Duke settles with Chargepoint, expanding options for $76M North Carolina EV pilot

Author: Robert Walton     Published:  3/03/2020      UtilityDive

Duke Energy

Dive Brief:

  • Duke Energy has made modifications to its proposed electric vehicle (EV) pilot and on Friday filed a settlement with the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) that resolves competitive issues raised by ChargePoint in earlier filings.
  • The state wants to see 80,000 zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2025, and Duke says its program is essential to reaching that goal.
  • The agreement with Duke allows for greater customer choice of equipment, software and pricing structures, ChargePoint Vice President of Customer Solutions Charlotte Ancel told Utility Dive. The utility has also offered to scale back its $76 million EV offerings, to accommodate objections from NCUC Public Staff, which acts as a consumer advocate in the state.

Dive Insight:

Duke’s electric vehicle pilot consists of seven individual programs, including $1,000 rebates for residential chargers, incentives for fleet equipment, and an electric school bus charging initiative. Modifications to the pilot have brought on board ChargePoint, which operates the nation’s largest charging network and had opposed the plan over concerns it limited customers’ ability to choose their preferred charging equipment.

But NCUC Public Staff, in a proposed order, told regulators it stands by its previous objections that the set of programs is too large to be considered a proof-of-concept.

“As well-intentioned as Duke’s proposals may be, it is inaccurate to call the proposed programs ‘pilots,'” Public Staff said in its proposed order.

Duke’s proposed offerings focus on EV charging management, transit electrification and the expansion of public charging.

According to the customer advocate, Duke’s proposed electrified transportation programs are designed to obtain infrastructure-related data that is likely already publicly available, or will be available within the next year to 18 months from other utilities and jurisdictions. That data includes load patterns related to EV charging, the impact of managed charging, and how managed charging can shape load patterns and customer charging behavior, said Public Staff.

“At best, only the Residential EV Charging and Fleet EV Charging programs arguably qualify as pilots” while other programs are not reflective of larger potential offerings or “are merely capital projects,” Public Staff said. There are also “critical omissions” from those programs that would support their approval, including experimental rate designs or data collection that cannot be achieved otherwise.

Public Staff’s arguments are really that they don’t see it as a pilot proposal, “they see it as a real program that we’ve misnamed,” Lang Reynolds, Duke’s director of electrification strategy, told Utility Dive. “Their opposition seems to be somewhat procedural. … We think there are grounds for proposing it as a pilot, given there’s no real framework for [EV] investment as a utility in North Carolina necessary to gather data.”

“We did offer some areas where we were willing to scale back on the Level 2 side of things,” Reynolds said.

Seeking to address Public Staff concerns, Duke’s own proposed order offers to remove programs that involve multi-family charging stations and the public Level 2 charging stations. That, the utility said, would result in a decrease of approximately $4.1 million from the overall cost of the pilot.

To address competitive concerns from ChargePoint, Duke is allowing customers and site hosts greater flexibility in charging equipment. Previously, the utility would have executed a request for proposals yielding a single vendor but will now allow for customers to pay for upgrades around a base option.

Participating customers in the residential program “will have unlimited choice” of Level 2 hardware, the utility said in its proposed order. In the electric school bus charging program, the settlement provides for equipment to be installed on the customer side of the meter, with participating customers having a choice of two or more vendors of charging hardware and software.

“We’re still going through a competitive process to select vendors,” said Reynolds. For all of the offerings “there will be a ​base option and at least one other option for hardware and software. We haven’t committed to procuring any particular vendor.”

ChargePoint says that with Duke’s modifications, it now supports the program.

“We wanted to make sure EV drivers in North Carolina, and also for the people hosting chargers on their property, they had the opportunity to choose what type of hardware and software they want,” Ancel said. “We wanted to ensure Duke’s program was designed to enable choice … As initially proposed, it was not.”

Duke proposed the EV pilot last spring, and has broad support for the three-year set of programs.

The North Carolina Justice Center, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Environmental Defense Fund and the Sierra Club say they want to see the pilot approved. The groups also recommended NCUC convene a stakeholder advisory council to oversee the components of the EV pilot, and require Duke to file quarterly reports.

Electric vehicle charging company Greenlots is also supporting the program, and says that “taken as a whole, the components of the entire proposed pilot program are an experimental trial of an appropriate scale and design.” The program will return “necessary and valuable learnings to inform grid planning and investment decisions,” the company said.

While NCUC could request more information before making a decision, Duke officials say regulators now have a record sufficient to approve the pilot.

“The goal is 80,000 EVs by 2025, which is less than five years away,” said Reynolds. “We don’t really see a path to get there without a strong utility program.”

California OKs first community solar program under new building standard, troubling rooftop advocates

Author: Kavya Balaraman   Published: 2/24/2020      Utility Dive

Charlotte, North Carolina, becomes largest US city to acquire large-scale solar through a green tariff

Author:Chis Teale          Published: 2/25/2020      Utility Dive

The city council approved a 35-megawatt project to generate 24% of its municipal electricity, and could spark trends elsewhere, according to observers.

Brandon Walker

The Charlotte, North Carolina, City Council approved a plan to buy power from a solar project that supporters say will help Charlotte meet its ambitious climate goals, and may act as a model for other cities.

Elected officials gave the 35-megawatt project their unanimous approval Monday night, signaling the go-ahead for construction of a solar farm in nearby Statesville, North Carolina. The project is expected to produce enough zero-carbon electricity to power the equivalent of 10,000 homes annually, and reach 24% of its goal to power municipal buildings with carbon-free energy by 2030.

The plan approval follows the city’s acceptance into utility Duke Energy’s Green Source Advantage (GSA) program, which helps large customers in North Carolina support the development of large, utility-scale renewable energy while meeting their sustainability goals and lowering carbon emissions.

The city partnered with the likes of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and World Resources Institute (WRI) to bring the plan to fruition, something proponents said could set off a stream of copycat projects as cities work to reach their climate goals.

“As these cities start to execute these deals, I think there’ll be a wave coming in after them in a lot of cities,” Ali Rotatori, a senior associate at RMI, told Smart Cities Dive. “A lot are realizing that it’s now 2020 and they made these goals for 2025 and 2030, and they really need to get starting on them. I see a lot of people waiting or getting their ducks in a row and watching what other cities are doing and learning from that.”

The deal makes Charlotte the most populous city in the United States to acquire large-scale solar through a green tariff like GSA, according to a WRI spokesperson. The deal is expected to create nearly 500 jobs, improve air quality and save the city $2 million over 20 years in electricity spending, the spokesperson told Smart Cities Dive in an email. Construction costs for the solar farm will be around $35 million.

Under the terms of its Strategic Energy Action Plan, approved unanimously by city council in December 2018, Charlotte committed to having all its municipal buildings and fleet get their energy from carbon free sources by 2030. The goal is part of its wider Sustainable and Resilient Charlotte by 2050 Resolution, which set a community-wide goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to below 2 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year.

Charlotte was also named as one of the 25 Bloomberg Philanthropies’ American Cities Climate Challenge winners in late 2018. Winning cities receive two years of financial and technical support, something Charlotte officials said was enormously helpful as they navigated a complex and long procurement process and request for proposals (RFP).

Cities typically are required by law to procure large-scale renewables through their state utility. But under Duke Energy’s GSA program, rather than have the utility go out and procure the renewable themselves, customers can find their own projects and bring them back for approval by Duke based on certain criteria and qualifications. Once Charlotte found the program and was accepted, the city issued an RFP looking for a solar developer to partner with.

“We had never done this type of RFP before, so our procurement folks, it was all new to them,” Heather Bolick, energy and sustainability coordinator for the City of Charlotte, told Smart Cities Dive. “It was new to our finance team; it was new to our attorney’s office. We really had to work very hard on getting all those parties on board in the beginning.”

