Bowie State University Solar Power Launch Ceremony

solar panels cover a portion of a parking lot at bowie state university

On Monday, May 21, 2018, on a beautiful spring day under the solar panel canopy of Parking Lot D, the Bowie State University community along with representatives from WGL Energy and SGC Power celebrated the launching of the solar panel system program on campus. During the 11 a.m. program, President Aminta H. Breaux, Michael Atkins, Interim VP of Administration and Finance, Michael Harris, Capital Projects Manager and Jack Hachmann, Director of Commercial Operations from WGL Energy joined with other dignitaries and the campus community to ceremoniously ‘flip the switch’ to activate the university’s solar power system. The system will generate about 10 percent of the campus’s energy needs.

“We hope this is just the beginning of many more alternative energy projects that will continue to demonstrate our commitment to sustainability,” said Michael Atkins, Interim VP of Administration and Finance. “As the guardian of the University’s financial viability, a project such as this ensures long term stability of electricity pricing with regard to the overall energy market which is expected to be volatile in the future.”

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) provided a $150,000 grant which enabled the University to partner with WGL Energy in installing a 1.6-megawatt solar power system across four sites of the campus.  In addition to the solar canopy in Lot D, there are solar panels on the roofs of Thurgood Marshall Library and the James Physical Education Complex, as well as a ground installment at an open field near the Bulldog Softball field.  Two charging stations for electric vehicles were also installed under the Lot D solar canopy as a part of the project.

“It is the direction of higher education to utilize alternative forms of energy,” said Michael Harris, BSU capital project manager. “Bowie State is aligned with the national trend in higher education to implement solar power projects.”  President Breaux also acknowledged the work of Dr. Karl Brockenbrough (retired) in spearheading the effort, and the tireless efforts of the BSU’s C4 (Climate Commitment Coordinating Committee) group.  The present C4 committee members along with Michael Atkins, Michael Harris, and President Breaux stood behind the switch with WGL representatives for a photo opportunity as President Breaux symbolically flipped the switch from the off to the on position. David Comas of MEA attended as well as BSU TV and local media affiliate, CTV.

Jack Hachmann of WGL recognized the big picture of this project.  “We know how important it is to support college students of today since they represent the next generation of professionals that will be making a difference in their hometown, to local organizations, to their families and friends, to make a productive mark on society.”

C4 Chairman Jabari Walker defines the project as an important step in furthering support of the University’s sustainability goals, BSU’s commitment to lowering its carbon footprint, and remaining an institutional leader in environmental responsibility within Maryland and across the globe.

California to require rooftop solar for new homes

Dive Brief:

  • The California Energy Commission approved the 2019 Building Energy Code on Wednesday, requiring renewable energy access for all new residential homes in the state starting in 2020.
  • The code includes incentives for energy storage while mandating that the construction of new homes include advanced energy efficiency measures and rooftop solar. The mandate could require between 68 and 241 MW of annual distributed solar buildout, according to ClearView Energy Partners’ research using 2017 data.
  • All told, the new code is meant to save Californians a net $1.7 billion on energy bills, while advancing the state’s efforts to build-out renewable energy, the commission said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This historic revision of building energy codes ensures a large investment in residential rooftop solar and energy efficiency as California pursues its mandate of getting 50% of its energy from renewables by 2030.”The combination of rooftop solar and the option to add energy storage systems as an efficiency compliance credit provides builders with an attractive, cost-effective option to fully electrify homes,” Abigail Ross Hopper, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. SEIA worked with the commission for more than two years to develop the new standards.Already, the news has been a boon for solar developers such as Sunrun, Vivint Solar and First Solar. Bloomberg reported a surge in the stock of solar companies after the commission’s decision.

    In a prior boost for solar, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) had approved its net metering 2.0 rate design in January 2016, to the chagrin of the state’s investor-owned utilities. Utilities asserted that the net metered distributed generation from California’s electricity consumers shifted the costs for the system’s maintenance and infrastructure onto non-distributed generation owners.

    Research from analysts at ClearView singled out Wednesday’s distributed solar mandate as a possible opening for utilities to argue that California regulators should reconsider the net metering reform proposal.

    Utilities that objected to the new rate-design “could contend that the introduction of mandated distributed solar sufficiently alters the policy landscape to warrant further review of the compensation levels paid to excess generation,” ClearView said in their report, published ahead of the energy commission’s decision.

    The updated codes also include new incentives for energy storage: integrating storage in new homes would lower the required size for solar systems. The state has been a leader in incentivizing energy storage. In January, the CPUC moved to allow multiple revenue streams for energy storage, such as spinning reserve services and frequency regulation.

    California’s Building Standards Commission must also approve the new standards, Associated Press reported.

Pig-powered microgrid in North Carolina may be the future of rural cooperative supply

The Butler pig farm includes a range of clean energy technologies, and the state’s cooperatives see its grid integration efforts as a model that can be replicated.

According to the United Nations, by 2050, the world’s food production will need to increase 70% to feed a steadily-growing population. That means more farming, and more energy demand to support it.

The International Renewable Energy Agency estimates almost a third of the world’s energy is used by the agri-food supply chain. And increasingly, many types of farms, from rice to livestock, are tapping new energy technologies to reduce their carbon footprint and maintain reliability —particularly in areas where the energy supply may be less reliable.

It’s not unusual to see a farmer utilizing wind or solar to reduce their energy needs, and at times the energy production can be more valuable than crops. But a growing number of agricultural businesses are going further, embracing grid edge technologies whole hog, if you will. And the fuel mix is often tied to the farm’s primary business.

Agricultural microgrids

“There are microgrids in the agricultural sector,” Peter Asmus, associate director at Navigant, told Utility Dive. “Using agricultural waste, I think that is something we’ll see more of. … It’s definitely a segment within the market.”

In the United States, perhaps the best known agricultural microgrid is Stone Edge Farm in Sonoma, Calif. Along with Bordeaux-style wines, they also produce olives, eggs, herbs and almost a megawatt of energy to fuel operations. The farm’s microgrid is extensive, essentially a laboratory for grid edge ideas: it utilizes a half-dozen storage technologies, and during the California wildfires was able to island itself for more than a week.

Colorado-based Husk Power Systems developed systems in India to generate electricity from gasified rice husks that are often discarded by farmers, to power local communities. On the island of Hawaii, the North Kohala Microgrid Project uses wind to power water pumping, a frequent need of farmers, for a range of local agricultural operations.

And just last week, in North Carolina, a microgrid was commissioned at the Butler Quality Pork and Renewable Energy Farm in Harnett County, and connected to the South River Electric Membership Corporation (SREMC). The system, which is member-owned and controlled, integrates renewable biogas from swine waste, solar generation and energy storage, and can power 28 nearby homes for up to four hours at peak demand.

Powered by pig poop

The Butler microgrid is unique in many ways: it was privately built by a conservation-minded local farmer, and then later connected to the cooperative’s grid. It remains under control of the farm, though in a later phase of development it will be transferred to SREMC.

GM and Honda are joining forces to create the next generation of batteries for electric cars

Matthew DeBord   Jun. 7, 2018, 9:43 AM
Chevy Bolt Reveal
The Chevy Bolt EV Chevrolet
  • General Motors and Honda announced a deal to develop next-generation electric-battery technology.
  • GM will ultimately supply Honda with batteries for the North American market.
  • The deal comes after GM and SoftBank revealed a $3.35 billion investment in GM’s Cruise self-driving division.
  • GM intends to bring 20 new EVs to market by 2023.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     General Motors might be over 100 years old, but the car maker isn’t slowing down in its march to the future. After announcing a $3.35-billion investment in its Cruise self-driving division by Japan’s SoftBank and GM itself, the company on Thursday said that it has struck a deal with Honda to develop and supply electric-vehicle batteries.

 “This new, multiyear agreement with Honda further demonstrates General Motors” capability to innovate toward a profitable electric portfolio,” vice-president and product czar                    Mark Reuss said in a statement. “GM’s decades of electrification experience and strategic EV investments, alongside Honda’s commitment to advancing mobility, will result in better solutions for our customers and progress on our zero emissions vision.”In the arrangement, GM will supply Honda with advanced battery packs.

“The next-generation battery will deliver higher energy density, smaller packaging and faster charging capabilities for both companies’ future products, mainly for the North American market,” GM said in a statement.

