A news report from RenewEconomy highlights the transition of Palo Alto, California to 100% renewable energy and it got us to wonder, so what about the rest of you munis?
To be sure, Palo Alto has a significant advantage over most utilities - IOU or municipal - in that it gets 50% of its electricity from hydro-electric sources. Still, this was a giant leap forward toward sustainability for the city which is home to Stanford University. Palo Alto intends to supplement its hydro sources with wind farms, solar arrays and renewable gas captured from landfills. If those aren’t sufficient to meet the city’s needs, they will buy non-renewable energy with renewable energy credits.
If you are expecting that much progress to come with a shocking price tag, you would be right. But the shock is how low - just $3 per customer per year!
From the article:
“Palo Alto has been a leader in reducing its carbon emissions,“ Mayor Greg Scharff said of the decision – the city first established its Climate Action Plan in 2007, setting goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from all sources.
“When we realized we could achieve a carbon neutral electric supply right now, we were compelled to take action,” Scharff added. “Climate change is one of the critical challenges of our generation and we hope our actions will inspire others to follow suit.”
But, as PaloAltoPatch notes, being the owner of all of its energy utilities has given the city an advantage in the low-carbon stakes – the autonomy to make decisions based strictly on the best interests of Palo Altans, without worrying about shareholders.
“As a City, we’ve had cheaper, greener power for our citizens for decades, and being able to make this recent move to 100% carbon-free electricity is just another example of how owning our own utilities pays off,” said City Manager James Keene.
Of course, every muni utility has that same advantage - they can do what is best for the local residents without having to answer to far-flung shareholders who may not care what happens within the city. So why are the policies of so many munis every bit as backward as their IOU cousins?
Could it be because in most cities the residents only pay attention to what their utility is doing when it dramatically raises rates? Surely that is the case in Glendale - when Glendale Water & Power rolled out their fatally-flawed Feed-in Tariff, not a single resident spoke on the subject. But now when GWP is trying to institute a 24% rate hike they are getting lots of public participation, that is - anger - in response.
Palo Alto may be in a particularly fortunate place to allow them to take this step, but every muni could be taking similar, if smaller, steps.
The public simply has to demand it.
Yesterday we received a somewhat cryptic message from SCE titled, Battery-Backed Storage System and Net Energy Metering Eligibility. The external memo announces SCE's decision to "add additional features and impose additional conditions for a customer’s participation in Net Energy Metering (NEM) in order for SCE to ensure compliance with the NEM tariff." Not sure any of SCE's customers would consider these changes a "feature" but we decided that this should see a broader readership. Accordingly, we are publishing the memo in its entirety.
Here it is:
To: California Solar Initiative (CSI) and Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) Contractors
From: Southern California Edison, Distributed Generation Customer Solutions
Date: July 22, 2013
Re: Battery-Backed Storage System and Net Energy Metering Eligibility
In recent months, Southern California Edison (SCE) has received interconnection application packages for solar photovoltaic (PV) coupled with a battery storage device. Since inverters have become more sophisticated, multiple DC energy sources, such as PV and battery storage systems, can now be configured behind a single inverter. If the design of a renewable generator is modified so that the battery storage system is integrated into the generator, SCE cannot separately meter the energy from the renewable PV generator and the non-renewable battery. As a result, SCE has to add additional features and impose additional conditions for a customer’s participation in Net Energy Metering (NEM) in order for SCE to ensure compliance with the NEM tariff.
SCE proposes to allow NEM participation for combined systems as outlined in (1) or (2) below:
1. If the battery storage device can only charge using energy generated from the renewable generator and not from the grid. In this case the battery storage device is considered an enhancement of the renewable generator. Technically speaking, power flow to the battery storage device from the Alternating Current (AC) source of the inverter is not permitted under any conditions. Thus, the inverter permits only power flow from the Direct Current (DC) energy source to the AC energy source of the inverter. This would mean that the battery storage device does not and cannot be configured to have the ability to charge from the grid. SCE will require the manufacturer to provide a technical write-up on the manner in which this requirement will be accomplished as well as a testing plan to prove this operational method. If this condition is satisfied, SCE will allow the renewable generator to operate under schedule NEM.
