Register for the 2015 SEPA Utility Solar Conference

The Solar Electric Power Association is inviting utilities from every point on the solar power learning curve to come to San Diego, California, April 27-29 for the Utility Solar Conference  You are leaving (USC).

The annual meeting brings together power providers interested in improving, expanding or developing a viable long-term solar strategy. Because registration is restricted to employees of utilities only, attendees will have the opportunity to share their experiences and exchange ideas in a relaxed, informal atmosphere.

Solar from the utility perspective
The agenda offers something for everyone from business managers to engineers to customer service representatives, exploring such key areas as:

  • Solar programs and business models
  • Strategic planning and procurement
  • Technology and integration
  • State of the market and trends

The opening general session on Tuesday morning is a regulatory roundtable on The Impact of Solar on Evolving Electricity Markets. Discover how the rise of affordable renewable energy is disrupting the ‘business as usual’ approach to regulating electricity. Utility regulators will discuss what is driving recent policy initiatives in their respective states, and offer insight on the most significant challenges and opportunities facing the electric utility industry.

After getting the big picture from the opening roundtable, prepare to focus on the issues that are most important to your job. Sessions are offered in concurrent tracks designed to examine three topics in detail:

  • Connecting with customers examines the consumer’s role in the growth of distributed generation, and how utilities can get out in front of changing expectations.
  • Utility business models explores solar market trends, rate design and different strategies for developing and owning generation projects.
  • Solar and the grid tackles interconnection questions and looks at how changes in micro-grid, storage and inverter technology might affect utility business.

Extracurricular activities
The USC officially kicks off with a networking reception on Monday evening, but those who arrive early can sign up for an inside look at innovative projects.

Join the 2015 USC Solar Tour, April 27, to explore the “living laboratory” that is the Borrego Springs micro-grid. San Diego Gas & Electric operates this demonstration project that shows how a small community interacts with distributed generation. The second half of the tour focuses on the concentrating photovoltaic technology of the 6.3-megawatt Desert Green plant.

Participants who are interested in what solar can do for their communities may want to learn about SEPA’s partnership with GRID AlternativesYou are leaving The flagship program installs solar power for low-income families across the United States and offers volunteers and job trainees hands-on solar installation experience. This is an excellent opportunity to experience a solar install up close while providing an incredible service to the community.

After the conference is over, stick around one more day to expand your knowledge about the challenges of putting renewables onto the electric grid. SEPA is offering a new one-day Solar Integration Workshop where utility professionals can explore transmission issues with technology vendors and researchers together to explore the effective integration of solar power into the electric grid. Expect a lively, interactive discussion that draws upon results of solar integration technology demonstrations, pilots and commercial deployments.

A little more incentive

SEPA is hosting a golf tourney at the Rancho Bernardo Inn golf course to give Utility Solar Conference attendees a first-hand taste of California's abundant solar resource. (Photo by Rancho Bernardo Inn)
SEPA is hosting a golf tourney at the Rancho Bernardo Inn golf course to give Utility Solar Conference attendees a first-hand taste of California’s abundant solar resource. (Photo by Rancho Bernardo Inn)

It is fitting that the state that has made so many strides in solar deployment and technology should host SEPA’s Utility Solar Conference. Attendees can expect to meet and network with utility professionals whose extensive experience in dealing with solar issues makes them experts in their own right.

And then there is the beautiful city of San Diego, worthy of spending a few extra days on exploration of nearby attractions. The conference will take place at the Rancho Bernardo InnYou are leaving with a stunning 18-hole golf course that inspired SEPA to plan its first-ever golf tourney. Even if you can’t spare time before or after the conference, you can still soak up the California sun on the links—as long as you reserve your spot soon.

Source: Western’s Green Power News, 3/16/15

Distributed PV Interconnection: Recent Analysis Findings

Jan. 21, 2015
11:30 AM Mountain Time

Register now You are leaving for the first Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative (DGIC) quarterly meeting and informational webinar of 2015!

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will present the results of forthcoming DGIC data collection and analysis measuring the timeframes for each stage of the interconnection process. Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) will follow NREL with a presentation of its recent survey of utility interconnection practices.

NREL and SEPA jointly facilitate the DGIC, with advisory support from Western and the Electric Power Research Institute. Quarterly DGIC meetings focus on current and emergent processes and protocols for interconnecting distributed PV, with the goal of encouraging stakeholders to share information and data.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 1/7/15

Webinar describes utility trends in adopting community solar programs

SEPAWAPAFeb. 4, 2015
2 p.m. MST

Western Area Power Administration and the Solar Electric Power Association You are leaving (SEPA) are teaming up to present a webinar that explores the utility’s role in the community solar market segment on Feb. 4, 2015, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. Mountain Standard Time.

