Colorado-based Platte River Power Authority on Feb. 21 issued a request for proposals (RFP) for at least 20 megawatts of new solar energy capacity that could be added to its system. The RFP also calls for up to 5 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy storage capacity.
In the RFP, Platte River said it would consider proposals for a long-term power purchase agreement for solar projects that could be built and operational between June 2019 and the end of 2021.
Platte River also expressed strong interest for technologies that could store up to 5 MWh of energy.
Proposals in response to the RFP will be due by 4 p.m. Mountain time on March 30.
With the average price of utility-scale solar electricity now at 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, it makes more sense than ever for utilities to consider adding community solar projects to their generation portfolios. And if your utility is new to the shared solar model, then you are in luck—the Community Solar Value Project (CSVP) has just introduced a new Solutions Toolbox to help you develop a successful program.
In community or shared solar development, customers subscribe to solar project output or purchase or lease solar panels. According to the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), some 170 utilities nationwide currently offer or are planning to offer community solar.
The CSVP focuses on helping utilities to develop programs that meet the needs of both the utility and the customer. This includes programs that are developed entirely by the utility, as well as programs where the utility works with non-utility service providers.
Six sides of box The Toolbox distills the wisdom and experiences of dozens of utilities and their trade allies to identify best practices that deliver value while speeding the project to market. The site, “Solutions Outside the Box,” addresses six challenge areas:
Cross-departmental program design
Strategic solar project design
Best-practice financing and procurement
Target marketing for customer acquisition
Integration with solar-plus measures, such as energy storage and demand response (DR)
Analytics, streamlined to get from project economics to program pricing
These issues will sound familiar to anyone who attended the CSVP workshop WAPA hosted at the Electric Power Training Center last June. One takeaway from that event was that every utility planner faces problems unique to their policy environments, organizational structures and customer demands.
Rich in resources With that in mind, the CSVP built flexibility into the toolbox, stocking each topic with top planning guides, technical summaries, presentations and training webinars.
The Process is a flexible, solutions-oriented roadmap utilities can follow to develop their own community solar programs. High-Value Community Solar: A Brief Guide to Utility Program Design, a report in presentation format, summarizes lessons learned and introduces the planning resources on the website.
Strategic Design introduces the benefits of local, community-scale solar and of designing with strategic integration value in mind. This section provides tips for making high-value design choices, from strategic siting and solar tracking to gaining added value from solar shade structures. It dovetails with economic analysis process discussed in Section 6, Net-Value Assessment & Pricing.
Procurement for Products & Services is an area offering many opportunities for improving net value. Among the resources here, you will find CSVP’s concise outsourcing decision key, project financing models suitable for investor-owned or consumer-owned utilities and a procurement resource guide with direct links to publications on developing a solar request for proposal.
Target Market Research & Segmentation is a relatively new approach for utilities, but it is required for success with community solar. This topic covers best practices for community solar programs, with references to relevant resources, a webinar, market research checklist and step-by-step guide to Market Research and Market Segmentation for Community Solar Program Success. WAPA customer SMUD and other Utility Forum members joined CSVP on fieldwork for these resources.
Companion Measures, such as solar-plus-storage and DR, can be integrated into community solar projects to create new options and value streams. CSVP’s guide to DR companion measures and guide to storage companion measures define options on either side of the meter that can complement community solar. An annotated resource list is a useful companion guide.
Net-Value Assessment & Pricing provides detail on CSVP’s streamlined analytic process to speed the path from early-stage program design to competitive program pricing. It begins with an overview presentation and a paper on CSVP’s streamlined economic analysis and includes three generic scenarios illustrating how this analytic approach applies in different utility settings. A presentation and blog on pricing strategy clarifies the last step in this approach.
The CSVP developed the Solutions Toolbox in partnership with energy industry experts and utilities, including SMUD. The DOE SunShot Initiative provided funding for the project under its Solar Market Pathways program. For more information about Solutions Toolbox or the Community Solar Value Project, contact Jill Cliburn at 505-490-3070.
Community plus Storage Solutions Sept. 29, 12 p.m. CDT
As more utilities install projects that allow customers to get their own “piece of the sun,” new approaches and new challenges keep arising. You can learn more about designing solar projects and creating community solar programs by attending a free webinar series presented by the Community Solar Value Project (CSVP).
The 2016 lunchtime webinars explore innovations expected to grow quickly in the utility-driven community-solar market. The CSVP team invites guest experts to discuss better solar project design and procurement; strategies to manage solar variability, such as demand response and storage companion measures; program design for targeted customer appeals and win-win programs for low-income communities.
The hot trend of Community plus Storage Solutions is the topic of the Sept. 29 webinar. While the idea of integrating storage options directly into community solar gardens has been slow to gain traction, a few innovative utilities and third parties have begun to explore such designs on both sides of the utility meter. Find out how industry leaders are facilitating renewables integration in communities around the world. A discussion with provocative what-if questions will follow the presentations.