2. If the battery storage device is charged using energy from the grid, then protection and/or control systems must be put in place so that it can never discharge to the grid. In this case, the battery storage device is considered a non-NEM generator and acts as a non-exporting generator. Technically speaking, if the inverter permits power flow from the AC side to the DC source where the battery storage device is connected, then power flow from the battery storage device to the grid is not permitted. In other words, the battery storage device and control systems must be designed to shut down the storage device when the power flow into the facility at the Point of Common Coupling (PCC) deviates from Rule 21 under power option requirements. This method will ensure that the export will only reflect energy flow from the renewable generator, consistent with the concept of the Multiple Tariff Technology in Schedule NEM, Special Condition 5 described below. If this condition is satisfied, SCE will allow the renewable PV generator to operate under schedule NEM.
In the past, SCE received applications for renewable generators combined with storage/battery systems in which the generator and the energy storage unit had separate dedicated inverters. The renewable generator and storage/battery were not integrated as one system behind a single inverter. For these types of configurations with separate inverters, SCE treats the renewable generator as an NEM generator if they satisfy all of the NEM eligibility criteria and the storage system as a non-NEM generator. These configurations are considered Multiple Tariff Generating Facilities (Special Condition 5, Schedule NEM), which allowed SCE to separately meter the output of each unit to deduce electricity from the renewable and non-renewable resources. SCE provided NEM credit only to the renewable portion of the electricity exported under the NEM tariff.
SCE’s tariff, Schedule NEM, Special Condition 5, requires that if a generating facility configuration includes NEM and non-NEM generators, to be eligible for NEM, the generating facility must interconnect as a Multiple Tariff Generation Facilities under Generation Facilities Interconnection Application (Form 14-732) and Multiple Tariff Interconnection Agreement (Form 14-773). This special condition provides that, if you (1) install a Net Generation Output Meter (NGOM) on the NEM-eligible generator (such as PV) or (2) install protection and/or control systems such as non-export relays on the battery storage device to prevent the export of energy from the battery to the electric grid, NEM benefits will be provided to energy associated with the NEM-eligible renewable PV generator. If neither of the two options are selected and if the combined export of the generating facilities is determined not to exceed 1 megawatt (MW), the customer can choose to interconnect under the Non-Export Interconnection Agreement (Form 14-731 or 14-742) using the (uncompensated) Export Addendum (Form 14-931) whereby SCE will not give the customer any NEM credit offset or any type of compensation for any generation energy exported to the grid.
Given the necessary technical review needed to evaluate NEM compliance, SCE has determined that pending interconnection applications with a combined PV and battery storage device will need to re-apply for interconnection under the Interconnection Application and one of the applicable Interconnection Agreements shown below:
· Form 14-732: Generation Facilities Interconnection Application (Required in all cases)
· Form 14-773: Generating Facility Interconnection Agreement – Multiple Tariff (For projects with an NEM-eligible PV generator)
· Form 14-731: Non-Export Interconnection Agreement with Form 14-931: Export Addendum (For projects with a PV generator that is ineligible for NEM)
Submit an application package to Rule21@sce.com with the appropriate fees and application. For questions regarding the application process, send an email to interconnectionQA@sce.com or call 626-302-3688.
SCE wants to emphasize that throughout the industry changes in the design of PV generators and the way battery storage systems are integrated into PV generators, SCE’s position on NEM eligibility has never changed. SCE provides NEM benefits only to customers for energy exported from a renewable resource as outlined in SCE’s tariff and in accordance with California Public Utilities Code Section 2827, et seq.
Southern California Edison
California Solar Initiative
Well that cleared things up.
We aren't entirely sure what the effect of this policy will be except that it will certainly make the application process more involved and therefore more expensive.
But then, no one really thought that the IOUs were going to make adding smart storage to PV systems easy, did they?
We have reviewed the data coming from LADWP for the results of the second tranche lottery - here is our analysis.