Daimler just unveiled an electric truck to take on Tesla’s Semi

Mark Matousek  Jun. 7, 2018, 10:48 AM

daimler ecascadia and em2
Daimler’s Freightliner eCascadia will have half the range of a Tesla Semi.
  • Daimler unveiled two electric trucks on Wednesday, one of which will compete directly with Tesla‘s semi-truck, the Semi.
  • The Freightliner eCascadia will have a range of 250 miles and be able to receive 200 miles of range from a 90-minute charge.
  • Tesla’s Semi will have double the range of the eCascadia, 500 miles, and be able to receive up to 400 miles of range from a 30-minute charge.

Daimler unveiled two electric trucks on Wednesday, one of which will compete directly with Tesla’s semi-truck, the Semi.

The heavy-duty Freightliner eCascadia will have a 550 kWh battery pack with a range of 250 miles and produce 730 horsepower. The vehicle will be able to receive 200 miles of range from a 90-minute charge.

Tesla’s Semi will have double the range of the eCascadia, 500 miles, and be able to receive up to 400 miles of range from a 30-minute charge. It will also be able to accelerate from 0-60 mph in five seconds without any cargo and in 20 seconds while carrying 80,000 pounds of cargo.

In February, Martin Daum, the head of Daimler’s truck and bus division, cast doubt on Tesla’s ability to deliver on the Semi’s impressive specs in an interview with Bloomberg

On Wednesday, Daimler also revealed the medium-duty Freigthliner eM2, which is designed for local and last-mile delivery services and will have a range of around 230 miles.

Daimler will give 30 prototypes of the electric trucks to early customers by the end of the year, and will begin series production for the eCascadia and eM3 in 2021.

“We are the undisputed global leader of the trucking industry and we intend to remain in that position with electric trucks and buses,” the company said in a press release. “We were first-movers on electric trucks and strive to set the standard in each relevant segment.”


China’s solar energy explosion reveals a dim future for fossil fuels — here’s what it looks like

Neighborhood Energy Challenge – Wind Edition

By Gina Mathias, Sustainability Manager, City of Takoma Park

The new sustainability challenge is here! This summer everyone is being challenged to switch to 100 percent renewable energy. Apartments, houses and businesses all have the opportunity to choose 100 percent renewable electricity at a special rate.  The City’s goal is to have at least 25 percent of the city powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of September.  The neighborhood team (same teams as the 2015-2016 Neighborhood Energy Challenge) with the highest percentage of households buying renewable energy will win the grand prize and bragging rights.
The City of Takoma Park has long purchased 100 percent wind electricity through renewable energy credits for its own operations, and while residents and businesses have also been able to purchase renewable energy through a number of suppliers in Maryland, choosing the right supplier has been a barrier for many. Shopping the various suppliers and navigating in confusing contract terms, misleading advertising, high rates, and unclear sources of the power has led only a small percentage (est. 5 – 8 percent) of businesses and households in the city actually to
choose clean power.

To make the process easier and help the city achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goals, The City of Takoma Park initiated an open proposal process and conducted research on rates, business reliability, power sources, and contract terms. The result is a partnership with Clean Choice Energy, a locally based Certified B-Corporation and renewable energy company that sources 100
percent of its power from wind and solar. For Takoma Park residents and businesses, it will supply 100 percent renewable energy generated in our region. Sourcing from nearby wind and solar farms leads to healthier air and cleaner water, while helping create new jobs in the state of Maryland. If we achieve our goal of 25 percent of the city choosing renewable energy, it willnhave the impact of avoiding the burning of more than 1 million pounds of coal.

CleanChoice is offering a special limited time rate for the Takoma Park campaign. The residential rate is just 8.6 cents per kWh, or about $10 more a month than an average Pepco bill. Businesses will see similar special rates as well. This rate will last for one year, and a special rate will be applied again at renewal, although rates may change slightly. The contracts are also great
with no cancellation fees, ever. To choose clean energy at this special rate, you mustvisit and sign up by Sept. 30, 2018.

A major reason the city chose CleanChoice Energy is its strategy to honor Takoma Park’s commitments to improve socioeconomic equity in the city. Low-income households that sign up for CleanChoice renewable energy as part of this campaign will receive an annual rebate to offset the additional cost. Anyone that thinks they may qualify can contact
for the income qualification application and more information. You donot have to own a home to qualify.

This summer’s sustainability challenge supports the ongoing efforts to implement the 2014 Sustainable Energy Action Plan’s seventeen key strategies to reduce greenhouse as emissions. The effort to get as much of the city powered by renewable energy as possible is the next step in the implementation of the plan, following the successful Neighborhood Energy Challenge in 2015 – 2016 and the 2017 Car-Free Challenge.

How can you switch to clean energy? Go to or call 1-855-563-9774. Also keep an eye out for CleanChoice Energy representatives this summer, who will be tabling at community events. If you would like to host aneighborhood or team information session where the City’s Sustainability Manager and CleanChoice Energy can answer detailed
questions, contact to set it up.

Already buy clean power? Great! Want to buy from a different supplier? That’s okay, too! Simply email and let me know which supplier you use and how long you’ve been buying clean power, so we can count your house in the team challenge and our goal to reach 25 percent of all accounts in the city. If you are already a CleanChoice customer and you’d
like to switch to the special rate, call 1-855-563-9774.

About CleanChoice: CleanChoice holds itself to a higher standard than many businesses do. CleanChoice Energy is a Certified B- corporation, a member of the American Sustainable Business Council and the U.S. Green Building Council, and is certified with the highest available rating by Green America’s Green Business Network, the first and largest network of socially and environmentally responsible businesse.

Three US states will spend $1.3 billion to build more electric vehicle charging


California, New York, and New Jersey’s new efforts could boost EVs beyond niche status, some experts say

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Three US states announced major investments in charging infrastructure for electric cars on Thursday. In total, California, New York, and New Jersey will put $1.3 billion on the table in the coming years to help chip away at one of the biggest barriers standing in the way of widespread EV adoption.

California’s Public Utilities Commission approved up to $738 million worth of projects over the next five years, the agency announced. Southern California Edison and the Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) will spend up to $343 million and $236 million, respectively, to build charging infrastructure that will support thousands of medium or heavy-duty vehicles at around 1,500 locations throughout the state. PG&E will spend another $22 million building 234 DC fast-charging stations at around 50 different sites throughout the state.

The US Department of Energy says that more than 80 percent of EV charging currently happens at home, so some of the focus of California’s investment will be on helping support home charging as well. San Diego Gas and Electric will spend up to $137 million on its “Residential Charging Program,” allowing the utility to offer rebates for up to 60,000 customers who want to install Level 2 chargers in their homes.

In New York, the governor’s office announced a pledge of up to $250 million through 2025 to its electric vehicle expansion initiative, EVolve NY. The New York Power Authority will work with the private sector to install up to 200 DC fast chargers “along key interstate corridors” with the goal of making them available every 30 miles, and it will also bring them to urban areas as well, including at or near New York City’s two major airports. Meanwhile, New Jersey’s biggest utility owner Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) announced a $300 million pledge to build out up to 50,000 charging stations along highways, in residential areas, and at workplaces.

“We’re going to see a series of all-new electric vehicles hit showrooms over the next two years. These new models will offer greater range than we’ve seen in past EVs, but getting electric vehicles past 1 percent market share will still prove challenging because range anxiety remains a concern for most consumers,” Brauer told The Verge in an email. “If states like California, New Jersey, and New York can support these new EVs with an expanded charging infrastructure the combination could, finally, push electric cars beyond the niche status they’ve been stuck in for over two decades.”

Max Baumhefner, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, shared a similar sentiment. California, in particular, he said in an email to The Verge, “has sufficient market power to drive change nationally, on both the policy, business, and technology front. Policy-makers and utility CEOs across the nation will take notice of the scale of this investment.”

“There are few industries that can match Big Oil’s deep pockets and political influence. The electric industry is one of them,” Baumhefner added. “Today’s authorization of a $738 million investment by three electric utilities [in California] marks the beginning of new era of welcome competition for the transportation market.”

That power that California wields has come under fire in recent months as the federal government, working through the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, tries to loosen vehicle emissions standards set by the Obama administration. In particular, California has the power to set its own vehicle emissions standards, thanks to a Clean Air Act waiver it obtained in the 1970s. The White House and the EPA are considering a direct confrontation with the state over that status, according to various reports, because any attempt to lower the national standards could cause chaos in the marketplace if California’s remain higher than the ones set by the DOT.

