IREC, partners push solar training for allied professions

Free webinar
June 15, 2017
12:00-1:30 PM MT

Half-day Forum
San Francisco, California
July 1, 2017

As solar installations continue to grow exponentially, there is an increasing need for other professions to know more about solar technologies. Firefighters, local code officials and electrical and building inspectors need a thorough understanding about solar technologies if the solar sector is to continue growing in a safe and sustainable way.

To meet this need, the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative provided funding to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) to develop Solar Training and Education for Professionals You are leaving WAPA.gov. (STEP). Working with partners in related fields, IREC created a number of training resources for allied professionals whose jobs require some knowledge of solar technology.

IREC’s STEP partners are:

Training online
STEP is presenting Solar Updates in the 2017 National Electrical Code, You are leaving WAPA.gov. an interactive webinar June 15. This interactive webinar will cover new articles, such as large scale photovoltaic (PV) electric supply stations and energy storage systems, and changes to existing provisions like rapid shutdown and grounding of PV systems. Participants will have the opportunity to submit questions in advance, or during the webinar. The event is free and continuing education units (CEUs) are available.

Training in person
For solar professionals in California, an in-person workshop You are leaving WAPA.gov. has been scheduled in conjunction with Intersolar North America in San Francisco, July 12. The half-day training session is one in a series of national forums on solar codes and safety specifically for local building planners and inspectors, architects, builders, solar installers and others who will benefit, including fire officials.

National solar code and technical experts will discuss the most recent solar code updates and impact on those tasked with enforcement. The material will cover much of the same ground as the webinar but in more detail, with an eye on California. Other solar code enforcement considerations, including permitting and first responder safety, will be discussed. After attending this session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify three or more solar code updates
  • Explain the impact of one or more solar code changes
  • Navigate to solar code resources, including best practices for permitting

The forum is also eligible for CEUs from the International Code Council, IAEI and North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.

Training on demand
In addition to these upcoming training opportunities, STEP offers specific free online training courses for code officials PV Online Training for Code Officials You are leaving WAPA.gov. and firefighters Solar PV Safety for Firefighters Online Course.

For questions about the Solar Codes and Safety Forum contact IREC at 518-621-7379.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 5/22/17

Still time to register for free community solar workshop

June 7-8
Golden, Colorado

Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing, a free regional workshop for utilities, is filling up fast but there is still room for a few more attendees.

Community solar projects are a successful business model where multiple customers share in a large solar array, paid for through individual utility bills. It has seen such rapid growth across the country that it has become almost commonplace. Despite that fact, utilities are still learning about every aspect of this resource. It is important to get your project off on the right foot or correct missteps before they mushroom.

WAPA’s Renewable Resources Program has teamed up with the Community Solar Value Program You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP) to make it affordable for power providers to share best practices in developing this type of generation. There is no registration fee for this event; attendees need only pay for their travel to Golden, Colorado. “Helping our preference utility customers learn about community solar and other renewable technologies, as well as tools and resources for smooth integration are a core part of WAPA’s Renewable Resource Program,” explained Randy Manion, WAPA Renewable Resources program manager.

The agenda You are leaving WAPA.gov. draws from an investigation conducted by CSVP into utilities’ best practices and innovations in community solar. From design to procurement to marketing, participants will hear from expert speakers and utility peers who will share their experiences. Presentations by WAPA customers include Kit Carson Electric Cooperative You are leaving WAPA.gov. on requests for proposals and Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. on integrating community solar with distributed systems.

WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center (EPTC) in Golden, Colorado, is hosting the event. The workshop will begin at 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 7, with a “lightning round” of community solar best-practice presentations and a tour of EPTC’s grid simulator, followed by a networking reception. On Thursday, June 8, the workshop will convene from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with breaks and a networking lunch provided by Extensible Energy LLC included.

Registration is free, but required. Participants only cover travel and hotel costs and incidentals.

Don’t miss this opportunity to explore this promising strategy for incorporating solar power into your resource mix.

Source: Community Solar Value Project, 5/17/17

Presentations from Utility Energy Forum now online

The 37th Utility Energy Forum You are leaving WAPA.gov. was one for the record books, including the record of “First Sold-Out Event.” If you were unable to join us in the Sonoma wine country of Northern California, you can at least get a taste of the informative sessions and expert speakers.