The community solar model offers utilities an innovative way to engage with customers who want to invest in renewable energy but, for a variety of rea­sons, may not be able to install rooftop arrays. Community solar programs offer utility customers the opportunity to buy “shares” in a centralized project, often called a solar farm or solar garden. Utilities around the nation are using these programs to meet growing consumer interest in supporting renewable energy.

SEPA has been tracking the spread of these proj­ects across the United States since early 2012. With nearly 60 active programs, utilities represent 87 percent of all com­munity solar programs now online.

Utility Trends in Adopting Community Solar Models You are leaving will open with Becky Campbell, SEPA Senior Manager of Research and Advisory Services, defining community solar and explaining why some utilities see it as a valuable customer engagement tool. Using case studies of actual utility programs to support the discussion, she will highlight nationwide utility trends in program adoption.

Presentations will cover additional data, including actual participation statistics that SEPA collected through a 2014 survey of utility program administrators. Atttendees will also learn about design characteristics common to some of the nation’s most successful community solar programs.

Randy Manion, manager of Western’s Renewable Resource Program, is urging Western customers to attend the webinar to learn more about this strategy for adding solar power to utility resource portfolios. “Several of our customers have already launched community solar programs, including Colorado Springs Utilities, Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association and Kit Carson Electric Cooperative,” he noted. “Their members have been enthusiastic, and many projects are fully subscribed before construction is complete.”

There is no cost to attend the webinar, but registration is required.

Take part in SEPA’s annual utility solar survey

Deadline: February 4, 2015sepalogo

Solar Electric Power Association You are leaving (SEPA) is conducting the eighth annual survey You are leaving to provide data for its 2014 Utility Solar Market Snapshot, to be released in April 2015, and its new Utility Solar Market Report, scheduled for a June 2015 release.

The annual survey collects utility data on solar electricity installations in the United States, both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power on the customer and utility side of the meter. Past reports have garnered significant media attention from outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Renewable Energy World, Transmission & Distribution World, and Reuters.

Municipal and cooperative utilities are making an impact in solar development especially in terms of watts per customer. Kauai Island Electric Cooperative and Imperial Irrigation District You are leaving are two that made the 2013 Top 10 list for Annual Watts per customer. Each year, SEPA also announces the top ten annual and cumulative solar MW [megawatts] and Watts per Customer awards at its Utility Solar Conference.

Other Western customer utilities that saw significant solar activity in 2013 include Los Angeles Department of Water and Power You are leaving, and Salt River Project You are leaving in Arizona, ranking 15th and 21st respectively.  Overall, 142 MW of solar was integrated by municipal utilities in 2013, including 12 that integrated 1 MW or more each. Cooperative utilities integrated 28 MW of solar in total, including eight that integrated 1 MW or more.

Please send your response by Feb. 4, 2015.  Early submissions are appreciated, and those submitting by the deadline will receive complimentary summary reports. For more information, contact Miriam Makhyoun at 202-379-1615.

Source: Solar Electric Power Association, 12/10/14

City of Palo Alto Utilities awarded Public Power Utility of the Year

Palo Alto’s municipal utility takes solar energy mainstream in drive for 100% carbon-free electric supply

The Solar Electric Power AssociationRedirecting to a non-government site (SEPA), an educational nonprofit organization that helps utilities integrate solar electric power into their energy portfolios, has named the City of Palo Alto UtilitiesRedirecting to a non-government site (CPAU) as Public Power Utility of the Year. The award was announced on Oct. 21 at the Solar Power International conference in Las Vegas.

Julia Hamm, president and CEO of SEPA, praised the municipal utility for “walking the talk” of community focus, and pointed to CPAU’s customer-friendly menu of solar services and tariffs. “The agency has demonstrated innovation and pragmatism in leveraging affordable solar to meet its goal of becoming a carbon-free utility,” Hamm stated.

Founded in 2005, SEPA’s annual awards recognize organizations and individuals advancing utility innovation, industry collaboration and leadership in the solar energy sector.

Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd called the award a tremendous honor for the city. “We continually strive to be on the cutting edge of environmental sustainability,” said Mayor Shepherd. “This award recognizes how public and private partnerships, along with forward-thinking community support for renewable energy, can allow cities to successfully reduce their carbon footprint.”

