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National Solar Tour – Oct. 1 & 2 – California Locations
In This Issue
Last year, California Solar Incentive rebates for nonresidential solar projects came to a halt as demand for rebates in both San Diego and the PG&E territory exceeded the available budget. In response, the California Public Utilities Commission readjusted the CSI program budget and freed up $40 million, while Senate Bill 585 (Kehoe, 2011) allowed the CSI program to fund all of the solar megawatts as established in statute.
This was welcomed news for close to 400 commercial projects around the state that were waiting for solar rebates.
For the past several weeks, CSI Program Administrators in San Diego and PG&E territories have been notifying customers from the CSI wait list that their projects are eligible for rebates. After providing this notification to 12 new solar customers, PG&E has also begun an initial review for projects on the wait list to prepare for any additional funding as it may become available. In San Diego, about 20 nonresidential solar projects also got the green light to proceed with renewed funding. The California Center for Sustainable Energy, CSI Program Administrators in San Diego, will continue placing all new applications on a wait list to be processed when funding becomes available. Meanwhile, Southern California Edison has $61 million remaining for nonresidential incentives as of Aug. 24, 2011.
A recent report produced by the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) investigates the economics of photovoltaic (PV) retrofits in multifamily affordable housing under virtual net metering (VNM) tariffs.
CCSE researchers collected tenant and property-owner electric bill information at four sites within the City of San Diego and compared the bill savings that would be generated by a PV system under virtual net metering against the costs of a PV investment. The study finds that in multifamily affordable housing complexes with significant common area load (electricity consumption in shared areas like elevators, laundry rooms, etc.), PV retrofits can be cost-effective in California's major investor owned utilities (IOUs) when tax benefits are fully utilized. The study emphasizes, however, that because rents in affordable housing are restricted, and because low-income tenants generally pay discounted electric rates, it is difficult for property owners to invest in PV that offsets tenant load without significant cash incentives.
CCSE's report recommends that regulators set incentives for PV in affordable housing at levels that are not overly generous for PV projects designed to offset common area load and at levels that are sufficient to account for the lower bill savings generated by PV dedicated to offsetting tenant load. The report also recommends that utility allowances and rent restrictions in publicly owned or subsidized housing be adjusted to allow affordable housing property owners to recoup PV costs from tenants – as long as tenants' overall electricity costs are not increased.
A key study recommendation is that VNM tariffs be expanded to other multitenant buildings that don't have restricted rents and in which tenants pay more for electricity. This recommendation is in the process of being implemented by California's major IOUs under direction from the California Public Utility Commission.
To download a copy of the report, click here and select the VNM MASH Report button.
SolarTech has partnered with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help characterize and measure the nonhardware costs of PV installations that impact solar energy businesses. Solar contractors can assist by participating in a survey to establish a first-of-its-kind benchmarking of nonhardware costs in the areas of customer acquisition; permitting, inspection and interconnection; financing and contracting; and installation and performance.
Results of the survey will give the SunShot Initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) information critical to reducing the installed cost of solar installations by about 75% by 2020. To achieve these cost reductions, DOE is working to lower both the hardware (module, inverter, other materials) and nonhardware expenses incurred by PV installers. Contributions to this survey will enable NREL to identify regulatory and other processes that may be streamlined or standardized to reduce their cost burdens. The results are essential to establish the 2011 market nonhardware cost baseline, enabling quantifiable, actionable DOE program investment.
Installers’ responses to the survey will be kept strictly confidential, shared only with NREL and DOE; and only aggregate-level data (e.g. averages and standard deviations) will be used for cost benchmarking and characterization purposes. Company specific pricing, cost structures and related internal operational metrics will be kept in strict confidence to the full extent possible.
There are two surveys, one for residential installations and the other for commercial installations. Businesses with a significant proportion of both residential and commercial installations are encouraged to complete both surveys. The estimated time needed to complete one survey is approximately two hours. A SolarTech representative will be available by phone and e-mail (email@example.com ) to answer any questions you may have.
The New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) program has notified stakeholders that the California Energy Commission (CEC) dropped incentive levels on Sept. 12, 2011. The CEC revised NSHP incentives as follows:
Market-rate Housing Previous Current
Provided with the notice were two attachments to aid applicants in submitting their reservation applications: an application review checklist and a list of common mistakes made when submitting applications. NSHP currently has approximately 33 megawatts reserved for the program. If you have questions, please contact the NSHP Program Administrators, by clicking here.
CCSE is taking the next leap forward in improving the California Solar Initiative (CSI) inspection process: a mobile application designed to run on iPhones.
The inspection application, powered by Inspect2GO, will include an inspection checklist, photo-capturing ability and digital signature. Upon completion of the inspection, the application will transmit the data back to the CSI administrative team who can process the inspection report before the inspector even returns to the office.
