New solar learning videos target local code officials, other building professionals

The United States is on track to install 4 million residential solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays by 2020. Ensuring that these installations meet current codes and standards is the job of building and electrical inspectors. To help code officials, architects, builders and solar installers keep up with the latest solar codes and safety requirements, Interstate Renewable Energy Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IREC) has added new informational videos to its suite of training resources.

In just a few short years, the number of residential solar installs in the US has increased exponentially.

In just a few short years, the number of residential solar installs in the US has increased exponentially. (Artwork by Interstate Renewable Energy Council)

IREC partnered with the International Association of Electrical Inspectors You are leaving WAPA.gov. (IAEI) and the International Code Council You are leaving WAPA.gov. (ICC) to develop resources for code officials to learn the key aspects of solar technology related to their trade. The educational videos target a broad audience by highlighting the inspection process. Code officials who have experience inspecting solar installations will be reminded of important details of the process. Inspectors who are new to solar PV will be introduced to essential aspects of the inspection and referred to more detailed training.

“Officials involved in the planning, inspection and permitting of residential solar installations now have access to solar training and education in their office, at home and in the field,” says IREC Director of Workforce Development Laure-Jeanne Davignon. “The wide variety of tools allows code officials new to solar and experienced professionals to learn in the format they choose: in-person, online, printable documents or videos.”

IAEI CEO David Clements called the videos a “must-see” and an excellent resource to educate code officials and inspectors working in the field on residential solar installations. “Training from the NEC® You are leaving WAPA.gov. (National Electrical Code), along with other codes and standards, has become a critical combination to ensure a safe installation,” he stated in a press release. “Knowledge and knowing how to apply it will ensure a code compliant installation.”

ICC and IAEI regional chapters have begun hosting one-day trainings where code officials can learn the steps of accurate, consistent solar permit plan review. The trainings focus on the pre-inspection work of reviewing and approving the plan. To complement what they learn in the class, or as an introduction beforehand, participants can watch two new brief videos on the details of residential solar inspection. Residential Solar Inspection Best Practices Part 1: RooftopYou are leaving WAPA.gov. and Residential Solar Inspection Best Practices Part 2: Ground Level You are leaving WAPA.gov. both run a little over four minutes. Professionals can take a deeper dive into field inspection practices in a self-paced online trainingYou are leaving WAPA.gov. All classes and resources are free to participants as part of the Department of Energy SunShot Solar Training and Education for Professionals (STEP) program.

More than 5,000 professionals have engaged in the PV Online Training since it became available in 2012. The new in-person plan review course is being very well received, too, with more than 2,500 participants to date. Evaluations from participants have applauded the hands-on approach to the material and the way it connects the different aspects of inspection to each other and to real-life scenarios.

For more information on these training opportunities, contact IREC at 518-621-7379.

Source: Interstate Renewable Energy Council, 9/13/17

Community solar workshop presentations now available

If you missed Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing, a workshop WAPA cosponsored with the Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov. (CSVP) and SunShot Solar Market Pathways, you can now download the presentations from the CSVP website.

WAPA Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman (standing right) talks about the opportunities and challenges community solar represents for utilities.

WAPA Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman (standing right) talks about the opportunities and challenges community solar represents for utilities.

The free event was held at WAPA’s Electric Power Training Center in Golden, Colorado, and drew strong attendance from every type of utility, especially in the West. As the workshop title stated, the agenda focused on the logistical aspects of building a community solar project and explored ways to make projects more successful. Speakers and participants discussed best practices for analyzing solar development opportunities, writing requests for proposals, engaging internal and external stakeholders, working with contractors and vendors and designing rates.

Customers share experience
Several WAPA customers were on hand to share their experiences with developing their own projects. Luis Reyes of Kit Carson Electric Cooperative You are leaving WAPA.gov. sat on a panel that focused on improving the procurement process. The Taos, New Mexico, utility launched its first community solar project in 2012 and has an ambitious initiative to install 35 megawatts of photovoltaics this year.

Participants throw ideas against the wall to see what sticks during table-top sessions on program design, procurement, rate design and marketing.

Participants throw ideas against the wall to see what sticks during table-top sessions on program design, procurement, rate design and marketing.