Shortly after each webinar, either a video or slides in PDF format are posted to the CSVP archive. You can also find webinar recordings from the 2015 series.
The two remaining webinars remaining in the 2016 series are:
Thursday October 27 – The Value of Going Local.
Thursday December 1 – Smarter Procurement for Community Solar Solutions.
While the introduction of the Tesla Power Wall was creating a stir in the electricity industry, Great River Energy and several partners were quietly working to show utilities that they already have storage capacity that most haven’t begun to tap.
“That is what the electric water heater is,” declared Great River Member Services Director Gary Connett.
‘Battery’ almost banned With three decades of experience in load shaping with electric water heaters and more than 100,000 units currently under the utility’s control, Connett knows whereof he speaks. That extensive history with demand response is what led Great River to initiate the study on the storage potential of the common household appliance.
When the Department of Energy was revamping its efficiency standards, Congress was set to ban electric resistance water heaters with a storage capacity of more than 55 gallons. Great River worked tirelessly to overturn the ban, and the Energy Efficiency Improvement Act of 2015 ultimately included an exception for large water heaters.
“But that experience made us realize that we had work to do to make utilities understand how important this appliance is to their load management strategies,” recalled Connett. “It is even more so, now that we are being asked to integrate more variable resources into the power mix.”
Showing how it’s done The long fight to save large water heaters also attracted the attention of the NRDC, an unlikely ally, Connett acknowledges. However, the utility and the environmentalists found common ground in the innovative use of water heaters to “store” renewable energy. The NRDC joined Great River, NRECA and PLMA to commission a study by the Brattle Group economic consultants.
The six-month study evaluated several strategies familiar to Great River, using two types of water heaters—electric resistance and heat pump units—both of which the utility has on control programs. The electric thermal storage strategy involves heating water at night when electricity is cheaper. “And becoming greener over time,” added Connett. “As Minnesota moves closer to its 2025 goal of 25 percent renewables the percentage of green energy in the night time hours only increases.”
Peak shaving is another strategy, which curtails load during times of high demand on a limited number of days per year, usually in four- to eight-hour cycles. Great River has about 45,000 water heaters on its peak shaving program and 66,000 on the thermal storage program. “That’s 20 percent of all the water heaters on our system. How many utilities can say that?” Connett asked.
The study also looked at fast response, a way to provide balancing services in the form of quick load increases and decreases. “This strategy will be tremendously useful as utilities bring more variable generation onto their systems,” said Connett.
Proven right The Hidden Battery: Opportunities in Electric Water Heating, (pdf) the report resulting from the study, reinforced what Great River had already learned from years of water heater control. Depending on market conditions, the Brattle research shows that storage-enabled water heating could save the consumer as much as $200 annually. Based on that figure, payback for the appliance, associated control equipment and installation is five years.
The environmental benefits are significant too, as policy—and consumers—increasingly focus on clean energy and energy efficiency. Controlling water heaters not only saves homeowners money, but it reduces carbon dioxide emissions with the right power mix. As Connett noted, being able to shift electricity use to lower-cost generation in off-peak hours can increase the use of renewable resources like wind.
These findings were not so much a revelation as confirmation for Connett. “That validation was pretty exciting,” he admitted. “And now that storage is becoming more important to integrate variable generation, we will continue to move forward with our proven programs.”
Initiative to spread word Shortly after the release of the report this January, the partnership behind it launched the National Community Storage Initiative to focus attention on opportunities to develop national, regional and local markets for electric storage technologies. American Public Power Association and Edison Electric Institute have added their endorsement to the initiative, too.
Similar to community solar projects, such programs would aggregate controlled residential appliances to build local energy-storage capability. In addition to giving utilities better control of their loads, these fleets could also potentially provide ancillary services. Connett noted that the new generation of “grid interactive water heaters” can be controlled over very short time intervals with nearly instantaneous response. “The market is driving manufacturers to develop smarter water heaters,” he said. “Utilities want more dynamic control, and manufactures are enabling that with Wi-Fi and global technology.”
Water heaters are not the only existing appliances that offer energy storage potential. Great River Energy also controls about 167,000 air conditioners and has 15,000 ceramic-block, electric thermal storage heaters on its system that could contribute storage capacity. “But the beauty of the water heater is that it is a year-round load,” Connett observed.
More smart appliances are in the pipeline, such as electric vehicles and the Power Wall. “There are plenty of opportunities coming up, but we don’t need to wait for new technology,” Connett said. “The water heater is here now, and this type of program is made for co-ops—it is collaborative, economical and innovative. It helps everyone on the system.”
New alternatives to conventional generation are already changing capacity planning, portfolio evaluation and resource procurement decisions. Many planners—even experienced ones—may be wondering how to address these issues while still ensuring reliable and economic operation of the bulk power system.
