Tag Archives: Rooftop Solar

Rooftop Solar Brings Higher Home Appraisals

By Katherine Tweed, Greentech Media

Homes with rooftop solar are appraised at a higher value, according to new research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For the past few years, Berkeley Lab has been collecting data on the value of homes with solar photovoltaics compared to those without PV. Early studies relied on modeling and found that buyers were willing to pay an average of $15,000 more for a home with a solar PV array. Another study from January, based on survey data, found that homebuyers were also willing to pay a premium for leased systems.

The latest piece of research furthers those findings by assessing appraisals for PV homes in six markets within Oregon, California, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The appraisal premium ranged from about 3 percent to 6 percent based on the region, with a price boost of about $10,000 to $22,000. The valuations were based upon PV homes compared against comparable non-PV homes by local appraisers.

Read full article from Greentech Media

SunPower Plans to Sell Rooftop Solar Electricity in California

By Mark Chediak, Bloomberg Business

SunPower Corp., the second-biggest U.S. solar manufacturer, is developing a plan to sell electricity in California.

As the company combines its rooftop solar, energy storage and management systems, it will tap those resources to sell into the California bulk-power marketplace, Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said in an interview Tuesday at the Edison Electric Institute Financial Conference in Hollywood, Florida.

“Participating in the wholesale markets is definitely where we will go,” Werner said. The company will initially focus on selling batteries along with its solar systems for backup power and reduction of power use during peak demand hours. “Walk before you run,” he said.

The move would represent a shift for SunPower, which has focused on making panels and developing solar farms. It comes after the California Independent System Operator Corp. approved in July rules that would allow aggregated distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar and batteries to participate for the first time in the state’s wholesale power market.

Read full article from Bloomberg Business

Should homeowners with solar panels pay to help maintain the electrical grid?

By Aaron Orlowski, The Orange County Register

Homeowners face a simple calculus when deciding whether to install solar panels on their roof: Will the panels pay for themselves with savings on their electric bill?

But buried in that bill are complex variables defined by what’s known as the state’s net metering rules – the very essence of which are under debate at the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco. Those rules must be changed or renewed by the end of the year. As the deadline nears, the clash over whether solar panel users should be forced to pay to support a grid from which they seek to disconnect is getting fiercer. Utilities want to slap fees on solar users, while the solar industry wants them left largely untouched.

Since 1996, California’s net metering rules have allowed homeowners with solar panels to effectively spin their electric meters backwards when their panels are generating more power than their homes are using. That helped pave the way for the state to lead the nation by installing 11,500 megawatts of solar capacity and building an industry that employs 54,700 people. Whether the new rules will bolster that industry even more or prick its balloon will likely be decided in the next two months.

Read full article in the O.C. Register

Grid Integration Puts California Ahead On Solar Goals

By R. Kress, EnergyBiz

[Editor’s note: The following is part of EnergyBiz coverage of the 2015 Itron Utility Week Knowledge Conference in Los Angeles.]

In 2006, the California legislature passed what was known as the “Million Solar Roofs” bill, laying out what seemed at the time to be an extremely ambitious set of goals for integrating solar power into the state’s energy mix.

With a $50 million budget, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) contracted Itron to manage the California Solar Initiative Research Development and Deployment Program (CSI RD&D) and lead the development of a sustainable and self-supporting solar industry in the Golden State within 10 years – by the end of 2016. The legislative target to meet was 3,000 megawatts of solar power distributed statewide-and, as Smita Gupta, principal energy consultant for Itron, said in her presentation at the Knowledge Conference on Tuesday, that goal has already been exceeded by about 400 megawatts.

Naturally, increasing the amount of power derived from the sun posed a host of complications. Itron, as program managers for CSI RD&D, zeroed in on the need for a deep focus on grid integration. Of the total funding for the project, between 50 and 65 percent was ultimately allocated to grid integration projects.

Read full article from EnergyBiz

Building the 21st Century Power System

By Ted Craver (Chairman, President & CEO of Edison International), EnergyBiz Magazine – Fall 2015

Imagine for a moment that you are a homeowner or a small-business owner and you just shelled out $25,000 or more for a shiny new rooftop solar generator. Then imagine your electric utility told you that you could not hook it up to the grid right away, not until your neighborhood circuit was upgraded. And even then, it said you could only turn it on during certain hours. I am guessing you would not be a happy customer.

As CEO of one of the nation’s largest electric power companies, I do not want to be in the business of telling our customers what they can install on their own properties and how they can use it. As utilities, we don’t control what customers put behind the meter. We don’t tell them what TVs and appliances they can buy. The same should apply to PV solar panels, home batteries and electric cars.

Our job as utilities is to provide the power network that enables customers to choose which energy technologies they want to use. At Edison International and Southern California Edison, we like to call it a “plug-and-play” network, meaning that customers should be able to plug in any device and have it work seamlessly with our power system. Building that network to provide customer choice broadly across our system requires us to modernize the power grid so it can accommodate these new technologies… That is why we are building a more flexible, resilient and low-carbon electricity distribution grid for the 21st century and beyond. Modernizing the grid will not only preserve reliability in the face of increasingly complex distributed energy resources, it will also allow us to utilize these resources to provide grid services.

Read full article from EnergyBiz

California’s huge solar projects causing energy poverty

By Thomas D. Elias, The Los Angeles Daily News

When ex-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made their way onto a hot, dry alkali flat just west of the Interstate 15 freeway between Barstow and Las Vegas in late 2010, all anyone knew for sure was that they were opening an era of giantism in solar electricity in California. What no one could predict was that they were also putting a stamp of approval on the spread of energy poverty in many parts of this state.