This weeks news is further realization of recent investments and efforts by these states to push for renewable energy. California’s investment is a result of SB 350, a law passed in 2015 that put the state on a path to generate half of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. The state’s Public Utilities Commission approved $43 million earlier this year to be spent on electric buses, trucks, and other heavy-duty vehicles, as well as the deployment of charging stations. The state also announced plans in May to use the $423 million it received from Volkswagen as part of the fallout from the company’s diesel emissions scandal.

New York’s announcement was an extension of the Zero Emission Vehicle Action Plan that the state put in place in 2014, which was an agreement between eight states to get 3.3 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2025. New Jersey’s EV infrastructure push is part of a larger $14 to $17 billion plan from PSEG to clean up the state’s energy usage.

“It’s great to see this kind of investment in game-changing transportation technology. We’re seeing states step up to move good policies forward, and building the infrastructure for cleaner, efficient motor vehicles — both for passenger cars and for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles — is a critical step,” says Janet McCabe, who led the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation under Obama and is an assistant director at Indiana University’s Environmental Resilience Institute. “Motor vehicles now emit more greenhouse gases than the fossil-fuel fired power sector. This country is on the verge of true transformation, and it needs to be in order to protect the public health now and in the future.”

Correction: This article previously referred to it as the National Resources Defense Council. It is the Natural Resources Defense Council. The article has been u

New Kaiser Permanente Study Provides Evidence of Health Risks Linked to Electromagnetic Field Exposure

By: Kaiser Permanente December 13, 2017

OAKLAND, Calif. — A study of real-world exposure to non-ionizing radiation from magnetic fields in pregnant women found a significantly higher rate of miscarriage, providing new evidence regarding their potential health risks. The Kaiser Permanente study was published today in the journal Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group).

Non-ionizing radiation from magnetic fields is produced when electric devices are in use and electricity is flowing. It can be generated by a number of environmental sources, including electric appliances, power lines and transformers, wireless devices and wireless networks. Humans are exposed to magnetic fields via close proximity to these sources while they are in use.

While the health hazards from ionizing radiation are well-established and include radiation sickness, cancer and genetic damage, the evidence of health risks to humans from non-ionizing radiation remains limited, said De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, principal investigator of the study and a reproductive and perinatal epidemiologist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California.

“Few studies have been able to accurately measure exposure to magnetic field non-ionizing radiation,” Dr. Li said. “In addition, due to the current lack of research on this subject, we don’t know the biological threshold beyond which problems may develop, and we also don’t yet understand the possible mechanisms for increased risks.”

In a new study funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, researchers asked women over age 18 with confirmed pregnancies to wear a small (a bit larger than a deck of cards) magnetic-field monitoring device for 24 hours. Participants also kept a diary of their activities on that day, and were interviewed in person to better control for possible confounding factors, as well as how typical their activities were on the monitoring day. Researchers controlled for multiple variables known to influence the risk of miscarriage, including nausea/vomiting, past history of miscarriage, alcohol use, caffeine intake and maternal fever and infections.

Objective magnetic field measurements and pregnancy outcomes were obtained for 913 pregnant women, all members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Miscarriage occurred in 10.4 percent of the women with the lowest measured exposure level (1st quartile) of magnetic field non-ionizing radiation on a typical day, and in 24.2 percent of the women with the higher measured exposure level (2nd, 3rd and 4th quartiles), a nearly three times higher relative risk. The rate of miscarriage reported in the general population is between 10 and 15 percent, Dr. Li said.

“This study provides evidence from a human population that magnetic field non-ionizing radiation could have adverse biological impacts on human health,” he said.

Strengths of this study, Dr. Li noted, included that researchers used an objective measuring device and studied a short-term outcome (miscarriage) rather than one that will occur years or decades later, such as cancer or autoimmune diseases. The study’s main limitation is that it was not feasible for researchers to ask participants to carry the measuring device throughout pregnancy.

Dr. Li noted that the potential health risk of magnetic-field non-ionizing radiation needs more research. “We hope that the finding from this study will stimulate much-needed additional studies into the potential environmental hazards to human health, including the health of pregnant women.”

In addition to Dr. Li, co-authors of the study were Hong Chen, MPH, Jeannette Ferber, MPH, Roxana Odouli, MSPH and Charles Quesenberry, PhD, all of the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.

About the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research

The Kaiser Permanente Division of Research conducts, publishes and disseminates epidemiologic and health services research to improve the health and medical care of Kaiser Permanente members and society at large. It seeks to understand the determinants of illness and well-being, and to improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of health care. Currently, DOR’s 550-plus staff is working on more than 350 epidemiological and health services research projects. For more information, visit or follow us @KPDOR.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 11.7 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to

Pittsburgh sets goal of 50% energy reduction in revised climate plan

AUTHOR: Jason Plautz PUBLISHED May 24, 2018

Dive Insight:
Despite — and especially since — being namechecked by President Trump as part of the reasoning for exiting the Paris Agreement, Pittsburgh has been vocal in its commitment to climate action and green energy. “The story of Pittsburgh’s resurgence really began around the need to reduce pollution and improve our air quality,” said Chief Resilience Officer Grant Ervin in a 2017 interview with Smart Cities Dive. That need included revitalizing former industrial sites with green spaces, reducing pollution from the city’s coal and steel operations and prioritizing alternative transportation.

The plan also built on strong public support; the city council voted 8-0 to approve the climate goals, with one abstention. City leaders had more than 100 workshops and public events over the last three years to gather input on the plan, with representatives of more than 90 organizations, businesses, nonprofits and government agencies involved. The interest in public-private partnerships can help ensure the goals don’t just stay on the page and actually become reality.

As the federal government steps back on climate action, states and cities have begun filling the gap, setting ambitious emissions reduction goals and commitments to clean energy. The We Are Still In coalition has some 200 mayors vowing to keep up the goals of the Paris climate accord, and last month launched the We Are Taking Action initiative to push local climate action. While city leaders have a lot of leeway in implementing direct changes in their area and represent a broad swath of the country, it remains to be seen if those efforts can make up for any pollution reduction being lost from the federal level.

Does 112% growth in 2017 mean community solar has finally solved its complexity problem?

AUTHOR: Herman K. Trabish PUBLISHED May 24, 2018

Solar developers and utilities are moving into the sector fast, writing new rules as they go.

Utilities like big solar projects that they can own, and consumers like rooftop solar that they can own, but there is a third kind of solar emerging that may finally be ready to work for both utilities and consumers.

Community solar projects are interconnected with utilities’ distribution systems in ways that give utilities the same control they get with larger projects. But they are owned or leased by individual customers like rooftop solar. And they are big enough to get economies of scale that make them more affordable than rooftop solar.

Community solar has been held back by the complexities that come with being the right choice for everybody. But recent growth shows it may have begun to resolve those complexities.

The appeal is clear. Community solar’s installed U.S. capacity grew 112%, from 387 MW at the end of 2016 to 734 MW at the end of 2017, according to a report released May 1 from the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) and the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). This includes utility-administered projects in 33 states and private developer-administered projects in 19 states.

The potential market is huge as it includes all electricity customers without solar-suitable roofs or the financial status or inclination to contract for or own it. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2015 estimated the potential market at between 32% to 49% of the projected 2020 overall 5.5 GW to 11 GW distributed solar market, representing between $8.2 billion and $16.3 billion in cumulative investment.

Community solar’s rapid recent growth shows that potential can become real. Utilities are beginning to understand its system benefits. Financial backers are starting to appreciate its value. And SEPA and CCSA are beginning to standardize policy and make the new concept more familiar to customers.

Why now?
The industry has begun to provide solutions for community solar’s complications. Financial backers and utility regulators have sometimes been reluctant to commit to projects dependent on subscribers. Consumers have been reluctant to buy portions of promised projects with less than familiar contractual obligations.

To resolve consumers’ uncertainties, community solar advocates created legal and transactional frameworks that led to a state policy matrix, a state policy template, and utility best practices. Pioneering laws in Colorado, Minnesota and Massachusetts led to 2017’s explosion of activity by private sector developers while utilities continue to refine their offerings.

SEPA Manager and report co-author Dan Chwastyk said there are now at least 228 utilities with community solar offerings. “That is almost 10% of U.S. utilities, which is a significant penetration since it is a new concept to them,” he told Utility Dive.

By the end of 2017, the 228 utilities with offerings broke down as follows: 160 cooperative utilities, 37 public power utilities and 31 investor-owned utilities. Only 30% of these programs had a capacity of over 1 MW. But only 20% of programs had a capacity of over 1 MW in 2015.