From Duke’s point of view, the solar farm fits well with its own goals to reduce carbon emissions, and is part of a broader effort with the city that has included the two parties signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) pledging cooperation on environmental goals and collaborating on other projects like a microgrid.

For those in Statesville, where the solar farm will be located on a Duke transmission line, project leaders said there will be plenty of opportunities, too. Local solar developer Carolina Solar Energy worked on identifying the land and bringing residents on board, something they started by hosting a dinner with neighbors who live close to the location and answering their questions.

They then worked with landowners to secure leases to their property for the panels and pursuing the environmental studies, with the solar farm set to generate more income for them than a traditional farming or timber project through paying the terms of that lease. The solar farm will also pay property taxes for the land.

“Many rural landowners see solar as a unique opportunity to really optimize the value they can get from their rural property,” Carolina Solar Energy CEO Carson Harkrader told Smart Cities Dive.

Other cities have charged hard on rolling out solar programs, spurred in part by the American Cities Climate Challenge Renewables Accelerator, a joint effort launched last year between the American Cities Climate Challenge, RMI, WRI and the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) to help cities generate more than 2.8 gigawatts of renewable energy capacity and decarbonize their electricity systems.

In the intervening period, Cincinnati signed a deal to build what’s been touted as the country’s largest municipal solar facility. And Philadelphia launched a new regional climate collaborative that gives local businesses, universities and other institutions training to procure clean energy. Those city-level efforts, in addition to Charlotte’s work, are going to “pave the way for other cities to follow suit,” Rotatori said.

“What I’ve learned from working with cities over the past year is that they like the help from technical experts as they call us,” she said. “But learning from each other and seeing what a city has done and being able to replicate it and ask questions is the best way for them to learn and follow, and that’s who they trust the most.”

End Duke Energy’s monopoly in North Carolina? It’s complicated

Author: Elizabeth Ouzts   Published: 2/25/2020        Energy News Network

Photo illustration of the Duke Energy website.

As neighboring states inch toward more electric competition, North Carolina takes it slow.

The South Carolina House of Representatives just took the first step toward loosening monopoly utilities’ grip on the state’s energy market.

Virginia lawmakers are exploring whether to expand competition in the commonwealth to encourage more renewable energy.

In between the two, North Carolina is taking it slow.

Despite growing frustration across the political spectrum with Duke Energy’s rising rates and meager clean energy plans, there’s no clear path to ending the 115-year-old utility’s monopoly outright.

Experts caution it would be a huge political, technical, and bureaucratic feat, and it wouldn’t guarantee more clean energy or greater consumer power in and of itself. Many say the first step is a comprehensive study to determine how and whether competition would achieve those goals — but even that isn’t imminent in an election year with a part-time legislature.

“We need to do something. It’s time to look at a change,” said Rep. John Szoka, a Republican from Fayetteville who chairs the North Carolina House energy committee. But, he stressed, “what we change would have a huge impact, so we need to be deliberate in what we do.”

‘They’ve just been stonewalling’

Like many states, North Carolina flirted with deregulation at the start of the century, then recoiled. In April 2000, a study commission of legislators and other stakeholders unanimously recommended limited retail and wholesale competition. Then, the California deregulation crisis blew up: Price gouging and speculation on the wholesale market eventually made its way to the retail market. Ratepayers saw rolling blackouts, and their bills double or even triple.

“California imploded,” said Richard Harkrader, the founder of Carolina Solar Energy and a member of the study commission. “People overnight soured on this whole idea of deregulation.”

Charlotte-based Duke has since merged with the state’s other major electric monopoly, Raleigh-based Progress Energy. Today, the company is one of the nation’s largest electric suppliers, with a hand in virtually every electron made, distributed, and sold in North Carolina. It produces the vast majority of the state’s electricity — most of it from coal, gas, and nuclear. It serves about 3.4 million homes and businesses directly, and another 1.6 million by selling electricity wholesale to nonprofit rural co-ops and municipal utilities.

Almost everywhere, Duke controls distribution and transmission; where it doesn’t, it still has a footprint. In the northeast corner of the state, where Virginia-based Dominion Energy delivers electricity and another entity controls transmission, Duke subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas provides gas service, as it does to about three-fourths of the state’s counties.

With a few narrow exceptions, third-party electricity sales are prohibited; solar companies can’t erect panels and sell the output to anyone other than a regulated utility. And they can’t sell their power unless they’re connected to a grid run almost exclusively by Duke.

Thanks in large part to favorable state rules under the federal Public Utility Regulatory Policy Act, or PURPA, independent solar developers have gained a sizable foothold here. They own the vast amount of North Carolina’s solar power capacity — the second most in the country.

But they and Duke are at loggerheads, with the utility introducing new tests and surcharges for grid connections that have delayed projects from coming online. A 2017 law designed to break the logjam has mostly fallen short: Solar farms are still waiting to connect under the old PURPA scheme, delaying a new competitive bidding program that was supposed to take its place.

“They’ve just been stonewalling,” Harkrader said of Duke. “There’s really not much solar being built now. Most everybody, including my company, are now working outside of North Carolina.”

Large electricity consumers seeking to meet aggressive clean energy goals are also at Duke’s mercy since they can’t buy renewable energy directly. Authors of the 2017 law also tried to solve this problem, but a green tariff and solar panel leasing program have drawn lackluster participation to date.

Customers of all sizes also question Duke’s steadily increasing bills, especially to cover coal ash cleanup and a multibillion-dollar grid improvement plan. Across the state, hearings are underway now to debate Duke’s second proposal in three years to raise rates. “Most people believe they don’t have any say or recourse when it comes to their ever-growing electric bill,” said Donna Chavis, senior fossil fuels campaigner with Friends of the Earth.

On top of these complaints, many critics say Duke’s power generation plans are making the climate crisis worse. The company touts a midcentury carbon neutrality goal but plans to build a dozen new gas units and derive just 8% of its electricity sales from renewable power in 2034. Along with Dominion, Duke is a major owner of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the 600-mile fracked gas project now held up by court challenges.

No silver bullet for competition

Across the political divide, reformers say these symptoms stem from the underlying problem of Duke’s monopoly. Yet Conservatives for Clean Energy, the Energy Justice North Carolina coalition, and many energy experts agree: There’s no silver bullet for exactly how to relax the company’s control on the market.

The most consensus is for wholesale competition, in which the state’s co-ops and large energy consumers could buy from the power producer that delivered the lowest price or cleanest electricity. But how to enable such competition is up for debate.

One way is for North Carolina to join or create a regional transmission organization or an independent service operator. Overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, RTOs and ISOs manage transmission and access to the electric grid and allow competition on the wholesale market between power producers.

The small corner of North Carolina served by Dominion is already in an RTO called PJM, which includes Ohio and Mid-Atlantic states. The state’s only operating wind farm is in PJM territory, allowing it to supply renewable electrons to Amazon for data centers outside North Carolina.

But PJM has drawn criticism, since its rules generally favor gas and uneconomic coal plants and discourage new solar and wind farms. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, just 25% of new power plants built in the PJM region in the last decade were solar, wind, or other renewables — the lowest of any RTO or ISO in the country. “It’s not at all clear that Duke joining PJM would result in a cleaner grid for North Carolina,” said Gudrun Thompson, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Creating a new organization also has skeptics. Advocates are wary of ceding regulatory authority to a federal agency appointed by President Donald Trump, especially now that the state’s utilities commission consists of all but one person appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. Case in point: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission just established new rules for PJM’s capacity market that further penalize renewable energy.

