Session Recaps From Intersolar/ees North America In San Francisco

Editor’s Note: The following are brief summaries of some of the Tuesday sessions at this week’s co-located Intersolar and ees North America trade shows in San Francisco and are provided courtesy of the exhibitions and conferences’ press service.

States Discuss Regulatory Challenges and Opportunities for Distributed Generation

Net metering has been one of the most important incentive programs to increase the deployment of distributed generation on the grid. Industry experts from across the country came together to discuss the variability among state-level regulatory environments during the “Net Metering and Potential Future Alternatives” session at Intersolar North America.

Galen L. Barbose of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) opened the discussion with some insights on economic efficiency, stating, “Cost shifts from distributed solar are, and will be, a small issue for rate impacts. For most utilities, this is going to remain in the noise. There are a lot of other things that have a much bigger impact on electricity rates than distributed solar.”

Several speakers provided perspectives from states undergoing a policy transition.

Rick Reed, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association (HSEA), identified the realignment efforts taking place in his state as it moves forward without net metering. Brad Heavner, policy director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association (CALSEIA), discussed the period California has endured when instating new iterations of net metering policy in the state. Based on some regulatory uncertainty, he noted the importance of education as “a better way to look more broadly.”

Political context is key when it comes to understanding the regulatory development for solar and distributed generation. Katie Rever, director of legislative and regulatory affairs at IGS Energy, described the regulatory reforms driving the renewable energy industry in New York. Given New York’s progressive commitment to 50% renewables by 2030, the state has realigned utility models and incentives to accurately determine valuation and compensation of distributed generation.

Court Rich, a partner with Rose Law Group, built upon the importance of navigating the political climate stating, “if distributed generation is going to be successful, it can’t only be a Blue State technology, but also a Red State technology.”

David Shaffer, policy director and counsel for Minnesota Solar Energy Industry Association (MnSEIA), noted the state’s success in implementing a feed-in-tariff program in the place of net metering as the primary driver for utility-scale and community solar development.

Optimizing PV Plant Performance to Enable Investment

Given the development boom prior to the extension of the federal investment tax credit in 2015, the utility-scale sector has dramatically grown across the U.S. As hard costs continue to fall, system owners must leverage data analytics to inform reliable procurement decisions to maximize return on investment. During the “PV Plants: System Configuration” session, industry leaders provided concrete recommendations to help investors minimize their investment risk.

AJ Rossman, Infiswift’s senior director of performance solutions, described the importance of setting standards as “foundations of success” to accurately evaluate data and optimize the value of a PV plant. He noted the Internet of Things provides its greatest promise when linking data between communities, providing valuable insights for financiers and project managers alike.

Patrick Keelin, director of product management for SunLink Corp., focused on the differentiation between active and inactive design as solar components including inverters and mounting systems have seen an incredible transition in recent years. By leveraging standards built in the tech industry to secure anonymous and accessible data, project owners will be able to better understand power plant systems and reduce risks of ownership.

John Vernacchia, global segment manager of Eaton Corp., discussed the increasing prevalence of string inverters on large-scale rooftop projects based on the design, installation, O&M and financial advantages of these applications.

Bob Bellemare, chief financial officer for Array Technologies Inc., discussed the dramatic transition from fixed-tilt mounting systems to tracking technologies throughout the market. Over the past 11 years, the use of trackers in utility-scale PV applications has increased by 64%. Bellemare provided the audience with a clear takeaway from the session, noting, “Technology is your best insurance policy, because ultimately you are the one bearing the risk.”

CALSEIA Brings Together Top Contractors in the State

Solar contractors from across California gathered at CALSEIA’s Contractor Day at Intersolar North America for a five-session workshop led by industry experts. Each session focused on integrating energy storage with solar PV and covered topics including sales and installation of energy storage technologies as well as policy within both nonresidential and residential markets.

Mathew Loving of Green Charge Networks and Phil Fischer of NEC Energy Solutions discussed options for reducing costs for non-residential customers. Panelists throughout the day stressed the importance of educating the public on transparency issues that customers may encounter, including system functionality in times of grid outage as well as upcoming or expected changes to the regulatory landscape that affect utility rate structures.

Technological advancements in energy storage are accelerating the growth of the residential market by optimizing supply and manufacturing processes. Daniel Hill from Tabuchi Electric highlighted the many benefits of increasing intersystem compatibility between PV and storage systems, stating, “The better the plug and play, the easier the installation.”

Finally, Magnus Asbo of SolarEdge and Greg Smith of Sonnen provided sales training to the attendees. By executing proper system design, end customers can reduce their overall spending on hybrid solar-plus-storage systems. With the important role that California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program plays in supporting storage, Brian Bishop of California utility Pacific Gas and Electric Co. rounded out the day by providing troubleshooting strategies for applicants to best finalize their submissions to the program.

GTM Research Predicts U.S. Solar-Plus- Storage Deployments to Cross 1 GW By 2021

The solar-plus-storage market is on the brink of rapid growth, due in part to stronger policy support. According to a new report from GTM Research, the U.S. grid-connected solar-plus-storage market tripled in 2016. Behind-the-meter solar-plus-storage is set to grow at a much greater pace in the next five years. By 2021, U.S. grid-tied solar-paired-storage will pass 1 GW of installations, a growth rate of 31x from 2016.

U.S. states are advancing policies, including procurement targets, incentives, and pilot programs to provide the foundation for strong storage markets. In a presentation at Intersolar/ees North America, Ravi Manghani, director of energy storage at GTM Research, detailed the programs in place in California, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont providing improved economics and opportunities to both the grid and retail customers. While each of these states has pilot programs that will advance energy storage, California is expected to be the market leader for solar-plus-storage; by 2022, the state will account for almost half of the U.S. solar-plus-storage market.

The report, “Solar-Plus-Storage: Architectures, Use Cases and Case Studies on the Grid,” is available to download here.

Photo courtesy of Solar Promotion International GmbH

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