With this new mobile application, the timeline for completing a CSI inspection will be reduced and get the incentive paid to customers faster. CCSE and Inspect2GO are currently in development and plan to fully implement the application by Oct. 2011.
In an effort to streamline the rebate application process, the California Solar Initiative (CSI) will soon implement an upgrade to PowerClerk, the online application project management tool, by integrating it with the CSI Expected Performance Based Buydown (EPBB) Calculator.
The integration of these two tools will allow applicants to avoid entering the same information into two different websites and will eliminate the requirement to submit a separate copy of the EPBB calculator results. This change will effectively reduce the time required to submit required documentation for a CSI incentive and the time required to process the application, and in turn further reduce the cost of solar.
In addition to this integration, the current EPBB calculator will remain available for those who wish to use it for system modeling purposes. This feature is in the final stages of development and will be implemented in Oct. 2011.
As part of the Solar Instructor Training Network (SITN), the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) held a Train-the-Trainer solar thermal course at Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo August 18-21.
The SITN is a program collaborating with the Department of Energy and the California Community Colleges to develop the solar labor market by providing training to public school faculty to establish solar training labs at their campuses. With this training, the schools can prepare their students to find careers in the solar sector.
The Cuesta College training was attended by 15 public school faculty members from throughout the state with varied backgrounds in solar PV, thermal and green building practices. In addition to introductory information on solar thermal technologies, the course offered hands-on installation training. CCSE was able to build a solar thermal laboratory for Cuesta College through the SITN grant, including two fully functional solar thermal systems.
CCSE is planning another SITN Train-the-Trainer course in November 2011 at Butte Community College in Chico, Calif. For more details about the training, please e-mail Jeff Wheeland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At a solar dedication ceremony held on Aug. 25, 2011, the California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) presented a California Solar Initiative incentive check for $2,335,176 to the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA). Borrego Solar, a San Diego-based solar integrator, recently completed construction of three solar PV systems for the SDCWA with a combined size of 1.5 megawatts.
The systems are designed to benefit ratepayers by cutting energy costs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by offsetting a significant portion of the electrical usage at the SDCWA Kearny Mesa headquarters, the Fred A. Heilbron Operations Center in Escondido and the Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant. The ceremony was held at the SDCWA headquarters and attended by San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Californians with solar are taking it to the streets in October to spread the word about the vast array of money-saving solar solutions available in today's marketplace during the 16th Annual National Solar Tour, the world's largest grassroots solar event.
Presented by the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society in conjunction with organizations and installers across America, the tour provides homeowners, business owners and others the opportunity to learn about the economic and environmental benefits of going solar. Last year, 160,000 people participated in all 50 U.S. states.
California is once again among the states with highest participation, featuring 13 tours from Humboldt and Lake Tahoe to Silver Lake and San Diego. Most offer self-guided tours that are free and open to the public. All tours take place on October 1 or 2.
“The concept of the tour was born in California, long a bellwether for the use of renewable energy in residential, business and military applications,” said Steve Johnston, chair of the San Diego Renewable Energy Society. “It’s a great way for people to see first-hand how solar works, while speaking with solar experts about the many incentives California offers to drive solar education and adoption across the state.”
The Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program provides a foundation for promoting and building a sustainable solar industry in California by making workforce development and job training an integral part of the program. The SASH Program will potentially provide solar installation opportunities to over 120,000 job trainees and volunteers throughout California, totaling more than one million hours of hands-on solar installation experience.
In addition to the job training experience provided through GRID Alternatives’ popular volunteer-based installation model, the SASH Program further promotes partnerships between other local contractors and job training organizations. SASH’s subcontractor partners hire at least one entry-level solar job trainee for every SASH installation they perform.
In Monterey, Solex - Applied Solar Energy hired job trainees for more than twenty SASH installations from the nonprofit job training organization Rancho Cielo. Rancho Cielo prepares at-risk and paroled youth for future employment through training in various construction-related fields.
Rancho Cielo’s Executive Director Susie Brusa spoke about the SASH Program workforce development efforts, “Having an opportunity like this for our graduates to work with new technology, on projects that are good for the earth, has benefits beyond the paycheck. It’s great that we have partnerships with companies that will hire our graduates.”
Anthony Boncutter, a lead solar installer from Solex, spoke about the experiences of the Rancho Cielo youth that worked on his team: “They get a good understanding of how the systems are put together, from installing the standoffs and roof attachments all the way to the electrical. We really try to educate them on the electrical side.”
Through the SASH Program, contractors have the opportunity to develop the skills they wish to see in the workforce, and job trainees gain access to paid hands-on experience. For more information, visit the GRID Alternatives website.
Call for Photos and Stories of CSI-Funded Solar Systems
Submit your CSI-funded solar system photos and stories here.
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San Francisco, California 94102