A panel on pricing challenges included John Phelan from Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. in northern Colorado. As a pioneer with Rocky Mountain Institute in clean energy and sustainability solutions, the city of Fort Collins has discovered that success brings a new set of challenges. For example, the utility is wrestling with how to design a rate that accommodates both a legacy community solar garden and a new array for qualified low-income customers.

Poudre Valley Rural Electric Cooperative You are leaving WAPA.gov. is currently developing a 6,000-panel community solar project with carve-outs for local nonprofit organizations and another for income-qualified customers. Making community solar available to customers who need the most help with utility bills was another topic that received a lot of attention. Utilities are experimenting with different business models for low-income projects, but most agree on the potential benefits: freeing up more money for other needs, bringing more certainty to monthly bills and raising energy awareness in a hard-to-reach group.

Attendees were all at different points on the learning curve with community solar. Representatives from the City of Fort Collins Utilities, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and the city of Lamar, Colorado, shared their experiences during the free workshop.

Attendees were all at different points on the learning curve with community solar. Representatives from the City of Fort Collins Utilities, Kit Carson Electric Cooperative and the city of Lamar, Colorado, shared their experiences during the free workshop. (Photo by Jill Cliburn)

Ask for more
WAPA thanks the Community Solar Value Project for partnering with us to put on Community Solar Procurements, Programs and Pricing. Utilities are still learning about this form of distributed energy and how to gain the most benefits from it for their customers and their own operations. To learn more, check out the workshop presentations, along with past CSVP webinars. Also, let us know if there are other types of workshops you would like to see WAPA present, or partners or subject matter experts we could collaborate with.

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

Free webinar explores potential of carports for community solar

Aug 18, 2016
11:00 AM MDT

The Community Solar Value Project You are leaving WAPA.gov.  will present Making Solar Carports Happen, You are leaving WAPA.gov. a free webinar, on Aug. 18 at 11 a.m. Mountain Time.

Carports add value to parking spaces by providing shade and shelter, and they are usually located in areas with wide-open solar exposure and easy grid access. This could make the structures an excellent design option for community solar gardens that also promote grid-managed electric vehicle charging.

Learn more about all the benefits, as well as the pricing challenges, associated with solar carports and shade structures by joining the CSVP August webinar. Presentations will feature two leading solar carport providers and cover highlights from CSVP’s solar carport market update.

Making Solar Carports Happen is part of a free webinar series that launched June 30 with Can Regulation Make Community Solar Better? Past webinar presentations are available in the CSVP library, along with presentations from other events related to community solar. Upcoming webinars include:

  • September 29 – Community Solar Plus Storage Solutions
  • October 27 – Smarter Procurement for Community Solar Programs

Watch Energy Services Bulletin for more information about registration.

The Community Solar Value Project represents leading energy thinkers and do-ers, ready to “make community solar better,” from both the sponsoring-utility and customer perspective. Focusing on strategic solar technologies, siting and design, and on integrating companion measures, such as demand-response and storage, into program designs, CSVP aims to address solar variability and minimize costs for service and distribution. Developing the market for the community solar model is also a goal of the project.

Extensible Energy, LLC, a San Francisco-area energy consulting and analytics firm, leads the project, with support from Cliburn and Associates, LLC, Olivine, Inc., and Navigant Consulting. WAPA customer Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving WAPA.gov. and Public Service of New Mexico are among the utilities participating nationwide. The project is powered by the Department of Energy SunShot Initiative under its Solar Market Pathways program. Sunshot is also a sponsor of the webinar series.

Source: Community Solar Value Project, 7/28/16

DOE announces $25M to accelerate integration of solar into grid

Informational webinar
May 19
12 -2 p.m. Mountain Time

Utilities, solar companies and software developers working on solar energy grid integration solutions will welcome a May 2 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) from the Department of Energy. The DOE program called Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy, or ENERGISE, announced that it is making $25 million available for research to modernize the national grid. Energise-graphic350

The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased 23-fold in the last seven years, from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 gigawatts in 2015, with one million systems now in operation. A key challenge to furthering solar deployment is the ability to integrate distributed generation sources like rooftop solar panels into the grid while balancing that generation with traditional utility generation. This FOA aims to support companies working to meet that challenge while keeping reliable and cost-effective power flowing.