Utility-administered community solar projects represented 239 MW of total installed capacity, which lags private developers’ 495 MW. But 246 MW were built by the private sector in Minnesota alone, Chwastyk said. “Everybody is lagging Minnesota.”

Tom Hunt, policy director for sector-leading Clean Energy Collective, said Minnesota proves community solar’s potential. “It shows how big private developer-administered programs can be and how much customer interest they can drive in an open market with a workable policy.”

The size of the market and the number of markets “is also starting to make a difference in financing,” Hunt said. “They allow developers to build project portfolios that attract more and lower-cost capital, and financial markets see less risk, which increases the sources of capital and makes the discussions about financing easier.”

The key selling point for community solar is that it increases access, the new SEPA-CCSA paper acknowledges. But it also can offer the cost, reliability, economic, utility-system, climate, health, jobs, and flexibility benefits of other distributed and utility-scale renewables. And “some utilities are starting to explore how community solar can aid grid reliability and other ancillary services,” the report adds.

Credit: From the SEPA-CCSA 2018 community solar report

The new numbers
CCSA Executive Director Jeff Cramer acknowledged that community solar is still a small percentage of overall and new capacities. “But it is the fastest growing sector of the solar industry,” he told Utility Dive.

There are state policies that shape community solar and facilitate private developer participation in 17 states and the District of Columbia, the paper reports. Legislation in at least nine states would add or expand policies. State policy supports growth but does not guarantee growth because some state policies are poorly designed, the report adds.

Community solar’s 112% capacity growth in 2017 was preceded by “an average annual growth rate of 68% over the last 10 years,” the SEPA paper notes.

Both Cramer and SEPA’s Chwastyk estimated that over 250 MW have been added this year and, by May 1, the sector’s cumulative installed capacity had reached 1 GW. Continued growth in the near term will be driven by “declining solar costs, increasing customer awareness of the business model, and the opening of new state markets by policy,” the paper reports.

The only real limiting factor in the near term is the availability of state policy to support private sector developers because “community solar grows in states that have favorable policy,” SEPA’s Chwastyk said.

Beyond 5 years, Chwastyk sees a growth-limiting factor. As states expand their renewables mandates, the penetration of renewables in utility portfolios will become significant, he said. “Candidates for community solar might be satisfied with utility-delivered electricity and might not want to pay for more renewables generation.”

But as of now, community solar projects are 83% subscribed. Programs administered by utilities and private developers have comparable subscription levels, despite differing priorities. The experience of Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association (PVREA) demonstrates those differences.

Utility v. private developer considerations
PVREA, in northern Colorado, sold out its 116 kW community solar array in 2012 and its 632 kW array in 2015. It brought a 1,500 kW community solar array on line last year that is “about 50% subscribed,” according to Member Relations Manager David White.

Two-thirds of the new array is allotted to low-to-moderate income, non-profit and public service customers. The other third is for residential customers and offers a value proposition comparable to that from rooftop solar, White told Utility Dive. PVREA is using the array’s unsubscribed portions as utility generation while it markets the offerings.

This reveals utility considerations that differ from private developer considerations. Private providers are driven by market factors, while utilities are obligated to serve all customers. It benefits utilities to have an offering that will attract customers considering moving to rooftop solar. And utilities can use unsubscribed output to serve load.

Hunt agreed these are important differentiations. “Third parties must have projects subscribed or they don’t get paid and their financiers don’t get paid,” he said. “That natural market mechanism makes the projects work.” An example is the Clean Energy Collective’s 21 MW project for South Carolina Electric and Gas. Though not yet interconnected, it is already oversubscribed, he said.

“Some utilities have been very strategic about designing programs with excess capacity that gives them flexibility in allocating capacity, especially with solar as cheap as it is,” Hunt said. “The question is whether a project is unsubscribed for strategic reasons or because it was poorly designed.”

Credit: From the SEPA-CCSA 2018 community solar report

The new plan
Despite the growth in community solar, costs are already something of an obstacle, according to the SEPA-CCSA report.

Administrative costs, which include customer acquisition and customer billing and crediting costs, are $0.12/watt for projects of less than 1 MW. They fall to $0.09/watt for projects bigger than 1 MW, which are more often built by private sector developers.

To address the complexities of customer acquisition and customer billing and credit handling that drive costs, SEPA obtained a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office. Using extensive industry feedback, Chwastyk led efforts that resulted in the “Decision Tree” detailed in the new report.

Over half of utilities told SEPA their biggest challenge is customer acquisition. By contrast, private developers “overwhelmingly indicated that working to meet complex and diverse policy requirements is their major challenge,” the paper reports.

“The original idea was to create basic models that every utility could use, but there is too much market variability,” Chwastyk said. “The Decision Tree begins with four basic questions that need to be answered for any market.”

The first question is whether the utility or a private sector developer will be the program administrator or whether responsibilities will be shared. The next decision is whether the customers will have an up-front payment or an ongoing monthly payment. Some programs are moving toward offering customers both options.

The third decision is whether or how to limit participation. Subscriptions can be open to residential and commercial electricity users or can be strategically apportioned among various customer classes, including low income and non-profit customers. Finally, decisions must determine the “key terms and conditions” of the subscription, including how long a customer is required to participate and how long the program administrator guarantees the terms of the subscription.

The approach is already working for utilities. A July 2016 Entergy Mississippi community solar proposal filed with state regulators references extensive SEPA guidance on program design choices.

Chwastyk said the Decision Tree revealed two crucial takeaways. First, “implementing it is almost worthless if the market research has not been done, because so much of the design should be defined by who the program is being marketed to and what they want,” he said.

Second, utility-administered programs “need a champion within the utility who will be [their] advocate,” Chwastyk said. Building a community solar project requires people from rates, customer engagement, the distribution system, engineering, and other utility departments to come together and somebody has to make sure it gets moved through the system.”

Credit: From the SEPA-CCSA 2018 community solar report

Next questions
Clean Energy Collective’s Hunt said the next questions facing community solar are how many states will develop policies and how the product can be better. “Those answers are not necessary right away because we can grow by GWs with the present products,” he said. “But they might be necessary to grow beyond that.”

Energy consultant Jill K. Cliburn led the DOE-funded three-year Community Solar Value Project, which was aimed at advancing understanding of the sector’s value proposition. She saw in the new report indicators of community solar’s greater potential. “If policymakers get it right, community solar could rival the rooftop solar market within a decade,” she emailed Utility Dive. “But that’s a big if.”

The growth in Minnesota is “impressive,” but “success is not all about speed to scale,” she said. “It is worth taking the time to develop community solar options that are truly rooted in the community.”

Utilities, and especially investor-owned utilities, are concerned that regulators and policymakers will undermine their efforts with overly rigid or prescriptive requirements, she said. Instead, utilities should be encouraged to develop a “portfolio” of projects with a full range of offerings for all customer classes.

Finally, community solar “is fairly complicated” but “does not have to look complicated to the customer,” Cliburn said. With a simpler presentation, it could fulfill its potential to satisfy both consumers and utilities because it could be offered “with pricing signals or solar-plus service packages that address the duck curve or other emerging grid issues.”

Washington DC city council is considering new bill for “One Hundred Percent Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Amendment Act of 2018.”

Author:Yesenia River D.C. Program Director, Solar United Neighbors MAY 23,2018

The Council is considering an historic plan to require our local utility to obtain 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2050, including 17% from solar power (up from the current standard of 50% renewables by 2032 with 5% from solar). While there’s still a lot of work to do, this bill is a great start for securing D.C.’s renewable energy future. And with your help we can fight to make that future equitable and inclusive.

What will tripling solar generation mean for the city? To meet the 17% solar carve-out, the District will need to generate hundreds more MW of solar electricity. That translates to lower and more predictable electric utility bills, thousands of new jobs, tens of millions of dollars in additional economic activity, and massive solar-related cost savings from improved grid resiliency.

Solar United Neighbors supports the bill, but we also think it should be improved by including funding important for energy equity programs like “Solar for All” so that all D.C.’s residents, particularly lower income families, can benefit directly from solar.

Please contact the Council now to voice your support for the “One Hundred Percent Renewable Portfolio Standard Expansion Amendment Act of 2018.” Tell them you want them to modify the bill to ensure that all residents have the opportunity to go solar, and that you’re proud that our city is building a clean energy economy for all.


Cybersecurity and the distributed grid: A double-edged sword

AUTHOR: Robert Walton @TeamWetDog PUBLISHED May 21, 2018

wo evolutions are taking place around the power sector today, which could make it more difficult to defend from a growing cyber threat.