“Now, a bunch of states are considering leaving the [PJM] capacity market because it would force them to double pay if they want to move forward on clean energy,” said David Rogers, the southeast deputy regional director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. “Markets are only as good as rules and the oversight that governs them.”

Another method for permitting wholesale competition is an energy imbalance market, a voluntary collection of utilities and other system operators in which real-time kilowatt-hours, not power plants, are bought and sold as needed. In the western United States, the model has allowed solar and wind energy that would otherwise be curtailed in one state to be sold in another — fostering the growth of renewables and lowering prices. “It’s a really interesting way to inject some competition into an otherwise monopoly regulated structure,” Thompson said.

In a variation on the energy imbalance market, utilities could share reserve margins, the capacity to produce power when demand is at its highest conceivable peak. “That way, not everyone needs to be at the inflated reserve margins that they all claim they need,” Rogers said. “Duke and Dominion and Southern Company could just make that agreement right now.”

The final most-discussed option for wholesale competition is an all-source procurement system. Duke would maintain its control of the grid and distribution, but rather than plan for and build new generation sources to meet power needs, the company would issue a request for proposals for a certain amount of capacity from a variety of “fuels” such as solar, battery storage, and gas. In Colorado two years ago, this scheme produced the lowest prices of storage combined with wind and solar the nation had ever seen, Utility Dive reported.

‘We just don’t have the time’

Retail competition is another matter. Most open to the possibility is Energy Justice North Carolina, the coalition of more than a dozen community, state and national environmental groups organized around ending the Duke monopoly. They see retail competition as a potential avenue for the historically marginalized to take control of their energy production.

“There’s no doubt that there will be a transition toward a more regenerative economy and away from an extractive economy,” said Connie Leeper, organizing director with coalition member NC WARN, an outspoken Duke critic. “Will that be a just transition?”

But others worry complete deregulation could allow energy companies to prey on vulnerable customers. “It could potentially increase clean energy penetration,” said Peter Ledford, general counsel for the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association, “but retail competition comes with so many consumer-protection concerns.”

Still, to a person, everyone interviewed for this story said the first step toward competition was not deregulating one sector of the market in a particular way. Instead, it’s a comprehensive study of all the options, including what has worked in other states.

“We have to all go into this with an open mind,” said Mark Fleming, the head of the Conservatives for Clean Energy. “It’s not a real process if you go into it with an outcome already pre-planned.”

Fleming’s group is also active in South Carolina, where the House just passed a bill to begin an exhaustive study of deregulation. But that sort of analysis looks further away in North Carolina.

In a clean energy plan connected to Cooper’s executive order on climate, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality recommends the legislature authorize a study of the costs and benefits of retail and wholesale competition. The study is listed as a “medium or long term” item, meaning it could be completed as soon as one year or as long as five years from now.

Rep. Larry Strickland, a Republican from Johnston County, has introduced a bill to study the RTO route. But it didn’t get a hearing in last year’s long session, and most observers doubt it will move in the short session scheduled to begin in April.

In an email, Strickland acknowledged it may be difficult to pass his bill this year given time constraints. But, he continued, “I will continue to fight for a study to examine if a Regional Transmission Organization is a market reform that will save ratepayers across North Carolina money.”

Asked about the push for deregulation and Strickland’s bill in particular, Duke didn’t take a position. But, spokesperson Grace Rountree stressed in an email, “North Carolina is a national leader in clean energy and providing customers with reliable, increasingly clean electricity at prices lower than the national average.”

She added, “we generally welcome balanced studies that look at ways to improve public policy impacting our customers and Duke Energy looks forward to working collaboratively with stakeholders through the legislative process.”

From Rep. Szoka’s point of view, that process won’t happen until 2021. “We’re talking about a huge change in how you regulate electricity in this state,” he said. “In the short session, in an election year, we just don’t have the time.”

Conversation with Kia Jackson Founder Black Experience

Author: Kia Jackson         Published: 2/25/2020    PCPCLLC


contact. is a networking and educational talk series for newcomers and entrepreneurs to “plug-in” with industry experts and leaders.
Limited Seating is real, not a sales gimmick. This talk series and networking is an opportunity to learn “How to?” and “What it’s all about?”. Get all your questions answered. Make contacts with the industry leaders. Whether you are unsure, or committed to be in cannabis, this is where you can gain accurate and reliable education to propel your next step. Invest in your future.

To empower entrepreneurs by providing them with the knowledge, tools, and connections to create and grow successful cannabis businesses.


Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar

Author: Solar Technology Office Published: 2/25/2020  Pcpcllc

Lanai solar farm sheep

Photographer: Merrill Smith

A growing number of farms and agricultural businesses are looking to solar to power their daily operations. Thanks in part to the Solar Energy Technologies Office’s investments, the cost of going solar has declined, enabling more installations across the country. Consider these questions to help you determine what’s best for you and your farm.

What are the benefits of co-locating solar and crop production?
Will solar modules contaminate the soil underneath or around them?
Can solar modules change the microclimate underneath the modules and worsen invasive species, fungal, nematode or other pest problems?
Will solar modules heat up and dry out vegetation or crops under the modules?
Can wild animals like antelope or elk graze under solar modules?
Can domesticated animals like sheep or cattle graze at ground-mounted solar facilities?
What is the impact of solar modules on birds or other wildlife species?
Can you grow native vegetation or pollinator habitat underneath solar modules?
Will solar modules drive up the price of food?
Is it safe to spray agrochemicals near solar modules?
Can solar modules power my irrigation equipment?
I lease my farmland. Can I still install solar PV?
I can’t drive my tractor through or around solar modules. Are there ways I can still install solar?
I need to burn my fields every year. Can I still install solar PV?
My farmland floods in the spring. Can I still install solar PV?
What are the impacts of dust on the performance of solar PV modules?
Can my land be converted back to agricultural land after the life of the solar system?
Are there trade-offs of raising solar modules to accommodate crop production?

Top News: 2020 Funding Opportunity Is Open; Solar Prize Round 3 Competitors Announced; Input on Solar Variability Prediction Wanted

Author: DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office  Published: 2/25/2020   Pcpcllc

Energy dot gov Office of Energy Efficiency and renewable energy

Solar Energy Technologies Office

Our biggest news of 2020: The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) announced $125.5 million in funding for new projects. Letters of intent are due March 9, so start your applications! Innovation is the name of the game, as the newly selected semifinalists in Round 3 of the American-Made Solar Prize can tell you. The Round 2 competitors will be demonstrating their ideas at a big event in March, which you don’t want to miss. SETO wants your ideas about solar variability prediction, so check out our request for information (RFI) and tell us what you think—responses are due March 4.

These stories and more in this edition of the SETO newsletter.

Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 Funding Opportunity

What Would You Do with $125.5 Million?

If your answer is “Give it to projects that advance research and development of solar energy technologies,” you’re reading the right newsletter. On February 5, 2020, DOE announced that the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 (SETO 2020) Funding Program will award $125.5 million to projects that lower solar costs, enable solar-plus-storage, enhance cybersecurity protections, increase manufacturing, develop solar-powered microgrids, and site solar with agriculture. There’s also space for artificial intelligence: We are looking for projects that use machine learning to improve solar. SETO expects to award 55 to 80 projects. Keep in mind: You must file a letter of intent to apply, and it’s due March 9, 2020.

American-Made Solar Prize: Demo Day and New Competitors

If you want to see innovation in action, make sure you’re in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on March 27, 2020: That’s when the teams competing the American-Made Solar Prize Round 2 will demonstrate their proofs of concept at a national event during Carnegie Mellon University’s Energy Week, for a chance to win $100,000 and compete for the grand prize, a $1 million pool.