Our first observation is that for some inexplicable reason, LADWP chose to present the data in Adobe pdf format instead of the Excel spreadsheets used previously. This made the process of analyzing the data far more tedious than it should have been. Heads up, DWP, please provide data in a data format. We have nothing against pdf files but that is not the way to publish this type of data.
Second, there was no Owens Valley data here. We cannot tell if there were no projects submitted from Owens Valley (there were in the first tranche) but none of these projects come from outside the Los Angeles Basin.
Third, one of these proposed projects was for biogas and not solar! That proposed project, submitted by MM Lopez Energy LLC, was for a 2.95 MW biogas system in Lake View Terrace. Unfortunately, the tranche was already oversubscribed by 572 kW by the time their lottery number turned up. This is a first for the FiT (which theoretically is technology neutral) - all of the proposed projects in the first tranche were for solar.
Collectively, the data released documents a total of 112 proposed solar projects, 63 in the large category (>150 kW) and 49 in the small category (30-150 kW).
While there were a total of 64 projects in the large category, it only took 19 to fully subscribe the 16 MW capacity cap available to large projects, and the last project to make the cut will have to downsize by 263 kW (from its proposed 800 kW) to stay within the cap. Here are the companies that were successful in the lottery along with the number of successful projects and the total capacity they are authorized to install:
Only three companies ended up with more than one project: OM Solar LLC (3 projects), Oakdale Ventures LLC (2) and SunStarter Solar LLC (2). The largest project appears destined for a warehouse building owned by Forever 21 coming in at just under the program limit of 3 MW.
One non-commercial entity made the list, LA’s Metropolitan Transit District will be installing 350 kW for its Division 13 bus operations center.
Far more numerous, however, were the losing proposals - here they are:
One of the first things that jumps out here is the amount of overlap. Each of the companies with multiple unsuccessful project proposals also had at least one project that made the cut. In particular, OM Solar LLC lost on 9 but was successful on 3, SunStarter Solar LLC lost on 8 but succeeded on 2, Haizenberg Solar LLC lost on 3, succeeded on 1, PLH LLC lost on 2, succeeded on 1, and SunRay Power LLC lost on 2 but succeeded on 1.
On average, the successful projects were somewhat smaller than the ones that missed the cut. Successful projects averaged 856 kW in size whereas projects that missed the cut were 1,113 kW.
Total proposed capacity was 66.38 MW, or 415% of the available 16 MW. Interestingly, this compares to 44.3 MW that were proposed in the first tranche - despite a lower energy price, the number of proposed projects increased!
Overall, the average proposed system size was 964 kW.
There were fewer participants in the small category, with a total of 49 projects of which 47 came within the 4 MW capacity cutoff (although the last project to make the cut will have to trim down by 3.3 kW from its proposed 38.7 kW). Average system size for a successful small project was right in the middle of the allowed range at 85 kW. The two projects that missed the cut were for 41 and 108 kW.
Here are the winners:
SunStarter Solar LLC was the big winner here with 10 successful proposals. Broadstreet, which finished right behind with 9 selected projects was also the bidder on the two that didn’t make the cut. Interestingly, the average system size for SunStarter was more than twice that from Broadstreet.
As before, the successful projects are scattered about the Basin. Here’s a listing by city:
Not surprisingly, LA itself is the big winner with thirty projects in the city proper reaching nearly 8 MW of installed capacity. Seventeen other neighborhoods are also participating overall, with North Hollywood capturing the second greatest number of projects (8) while Sunland comes in second for amount of capacity to be installed (3 MW).
Breaking the same data down by zip code shows that the top 10 zip codes account for 28 of the 68 projects (41%) but 15.7 MW of total capacity (77%).
Here is the breakdown by top ten zip codes:
Greatest capacity is set to occur in 91040 (Sunland) with three projects totaling exactly 3 MW, whereas 91605 (North Hollywood) has the greatest number of projects at seven worth a total capacity of 1.1 MW.
