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 (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.
Training online STEP is presenting Solar Updates in the 2017 National Electrical Code, 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 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.
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 surveyto 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.
Utilities often struggle to educate contractors, staff and volunteers on building science; sales and marketing; program offerings and business development. To help residential energy-efficiency program managers plan technical, outreach and professional training, the Department of Energy Better Buildings Residential Network recently launched a Training Toolkit.
This toolkit—the fourth Residential Network Voluntary Member Initiative—includes tips, resources and examples to help you realize the value of providing training opportunities for contractors, staff and volunteers. A study of more than 140 energy-efficiency programs across the country found that contractor training activities led to more comprehensive upgrades, a higher assessment-to-upgrade conversion rate, improved program processes, improved quality control and increased revenues, among other benefits.
To achieve such results, program staff, volunteers and contractors must have a thorough understanding of building science; sales and marketing; residential energy efficiency program offerings and business development. In the Training Toolkit, program managers will discover training resources and opportunities, compiled and reviewed by Better Buildings Residential Network members, to build that expertise in-house.
The toolkit provides resources on three types of training:
Technical training – Covering building science, energy assessments, technologies and techniques
Outreach training – Covering promotion of program offerings, sales training and customer engagement
Professional training – Covering business development and management for participating contractors
Additional resources at the end of the toolkit include more details on the Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center. This online collection of resources and lessons learned concerning training and other topics is based on years of on-the-job experience in residential energy-efficiency programs.
Get involved The Better Buildings Residential Network connects energy-efficiency programs and partners to share best practices and learn from one another to increase the number of energy-efficient homes. Several Western customers, including the cities of Fort Collins, Colorado, and Palo Alto, California, participate in the initiative.
Members of the Residential Network join with other energy-efficiency programs and partners to identify and address common challenges and market opportunities through voluntary initiatives that result in the development of new tools and resources. Your feedback concerning this toolkit and your training efforts help the network improve its resources and identify new issues.
Contact the Residential Network for more information about joining or participating in the next voluntary initiative.
California utilities have benefitted from strong building efficiency codes that have helped keep energy use constant in the state for decades. Power providers also appreciate the challenges building owners and developers face in complying with the toughest efficiency codes in the nation. Green Technology Training is offering a seminar that can help construction and real estate professionals, as well as utility key account staff and program managers, get up to speed on the latest revisions.
2016 Building Efficiency Standards: Changes and Challenges will cover the Title 24 changes that go into effect January 2017 for both residential and commercial buildings, from high performance walls and attics to lighting and lighting controls. With each round of revisions, the state’s Energy Code moves closer to the goal of zero net energy for all new construction. Staying up to date with its evolution will help utilities as they design new efficiency programs, update preferred contractor lists and advise commercial customers on retrofits.
For convenience, Green Technology is offering the seminar on multiple dates at locations throughout the state:
This training is a good opportunity to prepare your staff to support customers as they work toward creating the most efficient building stock in the country. Knowledge is power, and knowledge of the California Building Code is the power to become an indispensable resource your customers can rely on.
Maybe it is the debate over the administration’s clean power plan or Tesla’s announcement of a new consumer energy storage system or the media buzz around the “Internet of things.” Whatever the reason, consumers—both residential and commercial—are thinking and talking more about energy use and management. Despite a lot of gloomy prognosticating, that is good for utilities. Two upcoming conferences, one new and one established, can help you to turn this growing consumer interest in energy use to your advantage.
Spanning Western territory
The Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange is now in its ninth year of bringing together utility program managers and industry allies to explore the many facets of energy-efficiency programs. Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colorado, will host conference veterans and newcomers Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 for in-depth discussion, discovery and networking.
Hear from leaders
Western customers are involved in both events, so you can expect to hear a frontline perspective on program creation, management and evaluation. The City of Aspen Utilities, Holy Cross Energy and Platte River Power Authority are long-time sponsors of RMUEE. Representatives from those utilities will moderate panels and give presentations alongside many other Western customers.