The newest batch of competitors, which were announced on February 11, 2020, are competing in Round 3. They will receive $50,000 to turn their ideas into proofs of concept and present them at a national demonstration day event in June. Some of those ideas? A hybrid renewable-energy power tower, a mobile solar array on skis, and a residential solar installation that can transform into a microgrid. Read more about these 20 teams and their inventive works in progress.

In the Forecast: Solar Variability Prediction

Since the sun is not always up or out, better prediction of solar power would help SETO’s grid integration efforts and inform the major players in solar power output—grid operators, owners and operators of utility-scale plants, and aggregators of distributed photovoltaic (PV) systems. This is where you come in: In January, SETO issued a request for information, asking for your input on predicting solar irradiance and power so we can best plan our efforts to fund related technologies. Email your response to SETO.RFI.SI@ee.doe.gov by March 4, 2020, at 12 p.m. ET. We look forward to hearing from you.

High Praise: Commonwealth Edison Project Wins Award

At the DISTRIBUTECH International 2020 conference in January, SETO awardee Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) received the Best Practices Award for Product Innovation for its Bronzeville Community Microgrid, a project that was awarded $4 million in 2016. Recognizing ComEd’s contribution to a more sustainable, resilient power system in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago and the broader service area, the industry group Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative and an independent advisory panel awarded the ComEd team for its leadership in the shift toward a more consumer-centric energy ecosystem. Well done!

The Lowdown on Systems Integration

The nation’s power grid is complicated, but we’re making it easier with our systems integration “basics” webpages. Perhaps you read the one on inverters and grid services recently. But what about distributed energy systems and microgrids? Now we have those basics, too, so you can get a more complete picture of how solar energy technologies work together to deliver power, even when the weather refuses to cooperate.

Better Than Summer School: Apply for the HOPE Workshop

Graduate students interested in staying on top of the latest solar technology advancements should apply for the Hands-On Photovoltaic Experience (HOPE) Workshop, a week-long, immersive learning opportunity July 19–24, 2020, at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. The workshop offers students the chance to see how solar cells and modules are made, learn advanced characterization techniques, and meet NREL scientists and other researchers from across the country. Applications are due March 9, 2020, so tell your friends and apply today!

Shedding Light: Solar on the Farm

Bringing solar energy to land used for agriculture offers benefits to farmers as well as developers, including reduced installation and electricity costs. We want to make the process easier by addressing the many questions associated with installing PV around crops and animals, such as how it affects the soil, vegetation, domesticated and wild animals, pollinator habitat—pollinator-friendly legislation exists in seven states now—and more. Read all about it in the Farmer’s Guide to Going Solar, and if you have ideas that can help expand solar adoption on agricultural lands, take a look at Topic Area 6: Solar and Agriculture in the SETO 2020 funding opportunity announcement and apply today.


23rd Annual Transmission Summit East
March 4–6 | Arlington, Virginia
Join SETO Director Becca Jones-Albertus at this summit to discuss strategies to integrate storage and distributed assets, protect against extreme weather and cyber threats, and leverage cloud computing.

Applied Power Electronics Conference (APEC)
March 15–19 | New Orleans, Louisiana
Meet up with SETO staff at APEC, which brings researchers and practitioners from around the world to discuss the latest developments in the power electronics industry.

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Energy Week
March 23–27 | Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
SETO Deputy Director Maria Vargas will give the keynote speech at CMU Energy Week, now in its fifth year, where CEOs, entrepreneurs, government leaders, academic experts, and students discuss ways to advance energy technologies and innovations.

SETO in the News

Solar Photo of the Week

PV array at the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado

A PV array at the National Wind Technology Center in Colorado. Photo by Dennis Schroeder. Click the photo to download it.

Thanks for reading the SETO newsletter! If someone forwarded this to you, you can subscribe here.

SETO is part of the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Beating China at the lithium game — can the US secure supplies to meet its renewables targets?

Author: Teague Egan    Published: 2/18/2020       Utility Dive

Credit: Green Charge Networks

The following is a contributed article by Teague Egan, founder, CEO and product architect of EnergyX.

We have all been witness to the meteoric rise of Tesla’s stock price since the beginning of the year. With a market capitalization now worth significantly more than Ford and GM combined, the electric vehicle producer and battery maker is showing us the way to a sustainable energy future.

Others are following in Tesla’s footsteps. GM has recently announced a $2.3 billion joint venture battery factory, in partnership with LG Chem, to produce cells for 20 new electric vehicles the company plans to introduce globally by 2023. Ford has announced plans for several all-electric vehicles including its widely popular F-150. The future is upon us, but a few obstacles remain in our path.

A major component for both electric vehicles (EVs) and large-scale battery storage for renewable energy production, lithium is set to play a key role in the renewable energy revolution. Both EVs and such energy storage rely on lithium as an absolutely essential, non-replaceable component of the battery, making the metal one of the most sought after resources on the energy market. People are already calling lithium “white petroleum“, and I am convinced over the coming decades it will replace oil and gas as the most important natural resource in the world; the backbone to our energy infrastructure.

Demand for battery energy storage is expected to grow exponentially over the next 10-20 years and beyond, underpinned by increasing awareness of the need to limit fossil fuel usage. As a result, lithium demand in 2018 of 270,000 metric tons of Lithium Carbonate Equivalent (LCE) is expected to reach more than 1,000,000 metric tons of LCE by 2025, with some estimates as high as 1.5 million.

As the importance of lithium-ion batteries grows for residential, commercial and military use, the criticality of establishing and expanding domestic sources of lithium is an important national security issue. However today, the U.S. contributes less than 2% of world supply of lithium even though it holds 17% of global lithium reserves. U.S. lithium production has historically been hampered by the relatively low concentration of lithium in U.S. brines, and lack of new technology available to economically extract it.

Resource market

The lack of U.S. domestic lithium production is a critical issue. With production roughly split between hard rock mining and extraction from lithium concentrated brines sources, the vast amount of brines come from sources in Chile and Argentina. However, the world’s largest reserve lies in the high mountain deserts of Bolivia. I remember the first time I stepped foot onto Salar de Uyuni, a jaw dropping, 4,000 square mile, national treasure as white as a polar bear. An ocean of lithium lay below the salt crust, just waiting to be utilized in the electric vehicles around the world.

While over 50% of the entire world’s reserves can be found in the Lithium Triangle (the brines located in Chile, Bolivia and Argentina), securing access to these reserves and production is highly dependent on the constantly changing geopolitical landscape in the region. Bolivia recently overthrew its government in a coup, ousting President Evo Morales in a bid to accelerate commercial lithium production. The country has been battling internally for 12 year trying to unlock its white petroleum. In December 2019, Chile was forced to cancel COP25, the United Nations climate conference, due to nationwide labor protests, and riots in the capital city of Santiago. Meanwhile, Argentina has been suffering from extreme levels of inflation and other political and economic struggles for years.

China is a critical player, too.

In its Energy Resource Governance Initiative, the U.S. State Department notes that: “over 80% of the global supply chain of rare earth elements, important minerals for electric vehicles and wind turbine components, is controlled by one country.” China has been supporting lithium and copper mining operations globally, and has had a hand in funding new nickel mines, as it seeks to satisfy its demand for EVs.

In December 2018, Tianqi, a Chinese manufacturing company, bought a 23.8% share in Chilean-based SQM, the world’s second largest lithium producer, from Canadian fertilizer company Nutrien for $4.1 billion, the largest deal in history for a lithium asset. Moves like this are further solidifying China’s dominance on the sector. Already, the global leader in sales and production of electric vehicles, Beijing’s mining and manufacturing prowess has left Washington behind.