Once again we turned to the folks at batchgeo.com to give this data some visual perspective. We mapped all of the approved projects by zip code including the size of the project, the project name and the company responsible. The result is the following map where the different color pins represent the size of the projects accumulated in that zip code. (Unfortunately they do not allow you to represent size by a larger dot on the map - but hey, its a free system!)
As with the first tranche, there are a great many specially created entities in the list of company names which makes it harder to know who is actually scheduled to do the work. For example, there are numerous proposed projects from companies with names like 17000 Ventura, LLC or Luxe Apartments, LLC - not a lot of insight provided there. Frankly, since the LADWP FiT requirements call for the experience of the installation team as a basis for possible rejection, the published data should identify the installer and not just the project developer.
Here are the top ten companies by capacity of winning proposals:
Once again, as in the first tranche, OM Solar is the big winner (they had seven projects worth 5.2 MW back then). OM Solar is headquartered in Torrance. SunStarter and Broadstreet Energy were also big players in the first tranche: SunStarter had 6 projects worth 3 MW then and Broadstreet had 4 for 1.3 MW. Broadstreet is headquartered in Stevenson Ranch. SunStarter Solar has a residential installation group in LA, but the company behind these projects is Solar Provider Group, headquartered in Toronto. PLH LLC appears to be a property management company out of Oregon. Oakdale Ventures LLC is listed as a foreign (i.e., out-of-state) entity with offices in Chatsworth. Lazben Investments is headquartered in Van Nuys. Heizenberg Solar LLC filed as a business in California on June 7 and appears to be a Delaware corporation headquartered in Denver. No information could be found about Central Plaza. SunRay Power LLC appears linked to something called Lakewood Six Solar LLC in New York City.
A few take-aways from this second tranche:
We said after the first tranche data was released that it appeared that the program was off to a good start and the results for this second tranche appear to confirm that assessment. Now we need to see the success rate of these projects actually being developed.
The second 20 MW tranche of LADWP's Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program went up for grabs on July 8 and all applications received by July 12 were included in the auction that took place on July 19. The lottery results were posted on Friday (annoyingly as a pdf file - thanks a bunch!) and we will be analyzing them for a detailed post soon.
But here's the key take-away: it is, once again, over subscribed!
We will tell you who won big and who got shut out as well as where this is all going to go in our upcoming analysis. Stay tuned!
Today’s post has nothing to do with solar, except in a sort of meta sense. You see, the process of creating these posts is not really driven by some Grand Plan but rather what is going on now or at least strikes us as interesting. But of course what we think is interesting is in no way guaranteed to interest You, the reader. Every blogger, heck, every writer wants to create content that readers will want to read. Finding that match is the key - but how?
We came across an interesting article on point the other day thanks to SEOMoz. The article, titled: Two Amazing Bar Charts: % Content Consumption, % Share of Search, introduced us to a geeky way of attacking the question of what content connects with our readers. The author, Avinash Kaushik, suggested that you could gain some useful insight into how well you were doing by combining data from two sources: your website analytics provider (Google Analytics in our case) and your content management system (in our case, b2Evolution).
By summarizing your posts by categories and then totaling unique page views for those categorized posts, you could see how much content you are creating in each category and how much those posts are driving traffic. If you are on track, there should be a direct correlation - categories where you are writing more are getting the most visits. But are they? We decided to run the analysis for one year’s worth of posts, from last July through the end of June.
Seems simple enough, here’s where it gets geeky. (Note: if you just want to see the results, feel free to skip down to the cool chart at the end of all the geek-speak.)
Way back when we started this blog we had to decide what software to use. For better or worse, we chose b2Evolution, although most of what you see out there seems to be on Wordpress. One of our biggest complaints about b2Evo is that it provides pretty meager statistics - and nothing like the data summary that we needed. Of course the database itself must have what we needed, it was just a question of figuring out where. Oh, and how would be important too!
