and huge property losses in California.

Earlier this year—to protect its profits and stockholders— the company filed for bankruptcy, though it still has citizens in a chokehold otherwise known as a monopoly. If consumers want electricity and gas in their homes and businesses they have little choice but to rely on PG&E, which owns and controls the power lines.

There are alternatives, including Sonoma Clean Power that sources clean energy from renewables: geothermal, water, wind, solar, and biomass. But Sonoma Clean Power doesn’t have its own power lines. PG&E has said it will cut off all power if and when there’s wild fire and high winds. That could save lives and protect property, but it also sounds like PG&E letting Californians know that it’s still the all-powerful boss.

With big bucks, access to the latest technology and technological wizards, citizens can by-pass PG&E. That’s what Mac and Leslie McQuown have done at Stone Edge Farm, a model of organic agriculture and a center for innovation in the field of energy. The farm is on Carriger Road, outside the town of Sonoma, where olives and grapes are grown. Not long ago, the visionary McQuowns had a big dream: reduce their carbon footprint. They’ve realized that dream and gone beyond it. Now, Stone Edge generates electrical power on a micro-grid that serves all its energy needs. 

Read full article from CounterPunch

MCE completes 3-MW solar project in Napa County, California

By Kelly Pickerel, Solar Power World

California community choice aggregation (CCA) MCE has completed its first local, renewable energy project in Napa County. Along with developer Renewable Properties, MCE held a ribbon cutting for the 3-MW American Canyon Solar Project this month.

This is the 12th local, small-scale renewable energy project MCE has completed in its four-county service area — and MCE’s first Feed-In Tariff (FIT) project in Napa County. The FIT program allows small-scale renewable energy projects to become long-term suppliers to MCE. MCE has approximately 31 MW of local renewable projects in its service area, with ~25 MW operational and ~6 MW in the pipeline.

Located on approximately 21 acres of land, the American Canyon Solar Project uses single-axis trackers. MCE and Renewable Properties have agreed to a 20-year power purchase agreement.

Read full article from Solar Power World

Solar is coming to all new California homes. How many in Fresno already get power from sun?

By Tim Sheehan, The Fresno Bee

More than 1 million California homes are already soaking up sunshine with solar panels to generate electricity. Next year, that number will surge as new building standards take effect requiring all new homes permitted after Jan. 1 to have solar photovoltaic systems.

In Fresno, which already has the third-highest number of homes in California with rooftop solar panels, the number continues to grow even before the new California Energy Commission standards take full effect. Through the first six months of 2019, the city issued permits for more than 1,640 residential solar systems as additions or alterations to existing homes. That doesn’t count solar panels that home builders or developers are already offering as a feature on new homes.

As of June 30, more than 23,300 Fresno homes had solar systems in operation under the state’s Net Energy Metering (NEM) program. That’s third behind only San Diego and Bakersfield among California cities, according to data from Go Solar California. The total electrical output capacity of Fresno’s residential solar panel systems amounted to almost 148,700 kilowatts of direct current (DC) power. That’s about 144,000 kilowatts of alternating current or AC electricity after it’s converted from DC.

Fresno also has another 1,742 homes with solar installed from 2007 through 2017 under the older California Solar Initiative program.

Read full article in the Fresno Bee

As PG&E faces uncertainty, Sonoma Clean Power sees a bright future in green energy

By Bill Swindell, The Press Democrat

The troubling saga of PG&E has been well chronicled along its path that led to a bankruptcy filing in January. Massive liabilities from wildfires caused by transmission lines. A push to increase already high energy prices to ratepayers. Public outrage over bonuses paid by executives during a period of turmoil.

Yet during the same time, the fortunes of Santa Rosa-based Sonoma Clean Power could not be more different while much less heralded. Five years since first providing electric service to customers, the nonprofit public agency now has 87% of its eligible customers in both Sonoma and Mendocino counties, totaling 224,000 accounts. It claims to have saved approximately $80 million for its customers in reduced rates compared to the investor-owned PG&E, which still provides natural gas locally.

The local company — which has only about 25 employees — also has made tremendous strides in curbing carbon emissions. It sources green energy with a standard service that now provides 91% carbon-free power and has almost 2,000 customers enrolled in its premium EverGreen service, which offers 100% renewable energy sourced locally from solar panels and geothermal plants at The Geysers. Two years ago, it got into the production side by breaking ground on two solar-panel projects in rural areas located in Petaluma, and it is on a course to have a total of six such projects in the region. It also purchases power from a wind farm in the Altamont Pass.