China controls 51% of the global total of chemical lithium, 62% of chemical cobalt and 100% of spherical graphite — the major components of lithium-ion batteries. The United States is at risk of missing out on its renewable targets and needs to secure lithium deposits to help drive its renewable and sustainable development industries.

The Trump administration has vastly increased traditional fossil fuel production as it also has championed so-called ‘clean-coal’ and natural gas, while Beijing’s dominance in the renewable energy and electric vehicle markets has led to a quiet transition in industry priorities. Far from reducing fossil fuel subsidies or moving away from coal-powered energy generation, the State Department is looking for a way to limit China’s dominance on renewable energy. The U.S. is missing the boat.

This means that the Trump administration will have to invest in a market it has repeatedly spurned. Following in the steps of China and the European Union, in 2017, the United States cited the economy and national security as it directed scientists to find a new source of lithium within the nation’s borders. “Global investment in mineral-intensive renewable power generation and battery storage technologies continues to outpace investment in fossil fuel power generation by over 100 percent annually,” the State Department posited last June as it explained that it is seeking to “promote integrated and resilient supply chains.”


In a move that echoes the State Department’s initiative, Tesla’s Elon Musk recently announced that the company will foray into lithium mining to secure its own resource. The leading American company driving U.S. interests in the lithium-ion battery supply chain, Tesla has massive factories in both California and Nevada. These are strategically located in close proximity to lithium reserves in the Salton Sea, CA and Silver Peak, Nevada, where Albemarle (the top lithium producer) has operations, and only 400 miles from the Great Salt Lake, Utah, where Cargill operates high lithium concentrated salt production.

Tesla is not just the world’s largest electric vehicle manufacturer but also a leading innovator in battery technology and the supply chain associated therewith. The company has long promoted electric vehicles and sustainable engineering, with its large-scale battery in South Australia also changing how nations view renewable energy storage.

While Tesla has been leading the private sector, federal departments have also been working towards improving the United States’ position as a major force in the global lithium market. In January, former Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced several new initiatives: “The Department of Energy (DOE) will leverage the power of competition and the resources of the private sector, universities, and the National Laboratories to develop innovative recycling technologies, which will bolster economic growth, strengthen our energy security, and improve the environment.”

Race for lithium

America can do better! We are not followers; we do not wait for others to take the lead, and we are not going to wait on the sidelines of the most important global transition of the century. From the Industrial Revolution to the Space Race, competition between the United States and other major powers has always driven innovation.

A quiet transition away from the Trump Administration’s stance on energy will help the U.S. build a strong foundation to compete internationally. China’s lead in the electric vehicle and renewable energy markets, as well as its dominance throughout the production chain, have created a sense of urgency in the U.S.

To meet its renewables targets, the U.S. needs to secure its lithium supplies or find a different way to compete with Beijing’s mining and manufacturing prowess. The State Department’s initiative and actions from Tesla and the Department of Energy show that Washington is serious about competing in global markets.

With the new energy race heating up, several companies are looking to develop what’s being dubbed “direct lithium extraction” technologies that can increase the efficiency and effectiveness of lithium production.

Production from brine takes an average of 18 months with recovery rates as low as 30%. Furthermore, many lithium deposits are located in hard to reach areas, and conventional methods are impractical due to geographical terrain, lower than optimal concentrations, or external elements such as weather. Direct lithium extraction is the answer the U.S. is looking for to catch the Chinese in this ever important rivalry, and in the near future, we will become self-reliable on white petroleum.


Jeff Bezos commits $10B to climate. How should he spend it?

Author: Catherine Morehouse    Published: 2/19/202 0        Utility Dive

Credit: Getty Images

Billionaire Jeff Bezos, founder, president and CEO of e-commerce company Amazon, on Monday announced his commitment to providing $10 billion toward fighting climate change.

Specifics of the plan were sparse — in his Instagram post announcing the funding, he said the Bezos Earth Fund will provide funding for “scientists, activists, NGOs — any effort that offers a real possibility to help preserve and protect the natural world.” He’ll begin issuing grants this summer and said the $10 billion is “to start,” but doesn’t specify how much more he plans to spend or over what time period.

Some speculate the billionaire’s move was timed to deflect attention from FRONTLINE’s release of a documentary that includes criticisms of his technology empire’s carbon footprint and rising pressure from the company’s employees about not doing enough on climate change.

“Clearly this was done quickly … he’s not fleshed out how exactly he wants to spend the money at the moment, it seems it’s going to anybody and everybody,” Aseem Prakash, political science professor at the University of Washington and founding director of the school’s Center for Environmental Politics told Utility Dive.

Despite the uncertainties, it’s clear to most observers that the funding could have huge impacts for fighting climate change.

“It dwarfs other philanthropy in this realm,” Robert Stavins, professor of energy and economic development at Harvard and director of the university’s environmental economics program told Utility Dive. “It sort of rises to the level of government actions in the climate policy or climate realm. So it’s potentially very significant.”

Michael Bloomberg launched a $500 million Beyond Carbon campaign, the largest coordinated climate change plan in the U.S. at the time, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies. The former New York mayor also launched Beyond Coal in 2011, and has invested $100 million since then on the campaign, which credits itself for the early retirement of over half the country’s coal fleet. Bezos and Bill Gates in 2016 also set up a $1 billion venture capital fund to invest in energy startups committed to reducing carbon emissions.

In sum, $10 billion could go a long way.

“It’s an insane scale-up of all the [climate] funding and I think it [is] a genuine question about how is this going to get spent?” Leah Stokes, assistant professor of energy and environmental politics and the University of California, Santa Barbara, told Utility Dive.

How should he spend it?

Some say the funding would be best spent on emerging technologies and scientific research, while others argue targeting policy and advocacy campaigns are the best use of $10 billion. Others say a healthy hybrid is best.

An unwise way to spend the money would be to make repeat investments in climate action that already has funding, thereby freeing up those investments to be spent somewhere else, said Stavins.

ChargePoint commits $1B to expand EV charging as Ocasio-Cortez, others unveil bills for a national network

Author: Robert Walton            Published: 2/10/2020           Utility Dive

Credit: CARB Mid Term Report

Dive Brief:

What is ISO 14001?

Author: International Organization for Standardization  Published: 2/18/2020

The ISO story began in 1946 when delegates from 25 countries met at the Institute of Civil Engineers in London and decided to create a new international organization ‘to facilitate the international coordination and unification of industrial standards’. On 23 February 1947 the new organization, ISO, officially began operations.

Since then, we have published over 23019 International Standards covering almost all aspects of technology and manufacturing.

Today we have members from 164 countries and 781 technical committees and subcommittees to take care of standards development. More than 160 people work for ISO’s Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland.

To find out more about the history of ISO, see our timeline.


ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 164 national standards bodies.

Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges.

You’ll find our Central Secretariat in Geneva, Switzerland. Learn more about our structure and how we are governed.


International Organization for Standardization
ISO Central Secretariat
Chemin de Blandonnet 8
CP 401 – 1214 Vernier, Geneva, Switzerland

E-mail: central@iso.org
Tel.: +41 22 749 01 11
Fax: +41 22 733 34 30

International Standards make things work. They give world-class specifications for products, services and systems, to ensure quality, safety and efficiency. They are instrumental in facilitating international trade.

ISO has published 23019 International Standards and related documents, covering almost every industry, from technology, to food safety, to agriculture and healthcare. ISO International Standards impact everyone, everywhere.

Learn more about standards and what they can do for you

What ISO Standards can do for you

spread sheet data show on tablet illuminated with light
Our key achievements in figures at a single glance

ISO doesn’t provide certification or conformity assessment. You’ll need to contact an external certification body for that. Read more about certification and how to find a certification body.