Hackers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to disrupt electric grids. Attacks are more targeted, including spear phishing efforts aimed at individuals, and are shifting from corporate networks to include industrial control systems.

At the same time, the grid is becoming increasingly distributed and connected. Older power plants have been spared cyber attacks because they were not connected to the internet (which may not have existed when they were built). New resources are connected — though they are also being constructed with security in mind. And in this growing Internet of Things world, just about every device imaginable can create a potential vulnerability.

This creates something of a double-edged sword, say security experts. On the one hand, it distributes risk and the consequences of a successful breach. But it also creates a broader “attack surface” with more vulnerabilities and opportunities for attackers to gain access.

“In theory, a grid with more distributed resources can increase the potential attack surface for adversaries because the capacity of distributed generation, including renewables, has grown exponentially over the last decade.”

Bill Lawrence,

Director, NERC’s Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center

“Modern grid technologies expose existing security vulnerabilities in new ways, as well as introduce new benefits,” Advanced Energy Economy Institute concluded in an assessment of cybersecurity challenges on a distributed grid, published earlier this year.

The report also found the energy industry is “learning important lessons from the high profile, and high impact, attacks that have affected a large number of users in the United States during the past two years.” AEEI noted that several attacks have used internet-connected devices “such as baby monitors, webcams, and other smart home devices.”

No major disruptions yet
Thus far, the utility sector in this country has dodged any major disruptions due to cyberattacks. There have been minor intrusions, malware infections and false alarms, but so far, hackers have not been able to turn off the lights. Increasingly, however, security experts concede a successful attack is likely to happen eventually.

“In theory, a grid with more distributed resources can increase the potential attack surface for adversaries because the capacity of distributed generation, including renewables, has grown exponentially over the last decade,” Bill Lawrence, director of NERC’s Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center, told Utility Dive in an email.

Some of the success in deflecting attacks so far, said Lawrence, is because many of the new distributed resources are including cybersecurity concerns and plans from the start of a project, and up-to-date security solutions are coming to market. Some of those security products, he said, have been developed through the Department of Energy’s Cybersecurity for Energy Delivery Systems research and development program.

DOE’s Office of Electricity developed the R&D program, aiming to help energy sector asset owners. The Office of Electricity’s website neatly presents some of the difficulties presented by distributed resources.

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STATE Ohio lawmakers fine-tune renewable energy mandates

By Jim Provance | BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEFPublished on May 20, 2018


COLUMBUS — Ohio utilities would still have to find more of their power from renewable sources like solar and wind but not as much as required by current law under a bill that could soon see a Senate vote.

A revised version of House Bill 114 rolled out last week would get rid of the House-passed concept of replacing the mandates with voluntary goals carrying no penalties for failure.

The bill also seeks to resolve a four-year feud over the siting of wind farms.

“The governor vetoed the concept [of killing the renewable-energy mandates] in the past,” said Sen. Bill Beagle (R., Tipp City), who offered the compromise amendment adopted by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Is there a way where we might be able to work with the interested parties to come up with something that the governor and the legislature could live with?” he asked. “Is there a spot where the mandates are reduced enough that the governor wouldn’t veto it?”

With overwhelming bipartisan support, Ohio lawmakers in 2008 mandated that FirstEnergy, American Electric Power, and other utilities find 12.5 percent of their power from wind, solar, hydroelectric, and other renewable sources by 2025.

But by 2014 lawmakers’ resolve had weakened amid arguments by the utilities that the effort was about to start affecting customers’ bills. They passed a law to take a two-year timeout, freezing in place the annual incremental benchmarks that the utilities had to meet on their way to 12.5 percent.

Gov. John Kasich went along with the two-year freeze, but he vetoed a follow-up measure in 2016 to extend that freeze indefinitely. The march toward 12.5 percent resumed, but is now two years behind schedule.

While preserving the idea of requiring measurable progress on purchasing renewable power, Mr. Beagle’s amendment sets the new final mandate at 8.5 percent by 2022 instead of 12.5 percent by 2027. In addition, the new mandated carve-out for solar power within that broader renewable mandate would be reduced to 0.34 percent from 0.5 percent under current law.

The revised bill would also mandate that the utilities reduce electricity use by 17.2 percent, down from 22.2 percent, by 2027.

House Bill 114, as sponsored by Rep. Lou Blessing III (R., Cincinnati) and passed by the House, did not talk about siting wind turbines. But it’s been a contentious issue since 2014 when lawmakers enacted new property setback restrictions that the wind industry contends have all but brought wind farm investment to a standstill.

“We need to rethink that and come up with something — not what the old setbacks were but something that would permit an industry to succeed,” Mr. Beagle said.

The Senate could vote on a revised bill before it recesses for the summer within the next two to three weeks.

Current law prohibits the placement of a wind turbine if the tip of its closest extended blade would come within 1,125 feet of a property line. The amendment would change that to 1,125 feet from the nearest habitable residence for wind farms generating at least five megawatts of power.

The amendment also provides for a setback from the nearest property line of 1.2 times the tower’s height, up from 1.1. This further ensures that if the tower were to fall, it would not encroach on a neighbor’s property.

Some wind farms have faced opposition from owners of neighboring rural properties who object to the noise, light reflection, and shadows from the turbines. The towers’ placement within closer proximity can reduce the current and future use and value of their land without compensation, they’ve argued.

Sen. Robert McColley (R., Napoleon) voted for House Bill 114 and its repeal of the green power mandate while still in the House last year. He said he still agrees the free market works better than government intervention.

But he could vote for the new version if the wind farm changes include his proposal giving counties and townships greater authority in considering wind farm projects and giving voters the opportunity to second guess those decisions at the ballot box.

Representing a district where wind farm development and property rights have clashed, he said he’d like to see a compromise. He said he recognizes the current rules have stymied wind farm development.

“I would never dispute that school districts that have had wind farms constructed have seen enormous benefits financially from the money that comes with it,” he said. “However, we need to absolutely make sure that we’re not trampling over landowners’ property rights solely to see financial gains for school districts.”

The Ohio Environmental Council likes the wind farm setback language but isn’t pleased with the reduced renewable and energy efficiency mandates compared to current law.

“We are evaluating this bill, looking at the pluses and the minuses,” said Trish Demeter, the council’s vice president of energy policy. “We’re evaluating the policy through the lens of whether it builds a net benefit for the environment. We haven’t taken a position yet.”

Wind power poised for record year, despite initial tax law concerns

BRIEF AUTHOR: Peter Maloney@TopFloorPower PUBLISHED May 21, 2018

Dive Brief:

The number of contracts signed for wind power projects hit a record of 3,500 MW in Q1 2018, according to the American Wind Energy Association, signaling that 2018 should be a strong year for the renewable resource.

There are now 33,449 MW of wind projects under construction or in advanced development in the U.S., a 40% increase from last year and the highest level since AWEA began compiling the metric at the beginning of 2016.

Despite fears that changes in the tax code would slow wind power development, the tax equity market, the key financing vehicle for wind projects, appears to have adapted and survived intact.

The number of wind power purchase agreements (PPA) signed last quarter was the highest volume of PPA announcements in any quarter since AWEA began tracking them in 2013.

AWEA noted that six companies, including Adobe, AT&T and Nestle, signed wind PPAs for the first time while several other corporations were repeat customers. Utilities also stepped up to the plate, with PacifiCorp announcing plans for a $2 billion wind farm in Wyoming.

In March, DTE Energy submitted a proposal to regulators for 1,000 MW of wind farms that would be completed by 2022.

The two main factors contributing to the increase in projects are the greater certainty around tax policy and the fact that developers are eager to meet the deadlines imposed by the Congressionally mandated phase out of the production tax credit (PTC), Keith Martin, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, told Utility Dive.

The PTC, which provides an incentive payout for the first 10 years of a wind farm’s life, has been a driving force in the growth of wind power, as has the financial structures that have allowed financial institutions to monetize the value of tax credits. Those structures have expanded the market beyond the relatively few entities that are in a position to make use of the tax credits.

In the run up to the passage of the Republican tax bill last year, there were concerns in the wind power industry that a last minute provision in the tax bill, the Base Erosion Anti-Abuse Tax (BEAT), could have a “devastating” effect on renewable energy projects.

The BEAT provision was designed to make it harder for corporations to dodge taxes, but it would also sweep up tax credits — such as the PTC for wind power and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar projects — making the credits more difficult to monetize.