The Utility Program Standup Challenge gives attendees the opportunity to ask presenters questions in a small group.

The Utility Program Standup Challenge gives attendees the opportunity to ask presenters questions in a small group. (Photo by Randy Martin)

The location and dates for the 38th Utility Energy Forum (UEF) will be set in the coming weeks, so watch for an announcement soon. We hope you will save the date and plan to join your colleagues—and your WAPA Energy Services representatives—for three days of learning, networking and professional development.

Next year’s event may even sweeten the deal for busy utility employees with a limited travel budget. The UEF planning committee is considering offering training opportunities in conjunction with the annual Forum as a separate event. The training would take place on Tuesday afternoon before the Forum begins on Wednesday and would be open to Forum attendees for an additional fee.

Please take a moment to complete a brief survey You are leaving WAPA.gov. to tell the committee if this is of interest to you. If there is enough interest, there will be a pilot program at the 2018 event.

Upcoming deadlines

Community solar project expands VEA solar portfolio

A leader in solar water heating programs is now adding 15 megawatts of photovoltaic energy to its electricity supply. Valley Electric Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. (VEA) has constructed a 54,000-panel solar plant on 80 acres of desert near the California-Nevada border and plans to sell the power to members at a lower price than their current electric rates.

VEA's 54,000-panel solar plant produces enough electricity to power 2,500 homes.

VEA’s 54,000-panel solar plant produces enough electricity to power 2,500 homes. (Photo by Valley Electric Association)

The community solar project located just north of Pahrump, Nevada, VEA’s home town, produces enough electricity to power 2,500 homes. The goal of the plant, according to VEA CEO Thomas H. Husted, is to give members more choice of energy resources.

Members were showing interest in solar but weren’t able to install their own arrays, said Kristin Mettke, VEA executive vice president of Engineering and Compliance. “Also, there aren’t many large solar contracting companies in our service area,” she said. “This project was a good way to offer solar to our members at an economy of scale.”

VEA plans to turn the project into a subscription program. For now, however, the clean electricity is helping the co-op meet its growing demand with a low-cost resource.

Partnering to protect wildlife
Even projects intended to save money—and the environment—come with complications, however, and the community solar project was no different. The chosen site was home to sensitive plants and the threatened Mojave Desert tortoise, so accommodations had to be made.

VEA and solar contractor Bombard Renewable Energy worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a habitat conservation plan to minimize the disturbing effects of construction “It gave us the opportunity to try different approaches,” observed Mettke.

Measures included relocating tortoises to a temporary habitat before beginning construction and installing temporary fencing and tortoise-proof access gates to prevent them from returning. The completed project had a permanent security fence with tortoise access points to allow the animals to reenter the site.

To provide habitat for the tortoises, the native vegetation was mowed, crushed or trimmed, rather than removed. Increasing the height and spacing of the PV panels and installing them to follow the natural undulations of the land will also allow the vegetation to recover more quickly after construction.

Solar water heater pioneer
The community solar project continues VEA’s tradition of using solar solutions to provide members with affordable power. In 2009, the co-op launched what was, at the time, the largest solar hot water program in the country.

For around $30 per month paid on-bill, members can install a Rheem solar water heating system. This highly efficient technology uses the sun’s heat to reduce the need for conventional hot water heating by as much as two-thirds. Members can save about $250 to $540 in annually and enjoy 50-100 percent greater hot water capacity.

With 835 systems installed to date, the program avoids more than 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually while building local workforce skills. VEA estimates that solar water heating will save members about $34 million over the next 20 years by decreasing peak power demands and delaying future upgrades to capital infrastructure.

Planning next steps
Now that the solar project is completed, VEA has begun to talk with battery vendors about adding backup storage. “A battery system would complement solar power and help with resource adequacy and shoulder times,” said Mettke.

The co-op is also developing a subscription program that would allow members to lease panels. The program would be introduced through VEA Ambassadors, members who take an active interest in the day-to-day operations of their utility and who offer feedback on VEA initiatives, activities and policies from a consumer perspective. The Ambassadors were instrumental in rolling out VEA’s solar hot water program in 2009.