Ameren’s hourly pricing program could reduce EV charging costs almost 90%, study finds

Author: Robert Walton       Published: 2/11/2020    Utility Dive

redit: Flickr; National Renewable Energy Lab

Dive Brief:

  • A new analysis from Illinois consumer advocate group Citizens Utility Board (CUB) concludes Ameren customers with an electric vehicle (EV) could reduce annual charging costs by almost 90% through the utility’s Power Smart Pricing rate.
  • The dynamic rate offering is based on day-ahead prices in the Midcontinent ISO, and is open to all of Ameren’s residential customers. CUB’s analysis shows potential savings may be most significant for EV owners.
  • The report examined 2018 rates and concluded potential savings for EV owners ranged from $54 to $379 in that year, compared with paying the utility’s traditional electric prices. According to the utility, more than 13,000 customers have signed up for the Power Smart Pricing (PSP) program and so far they have saved more than $12 million.

Dive Insight:

The specifics of CUB’s analysis indicate that most customers would likely not realize all of their potential savings, but the group says the study makes a strong argument for opt-out rates for EV owners.

“With the aid of the sophisticated sensor and data-analysis capabilities prevalent in vehicle charging technology, utilities could isolate EV-related consumption, making a separate opt-out policy feasible,” the report concludes.

The analysis used actual 2018 MISO locational marginal prices to compare what “perfectly rational EV drivers” would pay to charge their vehicle on Ameren’s Power Smart Pricing program.

“Electricity customers are hungry for good choices in the market, and Power Smart Pricing is one of the best, whether you drive an EV or not,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said in a statement.

The advocacy group is currently lobbying Illinois lawmakers to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which includes an electrification provision to encourage off-peak EV charging. Kolata says the bill would help to “make sure the grid is prepared for the rise of EVs,” by connecting drivers to pricing programs like Ameren’s.

Ameren says it estimates about 3,400 electric vehicles are owned in its service territory.

“Most customers tell us that they are satisfied with the program,” an Ameren spokesperson said in an email. “We expect PSP enrollments to grow as customers acquire more in-home devices that enable them to manage and track their usage.”

CUB’s analysis of the program’s potential for EV drivers included three “representative” EVs: the 2018 Toyota Prius Prime, the 2018 Chevy Bolt and the Tesla 3 Long-Range. Researchers say they also used “off -the-shelf representative Level 2 and Level 3 chargers to estimate the maximum achievable charge rate.”

CUB calculated what EV drivers would pay to charge their car on Ameren’s flat-rate energy tariff to meet their daily driving needs, and compared that to the lowest-available rates on the PSP program.

Ameren’s dynamic pricing program “would have saved EV owners significantly over its flat-rate tariff in 2018,” with cost reductions from 86% to 88%, equaling as much as $379 over the study period, the CUB found.

The group says programs like Ameren’s PSP help reduce peak electricity demand, which “eases stress on the grid, helping to prevent costly power outages. It also avoids the need to fire up expensive ‘peaker’ power plants, cutting pollution and lowering electricity costs for everyone.”

There are more than 1 million EVs owned in the United States, but that figure is expected to increase sharply in coming years. According to the Edison Electric Institute, a jump in sales over the next decade could mean 19 million emissions-free vehicles on U.S. roads by 2030.

FirstEnergy CEO says he’s ready to help Ohio lawmakers deal with FERC’s PJM MOPR ruling

Author: John Funk     Published: 2/11/2020       Utility Dive


Dive Brief:

  • Ohio-based FirstEnergy Corp.’s chief executive officer says his company is ready to assist state lawmakers develop a new energy policy to deal, in part, with the impact of the December Federal Energy Regulatory Commission order directing PJM Interconnection to offset state subsidies given to owners of certain generating resources, including renewables and nuclear plants.
  • CEO Charles Jones told financial analysts during the company’s fourth quarter and 2019 earnings call Friday that Ohio’s government is generally unhappy with the results of electric utility deregulation, including PJM’s market system. The PJM auction system is designed to give customers the lowest priced electricity at any given time.
  • Insisting that he has no official position, given that the company’s power plant subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions (FES) will soon emerge from bankruptcy as an independent and unregulated company, Jones repeated an argument that the market system which has emerged since Ohio began moving toward deregulation 20 years ago “does not provide the best long-term outcome for my customers.”

Dive Insight:

The unhappiness of state lawmakers that Jones alluded to had already erupted on Jan. 28 when the Ohio Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee invited the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) and a pro-coal group, America’s Power, to submit testimony to help the committee start developing “a comprehensive energy policy.”

The OCC’s testimony focused on excessive charges that Ohio’s delivery utilities have added to rates since lawmakers last tweaked deregulation rules in 2008. America’s Power recapped the arguments of coal interests and owners of coal-fired power plants, that gas turbine plants and wind and solar farms make the grid less secure.

While the state’s traditional utilities long resisted deregulation with the argument that it would not encourage the development of new power plants, Ohio’s lawmakers have more recently been reacting to the December FERC order requiring PJM to offset state subsidies to certain power plants, including subsidized wind and solar farms, competing in PJM-run markets. If implemented, the order could cost Ohio electric customers more than $1 billion a year in new fees — on top of new state-ordered fees, according to one study.

The FERC order came on the heels of Ohio House Bill 6, passed last year, providing $150 million a year from 2021 through 2027 in new customer-paid subsidies for two nuclear plants owned by FES and $60 million a year from 2020 through 2030 for two old coal-fired plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corp., created by a consortium of utilities in the 1950s.

Jones said state lawmakers had “already kind of talked about their disappointment with the PJM market and their intention to use the next year or so to look at energy policy for the state.”

“I think there are a lot of things they are going to look at, but beyond that, you know what our intention is. We’ll be at the table helping where they want help, providing our guidance where they want guidance, and expressing our views where we feel strongly about certain things should go a certain way,” he told analysts.

With the exception of its West Virginia operations, FirstEnergy is now a delivery-only company and the candid acknowledgment from Jones that the company stands ready to dive into state energy policy came during a discussion of how the company is now focused on steady growth through safe investments in its local distribution and long-distance transmission systems.

The company reported full-year 2019 net earnings of $908 million, or $1.68 per share on total revenue of $11 billion. That compared to 2018 earnings of $981 million, or $1.99 per share, on $11.3 billion in revenue. The company is forecasting 2020 earnings of $900 million to $1.41 billion.


DOE Announces $125.5 Million in New Funding for Solar Technologies

Author: DOE Solar Energy Technologies Office Published: 2/5/2020    DOE

OfficeSolar Energy Technologies Office
Funding Number: DE-FOA-0002243
Funding Amount: $125.5 million


On February 5, 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy announced the Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2020 (SETO 2020) funding program, which will provide $125.5 million in funding for projects that will advance research in solar energy technologies.

These projects will help achieve the solar office’s goal of improving the affordability, reliability, and value of solar technologies on the grid. Learn more about SETO’s goals and how to apply for a funding opportunity.

SETO expects to make about 55 to 80 awards under the SETO 2020 funding opportunity announcement (FOA), each ranging from $300,000 to $39 million.

Several topic areas in this funding program encourage collaborative work to enable and accelerate outcomes. SETO seeks diverse teams comprising members of companies and community organizations, researchers, solar developers, and other stakeholders who work across various technology sectors, locations, and scientific disciplines.

To facilitate the formation of teams, SETO is providing a forum where interested parties can add themselves to a Teaming Partner List, which allows organizations that may wish to apply to the FOA but not as the prime applicant, to express interest to potential partners. The Teaming Partner List and instructions will be available on EERE Exchange under FOA DE-FOA-0002243 during the FOA application period. The list will be updated at least weekly until the close of the full-application period.


