A key to the growth of solar, particularly commercial solar, is the availability of affordable storage solutions. Two recent developments suggest that we are about to see dramatic growth in this vital market sector.
One week ago the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) voted five to nothing approving a plan to require the three investor-owned utilities (SCE, PG&E, and SDG&E) to procure 1,325 MW of energy storage by 2020, with installation completed by no later than the end of 2024. Both SCE and PG&E are required to procure 580 MW each, with the remaining 165 MW allocated to SDG&E. 200 MW of that 1,325 MW total is to be interconnected at the customer’s site. In addition, the decision provides a timeline for this to happen with the first 200 MW to be procured by the end of next year.
Other electric service providers, like the munis, will have to procure energy storage equal to 1 percent of their annual peak load by 2020. Those storage systems can also include customer sited and/or customer-owned storage devices as long as they were installed after January 1, 2010.
Large scale pumped hydro storage (greater than 50 MW) is excluded from the program, but storage obtained from plug-in electric vehicles can be counted.
This is a tremendously significant decision as the mandate will surely drive R&D as well as deployment investment and help provide a ready market for these emerging technologies.
An announcement this week during Solar Power International shows how that investment is already starting to happen.
Stem - the company with the clever technology for using storage to “smooth out” the demand peaks that drive commercial energy costs - just announced a $5 million project finance fund with Clean Feet Investors (CFI). From the parties’ press release:
The new financing model, which Stem developed in collaboration with CFI, is designed to open access to a wider pool of customers by removing barriers to adoption, enabling up to 15 MW of energy storage to be deployed. With this financing capability, Stem hopes to follow the dramatic growth trajectory pioneered by the third party ownership model in the solar industry. Stem and CFI plan other innovative financing offers for customers including performance-based and shared savings financing solutions with the capital from this financing.
“In addition to breakthroughs in technology, Stem is focused on driving business model innovation,” said Prakesh Patel, Stem’s vice president of capital markets and strategy. “By working closely with CFI, I believe we have created a unique offering to help accelerate customer adoption of Stem systems. This transaction paves the way for Stem to become one of the first efficiency technologies to achieve bankability.”
“Deployment capital is essential for Stem to get their technology in the hands of their customers – many of whom prefer a “pay as you save” offering,” added Jigar Shah, a principal at Clean Feet, and founder of the largest solar services company, SunEdison.
Allowing companies to install Stem’s technology with little or nothing down will help those companies save money at the same time it allows Stem to ramp up. This is great news for the solar industry since it is posed to provide the energy that Stem’s system later distributes as needed to offset those costly demand peaks.
Of course, this isn’t exactly great news for the utilities who, if this technology were widely adopted, would see a huge revenue hit as more and more commercial customers were able to lop-off the most expensive energy they now have to procure. Whether it is the continuation of net-metering on the residential side or the ability to eliminate the worst of demand charges on the commercial side, the pressure on the utilities will only continue to grow. But for their customers, things have never looked brighter.
As Solar Power International kicks off this week in Chicago, we have a very exciting offer - buy Commercial Solar: Step-by-Step at a
UPDATE: if you purchase it during the SPI Tweetup (8-10 pm Chicago time), we will donate 50% of the profits to the Heather Andrews Scholarship Fund!
The Kindle eBook version of Commercial Solar is on sale all this week for just $2.99! (That’s 70% off the print copy price - isn’t technology grand?)
This is a great opportunity to own the book that has been described as:
Can there be any doubt that this book will be The Hit of SPI?
Continuing its (in our view unfortunate) three-year odyssey away from California, SPI 2013 is in Chicago this year for the first time ever. Wait, what? Chicago?
This isn’t a wind-turbine convention - you know, Chicago, the “windy city” - this is the show for Solar. What is it doing in Chicago? (Hey - no knock on Chi-town, we’ve had some great times there and the people are terrific, but when you think of solar you do not think of Chicago.)
So the question is - will this sortie into the Midwest help or hurt attendance? We are guessing the latter, but it will be interesting to see what the numbers say. (And you know that we love us some data!)
Given the location, and the recent trend of some bigger players taking a pass on big booths, who will be the notable “no-shows” at this year’s event (besides us, that is). Enphase won’t have a booth, but their presence will be felt as they host a plethora of parties and other events during the show. Interestingly, rumor has it that SMA will also not have a booth - hard to picture the SMA folks partying like their rivals at Enphase but I suppose it could happen. (Pictures, please!)
But who else gives the exhibit floor a pass? And better question - why?
Buzz is sorta the point of having a booth and LG Electronics - poised to have the first shipments of its long-awaited 300-Watt modules hit U.S. shores in the weeks immediately following the show (and yes, we are in that queue, thank you Focused Energy) is going to have a major booth. Will they capture the buzz?
With neither SMA nor Enphase fronting a booth, who will capture attention in the inverter space? At Intersolar the robots seemed to have gotten a lot of interest - will they be prowling the floor?
What about on the racking front - always lots of products and manufacturers out there - but not much buzz. (Except, perhaps, when a major product is phased out.) Can anyone break through the noise and clutter to make an impression worthy of the booth fees?