But the BEAT concern has gone away for two reasons, Martin said. The industry worked hard to mitigate the provision as it was enacted and succeeded; it doesn’t really have its full effect until after 2025, he said. Second, the biggest players in the tax equity market realized that they are not really affected by the provision.

“They have the planning tools,” Martin said. The BEAT provision aims to close a loophole for certain kinds of cross-border transactions, but by changing the name of a payment, you can make it go away. The top three players in the tax equity market account for 40% of the market and they are not affected, he said.

With the BEAT issues behind them, bankers and developers have returned their focus on beating the clock for the phase-out of the PTC.

Even though the value of the PTC is cut by 20% for 2018 projects, under Internal Revenue Service rules, projects that had already begun work on equipment or at a project site in 2016 are still eligible to collect 100% of the PTC.

That prompted a lot of developers to buy and stockpile wind turbines. Based on stockpiled equipment from 2016 there are about 40,000 MW of wind projects in the wings with another 10,000 MW of equipment stockpiled in 2017.

As the clock continues to count down on the PTC, which ends after 2019, “there will be a rush in 2020 to get everything finished,” Martin said.

California utilities, solar developers advocate dialogue on new solar mandate

AUTHOR: Iulia Gheorghiu PUBLISHED May 20, 2018 Utility Dive

Utilities are welcoming a historic rooftop solar building code in California, but urging caution with its implementation in order to protect non-solar customers. At the same time, utilities and solar developers are calling for a dialogue among stakeholders to effectively integrate additional rooftop solar into the grid.

The California Energy Commission approved the 2019 Building Energy Code May 9, requiring renewable energy access for all new residential homes in the state starting in 2020. The standard is important for the state’s ambitious climate and renewable energy goals.

The largest investor-owned utilities (IOUs) in the state have supported solar energy growth, with each pursuing initiatives to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Among those utilities, Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison (SCE), support the rooftop solar mandate, company spokespersons told Utility Dive.

“Moving forward, we’ll need to place a greater emphasis on the planning process and how we incorporate more concentrated areas of solar, like in a tract of homes, into the grid.”

Jill Anderson

Customer Programs & Services Vice President, Southern California Edison

More planning required
CEC’s mandate could require between 68 and 241 MW of annual distributed solar buildout, according to ClearView Energy Partners’ research using 2017 data. While IOUs in California have established processes to accommodate new solar interconnections, the future buildout from the mandate will require more planning.

“Moving forward, we’ll need to place a greater emphasis on the planning process and how we incorporate more concentrated areas of solar, like in a tract of homes, into the grid,” Jill Anderson, vice president at SCE, said in an email to Utility Dive. Anderson noted that SCE is ready for that planning process.

ClearView analysts have singled out the distributed solar mandate as a possible opening for utilities to argue that California should reconsider the state’s net metering redesign.

“At this point, the new mandate should not impact any of our rate design considerations,” wrote Terrie Prosper, spokersperson for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), in an email to Utility Dive.

California is set to revisit its net metering policy in 2019, but further discussions are likely to occur among regulators, utilities and solar developers to shed more light on the effects of the CEC’s new solar standards. Prosper said the CPUC will “need to consider the already existing statutory mandates against cost shifting.”

“While we support rooftop solar, we also strongly support a system that balances the needs and interests of all customers,” Joe Britton, communications manager for San Diego Gas & Electric, said in an email to Utility Dive.

“If the new mandate increases grid operational costs, we will need to determine how to fairly allocate those costs as more facts develop on cost to the grid impacts.”

Terrie Prosper

News and Outreach Director, California Public Utilities Commission

Credit negative for utilities
New analysis from Moody’s Investor Services rated the new standards as credit negative for the state’s utilities, but positive for securitization deals backed by solar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs). Specifically, Moody’s said the utilities’ fixed costs, from transmission and distribution, will be shifted to customers who do not self-generate power.

“If the new mandate increases grid operational costs, we will need to determine how to fairly allocate those costs as more facts develop on cost to the grid impacts,” Prosper wrote.

“We expect that utilities will rely on regulators to monitor the credit customers receive through net energy metering and continue to modify that policy to help utilities navigate the energy shift,” Moody’s analysis said.

Grid cost saver
Residential solar developers want utilities to view distributed solar power as a cost-saver to the grid. The state’s grid operator approved a new plan in March to save $2.6 billion in future transmission costs by utilizing rooftop solar and energy efficiency resources.

“Solar and batteries on homes and businesses are already saving all ratepayers money by avoiding the need to build fossil fuel power plants and expensive transmission and distribution infrastructure,” Alex McDonough, public policy vice president at the residential solar developer Sunrun, said in an email to Utility Dive.

Dialogue may be the best way forward for rooftop developers and utilities to integrate incoming rooftop solar as seamlessly as possible into the grid.

SDG&E encourages policymakers to engage stakeholders “in a dialogue to begin the process of finding a more balanced way for solar customers to interact with the grid that protects against negative unintended consequences,” such as shifting grid costs to non-solar consumers, according to Britton.

“If utilities are already raising concerns about (the 2020 residential solar mandate), I say let’s get together and let’s hear from them, and let them show us where do they think that it’s going to be a challenge to the grid,” Anne Hoskins, former Maryland utilities commissioner and policy chief at Sunrun, told Utility Dive.

The State(s) of Distributed Solar — 2017 Update

2017 Year-End Update
Energy production from renewable sources continues to expand in the U.S. at a rapid clip, thanks in no small part to the substantial growth of solar energy—and distributed solar in particular—in recent years. More states than ever are making solar a priority. But where have these gains been greatest, and what are the economic implications for residents from one state to the next?

States with policies supporting a larger proportion of distributed energy from small-scale, often locally owned solar, give their residents and businesses big energy savings and their local economies an economic boost, more so than when solar investments are left to incumbent, often investor-owned utilities.

An updated map of the size of each state’s solar market (in yellow, orange, and red) and pie charts showing the corresponding share of distributed solar (1 megawatt and smaller) illustrates how this state-by-state landscape has changed since our original analysis published in 2016.

Total Solar and Percent Distributed by State – 2017

A majority of states—32 to be exact—now boast at least 100 megawatts of solar power in their energy mix, up from only 20 states two years ago. Even with this expansion, similar regional patterns in the state-by-state landscape remain:

In the Southwest and along the west coast, abundant sunshine and availability of space continue to deploy large amounts of utility-scale solar in states including Nevada, New Mexico, and Texas, while other states in the region including California, Oregon, and Arizona, have had greater success in balancing that utility-scale growth with distributed solar.
In the Southeast and along the Gulf Coast in states including Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, lackluster growth in total solar has continued despite readily available sunshine, as incumbent monopoly utilities continue to hinder its development. Few states in this region have large solar markets, with the exception of North Carolina, where utility-scale solar dominates as a result of long-term contracts the state’s monopoly utility Duke Energy has made with third party solar developers, who have been able to offer competitive prices to the utility but are not currently authorized to sell electricity directly to customers.
In the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and to a lesser extent the Midwest, many states have seen relatively strong growth in their solar markets and, as a whole, larger than average shares of distributed generation than other regions. Growth has occurred in these regions, despite comparably less sunshine than the country’s sunbelt.
Of the nine states that each contribute more than 1,000 megawatts of solar power, three boast shares of distributed generation greater than 50 percent and all three happen to cluster in the Northeast: New Jersey (1,926 megawatts of total solar, with 66 percent from small-scale sources), Massachusetts (1,810 megawatts, also with 66 percent from small-scale), and New York (1,135 megawatts of total solar), where a whopping 87 percent of total solar has been invested in small-scale, distributed sources.

When one accounts for the mix of state-level policies that help or hinder distributed solar, factors underlying these statistics become even clearer. In recent years, New Jersey, Mass., and New York, the three leaders in distributed solar, have each expanded policies, such as net metering and power purchase agreements, that are favorable to distributed generation, while keeping attacks from their incumbent, monopoly utilities at bay.

Even in states that have not yet claimed a majority of solar power from distributed sources, there are still examples of important policy shifts that can increase the rate of growth in distributed generation moving forward. For example, in California, the nation’s leader in solar power capacity (with nearly 16,000 megawatts, 41 percent of which from small-scale sources), recently passed a landmark solar homes rule that will couple distributed solar with all new home construction, when it takes effect in early 2020. Meanwhile, Minnesota has pursued a different tactic to keeping generation local, broadening access to solar energy beyond those who own homes through the nation’s leading community solar program.