The SETO 2020 FOA webinar will be held on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. ET.

The next quarterly stakeholder webinar will be on Thursday, April 23, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. ET.

Register today.

Topic Areas

TOPIC AREA 1: Photovoltaics Hardware Research
$15 million, ~8-12 projects

This topic area seeks projects that will improve the functions of photovoltaic (PV) hardware over the long term, maximizing energy yields, increasing efficiency, and improving PV system modeling to ensure reliable performance prediction.

TOPIC AREA 2: Integrated Thermal Energy Storage and Brayton Cycle Equipment Demonstration (Integrated TESTBED)
$39 million, ~1-2 projects

This topic area seeks to develop, build, and operate a supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) power cycle integrated with thermal energy storage at temperatures ranging from 550°C to 630°C at a new or existing facility. The goal of this topic is to accelerate the commercialization of the sCO2 Brayton cycle and provide operational experience for utilities, operators, and concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) developers.

TOPIC AREA 3: Solar Energy Evolution and Diffusion Studies 3 (SEEDS 3)
$10 million, ~6-8 projects

This topic area will fund research programs that study how knowledge spreads throughout the solar energy ecosystem and how solar adoption interacts with other emerging energy technologies, such as energy storage. In particular, this topic will focus on understanding the large-scale dynamics of the flow of solar information. The goal is to reduce the non-hardware costs of solar energy by efficiently delivering knowledge to key stakeholders so that decisions can be made quickly and effectively in a rapidly changing energy landscape.

TOPIC AREA 4: Innovations in Manufacturing: Hardware Incubator
$14 million, ~7-9 projects

This topic seeks to fund innovative product ideas that can advance solar energy technologies by lowering costs while facilitating the secure integration of solar electricity into the nation’s energy grid. SETO has a particular interest in applications that develop impactful technologies that will support a strong U.S. solar manufacturing sector and supply chain. The goal of this topic is to de-risk new technologies, bring a prototype to a pre-commercial stage, and retire any business or market risks to spur follow-on private investments, patents, scientific and technical publications, and jobs.

TOPIC AREA 5: Systems Integration
$30 million, ~7-11 projects

This topic area will enhance solar’s ability to provide greater grid resilience and improved reliability to the nation’s electricity grid, especially at the community level. This work will improve the ability of communities to maintain power during and restore power after man-made or natural disasters, improve cybersecurity for PV inverters and power systems, and develop advanced hybrid plants that operate collaboratively with other resources for improved reliability and resilience.

TOPIC AREA 6: Solar and Agriculture: System Design, Value Frameworks, and Impacts Analysis
$6.5 million, ~4-6 projects

This topic area will build upon and expand ongoing SETO projects related to the co-location of solar and agriculture by developing technology, evaluating practices to date, and conducting research and analysis that enable farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural enterprises to gain value from solar technologies while maintaining availability of land for agricultural purposes. The goal is to facilitate and expand the co-location of solar and agricultural activities where it benefits both industries and the local community. For this topic, co-location is defined as agricultural production (i.e., crop or livestock production, or pollinator habitat) underneath solar panels and/or in adjacent zones around the solar panels.

TOPIC AREA 7: Artificial Intelligence (AI) Applications in Solar Energy with Emphasis on Machine Learning
$6 million, ~8-12 projects

This topic area will leverage the substantial AI-related know-how developed in the United States to develop disruptive solutions across the value chain of the solar industry. These projects will form partnerships between experts in AI and industry stakeholders such as solar power plant operators or owners, electric utilities, PV module manufacturers, and others that can supply the necessary data as well as solar-related subject matter expertise.

TOPIC AREA 8: Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS): PV and CSP
$5 million, ~15-20 projects

This topic area intends to fund innovative, novel ideas in PV and CSP that can produce significant results within the first year of performance. If successful, the outcomes will open up new avenues for continued study. These projects are riskier than research ideas based on established technologies and will typically receive smaller funding amounts than projects in other topic areas.

Prior to submitting a full application for topic areas 1-7 of this opportunity, a brief, mandatory letter of intent is due on March 9, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. ET. A mandatory letter of intent for topic 8 is due byApril 9, 2020, at 5:00 p.m. ET. See all application deadlines in the table below.

Key Dates

FOA Issue Date: February 5, 2020
Submission Deadline for Mandatory Letter of Intent (LOI) for Topics 1-7: March 9, 2020
Informational Webinar: February 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. ETRegister Here
Submission Deadline for Concept Papers:

Applicants must submit a Concept Paper by 5:00 p.m. ET on the due date listed to be eligible to submit a Full Application.

Topic Area 8 SIPS applicants DO NOT submit a Concept Paper.

March 16, 2020
Submission Deadline for Mandatory LOI for Topic Area 8: Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS) April 9, 2020
Submission Deadline for Full Applications:

Conversation With Will R. Shirley, Sr. President/CEO of Sun Dail Solar

Author: Will R. Shirley           Published: 02/11/2020

Will R. Shirley, Sr.

Will brings 23 years of systems technology experience to the Company. Will worked as VP of Operations for the Company before purchasing it outright


Caleb Dana

Mr. Dana is a Senior Principal Engineer with Sundial Solar with over 30 years of environmental consulting and engineering experience. Mr. Dana manages or provides principal oversight for  solar project site analysis and design.

Patty Patterson

As DIRECTOR OF COMMUNITY SOLAR, Ms. Patterson brings a Business Management degree and extensive management operations experience. She will lead the effort to bring Community Solar to neighborhoods throughout the State.

Zac Dana

Zac is the Company’s lead installer.  Zac is on management and operations hiatis gaining training that this company desires.  Upon his return Zac will perform as one of the corporate managers for installations & operations

Girard Gray, Sr.

Mr. Gray is a graduate of Ontility’s “Entry Level Solar Installation Course” a NABCEP licensed course of study and is a former lead solar instructor for The Hope Center in Gretna, Mr. Gray became associated with Sundial Solar in 2012.

Tawnya Ferguson

Tawnya is a former Manager for a large commercial concern with responsibilities in employee management, accounting, word processing, inventory control, corporate sales management and data customization.  Tawnya joined Sundial Solar 2015.


Based in the Capitol City of Mississippi, We Deliver Comprehensive Solar Services for Your Home, Business and Local Government – Trusted Services You can depend on.

Our Solar Team has a well-deserved reputation of excellence in providing smart, sensible, and cost-effective solar services to our clients.


The Company was organized in 2009 and is one of the longest serving active solar providers in the State of Mississippi.  Since 2009, the Company has gained relevant partnerships with major US-based solar financiers, solar manufacturers,  solar distributors and out-of-state solar installation companies. Our expertese, coupled with our partners, guarantee you, our clients, the best technology at the best cost available.

The Company is a Founding/Charter Member of our local trade association, the Gulf State Renewable Energy Industries Association (GSREIA) which is based in New Orleans, LA.

The Company is also a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – Local 480.  We utilize only skilled electrical craftsmen for most of our solar construction projects.

We serve a wide range of clientele, and every client relationship is valued greatly and treated with dignity and respect. Each engagement benefits from the depth and breadth of our solar expertise.


BRIEF Can the US power sector significantly reduce carbon emissions by 2040? Not according to EIA

Author:  lulia Gheorghiu            Published: 01/30/2020         Utility Dive

Credit Getty Images

Dive Brief:

  • The Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its annual outlook on Wednesday, including projections for a modest overall decline in power sector carbon emissions, with natural gas as the leading source of generation through 2040.
  • The continued low price of natural gas is expected to increase emissions, making carbon dioxide emissions in 2050 only 4% below 2019 levels, assuming constant laws and regulations. According to the outlook, carbon dioxide emissions across all sectors will flatline in 2030 until beginning to increase in 2040, based on the growing power consumption of industrial and transportation sectors.
  • Investor-owned utility trade group Edison Electric Institute (EEI) maintains that power sector and overall emissions reductions will be even greater than what EIA forecast based on clean energy commitments made by companies (including EEI members) and accelerating transportation electrification. “We expect more significant emissions reductions will occur,” Brian Reil, EEI spokesperson, told Utility Dive.