The Ivanpah dry lake on which the two former officials proudly strode that day now hosts a huge solar farm easily visible as a glassy sea of deep blue to travelers just southwest of the California-Nevada state line. Ivanpah, built largely with federal loans, is the second-largest of half a dozen desert-region solar thermal developments that produce many thousands of megawatts for privately-owned utilities like Southern California Edison Co., Pacific Gas & Electric Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric Co.

Besides paying for the energy produced by those plants, including construction costs, the big utilities have erected hundreds of miles of power transmission lines to bring the sun’s energy to big cities in all parts of California. When they do that, they receive about 14 percent profit on their constructions costs each year for 20 years.

The solar farms are part of a plan first adopted by executive order by Schwarzenegger and later expanded on by current Gov. Jerry Brown. By 2020, California is to produce one-third of its electricity from renewable sources. By 2030, that’s supposed to rise to one-half. Of course, the current four-year drought has tossed a wrench into some of the calculations behind those mandates, causing enormous cuts in the power produced by hydroelectric dams for more than a century.

Read full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

Is California’s Net Metering 2.0 a Solar Tax Risk?

By Jeff St. John, Greentech Media

Everyone agrees that net-metered rooftop solar doesn’t pay income tax. But nobody really knows how Uncle Sam will treat feed-in tariffs, wholesale export compensation, and other arrangements that California’s utilities are suggesting to replace the state’s net metering regime — and that’s a risk exposure the industry shouldn’t have to bear.

Solar groups have asked the California Public Utilities Commission to consider this argument as it mulls the biggest changes to state solar policy in over a decade. Under AB 327, the CPUC has until the end of 2015 to create a successor “NEM 2.0” tariff that balances solar, utility and non-solar customers’ needs, and will apply to all new customers starting as early as next year.

The NEM 2.0 proceeding has pitted utilities, whose proposals would roughly halve the per-kilowatt-hour rates that customers are paid for their net-exported solar, against solar and environmental advocates, who have argued in favor of keeping net metering the way it is. Utility proposals would also impose fixed or per-kilowatt-hour charges, and impose other restrictions that chafe solar advocates.

Read full article from Greentech Media

California Entering Uncharted Territory On Clean Energy

By Sammy Roth, The Desert Sun

The Coachella Valley’s state Senator, Republican Jeff Stone, wrote a bill this year urging Congress to extend a 30 percent tax credit for solar energy. The bill sailed unanimously through the Senate, then passed the Assembly with just one dissenting vote. Stone’s resolution was largely symbolic. But its near-unanimous passage spoke volumes.

While national policymakers spin their wheels debating climate science, California is charging ahead to promote clean energy — with support from Democrats and Republicans alike. More than a quarter of the state’s electricity now comes from renewables, and last month lawmakers approved a 50 percent clean energy mandate.

Nowhere has California’s energy revolution been more visible than in the desert, which will host the SoCal Energy and Water Summit Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. But even with strong bipartisan support for clean energy, contentious political battles lie ahead. Already, the state’s clean energy policies have stirred impassioned debates about electricity costs, desert protection and the future of the utility industry.

Those arguments have pitted large-scale solar against rooftop solar, land conservation against clean energy, and utility companies against the world. Experts say California can achieve its 50 percent target, but there’s little agreement on the best way to do it. State officials will need to answer that complex policy question while navigating an increasingly thorny political landscape, knowing the rest of the world is watching to see what they decide.

Read full article in the Desert Sun

Will solar energy shine on poor communities?

By Morgan Lee, The San Diego Union-Tribune

A billion-dollar effort to bring more rooftop solar to multi-family housing projects in poor communities is among a raft of clean-energy remedies approved late last week by California lawmakers, and now awaiting the governor’s signature.

Tucked into several approved bills are provisions designed to address the relatively slow spread of rooftop solar within low-income communities and at multi-family housing complexes. For those solar projects, financial arrangements and risks are typically more complex than the single-family homeowner market, and the payoff from solar energy has not always trickled down to the electricity bills for individual tenants.

Assembly Bill 693 would devote up to $100 million a year to expanding rooftop solar at deed-restricted affordable housing complexes. Those dwellings are reserved for people living on less than 60 percent of the local area median income. Exact details of the AB 693 program still need to be written by the California Public Utilities Commission, and might not move forward until 2017. The new solar program eventually could reach an estimated 200,000 low-income households if successful, offsetting individual utility bills in the process by 30 percent to 50 percent.

Read full article in the San Diego Union-Tribune

Renewable Energy’s Potential May Be Understated

By Gabriel Kahn, The Wall Street Journal

In February 2013, California energy officials sat down with power-industry executives to figure out how to avert an approaching calamity: The rapid rollout of wind and solar electricity was stressing the state’s grid. The more renewable energy California added, the more its power supply could be whipsawed by a cloudy day or a windy storm. Some at the meeting warned that problems, such as rolling brownouts, could start to show up later that year.

Those same worries were being echoed across the county as state authorities struggled to load aging electricity grids with ever-greater amounts of renewable power. At the time, renewable energy accounted for about 14% of California’s electricity output. Today, California often gets as much as 30% of its power from renewables; there are periods of the day when production can soar to 40%. California legislators just approved a plan that would require half of all power to come from renewables by 2030. Still, the tipping point the power industry feared hasn’t materialized.

The experience of California and other states with high concentrations of solar and wind is challenging long-held assumptions about the limits of renewable energy. As the boundary of what is considered possible expands, so does the momentum around investment in new technology and resources. Plenty of risks still remain. But the fact that the grid has been able to handle more renewables than previously thought is driving massive changes through the industry. One of the places it is being felt most acutely is among utilities.

Read full article in the Wall Street Journal