Over time, these and other state policy strategies that prioritize distributed generation in their solar and energy markets will work to the benefit of residents, particularly as small-scale solar pays off and brings more substantial local benefits than its utility-scale alternative.

Original Post — 2015 Year-End Update

With the solar energy tax credit’s future settled by Congress, solar energy has the green light to continue expanding across the U.S. But who benefits from solar depends heavily on state policy. Do states encourage distributed solar deployment and the democratization of energy or simply leave solar growth up to incumbent utilities?

The inset map illustrates the size of state’s solar market (in yellow, orange, and red) with a pie chart showing the percentage of distributed solar (1 megawatt and smaller) based on 2015 data.

Distributed Generation of Solar by State – 2015 Year-End Update (Original Post, Feb. 2016)
Total Solar and Percent Distributed by State — 2015
States seem to fall into three categories:

In the Southwest, abundant sunshine has driven utility-scale solar deployment even as state policy has (until recently) encouraged distributed solar development as well.
In the Southeast, strong sunshine hasn’t meant much solar because incumbent monopoly utilities have stalled it development. Hence, few Southeastern states have large solar markets, and the one exception (North Carolina) is dominated by utility-scale solar owned by Duke Energy.
In the Northeast, high electricity prices and robust distributed solar policies have led to strong solar markets and lots of distributed generation, even with modest sunshine (which has also meant less utility-scale solar development).
The focus on the size of solar is important because solar is inherently the most distributed renewable energy resource. Sunshine falls everywhere, and solar can be economically harnessed at nearly any scale. Distributed solar has particular benefits to the electric grid that large-scale solar does not, from lower energy losses by avoiding long-distance power transmission to reducing variability of solar (passing clouds rarely cover entire states, for example). Many states are starting to examine the true value of distributed solar like Minnesota has done.

But beyond the economic benefits, solar also enables a transition from energy monopoly to energy democracy. When electric customers become producers, they also become decision makers in the grid system. As the grid transforms (as with New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision process), these customers will be able to transact with one another and the grid to make it more innovative and efficient). With the coming of economical distributed energy storage, customers may hold the keys to the future of the grid.

Customers may be able to hold the keys, but only if states require the incumbent monopoly to relinquish them. As we can see in the five states from the above map where installed capacity exceeds 1,000 megawatts, policy matters. In four of them (Arizona, California, Hawaii, and New Jersey), policies protecting local authority and encouraging individual ownership of PV arrays have created an environment amenable to greater distributed generation throughout the United States.

Arizona – 35% Distributed Generation
While the state of Arizona’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is only 15% by 2025, their solar carve-out (the requirement that electric utilities generate power from the sun with “stiff penalties for non-compliance”) is one of the best in the nation. It sets aside 30% for distributed generation, and half of that for residential installations.
Arizona gives a sales tax exemption for solar panel purchases, along with half of the other states.
California – 37% Distributed Generation
California has been out front on the issue of local, renewable energy for most of the 21st century including breaking down the barriers to distributed generation.
The state’s 10-year California Solar Initiative providing incentives for distributed solar for years, declining as the costs of solar dropped.
The state Public Utilities Commission has recently maintained net metering.
The state’s Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership offers incentives encouraging energy efficient solar installations in new residential construction including extending a tax break for property taxes.
The legislature and governor’s office have also required all energy distributors in the state to attain at least “33 percent of their load with renewable energy by 2020” or their Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Hawaii – 89% Distributed Generation
Currently, 20% of electricity sold in Hawaii comes from renewable resources on the islands thanks in part to the federal solar taxes and nearly half of a million in state tax credits.
Hawaii’s Renewable Portfolio Standard is among the best in the nation, 100% by 2045, signaling the state government’s commitment to solar and other renewables.
There are, currently, 314.6 megawatts of rooftop solar installed in Hawaii, and over 15% of households have solar installed. Even more stunning, that’s 222 distributed watts per resident.
New Jersey – 66% Distributed Generation
With a Renewable Portfolio Standard of 22.5% by 2021 and a solar carve out of 4.1%, New Jersey has one of the strongest electric utility requirements in the country.
New Jersey’s net metering law ensures that their residents will get “full retail credit” on their utility bill thanks to solar energy produced by their residential arrays.
North Carolina – 6% Distributed Generation
North Carolina has a 12.5% renewable energy standard, with 0.2% set aside for solar that’s nearly fulfilled
The state offered tax incentives that expired at the end of 2015, and utilities have reduced their distributed solar incentives.
A record 7.3 gigawatts of new solar arrays were installed in 2015. Although the majority of new installed capacity came from utility-owned arrays, residential rooftop solar grew 66% last year (with per 2 gigawatts installed) and distributed commercial solar also continued to grow. But many utilities are frightened of a future with more customer choice and control and are fighting back. They’re rolling back net metering laws in Nevada and adding fees to reduce the financial benefit of solar in Arizona.

Is the future energy monopoly or energy democracy? The states may decide.

This article originally posted at For timely updates, follow John Farrell or Marie Donahue on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update. Also check out over 50 episodes of the Local Energy Rules podcast!

Howard Solar Farm Alternative (HSFA): :Office of the Provost Associate Provost for Research and Graduate Studies Gary L. Harris, Ph.D., P.E.

This prospective describe the Howard Solar
Farm Alternative (HSFA). The HSFA is a project
to decrease the cost of utilities by 12 million
dollars annually at Howard. Presently, Howard
University purchases approximately 15-18
million dollars of energy per year which varies
depending on the winter. The solution is a
2.25 megawatt solar farm combining both on
campus rooftops and a two megawatt solar
farm in Beltsville, MD. The projected cost of
such a farm is between 85¢ to 65¢/Watt. The
approximate cost would be $29 million, this
figure takes in consideration the cost of energy
storage and conversion. Solar Panels generate
energy for about 6 hours daily. So for 24 hour
system the energy generated would be four
fold or $12 million/year. These are very
conservative numbers.

In July 2016, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed
the initial Renewable Portfolio Standard
Expansion Amendment Act of 2016. Under
the act, DC must procure 50% of its electricity
from renewable energy by 2032 and the solar
requirement is now 5%. If the utilities
companies don’t meet theses standards a
penalty of $500 per megawatt hour (MWh) is
assessed and is passed on to the consumer via
the Alternative Compliance Fee. This penalty is
commonly called the Solar Renewable Energy
Credits (SREC). DC customers paid over $15
million extra because of the shortfall in DCbased
solar facilities in 2016. The amount of
land required for a two mega watt facility
varies from 9-12 acres depending on the solar
cell technology. The plant typically has a 25
year life cycle. We are proposing both a grid
connected captive system and a sale of power
generated to 3rd party (alumni).

Solar power is radiant light from the sun that can
be converted into thermal and/or electrical energy.
The conversion directly into electrical energy is by
way of photovoltaic (PV) cells. Such a PV system
is active and will be the focus of this primer. Solar
is one of the cleanest sources of energy and is
renewable. Solar energy is measured in watt-hour
(the amount of solar energy in the world is
estimated at 173,000 terawatts that strikes the
Earth continuously). That is more than 10,000
times the world’s total energy consumption.
Photosynthesis in which solar energy is converted
by green plants into chemical energy which
creates the bio-mass that makes fossil fuels.
Expanding solar power is key to meeting the
climate and weather goals. According to the
International Energy Agency solar energy is the
fastest growing energy sector, will projections of
“more than 10% of the global electricity market by

Photovoltaics cells commonly called solar cells
were first invented at Bell Laboratories in 1954.
The New York Times April 26,1954 proclaimed,
“ The beginning of a new era, leading eventually
to the realization of one of mankind’s most
cherished dreams — the harnessing of the
almost limitless energy of the sun for the uses
of civilization.” The Space industry has been
employing this technology since the 1960s to
power spacecraft and terrestrial satellites.The
oldest such satellites has just logged over 6
billion miles around the earth.

The Sun produces a spectrum of light on Earth
commonly referred to as the Solar irradiance
spectrum. This radiation is close to that of a
black body (thermal electromagnetic radiation
surrounding a body) at a temperature 5800 ºK.
The sun emits radiation over the most of the
electromagnetic spectrum from X-rays to
ultraviolet to radio waves. The Earth
atmosphere filters out so of the light and
protected us from some of the harmful radiation.
I have enclosed the spectrum solar radiation on
the Earth to understand the spectrum

Solar irradiance spectrum above atmosphere and at
surface. Extreme UV and X-rays are produced (at left of
wavelength range shown) but comprise very small
amounts of the Sun’s total output power.