The solar hot water program and now the utility-scale community solar project have given VEA valuable hands-on experience developing and integrating renewable generation. That expertise may someday come in handy for developing cost-effective clean energy projects for California. The co-op became the first out-of-state utility to join the California Independent System Operator balancing authority in 2013, a move that could present such opportunities to VEA. It would be a challenge, but if it strengthens member relations and builds local workforce skills, Valley Electric Association is up to it.

Utility Dive lists Top 10 transformative trends: What do you think?

Transformation could be the most overused word in the electric utility industry these days. Big data, energy storage, the internet of things and electric vehicles are just a few of the technologies we are being told will change the way we do business forever.

But what utility professionals see on the ground may be quite different, both from what we hear and from what other utilities are dealing with. The trends that are actually affecting your utility depend on what part of the country you serve, what your customer base looks like and whether you are an investor-owned or public power utility.

To get a sense of where the utility industry is headed, the online magazine Utility Dive You are leaving WAPA.gov. recently identified 10 trends that seem destined to shape our near future:

10. Coal power in decline – Since 2009, 25 gigawatts (GW) of coal capacity has retired in the U.S., and another 25 GW of retirements are planned by 2022. However, the Environmental Protection Agency still expects coal to be a major fuel source for electricity generation through 2030.

9. Natural gas is growing fast – As market conditions and regulations push older coal generators into retirement, utilities are increasingly looking to gas plants to add reliable capacity quickly. Analysts still expect it to grow steadily over the coming decade and then switch to retirement between 2020 and 2030, a trend that could come sooner if natural gas prices rise from their historic lows.

8. Renewables reaching grid parity – Once dismissed as too expensive to be competitive, wind and solar—especially utility-scale—are reaching grid parity and often pricing out more traditional generation resources. In fact, the Department of Energy estimates that wind could be the nation’s single greatest source of energy by 2050, comprising up to 35 percent of the fuel mix.

7. Utilities face growing load defection – With the rapid proliferation of rooftop solar, some customers are bypassing their local utility for their electricity needs, especially in a few markets such as Hawaii and California. Customers combining load management strategies with rooftop solar installations could purchase less power from their utility, and may even cut the cord altogether.

6. Utilities getting in on the solar game – A number of utilities are responding to load defection and consumer demand for clean energy by expanding into the solar industry, both in the utility-scale and rooftop markets. Community shared solar, which allows customers without suitable rooftops for solar to buy a few modules on a larger array, grew exponentially between 2014 and 2016.

5. Debates over rate design reforms and value of distributed energy resources (DERs) are heating up – Altering rate designs to properly value distributed resources is a trend that has largely grown out of retail net metering. This pays utility customers with solar the retail rate for the electricity they send back to the grid.

4. Utilities are modernizing the grid – Adding new utility-scale and distributed renewable capacity has increased the need for utilities to upgrade and modernize their transmission and distribution grids. Many of the regulatory initiatives underway to help determine the value of DERs also order their state’s utilities to prepare their distribution grids for increased penetrations of distributed resources.

3. Utilities buying into storage – Few technologies hold as much promise as energy storage for utilities looking to optimize their distribution grids and integrate more renewables. While the price for battery storage is still too high to make projects economical in regions with relatively inexpensive electricity, costs are coming down quickly.

2. Utilities becoming more customer-centric – Power companies used to think of their consumers simply as ratepayers, or even just “load,” but new home energy technologies and shifting customer expectations are pushing them to focus on individual consumers. Increasingly, utilities are seeing it in their best interests to market themselves to customers as “trusted energy advisors” of sorts.

1. Utility business models are changing – The common thread running through these trends is that they all are changing the way electric utilities have traditionally done business. Where utilities were once regulated monopolies, the growth of distributed resources is forcing them to rethink their business models. California and New York have captured most of the headlines for redefining the utilities’ role on the distribution grid, but other states have initiated their own dockets to transform business models.

It is likely that your utility has had to think about at least a few of these issues and may be grappling with more of them before long. Energy Services is here to help our customers manage these challenges and more. Contact your Energy Services representative to discuss how to turn transformation into your greatest opportunity.