Indeed, Sonoma Clean Power officials said they believe their agency is nicely positioned to play a leading role in curbing carbon emissions at the local level while also serving as a role model for other Golden State communities to accomplish that same goal.

Read full article in The Press Democrat

Santa Monica Mandates Rooftop Solar On New Buildings

San Francisco recently made headlines for establishing an ordinance requiring solar installations on new buildings, and now, yet another California city has passed similar legislation.

The Santa Monica City Council has approved an ordinance mandating rooftop solar systems on all new residential and commercial buildings in the city. And although San Francisco’s ordinance goes into effect in 2017, Santa Monica’s kicks off in fewer than 30 days, on May 26. Other cities in the Sunshine State that created such solar mandates include Sebastopol and Lancaster, which passed their ordinances in 2013.

According to the Santa Monica government, the ordinance capitalizes on market trends in the solar industry. With the cost of solar installations continuing to decrease, Santa Monica residents and developers will now generate renewable energy, improve the value of their property, and contribute to the city’s long-range goals for energy and climate mitigation, including reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

Read full article from Solar Industry

 

Aquion installs storage for microgrid at California winery and farm

By Peter Maloney, Utility Dive

Aquion Energy and Ideal Power have teamed up to provide storage capability to a microgrid that enables a California winery and farm to be energy self-sufficient.

Aquion supplied its aqueous hybrid ion batteries for the project, connecting them with Ideal Power’s grid resilient 30-kW multi-port power conversion system as part of a microgrid at Stone Edge Farm, a 16-acre organic winery and farm in Sonoma County. The energy storage installation provides the farm and winery the capability for solar self-consumption, peak shaving and load shifting services.

The solar + storage installation is designed to provide energy for a number of buildings on the site, including the primary residence, offices and workshops. The grid-tied microgrid, developed by Wooster Engineering Specialties, is capable of islanding and operating autonomously and of generating enough energy that Stone Edge Farm is able to sell some of the energy back to Pacific Gas and Electric.  During daylight hours, solar PV provides energy for the buildings and charges the batteries. During nighttime hours and periods of cloud cover, the batteries provide energy for building loads.

Read full article from Utility Dive

Related: Aquion Energy’s AHI batteries and Ideal Power’s power conversion system bring energy independence and resiliency to Sonoma Winery (Press Release) – April 26, 2016

San Francisco just became the first big US city to require solar panels on new buildings

By Biz Carson, Business Insider

San Francisco may be known for its fog, but the city wants to turn the sunny days it does get into power for its buildings.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed legislation (PDF) that would require new construction that is shorter than 10 floors to install solar panels or solar water heaters on top of both new residential and commercial buildings.

According to California law, all new buildings with 10 floors or less must have at least 15% of their rooftops designated as solar ready — meaning not in the shade. San Francisco now requires those buildings to actually use it for solar panels.

The new rules also make San Francisco the first major US city to mandate solar panels on new construction, although other California towns like Lancaster and Sebastopol have instituted similar laws. The new rules don’t go into effect until January 1, 2017, after which any construction that falls under the state law to include solar-ready space will have to actually install it.

Read full article from Business Insider

Related Articles:
San Francisco Requires New Buildings To Install Solar Panels (NPR)
San Francisco Solar Map About To Get Way More Crowded With New Rooftop Law (CleanTechnica)

 

California’s Distributed Energy Future

GTM Research has established itself as the premier source of information on solar industry trends and developments in the United States. It’s instructive that from that perspective, they chose to organize a conference focusing on a single state, California.

We who participate in the solar industry here have recognized the state as a leader, but the less patronizing among us also recognize that the magnitude of this lead is only temporary. If solar is to realize its potential as one means of reducing environmental damage while reducing future customer utility costs, then other parts of the United States need to catch up (and as GTM’s latest data for 2015 shows, they are).

Nonetheless, as GTM Research Senior Vice President Shayle Kann observed in his opening keynote at GTM’s California Distributed Energy Future conference in San Francisco, California remains the epicenter of next generation distributed energy (DE) regulation and is at the forefront of the shift toward distributed energy in the U.S. And (I would add) what happens in California doesn’t always stay in California. Hence the conference to examine California’s transition to a distributed energy future and consider what’s working and what isn’t.

The discussions at the conference covered a variety of issues confronting the state. Here is an overview of the key themes coming out of the discussions, and the insights shared by the different speakers:

The strongest and most frequently recurring theme was that of the interaction of Distributed Energy Resources (DERs, essentially distributed solar PV) and the electrical grid. This issue has numerous dimensions, and subsequent “fireside chats” helped highlight some of these.