Event sponsors Peak Load Management Association (PLMA) and Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (MEEA) chose speakers with hands-on experience in creating and implementing demand response (DR) and demand-side management (DSM) programs. Gary Connett, demand-side management director at Great River and PLMA member noted that cooperatives and municipal utilities are leaders in load management. “They are a great resource for power providers who are just getting their programs started.”
Start your programs right
The event is specifically for utilities that are new to DSM and DR, added Connett. “The workshop is designed for people who are considering their first program and are looking for models and ideas,” he explained. “Attendees will learn the fundamentals of each strategy, the benefits and how to implement a program.”
Introduction to Demand Response is a good place for newcomers to begin. The one-day course provides a comprehensive overview of demand response topics. Current issues will be explored from the perspectives of utilities, retail energy providers, customers, independent system operators, and other demand response technology and services providers.
After a day of intensive training, attendees can unwind at a networking reception on the roof of MEEA headquarters. There is nothing like sipping, nibbling and chatting with colleagues in the presence of one of America’s great skylines to get the ideas flowing. The Wednesday workshop, “Integrating Energy Efficiency with Demand Response in the Midwest,” is tailored to the specific goals and challenges facing midwestern utilities. The first two sessions separately address DR and energy-efficiency professionals, and the third covers program models that successfully combine the two points of view.
You may register for all three events as a package or in any combination, including just the reception. Hotel accommodations must be reserved separately and are not included in event registration.
Efficiency issues, conference evolve
Much has changed and much has stayed the same in nearly a decade of talking energy efficiency at RMUEE. Stubborn challenges persist, such as program evaluation, reaching low-income customers and creating a trusted contractor pool, although each year brings clever and creative local solutions. On the positive side, utilities can choose from a variety of mature behavior-based programs for engaging customers, and have plenty of data to make the selection easier.
Technology, always a hot topic, keeps challenging utilities to keep up with it. Lighting upgrades continue to offer the most bang for the buck, but LED, or light-emitting diode, lamps have displaced compact fluorescent lights as the state-of-the-art in efficiency. Automated systems to manage home energy use are still popular, but programmable thermostats seem almost quaint compared to smartphone apps that allow people to control multiple systems remotely. The cost of solar panels has dropped sharply in nine years, making distributed generation a more pressing issue, and carbon emissions regulations now seem closer than ever.
The RMUEE agenda covers all these topics and more, with presentations by your colleagues—the people who design and implement customer programs. You will also hear from trade allies who offer energy products and services and from government agencies that work with utilities to meet efficiency goals.
With so much experience in one place, networking usually turns out to be the star of the RMUEE. Attendees will have plenty of time to make new contacts and compare notes with old friends during meals, breaks and receptions. For a change of pace this year, the final day will be dedicated to outdoor teambuilding activities, including a guided hike and a bike ride to the Maroon Bells. That is, weather permitting, of course, but the fall weather in Aspen is generally cooperative.
There is still time to register for RMUEE, and rooms at the Sky Motel in Aspen are available at a special conference rate. The motel is only a short drive from the Aspen Meadows Conference Center, and will also host the Thursday evening reception.
The Rocky Mountain Utility Efficiency Exchange and the Midwest regional workshops differ in focus. One explores the broad range of customer efficiency programs while the other hones in on two specific strategies. The target audiences deal with different geographic challenges. But the events are tied by the belief that the real experts on the utility industry are the utilities themselves. We will discover all the expertise we need to deal with environmental, regulatory and technological changes if we just talk to our neighbors.
When it comes to educating customers about the value of energy efficiency in buildings, building owners are not the only group utilities need to keep in mind. Real estate appraisers in your territory may well need a crash course in the benefits of high-performance buildings, too. The Energy Department (DOE) and the Appraisal Foundation are working on resources to help the real estate industry figure out what sustainability is worth.