Source: Utility Dive

IREC releases energy storage guide for policymakers

Webinar April 26
1:30-2:45 p.m. MT

A new tool published by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Charging Ahead: An Energy Storage Guide for State Policymakers You are leaving WAPA.gov. provides regulators and other decision makers with specific guidance on key issues for policy consideration, including foundational policies for advanced energy storage—a new generation of technologies characterized by flexible operating capabilities and diverse applications.

The characteristics that make energy storage so valuable and attractive also make it challenging to address in policy and regulatory contexts.

Despite its game-changing potential to transform the electricity system, energy storage is vastly underutilized in the U.S. electricity sector. Its deployment remains hampered by the current features of regional, state and federal regulatory frameworks, traditional utility planning and decision-making paradigms, electricity markets and aspects of the technology itself.

To date, state policymakers and electric system stakeholders have largely navigated energy storage issues without the benefit of a roadmap to inform key regulatory and policy pathways for widespread deployment.

Charging Ahead aims to address that gap by providing an in-depth discussion of the most urgent actions to take in order to enable viable energy storage markets that effectively empower states to take advantage of the full suite of advanced energy storage capabilities. The guide identifies four foundational policy actions states should consider taking:

  1. Clarify how energy storage systems are classified to enable shared ownership and operation functions in restructured markets
  2. Require proactive consideration of energy storage in utility planning effort
  3. Create mechanisms to capture the full value stream of storage services
  4. Ensure fair, streamlined and cost-effective grid access for energy storage system

In addition to these foundational policies, the report provides background on energy storage applications, analyzes regulatory actions states are currently taking, and also puts some context around the valuation of energy storage. Read more.

A free webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. on April 26 will look at how the report can equip regulators and other stakeholders to integrate energy storage technologies onto the grid. Recommended state policy actions to address energy storage barriers will also be discussed.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 4/19/17

Utility industry survey identifies top concerns in 2017

The results are in from Utility Dive’s State of the Electric Utility Survey 2017
and the report is available to download. You are leaving WAPA.gov.

The top five issues utilities identified as their biggest challenges will no doubt sound familiar to WAPA customers, whether or not they participated in the survey:

  • Physical and cyber security
  • Distributed energy policy
  • Rate design reform
  • Aging grid infrastructure
  • Reliable integration of renewables and distributed energy resources (DERs)
72 percent of utility professionals said physical and cyber security is either "important" or "very important," making it the most pressing issue for the sector in 2017.

72 percent of utility professionals said physical and cyber security is either “important” or “very important,” making it the most pressing issue for the sector in 2017.

The results of the survey, disclosed in late March, found that 72 percent of respondents see physical and cyber security as either “important” or “very important” today, making it the industry’s most pressing issue in 2017. A total of 65 percent considered distributed resource policy either important or very important. Rate design reform ranked as important for 31 percent and very important for 32 percent of respondents. As for aging grid infrastructure, 34 percent of survey respondents see it as important today, while another 28 percent say it is very important. The reliable integration of renewables and DERs finished in the top five with 60 percent identifying it as an important or very important concern.

State regulatory model reform, the aging utility workforce, changing consumer preferences, compliance with state power mandates and stagnant load growth rounded out the top ten issue responses.

Two years ago, physical and cyber security ranked as sixth, behind aging infrastructure, aging workforce, current regulatory models, stagnant load growth and federal emissions standards.

More than 600 electric utility employees from the U.S. and Canada took online questionnaire, offered to Utility Dive readers in January. Investor-owned utilities represented 54 percent of the survey respondents, followed by municipal or public power utilities (32 percent) and electric cooperatives (14 percent).

Among other key takeaways in the 2017 report, the survey found that utilities are most confident in the growth of utility-scale solar, distributed energy resources, wind energy and natural gas generation over the next 10 years. They also expect coal generation to decline significantly, while nuclear generation will stagnate or retire, depending on the region. Utilities consider uncertainty over future energy policies and market conditions to be the most significant challenge associated with the changing power mix, according to the survey.

Region played a role in how utilities viewed challenges. The majority of respondents across the country identified physical and cyber security, DER policy and renewable energy and DER integration as serious issues. However, that concern was markedly stronger in the West Coast, Great Plains, Rocky Mountain and New England regions. Utility Dive noted that those regions feature states with both robust DER growth and utility reform dockets to reshape power sector business models for DER deployment.