Road to carbon neutrality
The 2014 award recognizes the City of Palo Alto Utilities for its leadership and innovation in demonstrating solar energy’s viability as a mainstream power source. The utility has continuously increased the size of its solar electric portfolio. A recent power purchase agreement puts the city on track to have a 100-percent carbon-free electric supply portfolio by the year 2017. The city implemented a 100-percent carbon-neutral electric policy in 2013, purchasing energy from renewable sources, as well as purchasing renewable energy certificates to offset “brown” market power resources.

Most recently, The Palo Alto City Council approved a plan to encourage local solar generation, with options for community and group buys for customers who want to support solar energy but cannot install a solar system on their own property. With the Local Solar Program strategy, the utility aims to increase the local solar installations from 5 Megawatts (MW) at the end of 2013 to 23 MW by 2023.

The utility also offers customers a full set of solar services and incentives, including residential and commercial rebate programs, expedited permit processing, green power purchase premium options, workshops, one-on-one advice and coordination with industry representatives. A feed-in-tariff CPAU established in 2012 provides third parties with the opportunity to install solar arrays on local businesses and sell the energy back to the utility.

Western congratulates the City of Palo Alto on its award, and on its progress toward a carbon-neutral power supply. Energy Services is available to help all Western customers meet their planning and sustainability goals. Contact Energy Service Manager Ron Horstman or your regional Energy Services representative for more information.

Source: City of Palo Alto Utilities, 10/21/14

Public power utilities urged to take SEPA solar rankings survey

Western and the Solar Electric Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site, (SEPA) are inviting Western customers to participate in SEPA’s seventh annual survey Redirecting to a non-government site to provide data for the annual Utility Solar Rankings Briefing.

SEPA will release the results of the survey in April 2014, and follow that with its new Utility Solar Market Report in June 2014.  Past reports have received significant coverage from media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, Renewable Energy World, Transmission & Distribution World, and Reuters

The annual survey collects utility data on solar electricity installations in the United States, both photovoltaic and concentrating solar power, on the customer and utility side of the meter. “The industry, utility resource planners and customers interested in solar need to know who is installing systems, in what quantities and at what cost,” said Western Renewable Energy Program Manager Randy Manion. “This is essential market information for identifying strategies for expanding the use of solar.”

Municipal and cooperative utilities are making an impact in solar development especially in terms of watts per customer.  In 2012, seven of the top ten Watts-per-Customer rankings went to cooperative and public utilities ranging from 160 to 560 watts per customer. 

Each year, SEPA also announces the top ten annual and cumulative solar megawatt (MW) and Watts-per-Customer awards at its Utility Solar Conference Redirecting to a non-government site. Last year Sacramento Municipal Utility District Redirecting to a non-government site (SMUD) placed ninth among utilities overall for Annual Solar MW and received first place for Municipal Annual Solar MW. SMUD integrated 66 MW of solar, mostly through the build-out of 54 MW of centralized projects in the feed-in tariff program the utility launched in 2010. Imperial Irrigation District Redirecting to a non-government site (IID), another Western customer, claimed the seventh spot for Annual Watts per Customer with 190 W per customer account.  IID integrated the 23-MW Imperial Valley Solar Project Redirecting to a non-government site, the ninth largest solar project built in 2012.

Salt River Project Redirecting to a non-government site in Arizona and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Redirecting to a non-government site also saw notable solar activity in 2012, with annual solar rankings of 17th and 18th respectively.  Overall, municipal utilities integrated 138 MW of solar last year, and 20 integrated 1 MW or more each.

Cooperative utilities made a strong showing as well, integrating a total of 36 MW of solar, including eight that integrated 1 MW or more. Kauai Island Utility Cooperative occupied the number two spot with 282 watts per customer added in 2012, up from 12th place in the previous year.  Most of the solar integration came from the newly built 6-MW Port Allen Solar facility Redirecting to a non-government site, the largest solar facility in Hawaii.

The deadline for completing the survey is Feb. 4, 2014, however, early submissions are appreciated. If you prefer to fill out the survey as a Word document, contact Miriam Makhyoun at 202-379-1615. Those submitting by the deadline will receive complimentary summary reports.

SEPA Launches Utility Solar Blog

Utilities looking for timely, interesting and relevant analysis about solar integration have a new resource: Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has launched its new Utility Solar Blog Redirecting to a non-government site.