And what about the storage sector - will we see more folks now getting it, like Stem? Or will it be more of the same fumbling to find a rationale for their product offering that has been typical in the past?
One of solar’s best kept secrets is that there are lots of intelligent, professional women in the industry - will they finally be seen as the force that they need to be at SPI? We know that our friends Raina Russo and Glenna Wiseman will be there promoting their survey of women’s attitudes about solar marketing. What other events will feature women prominently in ways that capitalize on their intellectual contributions to the industry?
After Intersolar’s debacle with RECOM and its ilk demonstrating that they had no sense beyond that of inebriated frat boys, tremendous pressure was put on the management of SPI to crack down on unseemly displays on the exhibit floor. How well will that be enforced? And how will RECOM’s recent effort to recast itself play with the women at the show? (Interestingly, as to that last point, comments we have received from women are supportive and grateful for our taking a stand whereas those from men are more along the lines of “why are you talking about this?")
So that’s it - a few things to keep in mind as you pack your bags for Chicago - have a swell time and think about us slaving away back home!
The competitions are over and the results are in - Team Austria has won this year’s Solar Decathlon. Here is our recap and review…
The competition was really close - check out the final standings (click on image for larger):
Out of a possible 1,000 points, the top 10 teams all earned over 90% - high marks indeed for such a rigorous competition. Poor Team West Virginia, they were plagued with problems throughout the competition and, along with Team Texas finished way off the mark.
The California teams had a mixed showing with best overall finish going to Team Stanford, followed by Team USC (Fight On!), right behind them was Team Santa Clara, and bringing up the rear was the combined team from Caltech and SCI-Arc with their ambitious, but unorthodox split-house design.
We toured the houses twice - the first time on the eve of the official opening and then again last Thursday - an official day for the event and the crowds were decent despite being in the middle of the work week.
Ok, first and foremost, we have to give props to Team Austria for being the overall winner this year - here is a picture of their entry:
We will admit that it looks pretty cool - but we really couldn’t get behind those outdoor drapes - really? Nice concept and all, but how long would those last in the real world? The judges, however, were not concerned.
Run on Sun favorite, Team USC, was not without their bragging rights, earning a perfect score for energy balance, placing first in Appliance efficiency and third in Architecture. But then when you have an Eames Elephant roaming your halls, you know that your architectural chops are well established.
The Appliance competition was as tight as a tick with the top five teams separated by less than one point! I’m sure the folks at Bosch - who supplied the appliances (and solar modules) to USC’s fluxHome entry - will be happy to point out the team’s success in this very competitive field.
Finally, winner of the “People’s Choice” Award was the Team from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte for their entry, Urban-Eden. We have to admit, this was our second fave of all the houses (never fear, fluxHome, nothing could displace you from your Number 1 ranking in our heart!). This was a really clever concept:
On the street-side of the house is a wall 16″ thick made from four inches of concrete (made sustainable by substituting fly ash for cement), six inches of insulation and then six more inches of concrete. That thick barrier was designed to insulate the house’s occupants from the noise of the city and allow them to turn their gaze to the south - the Eden side of their home.
The living wall is filled with plants and a drip irrigation system which also incorporated a reflecting pond - part of the rainwater capture system - which was actually put to the test when an unseasonable deluge moved through the village the day before. For us, this was one of the better thought-out concepts and the execution was really impressive.
Oh, and another clever feature of the house was the movable solar array. While not a tracking device, the solar system was mounted on rails that allowed it to be extended over the patio/deck area to provide shade in the summer (as it was during the competition) or retracted back over the house to allow more sunlight into the house during the winter.
Throughout the village, the creative students from all across the country and all over the world, demonstrated again and again that sustainable living need not imply some terrible hit to one’s standard of living. Clever designs, competent craftsmanship, and attention to detail was everywhere on display. This was a great event both for the public who toured these houses and for the students who designed, built, and all but lived in them. They are all winners - congrats to them all!
And now, bring on 2015!
The 2013 Solar Decathlon is well underway and one important competition is actually not only open to the public, it is determined by the public. Here’s how you can play a part!
We are talking about the Solar Decathlon’s People’s Choice Award - where the general public gets to cast a vote for their favorite entry. Now we have a dog in this hunt, and that is the awesome fluxHome from Team USC. Above you see the home, ready to welcome the public, at Orange County Great Park in Irvine. And here’s a look inside on an especially sunny day:
Check out the plea for support from USC Team member, Evyn Larson:
Thank you for your support of the USC Solar Decathlon Team thus far. We have one more request: Vote for #111, Team USC, in the People’s Choice award! All you need is an email address. Votes must be cast before 11:00 am on Friday, 10/11/13.
Please pass the link around to your family, friends, and colleagues. We need all the votes we can get - together, we can win this!
Always, Fight On!
Evyn Larson and the Team USC students
So there you have it - do your part to support our local team by clicking on the link above and vote for #111, Team USC!
«climate change» «commercial solar» cpuc «enphase energy» «feed-in tariff» fit fluxhome gwp ladwp «net metering» pg&e pwp «run on sun» sce seia «solar power» «solar rebates» solarcity usc «westridge school for girls»