Appropriately the first discussion was with a Senior Vice President from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), California’s largest investor-owned utility (IOU) and the utility with more connected PV capacity than any other in the United States. Issues were fairly raised: e.g., how should rates be structured to fairly compensate the value of Grid access received by the customer, how does PG&E envision an environment of growing Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) systems and how is the Grid managed for reliability. Unfortunately, the moderator for this session let the PG&E representative off with the stock, PR answers: “we have to make changes in our rate structures”, “they can work, note how long Marin (Clean Energy, 2010) and Sonoma (Clean Power, 2014) have been in service”, and “we need to build in robustness.”

Ah well, at least subsequent chats returned to DER issues in more depth. DERs can lower costs for Grid operators / managers; experiments were cited by both Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) involving combinations of storage and DERs. Time of Use (TOU) pricing is coming, and 150 studies worldwide on this issue indicate that customers like this. But there is just too little experience with California’s residential customers while the customers themselves have too little information on which to make decisions as to costs versus savings.

Questions were also raised about Grid planning, to which respondents appeared to agree that too much is moving to identify a “right” strategy, especially as there isn’t even agreement on how to weigh technical issues such as reliability against other social goals we “should” be pursuing. The underlying complexity raised by these superficially straightforward questions was well-highlighted.

Michael Picker, President of the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC) noted that despite all the issues the CPUC addresses, DE issues are of significant importance. CPUC needs to consider even the framework for its decision making processes going forward. A system designed to regulate railroads in the 1890’s may not provide the responsiveness and flexibility for regulating changes to utilities in a rapidly evolving technological, economic and social environment. The “adversarial” approach used in CPUC proceedings may not be the best approach—why is the current process more dependent on legal skills than on engineering skills? The desire is to move forward not too fast, not too slow in opening the market to competition while allowing utilities to remain viable business entities. These are issues that could keep one up at night.

Michael Picker (CPUC, left) and Shayle Kann (GTM, right) during their “Fireside Chat”

GTM California's Distributed Energy Future Conference

The second, albeit lesser, recurring theme I heard at the conference was that of CCA developments. Until this year, there have been only three of these organized in California: Marin (with subsequent geographic extensions) and Sonoma were cited above, and Lancaster Choice Energy was launched in 2015. San Francisco’s Clean Power SF, Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Peninsula Clean Energy (San Mateo County) are in the process of launching this year.

As Mark Ferron, CAISO Board of Governors, cited, in 5 years 60% of the state’s eligible population could potentially be served by CCA’s if all programs now in discussion came to completion in that time. He provided a link in later discussion which I repeat here for those who want to follow up on the tally he reported: climateprotection.tumblr.com/tagged/Community-Choice

CCA’s make solar available to those in multi-family dwellings or who own a home not situated with a solar-favorable orientation or location. Expansion of solar power to these customers is required if solar-based power is to expand. Yet as Michael Picker observed, CCA “forced collectivization is a coup against the traditional utility model, challenging utilities and eroding the role of the PUC.” We don’t know yet where this takes existing suppliers and industry participants.

The challenges of the new, evolving energy infrastructure are actively being addressed by the states of California and New York. Conferences such as this provide an excellent opportunity to reflect on the issues and the difficulty this transition poses for firms competing in the market, regulators and the state legislatures who will eventually need to rewrite the rules for structuring state energy markets.

PG&E Launches Program To Let All Customers Go 100% Solar

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) has officially launched its previously announced program to extend the option for 100% solar power to all customers, whether or not they are planning to install rooftop solar.

Under PG&E’s Solar Choice program, customers can purchase half or all of their electric power from solar energy locally sourced in northern and central California for what the utility calls a modest charge. PG&E says this will allow customers to reduce their carbon footprint and drive the development of new solar resources within the state.

“PG&E’s Solar Choice program is all about giving customers more choice and control over their energy and bringing the benefits of solar to our communities. Our customers already enjoy some of the cleanest power in the country. Now, they can directly contribute to bringing more renewable energy onto the electric grid – a win for our customers and for California,” says Laurie Giammona, PG&E’s senior vice president and chief customer officer.

Additionally, participating organizations could qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points for green building leadership, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partnership for electricity generated from renewable resources.

Read full article from Solar Industry

Related Article: New PG&E Program Lets Customers Choose Solar (CleanTechnica) – Feb. 28, 2016