ENERGISE specifically seeks to develop software and hardware platforms for utility distribution system planning and operations that integrate sensing, communication and data analytics. These hardware and software solutions will help utilities manage solar and other distributed energy resources on the grid and will be data-driven, easily scaled-up from prototypes and capable of real-time monitoring and control.

Funds are being offered for projects addressing two topic areas:

  • Topic Area 1 covers near-term projects to develop commercially ready, scalable distribution system planning and real-time grid operation solutions compatible with existing grid infrastructure to enable the addition of solar at 50 percent of the peak distribution load by 2020. A one-year field demonstration with utility partners is required.
  • Topic Area 2 covers projects that tackle the long-term challenge of developing transformative and highly scalable technologies compatible with advanced grid infrastructure to enable solar at 100 percent of the peak distribution load by 2030. DOE will require a large-scale simulation to demonstrate performance and scalability.

DOE’s SunShot Initiative will oversee the projects funded by this opportunity. The program expects to make 10 to 15 awards altogether. Awards for Topic Area 1 will likely range between $500,000 and $4,000,000 each. For Topic Area 2, DOE anticipates making awards of between $500,000 and $2,000,000 each.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office is hosting an informational webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. on May 19, 12 to 2 p.m. Mountain Time. All applicants must submit a brief concept paper by June 17. Full applications are due by Aug. 26, 2016.

See the Energy Department news release.

Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 5/2/16

Career prospects sunny for graduates of Solar Ready Vets program

R.J. Willing, left, Army veteran, and Spc. Paul Largett, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, install a solar inverter which takes DC electricity from the solar array and turns it into AC electricity to power a household. (Photo by Fort Carson Army Garrison)

R.J. Willing, left, Army veteran, and Spc. Paul Largett, 704th Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, install a solar inverter which takes DC electricity from the solar array and turns it into AC electricity to power a household. (Photo by Fort Carson Army Garrison)

Western customers Fort Carson in Colorado and Hill Air Force Base in Utah are participating in a Department of Energy (DOE) program to prepare military veterans for careers in the solar power industry.

Solar Ready Vets, part of DOE’s SunShot Initiative, is an intensive six-week training course to teach transitioning service members and vets about photovoltaics (PV). DOE launched the pilot program in 2014 because translating military experience into civilian jobs is one of the toughest challenges veterans face. The solar industry is adding jobs 10 times faster than the rest of the economy, and many veterans already have a strong background in basic technical skills that will help them succeed in the field.

Working with leaders
Ft. Carson, Camp Pendleton in California and Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia were the first facilities to offer the course. In April, President Obama visited Hill Air Force Base, the fourth training site to announce that DOE is expanding Solar Ready Vets to a total of ten military bases. DOE will work with the Department of Defense to choose the remaining six facilities. Strength of the local solar market and the training capacity of nearby Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN) partners will factor into the decision.

Located in a state with a thriving solar industry, Ft. Carson Army Garrison near Colorado Springs was a natural choice to host Solar Ready Vets. Western worked with Ft. Carson and eight other federal agencies in 2007 to finance and install a 2-megawatt (MW) PV system on the base, the largest array on an Army facility at the time. The array is part of the base’s sustainability program that addresses energy and water use, transportation, waste and local habitat.

Renewable energy is also part of the power supply at Hill Air Force Base. The Air Force built its first landfill gas facility at Hill in 2006, and has since expanded it to three generators producing 2.3 MW annually. A large solar array, commissioned in 2009, contributes another 220 kilowatts of clean power to base operations.

Theory backs up practice
The Ft. Carson pilot class of 23 trainees studied PV systems from the basics of electricity to design to installation. The course also covered battery backup and storage, permitting and basic troubleshooting, and included the “why” behind the practical steps. At the end of the course, they earned their OSHA 10-hour construction card and took the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners Redirecting to a non-government site Entry Level Exam. All 23 successfully passed the NABCEP certification.