To kick things off, SEPA’s Research Director Mike Taylor discusses an interesting trend behind the 2012 Utility Solar Rankings awards that were announced on April 16th at SEPA’s Utility Solar Conference. The story compares megawatts to other metrics to get a more a accurate picture of growth in the solar market.

SEPA will be updating posts monthly, so bookmark it and check back at the end of May for more.

Western customer’s feed-in tariff program featured in SEPA webinar

Feb. 21, 12 noon MST

Utility Feed-In Tariff Programs: Are We Getting Things Right?, presented by the Solar Electric Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site (SEPA), will feature Resource Planner Jon Abendschein speaking on his experiences with the City of Palo Alto Utilities Redirecting to a non-government site. The Western customer offers a feed-in tariff (FiT) to encourage consumers to install photovoltaic systems.  

FiT programs, in which utilities buy power from small independent electricity producers, have stimulated growth in solar installations to record levels around the world.  But U.S. utilities are a different breed, and may not be able to meet their local objectives by copying established programs. Join SEPA tomorrow to learn about the challenges utilities are encountering in home-grown FiT challenges and how they address them. 

The webinar will focus on FIT program design and execution to meet end objectives. The material will be of particular interest to strategic planners and renewable program staff, as well as solar industry stakeholders. Presentations will cover:

  • Examples of key utility FIT programs and lessons learned
  • How to evaluate FIT programs for effectiveness
  • How to successfully adapt programs to meet challenges

The cost is $199 for non-members, and free to SEPA members and the media (subject to verification).

Webinar Explores SEPA’s Utility Solar Rankings Report

Learn how utilities across the country are integrating solar power with a free webinar, SEPA Top 10 Utility Solar Rankings Report: Solar Power Fastest Growing Utility Generation Source in 2011, Thursday, June 21, 12 noon, MDT.  

This webinar will focus on the Solar Electric Power Association’s key findings, including:

  • Utilities are adapting to solar as their fastest growing electricity source.
  • For the fourth straight year, utilities integrated a record amount of new solar power, despite the recession.
  • Utility-driven solar procurement is vital to rapid solar market expansion.

In 2011, utilities interconnected over 62,500 PV systems.  This annual volume of smaller, distributed solar interconnections is unlike anything the utility industry has previously managed, and conservative forecasts indicate that this number will grow to more than 150,000 interconnections in 2015.

Utility executives and renewable program staff, strategic planners, project developers and solar industry stakeholders are invited to join speakers Mike Taylor, SEPA research director, and Becky Campbell, SEPA research manager, to examine how the solar market has changed and what the new trends are going to be.

Register now for this free event. Please contact Stephanie Szurek at 202-559-2023 with questions.

Get the Whole Story Behind SEPA’s Utility Solar Rankings

Survey Data Also Available

The Solar Electric Power Association  Redirecting to a non-government site (SEPA) has just released its fifth annual the 2011 Utility Solar Rankings Report. Utility Solar Rankings analyzes the amount of new solar power interconnected by U.S. electric utilities in 2011, including annual and cumulative national Top 10 rankings and annual rankings by region and utility-type. The report also includes several additional Top 10 “breakout” ranking categories, including annual and cumulative largest solar projects, cumulative penetration rate (number of projects per 1,000 utility customers), and cumulative megawatts for investor-owned utility holding companies.

The findings come from more than 240 of the nation’s most solar-active power providers, and highlight such key market trends as:

Utilities are adapting to solar as their fastest growing electricity source. In 2011, utilities interconnected over 62,500 PV systems, posing questions about how they will physically process this volume of interconnection requests, accommodate high-penetration growth on the distribution grid and resolve the economic implications of reduced electricity sales.

For the fourth straight year, utilities integrated a record amount of new solar power, despite the recession. Residential homes accounted for more than 89 percent of the installations, while commercial rooftop installations accounted for more than 53 percent of the capacity. SEPA expects continued growth in 2012, driven by sustained price decreases and a build-out of large solar power plant contracts.

Utility-driven solar procurement is vital to rapid solar market expansion, representing 39 percent of the new solar capacity in 2011, versus 9 percent in 2008.

For these utilities, solar power is part of their day-to-day operations and they are already adapting to this rapid growth and the operational and regulatory changes that come with it. In the process, the path that other utilities will soon follow is being laid.

You can Download the report free of charge today.

SEPA is also making the report’s survey data (pdf) on solar installations available for purchase. The dataset includes the responses from the 200-plus utilities covered in the report, including all tables and figures from the full report, unpublished summary statistics and data by utility including solar capacity in megawatts and number of solar installations.