Dive Insight:

As EIA’s model uses the policies in place right now to create future projections through 2050, a “business as usual assumption drives the reference case, … [and] makes [EIA] projections of energy very conservative,” Peter Saundry, Johns Hopkins University professor and chief scientist of the nonprofit National Council for Science and the Environment, told Utility Dive.

“Their model is not set up to recognize evolving advances in policy or strong advances in technology,” he said, echoing EIA administrator Linda Capuano’s comments that the outlook is a projection, “not a prediction.”

Credit: EIA

While the announced retirements of coal-fired generation capacity create a decrease in power sector emissions, U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are expected to grow modestly in 2030s-2040s, according to the EIA, as continued natural gas additions and nuclear retirements offset increases in renewable generation.

The analysis doesn’t take into account additional expected coal plant retirements and future state initiatives to reduce emissions.

“One area where EIA is fairly pessimistic is the rollout of EVs,” Saundry said. “That has a lot to do with fairly conservative assumptions about how fast the cost of battery energy storage comes down.”

According to EIA’s transportation team leader, John Maple, not a lot of change is expected between the 2019 and 2020 sales distribution of electric vehicles. Longer range (200- and 300-mile) U.S. EV sales will grow from 280,000 in 2019 to 1.9 million in 2050, the EIA said.​

With the Trump administration working to block California from setting more ambitious fuel economy standards than the federal government, the EIA predicts motor gasoline consumption will rise.

But “regardless of that standard, I see EVs making a more aggressive inroad because I foresee a cost decline of energy storage,” Saundry said.

Others, like EEI, also dispute the EIA’s projection.

EEI has been lobbying for an increase in the tax credit for electric vehicle purchases, while supporting the development of utility-owned charging infrastructure for the vehicles.

“As of December 31, 2019, there were nearly 1.5 million electric vehicles on U.S. roads, and we project that number to increase to 18.7 million by 2030,” Reil said.

Democrats accuse Energy Department of underspending on clean energy research

Author: James Osborne    Published:02/05/2020  Houston Chronicle

The accusations of underspending follows efforts by the Trump administration to cut funding for the EERE office under former Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Photo: AFP Contributor/AFP via Getty Images

The accusations of underspending follows efforts by the Trump administration to cut funding for the EERE office under former Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Energy isn’t distributing funding for clean energy research fast enough, House Democrats said Wednesday.

At a hearing before the oversight panel of the House Science and Space Committee, Chairman Rep. Bill Foster, D-Ill., said the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy didn’t spend $823 million in funding appropriated by Congress last year, more than a third of its budget.

“We want to make sure EERE manages its R&D investments in an efficient manner and in keeping with congressional intent,” he said. “If potential grantees do not think EERE is a reliable partner, they are less likely to engage with DOE in the future. I am concerned about the effect this could have on the United States’ position as a global leader in clean energy.”

The criticism follows repeated efforts by the Trump administration to cut funding to the EERE office under former Energy Secretary Rick Perry. But Assistant Secretary for the EERE Daniel Simmons said that it was not the office’s intention to withhold spending and that carrying over funding from one year’s budget to the next was in line with the final years of the Obama administration.

“What matters at the end of the day is appropriated dollars. The president’s proposed budget is the beginning of the process,” he said. “It takes a while to get the funding announcements out the door.”

At the same time, Foster said, staffing levels at the EERE office have “severely dropped,” despite increases in salaries and benefits for DOE staff.

But Republicans on the science committee pushed back, arguing that it was the department’s job to move cautiously in the distribution of more than $1.3 billion in outside research funding last year.

“After increases by the Obama administration, EERE is by far DOE’s largest applied research program,” Beaumont Republican Rep. Randy Weber said.  “It is clear DOE has operated appropriately and within its mandate for grant funding review.”

WoodMac sees challenges for onshore wind: ‘Low hanging fruit has already been picked’

Author:      Published: 02/06/2020    Utility  Dive

Credit: Fotolia

Dive Brief:

  • Despite the enormous recent growth in wind power in the U.S., the lack of investment into new transmission lines, among other challenges, will make it more difficult for onshore wind to compete against solar power as the dominant source of clean energy, according to a new analysis from Wood Mackenzie.
  • “National and pan-regional super grid projects,” where one governing entity plans and builds new transmission capacity, may be the answer to overcome the coordination problems among grid operators, utilities and state regulators that currently block new transmission infrastructure, according to a statement from Wood Mackenzie on Wednesday that draws from the research firm’s 2020 outlook insight for global wind.
  • Another challenge for wind going forward is the fact that the “low-hanging fruit” of cost reductions, such as technological innovations that have made wind turbines more efficient, have already been picked, Wood Mackenzie Head of Global Wind Research Dan Shreve said in the statement.

Dive Insight:

Many of the cheapest, most efficient places to build new wind turbines are those isolated from population centers, necessitating large transmission investments in order to connect the wind farms to electricity demand. But what is changing, according to Shreve, is that the “top tier” wind resources yet to be developed are particularly difficult to reach with transmission infrastructure, often due to political opposition.

“A spate of high profile transmission projects,” such as the Multi-Value Projects in the region of Midwest grid operator MISO, “over the last decade helped reduce congestion within high wind penetration zones, as was evidenced by a reduction in the frequency of curtailment,” Shreve said in an email to Utility Dive.

“However, efforts to build out new long haul transmission have been stymied as of late by local opposition groups while the costs of even small scale transmission upgrades has ballooned in wind rich regions,” he said.

Just five states — Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas and Illinois — account for 70% of new wind installations over the last five years, according to Shreve, because that is where the best wind resources are, leading to low costs. But when those resources cannot be tapped to meet state or utility emissions reduction goals, potentially cheap wind energy is being left on the table.

“Top tier wind resources are critical to reaching the low power prices demanded by the market. These tend to be more localised than solar resources and situated in more remote locations,” Wood Mackenzie’s statement said, adding that “a lack of bulk transmission investment to support the expansion of wind power” is one of the “primary barriers” to decarbonizing the U.S. grid.

Curtailment occurs when there is more energy being produced than the market requires. Due to the transmission difficulties, many new wind farms are being built “in parts of the grid that are already saturated” but the owners of those projects simply have to accept curtailment, Grid Strategies Vice President Michael Goggin told Utility Dive.

While solar energy also faces constraints on where it can be built, siting is “a slightly larger impediment for wind than for solar,” according to Goggin, because if one location does not work out, it is relatively easy to find other locations where sun ray exposure is as strong, but locations with high wind resources are more limited. Even in regions with “strong low-cost wind resources,” there is a “low success rate” for proposed wind projects that enter the queue of projects hoping to interconnect to the grid, he said.

Over the past several years, wind energy has reduced costs significantly through technological improvements, like taller and more efficient turbine blades. But Wood Mackenzie expects future cost reductions to be “marginal.” More technological progress is expected for offshore wind compared to onshore, the statement said.

“Key evolutionary changes in turbine tower design, blade materials and controls will cause further reductions in onshore wind’s [levelized cost of electricity], however none can be considered true game change

Maryland regulators take cautious approach to multi-year rates, approve pilot for 1 utility

Author: Robert Walton       02/06/2020       Utility Dive