Spc. Briceldo Rosas, left, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, works with Capt. Karl Gustke, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Inf. Div., on a simulated rooftop to install flashing for a solar array installment.  (Photo by Fort Carson Garrison)

Spc. Briceldo Rosas, left, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, works with Capt. Karl Gustke, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Inf. Div., on a simulated rooftop to install flashing for a solar array installment. (Photo by Fort Carson Garrison)

More than half the training involved hands-on learning, using a field lab created by lead instructor Solar Energy International Redirecting to a non-government site (SEI). One of the founding members of the SITN, the Paonia, Colorado-based, solar education organization conducted the trainings at Ft. Carson and Camp Pendleton. “We are very excited to be involved in this program,” said Chris Turek, SEI director of Marketing and Alumni Outreach. “Job training is an important part of military service, and the skills that Solar Ready Vets teaches can be valuable for active as well as transitioning service members.”

As a post-911 veteran himself, Turek has a strong personal connection to the program. After completing his degree and working in other related industries for a few years, he joined SEI. “Vets are used to working as part of a team that places high priority on safety and results, which makes the solar industry a great fit for them,” he said.

Out of service, into jobs
The solar industry clearly agrees, with SolarCity, Vivint Solar, SunRun, SunPower and SunEdison lining up to interview participants following their graduation. “Several graduates have received job offers already,” said Ft. Carson Career Skills Program Manager Sherry Jenkins. “Some are waiting until they get closer to their separation dates to interview but they excited about opportunities that await them.”

DOE lined up the solar companies to interview graduates, but Jenkins said local businesses could also contact the base if they are interested in conducting interviews with the graduates. Turek pointed out that the training is applicable for all types of solar-related businesses. “The skills we teach prepare graduates for positions in management, PV installation and sales, as well as technical positions,” he said. “Utilities that are looking to scale up their solar programs could definitely find qualified candidates here.”

Interest, opportunities growing
Ft. Carson kicked off a second training May 12 with 24 students, and another one is being planned for August. Class size is limited to 25 participants, and the first one was a bit of a tough sell, Jenkins acknowledged. “Now word is getting out and the classes are filling rapidly,” she said, adding, “We have our first women members in the current class, and they tell me that they love it.”

Hill AFB plans to offer training this fall. The free program is open to active military personnel who are within a few months of moving to veteran status. DOE further screens for applicants with good math skills and some electricity or construction experience. In this initial phase, participants are selected only from the bases where the training is held. However, current veterans may participate now in solar skills training through their regional SITN educational partners. The network consists of more than 400 community colleges across the country.

Utilities with job openings for Solar Ready Vets may contact the base education or transition office near them:

  • Ft. Carson (Army)
    Sherry Jenkins
    Career Skills Program Coordinator
    Directorate of Human Resources
    1675 Long Street, Bldg. 1117, Room 124
    Ft. Carson, CO 80913
    Office: 719-526-8075 DSN: 691-8075
  • Camp Pendleton (Marines)
    Scott Pile
    Director, Personal and Professional Development
    US Marine Corps-Camp Pendleton
    Transition Readiness:
    Mr. Derrick Christovale; 951-725-6652
    Education Center:
    Ms. Pat Jeffress; 951-725-6414
    Career and Personal Readiness:
    Ms. Veronica Largent; 951-725-6320

Jobs can also be posted through on-base hiring fairs and military employment channels.

To receive the latest information on future training locations, sign up for the SunShot Initiative monthly newsletter.

Source: Green Power News via Solar Energy International, 4/30/15

Around the Web: NRECA Unveils Interactive Website Tracking Cooperative Solar Development

AroundTheWebThe National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has unveiled an interactive websiteRedirecting to a non-government site tracking solar development by electric cooperatives. Offering maps, data, photos and video, the website provides an overview and new details about the recent dramatic increase in cooperative-owned and purchased solar capacity.

Member-owned, not for profit co-ops either have online or are planning to develop 240 megawatts of owned and purchased solar capacity in 34 states. According to NRECA, this development is distinguished by its large footprint, rapid growth and potential for expansion.

“Co-op solar is consumer-owned solar,” said NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson. “The solar website shows how the consumer-owned utility business model can spur innovation and expand solar capacity in regions where this resource had previously been written off as too expensive or not viable.”

Highlights of the new website include maps showing the co-op solar footprint, solar projects developed abroad by NRECA International and median income levels and co-op solar development. Visitors will also find a chart showing the cumulative growth of co-op solar capacity, and videos, pictures and stories of significant co-op solar projects throughout the nation.