How do Photovoltaics Cells Work?

Photovoltaics is the only way of conversing the
suns energy directly to light. A number of
materials absorb light particles (photon) and
release negative charge particles (electrons).
These type of materials exhibit the photoelectric
effect. During the energy crisis in the 1970s,
photovoltaic technology gained recognition as
an important source of power for earth
applications and several solar cell goals cost
goals were outlined, mainly, least than a dollar/
watt. Shown below is a map of the mean total
sunshine hours provided by the National
Solar Primer

Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration
(NOAA). Presently, according to the
Department of Energy, there is enough
capacity to power the equivalent of 5.7 million
average American homes.

Solar (PV) cells are made from semiconductor
materials, such as silicon used in the
nanotechnology/microelectronic industry. Thin
film solar cells use layers of semiconductor
materials only a few micrometers thick. Thin
film technology has made it possible for PV
cells to now double as rooftop shingles or roof
tiles. When light stokes this material electrons
are released from the semiconductor material
and these electrons can be capture and used
to power a lot, such as a light or a tool.This is
illustrated in the diagram shown above.

A number of the PV cells are electrically
connected to each other and mounted to a
support structure or fame commonly called a
photovoltaic module. The modules are design
to provide a known voltage typically 12 or 24
volts. The modules are wired together to form
an array. This array produces direct current
(dc) electricity. The cells can be single junction
or multi-junction. The multi-junction cells are
more efficient in conversing sunlight into
energy and convert more of the energy
spectrum of light to electricity.

The PV system comes in two favors; flat plate
and or concentrator. Both can utilized to
generate electricity. The flat-plate flavor just
covers the Earth with PV cells. The
concentrator approach focuses the light to a
spot, uses a smaller PV cells and a tracking
system. (Remember the magnifying glass you
got as a toy in CrackerJacks and focused it
down to a spot and burned ants, that similar to
the concentrator approach.) A comparative
manufacturing cost analysis of the two types of
systems is always considered. But for most
application the flat plate approach is more cost

Much of today research focuses on advance
multi-junction cells made from materials like
gallium arsenide and gallium indium phosphide
tunnel junction cells (also called tandem cells).
Such multi-junction cells have reached
efficiencies of around 35% under concentrated
sunlight. There is also a cheap PV cell
approach using multi-junction devices
employing amorphous silicon and copper
indium diselenide.
Total global solar energy generation capacity
averaged 40 percent annual growth from 2000
(1.5 GW) to (208 GW and 343 GW) by 2016
Solar is the fastest growing source of
renewable electricity in the world and in the
United States.

Recommended Articles
1. The Silicon Solar Cell Turns 50, by John
2. Solar Cells: Operating Principles,
Technology, and System Applications,
Martin A Green, ISBN-13:
978-0138222703, Prentice-Hall, 1982
3. Third Generation Photovoltaics: Advanced
Solar Energy Conversion, Martin A. Green,
ISBN-13: 978-3540265627, Springer
Series in Photonics, 2005
4. Journal: Progress in Photovoltaics:
Research and Applications

PSC Commission Directs Over $500,000 in Unclaimed Funds to Help Low-Income, WGL Customers in District

   Contact: Kellie Didigu,, 202-626-5124        For Immediate Release: April 18, 2018

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia (Commission) ordered Washington Gas Light Company (WGL) to disburse $522,189 in unclaimed funds to the Washington Area Fuel Fund (WAFF) and the Greater Washington Urban League (Urban League).  The funds will be used to benefit low-income residential heating customers during the winter heating season.

In  2014  commission opened an investigation into allegations that WGL made $2.4 million dollars in unauthorized payments to Competitive Service Providers that over-delivered natural gas supplies.

Due to the over-collection of payments from District ratepayers, WGL issued refunds to 33,590 inactive customers totaling $452,924, and bill credits in the amount of $1,457,579 to 73,268 current customer accounts.  However, WGL reported that a total of $522,189 remained unclaimed. This prompted WGL and Office of the People’s Counsel (OPC) to recommend to the Commission to donate the unclaimed funds equally between WAFF and the Urban League in the amount of $261,094.50 each.

As a condition for receiving the disbursement of the funds, the WAFF and the Urban League must submit an annual statement with WGL indicating the number of low-income natural gas customers’ who received the funds in DC, and the average amount each customer received.

The Order directs WGL to disburse the funds within 15 days of the Order and to file a Final Disbursement Report confirming disbursement.

For additional information, visit the Commission’s website at

Follow the Commission on Facebook and Twitter at “DCPSC”.

The Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia is an independent agency established by Congress in 1913 to regulate electric, natural gas, and telecommunications companies in the District of Columbia.



Kellie Armstead Didigu

Media Relations Specialist

Public Service Commission of the District of Columbia

1325 G Street N.W., Suite 800

Washington, D.C. 20005
202-626-5124 Office | 202-626-9210 fax |


The Power Local Green Jobs Campaign

Uses nonviolent, direct action to demand that PECO, Pennsylvania’s largest utility company, make a major shift to locally generated solar power that benefits low income communities and communities of color. Our campaign brings together EQAT and POWER, a broad multi-faith network of 60 congregations, to address three critical issues: underemployment, crumbling infrastructure, and climate change.

Our campaign calls on PECO to spur local jobs and support the regional economy by purchasing solar energy in its service area. Doing this will create thousands of good paying jobs for local workers, lower electricity bills for families, schools and churches, and will turn PECO away from fueling devastating climate change.

To be part of the solution, PECO must choose to:

  1. Dramatically increase the purchase of local rooftop solar power so that 20% of PECO’s electricity comes from roofs in its service area by 2025.
  2. Spur solar installation on suitable roofs in high unemployment areas, starting in North Philadelphia, to economically benefit those communities.
  3. Prioritize installation by local workers, especially from high unemployment areas.

Campaign History

In 2015, after forcing PNC Bank to stop financing dirty mountaintop removal coal mining, EQAT turned our attention to the fact that Pennsylvania was lagging massively behind neighboring states in solar jobs. We also knew that PECO’s electricity is fueling rapid climate change which will be especially harmful to marginalized communities. So we launched a solutions-oriented economic justice campaign, which we called “Power Local Green Jobs.”

What if PECO became a solar-jobs creator? What if those jobs were developed in communities of color and areas of deep unemployment? In our research, we learned that local solar energy could provide well over 20% of our region’s needs, and that getting there could create thousands of new jobs. Seeing that PECO had been blocking and delaying solar for years, our new campaign became clear: get PECO to commit to 20% local solar by 2025, built first in the neighborhoods with greatest need.

EQAT began monthly actions at the company headquarters in September 2015, and we were soon joined by POWER, then later Delaware Riverkeeper Network, and the campaign began spreading across the region.

PECO’s region has both opportunity- some of the best counties for solar in the state- and need. Our area includes large and deeply neglected African American neighborhoods, disinvested former industrial zones, a growing immigrant workforce, and working class neighborhoods of all races. With local solar, workers can earn good wages and communities can produce and sell their own power. We all will see improvements in public health and guard against the looming devastation of climate change.

We had our first breakthrough in April of 2016.

To meet the minimum of state law, PECO only gets a fraction of 1% of its energy from solar — and much of that from out of state. When we first met with PECO executives, the company insisted that increasing local solar was impossible. So after months of demonstrations, we issued an ultimatum: Purchase that fraction of a percent from North Philly by May 2016, or face escalated nonviolent direct action.

PECO responded by reversing its initial stance, and finally began listening to advocates and solar industry groups to figure out how to buy locally the small amount of solar it does buy. We’re glad PECO is getting its toes wet, but we’re calling for a clear commitment that will allow PECO to cope with the rapid changes in energy which need to happen in the next decade.

The campaign has only grown since then, with actions over the summer of 2016 in Chester, Upper Darby, Doylestown, and Philadelphia. In October of 2016, 100 runners, walkers, and wheelers circled the company headquarters at the “PECO Runaround” (because PECO is giving Philadelphia the runaround on solar). The event raised $10,000 to Power Local Green Jobs.

However, to reach 20% by 2025, we know PECO needs to think bigger. So last spring, we embarked on a 100 mile Walk for Green Jobs and Justice to chart the way from old energy sites to new. Along the way, EQAT and POWER were joined by 200 people from across the region, and for the final mile to PECO headquarters, another 200 showed up in the pouring rain to show PECO the path to a solar future.

Additional campaign resources.