Rate design reform and aging infrastructure were of greater concern on the West Coast, while utilities in the Southwest and South Central states were the least worried about those issues.

You can download the report for free and see how your responses stack up to those of your colleagues. Then, share your thoughts on these issues with Energy Services, let us know how you are handling them and how you would like us to help you address them.

Source: Public Power Daily, You are leaving WAPA.gov. 4/10/17

Presidio seeks to purchase renewable energy certificates

Proposals due April 14
4:30 P.M. PT

The Presidio Trust is seeking to purchase Renewable Energy Certificates to meet their renewable energy objectives through a solicitation issued by Western Area Power Administration. Responses to the Request for Proposal must be received via mail or fax before April 14 at 4:30 p.m. PDT. WAPA will consider bids that meet Renewable Electric Energy and REC definitions and qualifications. Using the flexibility allowed under WAPA’s power marketing authority, the REC contract will be awarded for the best overall value to Presidio while meeting the terms of the RFP. WAPA is encouraging small and minority-owned businesses and Native American tribes to apply. Read more.

Source: WAPA Renewable Energy for Federal Agencies program, 3/31/17  

WAPA’s Renewable Resources Program co-sponsors workshop on tough solar-program challenges

June 7-8, 2017
Golden, Colorado

What is the toughest challenge for an electric cooperative or public power utility in planning for community solar? Many utilities say it is solar resource procurement; for others, the top challenge would be pricing that works for both the utility and the customer, and turning that into a program offer. The Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP) and WAPA’s Renewable Resources Program have heard these frequently cited concerns, and they are responding with a new, one-and-a-half day workshop, Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing, on June 7-8 at the WAPA Electric Power Training Center in Golden, Colorado. Registration You are leaving WAPA.gov. is free and targeted at utilities in the West, whether they are in states like Colorado that have guiding community solar legislation or states in which community solar is an option that requires utility leadership and innovation.

Jill Cliburn explains how the Community Solar Value Project is working to improve the community-scale solar model.

Jill Cliburn explains how the Community Solar Value Project is working to improve the community-scale solar model. (Photo by Community Solar Value Project)

According to Jill Cliburn, program manager for CSVP, this event will be the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year investigation into utilities’ best practices and innovations in community solar. Community solar, or community shared solar, describes a range of programs that allow customers to share, usually by a per-kilowatt-hour subscription or by leasing or buying panels, in a relatively large solar project, regardless of their ability to host a typical rooftop solar system. Projects are currently in place in 29 states, with the total market expected to grow by 20 percent or more annually.

This workshop will feature speakers from utility-led community solar programs, such as those at Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Pedernales Electric Cooperative. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Thought leaders from CSVP’s own expert team, Navigant Consulting, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the Regulatory Assistance Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Rocky Mountain Institute You are leaving WAPA.gov. (RMI) will also speak. RMI’s successful Shine Project recently demonstrated ways to dramatically lower local solar procurement costs, whether for community solar programs or other utility needs.

“We’re also making time for participants to share their own unique challenges and solutions, so everyone will leave the workshop with actionable notes and resources,” Cliburn said.

Working with a utility forum group of about 10 utilities in the West, CSVP has put emphasis on practical solutions. For example, the project’s approach to pricing begins with streamlined utility-side economic analysis, but takes into account the market-target price required for program success. CSVP also has introduced new ways to package community solar with other utility program offers. And the project has published easy-to-use resource guides and checklists to help keep other tasks, from market research to completing the project RFP and procurement, on track and on budget.

Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing begins at 3:00 p.m. (MDT) on Wednesday June 7, with a “lightning round” of community solar best-practice presentations and a quick tour of WAPA’s grid simulator, followed by a cash-bar networking reception. On Thursday June 8, the workshop convenes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., with lunch and breaks included. There is no cost for utility representatives to participate in this workshop, thanks to CSVP sponsorship by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative and Solar Market Pathways Program and workshop co-sponsorship from the WAPA Renewable Resources Program and Extensible Energy, LLC, You are leaving WAPA.gov. the prime contractor for CSVP. Participants only cover travel and hotel costs and incidentals. For more information, see the registration website or contact workshop coordinator Nicole Enright.