The website complements NRECA research, funded by the Department of Energy’s SunShot initiative, to develop tools and business strategies to accelerate the deployment of utility-scale solar.

Co-ops are making significant investments in renewable resource generation, using loans from the Rural Utilities Service and other sources. With solar becoming more cost-competitive, electric co-ops are poised to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in new projects. In addition, co-ops purchase renewable energy from large projects such as the 31 MW Cimarron Solar Facility in New Mexico and the 7.7 MW Azalea Solar Power Facility in Georgia.

Source: National Rural Electric Cooperative Association via Renewables Biz, 11/8/14

DOE offers $15 million to help communities develop solar deployment plans

As part of its “SunShot Initiative,” the Energy Department (DOE) is offering $15 million to help communities develop multi-year solar plans to install affordable solar electricity for homes and businesses.

The Solar Market Pathways funding opportunity is intended to support regional, state, tribal and locally-driven efforts to develop multi-year solar deployment plans that will help provide business certainty and establish a clear path for the next five to ten years of solar deployment. A DOE webinar on April 22Redirecting to a non-government site  will cover types of projects under consideration and what to expect from the concept paper and application process.

DOE expects awardees to convene stakeholder processes to develop their plan, and form subgroups, if necessary, to address specific topics such as the net benefits and costs of solar electricity (to and from the grid). Subgroups might also develop solar deployment programs including commercial property assessed clean energy financing, shared solar or incorporating solar within local emergency response plans.

Concept papers are due May 28 and full applications are due July 3. Read the press release for more information, including registration for the April 22 webinar, or see the funding opportunity announcement (Reference # DE-FOA-0001071).

Upcoming deadlines

DOE to fund utility projects for solar planning, research, training

Working with the Solar Electric Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site (SEPA) and other organizations, the Energy Department (DOE) this week released two Funding of Opportunity Announcements (FOA) related to utilities.

Solar Utility Networks: Replicable Innovations in Solar Energy (SUNRISE) is being issued by DOE to solicit applications for two topic areas. Topic A focuses on enabling utilities to develop long-term strategic plans for integrating high levels of renewable energy generation and ensuring that power systems operate reliably in real time under high renewable penetration. Topic B aims to provide technical assistance for building capacity through utility-scale photovoltaic planning and installation. 

DOE’s express purpose in issuing this FOA is to demonstrate cost-effective and reliable solar integration in real time, at utility-scale, in successful utility business models. DOE anticipates providing up to $12 Million through this FOA, for projects two to four years long, depending on the topic area. Awardees must share project costs. This FOA is part of the DOE SunShot Initiative.

SUNRISE deadlines:

  • Concept papers due: March 8, 2013
  • Expected date for response to concept papers: March 20, 2013
  • Deadline for questions: April 21, 2013
  • Full applications due: April 24, 2013

The second FOA, Grid Engineering for Accelerated Renewable Energy Deployment (GEARED) seeks applications to increase power system research, development and analytical capacity. Projects should also be designed to prepare electric utility professionals to manage high penetrations of solar and other distributed energy technologies. To achieve these dual goals, GEARED will support two activities:

  • Training consortia focused on quickly bringing their findings into training and educational initiatives
  • A national coordination network that will link these consortia to one another and other relevant power system research and development and training activities

Increasing the power systems capabilities and talent pool promotes electric grid security, as well as environmental and economic benefits for all consumers. The GEARED FOA provides funding to support creating three to five regional consortia that work with universities and utilities to incorporate power systems analysis, research and development into curricula and short courses, cooperative internships and continuing education. GEARED will also support the creation of a national training network for distributed power system professionals. The FOA does not apply to undergraduate or graduate fellowships.

GEARED deadlines:

  • Concept papers due: April 12, 2013; 5 p.m. EST
  • Deadline for questions: April 16, 2013; 5 p.m. EST
  • Full applications due: April 19, 2013; 5 p.m. EST

Some of the topic areas are seeking utility applicants, while others are seeking utility groups or other types of entities.  SEPA member utilities that wish to apply directly or would like to apply in partnership with SEPA should contact SEPA President Julia Hamm at 202-559-2025 as soon as possible.