The b2Evo database contains 52 separate tables - which one(s) have the information that we need? After a fair amount of poking around and a couple of false starts, we determined that a query combining two tables would allow us to retrieve the data that we wanted: a new table that would list the URL of each post during the time period combined with the name of the primary category under which the post was filed. (We frequently associate multiple categories with a given post, but each post has a primary category and that is what we were seeking for this analysis.) For the mySQL geeks out there, here is the query we (finally) concocted:
SELECT post_ID, post_datecreated, post_main_cat_ID, post_urltitle, cat_name FROM evo_items__item
INNER JOIN evo_categories ON (post_main_cat_ID = cat_ID)
WHERE post_status = ‘published’ AND
post_datecreated > ‘2012-06-30 23:59:59′ AND
post_datecreated < ‘2013-07-01 00:00:00′
ORDER BY post_datecreated DESC
We were then able to export the results table to a text (CSV) file for importing into Excel. Now we needed to get our analytics data.
Google Analytics (GA) is a much easier platform from which to extract lots and lots of data. For this analysis what we needed was to filter by our one year start and end dates and look at the Content - Overview report. That provided more than what we needed for this analysis, but significantly it gave us the URL of the viewed page (within the runonsun.com domain) and unique pageviews. We opted for unique pageviews to filter out those instances where someone visits the same page within a session as what we were after was the post-reader connection and unique pageviews is the best handle on that relationship.
Once again, we were able to export the data into a text file for importing into Excel.
So after importing the two data files into separate tabs of our Excel workbook we were ready to start pairing things up. But of course, things are never that easy. For starters, the manner in which our URLs appeared from b2Evo and from GA were not at all the same and Excel’s look-up functionality could not resolve the difference. Take this example:
To match them up, we wanted to slice off everything to the right of the last ‘/’ and use that to do our matching. Turns out that is a more complicated task than you might imagine. A little probing on the Internet turned up this, somewhat counter-intuitive solution:
=RIGHT(A2, LEN(A2) - FIND("|",SUBSTITUTE(A2,"/","|",LEN(A2) - LEN(SUBSTITUTE(A2,"/","")))))
(I warned you this was going to be a geekfest!)
A new column was created in the GA data table and populated with the results of that lovely formula and voilà, we had URLs in both tables that would yield a match. Now our b2Evo data could include a value for the unique pageviews from each post that was written during the previous twelve months. From there it was a simple matter of creating a pivot table based on categories, counting the number of posts in each category (listed as a percentage of the column total) and summing the unique pageviews in each category (again, displayed as a percentage of the column total). We filtered for the top ten categories (by pageviews) and that accounted for 110 separate posts and 13,659 unique pageviews.
Put all that into a chart and here is what you get.
(Please click on this and view the full size image to do this justice!)
So having gone through this exercise, what does this tell us? Well, my two largest categories for posts - Solar News and Ranting (which is where this post is categorized) - are also my two largest categories for views - so that is consistent with what we would like to see. (Ok, perhaps a little less ranting - good luck with that!)
On the other end of the scale, we are clearly writing more about both Commercial Solar and Energy Storage than our present viewership supports. That’s ok, we are looking to build readers in those vital categories so we are willing to be leading a bit there.
But look at the two major outliers: CSI 2012 and SCE. The CSI 2012 category only had four posts - the three part data analysis series of CSI data that we did last year, plus a teaser post - yet it drove more than 15% of our views! Perhaps rather than doing this once a year, which is what we have done the past two years, we should do this every six months? That’s a lot more work - those posts are very labor intensive and require rigorous editing - but in terms of what our audience is reading, it would seem to be time well spent.
The SCE category is more interesting still since it really doesn’t involve as much effort as the CSI category does. There were three posts in that category yet they accounted for more than 14% of all views! Wow - didn’t see that coming! Looks like it is time for us to spend a little more time looking at SCE and putting informative posts out there for our readers. Message received!
Perhaps the most surprising result from this analysis was that we were surprised by the results. We like to think that we have a pretty good handle on what our audience wants to see - and for the most part the above graph suggests that we do - but still there were surprises. Like any other business metric, knowing what your customers want from your blog - or the products that you are selling - is key to being successful.
If you are a solar company writing a blog and you are serious about better connecting with your audience - colleagues and potential clients alike - you might want to try performing a similar analysis and see where it leads you.
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