This course will show attendees how to plan their future resource mix in the face of uncertainty. They will gain an understanding of the effect public policies, such as environmental regulations, have on the resource mix and system operations. Presentations will cover strategies for successfully integrating variable resources, storage technologies and demand-response programs into a comprehensive plan.
The agenda is designed to offer something for professionals involved in every aspect of power delivery, from utility system planners and power system operators to emerging technology vendors. Developers of transmission, renewable energy, energy storage and demand-response projects will benefit from the course, as will regulators and lawmakers.
Learn from experts The instructors bring decades of experience in resource planning to an information-packed schedule. Attendees will learn planning basics, including commonly used calculations, from Michael Henderson, the Regional Planning and Coordination director for Independent System Operator New England. Brian Walshe, president of ION Consulting, will discuss how these principles apply to specific scenarios and how factors like regulations, environmental policies and fuel supplies can affect them.
The case of Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) offers a close look at the real-world impact of aggressive renewable energy goals on resource planning. HECO Renewable Energy Planning Director Dora Nakfuji will be on hand to share her utility’s experiences.
Here to help The EPTC will continue to be a resource to help utilities keep pace with rapid-fire changes in the electric industry. Randy Manion, Western’s Renewable Resource Program manager, will discuss plans to enhance the training center’s course offerings to include advanced renewable integration training using the EPTC’s unique model power system. Dr. Bri-Mathias Hodge, manager for the Power System Design and Studies Group at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, will join Manion to talk about NREL’s Visually Informed Wind Forecasting Decision Making Platform Project.
“The EPTC is moving forward on several fronts to make this happen,” said Manion. “We have partnerships underway with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory involving advanced visualization tools for control room operators. We are establishing an EPTC Utility Working group with support from some of the electric utilities leading the country in actively addressing renewable integration. Also, Western is developing an EPTC roadmap with our core partners including the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers,” he added.
Resource Planning for Power Systems will take place at the EPTC in Golden, Colorado, convenient to several hotels and restaurants. The cost is $795, with discounts available for government employees, including municipalities. If you work for a government agency, wish to register multiple people, have questions or need more information, please contact the registrar at 720-491-1173.
If integrated resource planning (IRP) seemed difficult in the past, a whole new set of factors; including the Clean Power Plan, advances in storage, renewable energy portfolios and smart devices galore; are piling on to make it more challenging—and more important—than ever. An upcoming conference, How Changes in the 2016 Grid Affect IRPs, may help your utility address those challenges, while building general planning skills.
The professional development company EUCI is presenting its 16th Annual Integrated Resource Planning Conference, March 20-22, in Long Beach, California. The conference provides a showcase for IRP “best practices” that takes into account the new pressures utilities face in managing and forecasting their loads.
Far-reaching program The agenda is designed not just for resource and strategic planners, but for financial analysts, efficiency and demand response program managers and professionals who are responsible for mandate compliance as well.
Speakers include leading utility and power resource planning professionals and related industry experts. Presentations will use case studies to illustrate methodologies that predict and plan for future operational and investment requirements. Key topics include:
Properly modeling energy storage and integrating it into an IRP
How Clean Power Plan requirements should be rendered in the IRP planning process and document
How to factor operational flexibility requirements into resource selection decision-making
Planning for uncertainty and risk related to fuel prices and transportation infrastructure
Determining a utility’s avoided cost for PURPA [Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act]and variable generation (VG) resources
In addition to two days of packed sessions, EUCI has also scheduled pre- and post-conference workshops. IRP Planning Challenges and Critical Analysis for Emerging Business Models, March 21, provides analytic, modeling and planning insights as they relate to the new business forces that are transforming the utility industry. On March 23, following the conference wrap-up, Energy Storage Valuationexamines the questions utilities and system planners have relating to modeling and implementing storage.
What you get Participants will learn about developing comprehensive resource plans that provide solutions to operational issues and accurately account for variables. Sessions will offer insights on the impact of renewables on carbon emissions, and on communicating IRP results to stakeholders and regulators. Attendees can gain practical resource planning skills that will help position their utilities to negotiate the industry’s rapidly evolving business model environment.
Good for you, for Western Energy Services is not only suggesting that our customers investigate this training opportunity—we are planning to send representatives to the IRP Conference, as well. It is critical that Western understands the demands of the new planning environment thoroughly to give our customers the support they need as the industry changes.
Register before March 4 to receive the early-bird discount. EUCI is offering a discount for organizations wishing to send multiple attendees. Send three delegates and the fourth attends for free, as long as all registrations are made at the same time. Contact Ron Horstman for more information about the package discount.
Rooms at Hyatt the Pike, the conference location, must be reserved before Feb. 20 to receive the special group rate.