“Green” features can lower a building’s operating cost and make it a less financially risky investment, as shown in a case study by the Institute for Market Transformation. A commercial building in Wilmington, North Carolina, that implemented energy conservation measures reduced its annual energy costs by nearly $11,000, increasing the building’s valuation by up to $275,000. The study also showed that installing a renewable system has a similar effect. Buildings in California with solar panels can be valued at a premium as high as $5,911 per kilowatt of energy capacity.
Yet building owners often worry—with reason—that they will not recoup their investment in energy-efficiency upgrades when it comes time to resell the building. If appraisers are not educated about green strategies, they might overlook some of the benefits that could make the building more marketable, such as reduced operational and environmental risks. And that adds just one more barrier to getting customers to implement such measures.
To address this concern, DOE has teamed up with the Appraisal Foundation to improve resources for appraisers who are involved with energy-efficient buildings. The first of these resources, the Appraisal Practices Board (APB) Valuation Advisory #6: Valuation of Green Buildings: Background and Core Competency, is available to download. Technical experts and industry leaders collaborated on the APB Valuation Advisory to give appraisers a basic educational background on green or high-performance buildings. Two upcoming resources will build on this guide’s foundation with methodological guidance for valuing residential and commercial buildings.
DOE supported this work by providing subject matter experts and soliciting feedback from members of the Better Buildings Alliance. Appraisers can also find software tools, databases and education courses on the website that they can use to better evaluate green buildings.
Key account representatives should consider sharing the APM Valuation Advisory with local realtors’ associations. Municipal utilities in particular are in the position to bring these new resources to the attention of the appropriate city departments. Utilities might understandably see market transformation of the real estate industry as outside of their scope. On the other hand, it could be an opportunity to create new allies who can make the business case for energy-efficiency improvements for you.
Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy via Green Power News, 7/23/15
These educational sessions provide a convenient and informative way to learn more about one of the most useful and versatile tools in an energy manager’s kit. Topics cover tips and tricks (presented July 22, access it from the on-demand list), thermography basics, safety, software basics, capturing and interpreting thermal images and much more. Each webinar is 45 to 60 minutes in length, and the live events include a question and answer session with participants. The speakers are top industry experts.
Need to know
These events are presented from locations around the world, so the start time given is the local time. Be sure to double-check the start time and time zone when registering. If the webinar occurs too far away from your time zone, you may have to wait for the on-demand recording. See ITC’s webinar FAQs to learn more about scheduling and system requirements.
For busy novices to energy auditing and diagnostics, ITC webinars can provide a valuable foundation for your infrared inspections. The price is right for experienced technician who just want to brush up on the basics and maybe pick up some new tricks. There is always something more to learn about the world of thermography, and no better way to do it than from your our desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone—for free!
(Editor’s note: If you haven’t yet discovered infrared cameras and all they can do for a utility, contact our Equipment Loan Program, 720-962-7420, to learn more.)
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 Entry Level Exam. All 23 successfully passed the NABCEP certification.
More than half the training involved hands-on learning, using a field lab created by lead instructor Solar Energy International(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
Mr. Derrick Christovale; 951-725-6652
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.
Working with the Solar Electric Power Association (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.
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.
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.
The Affordable Green Initiative, a pilot program from the Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD), provides sustainability and green building tools to HUD grantees and affordable housing organizations. The initiative aims to help organizations institutionalize sustainability and achieve performance improvements across their housing portfolios. HUD subsidizes free training, technical assistance and accreditation for all participants.
The first component of the initiative – training, through HUD’s Green Academy – is now available. The comprehensive Green Academy Training Program rolled out in October and is being presented in cities across the country through February 2013.
Courses include Introduction to Green Building for Affordable Housing; Executive Decision Making; Best Practices for Green Building Operations; Financing Green Building; and Energy Performance Contracting for Small Public Housing Authorities. Registration is open for various locations:
January 14-18 – Hartford, Conn., Columbus, Ohio, and Houston, Texas
January 28-February 1 – Los Angeles, Calif., and Albuquerque, N.M.