ILSR: Third-Party Ownership Enables Distributed Solar

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   April 16, 2018  /   Posted in solar, Uncategorized  /   No Comments
States Agree: Third-Party Ownership Enables Distributed Solar, But What’s Next?

States Agree: Third-Party Ownership Enables Distributed Solar, But What’s Next?

DATE: 23 MAR 2018 |

Much has changed in the national solar market since an earlier analysis of the market and policy landscape in 2014. The solar market as a whole has continued to grow, and small-scale systems are proving to be better deals for communities than larger ones. So, compared with previous rankings of solar capacity, do states that allow third-party leases and power purchase agreements still dominate?

The answer is yes, especially for distributed solar capacity.

Today, a majority of states, that is 26 states plus Washington, D.C., have now adopted policies that increase access to rooftop solar. Policies allowing an individual or business to have a third party-owned solar panel installed on their property, that they either lease from the provider or from which they purchase power (instead of from a utility) through defined agreement terms, have become more common.

These third-party ownership models remove traditional, upfront barriers such as installation or maintenance costs that prevent wider adoption of solar by those who cannot afford direct ownership or who find available tax credits and utility rebates out of reach or too complex to navigate.

In recent years, states that haven’t made third-party ownership possible have lagged significantly in distributed solar deployment.

The following table shows the top 10 states in distributed solar per capita in 2017.

State Capacity(megawatts) Population(millions of people) Per Capita PV(megawatts/millions of people)
Massachusetts 1696 6.6 255
Arizona 1572 6.6 240
California 6478 38 170
Nevada 325 2.8 118
New Jersey 799 8.9 90
New Mexico 185 2.1 89
Vermont 20 0.6 32
Connecticut 82 3.6 23
Colorado 102 5.2 20
Oregon 32 3.9 8
*Capacity of distributed PV solar including rooftop systems of any size and ground-mounted systems up to 5 megawatts (Source: The Open PV Project, 2017)

 

What’s clear is that third-party ownership policy continues to matter—every state in the top 10 in rooftop and small-scale solar still allows for third-party ownership.

The trend doesn’t stop there. The “top 25” states make up a notable 99.6% of the reported capacity in the country, all boasting capacity greater than the nationwide median of 0.81 megawatts per million persons.

Unfortunately, with the top contenders and majority of distributed solar capacity concentrated predominantly in the Northeast and Southwest, as illustrated by the map below, states in the rest of the country—mostly those that don’t allow third-party ownership—have a long way to go to catch up.

top solar states 3rd party update

Third-Party Rules Key to Market Development, Less for Maximizing Local Value

Even with gains in solar capacity from policies enabling power purchase or lease agreements, simplifying access to solar for the consumer, third-party ownership models can also come at a cost over the lifetime of an array when compared to direct ownership.

In addition, because a few centralized providers still dominate the solar market, dollars spent on lease agreements or power purchased from third party-owned solar arrays continue to leave the local economies where solar technology is installed.

With this in mind, states that have not yet enabled solar power purchase agreement markets could instead choose to pursue different strategies to grow their solar capacity. They could, for example, make it easier for direct loan financing, drawing inspiration from the success of the Connecticut Green Bank, or invest in cooperative ownership models, such as Yampa Valley Electric Association’s Community Solar Garden in Colorado.

States have the opportunity to create policies and new models of solar financing that keep investments local and are more inclusive of those traditionally left out of the conversation, including low income communities. Doing so will continue to grow both capacity and community power in the distributed solar market nationwide and can give states a competitive economic edge.

This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell or Marie Donahue on Twitter or get the Energy Democracy weekly update.

Photo credit: 1010 Climate Action via Flickr (CC 2.0).

Local Farmers Will Replace Oil And Electric Companies, If A Purdue Prof Gets His Way

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   April 10, 2018  /   Posted in solar, Uncategorized  /   No Comments
Purdue University photo/Mark Simons

Purdue researcher Rakesh Agrawal is leading work to develop solar cells that do not obstruct the light needed for crops to grow.

Local Farmers Will Replace Oil And Electric Companies, If A Purdue Prof Gets His Way

, Forbes 

From Chicago, I write about green technology, energy, environment.

A Purdue University professor is developing a way for farmers to capture solar energy without blocking the sunlight their crops need.

The solar collectors being developed by Chemical Engineering Professor Rakesh Agrawal and his colleagues would capture infrared radiation for energy production while letting visible light pass through to crops.

“We are going to build this structure on agricultural land. We have an agronomist who will grow corn and we will monitor the land and make sure we can produce electricity and grow food at the same time,” he said in Chicago Wednesday. “The day we figure out how to have food and energy coexist together, I think it is perfect.”

Winner of the 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, Agrawal just received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a demonstration project.

“There are dozens of possible structures we can build. Some are cheaper than what is being done right now,” he said in a lecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology co-sponsored by the Chicago Council on Science and Technology. “It’s why we want to build these on the farm and do experiments and prove indeed this can be done. I think NSF has been very kind to give us the money to go and prove it. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Agrawal calculates that the United States would need to cover 4 to 6 percent of its land area with solar panels to meet all of its energy needs, including transportation. Land currently developed with buildings and roads accounts for 3.6 percent—not enough. But most population centers are near agricultural land, which covers 54 percent of the United States, making farms a promising location for renewable-energy generation.

From Chicago, I write about green technology, energy, environment.  Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

A Purdue University professor is developing a way for farmers to capture solar energy without blocking the sunlight their crops need.

The solar collectors being developed by Chemical Engineering Professor Rakesh Agrawal and his colleagues would capture infrared radiation for energy production while letting visible light pass through to crops.

“We are going to build this structure on agricultural land. We have an agronomist who will grow corn and we will monitor the land and make sure we can produce electricity and grow food at the same time,” he said in Chicago Wednesday. “The day we figure out how to have food and energy coexist together, I think it is perfect.”

Winner of the 2011 National Medal of Technology and Innovation, Agrawal just received a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation for a demonstration project.

“There are dozens of possible structures we can build. Some are cheaper than what is being done right now,” he said in a lecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology co-sponsored by the Chicago Council on Science and Technology. “It’s why we want to build these on the farm and do experiments and prove indeed this can be done. I think NSF has been very kind to give us the money to go and prove it. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Agrawal calculates that the United States would need to cover 4 to 6 percent of its land area with solar panels to meet all of its energy needs, including transportation. Land currently developed with buildings and roads accounts for 3.6 percent—not enough. But most population centers are near agricultural land, which covers 54 percent of the United States, making farms a promising location for renewable-energy generation.

“Almost all the states can meet their local needs with local photons,” he said.“This is big news, right? This is a big change from building $30 billion of power supply lines from the regions of the United States where there’s a lot of sunshine to the regions where there’s not.”

Agrawal came to this research after spending three years trying to make biomass fuels more efficient. Unlike photovoltaic cells, which currently have an efficiency of about 20 percent, biomass fuels contain less than 1 percent of the solar energy that fell on their feedstocks, he said. After struggling to improve that number, Agrawal concluded it made little sense to try to improve or expand biomass production.

“We were asking the wrong question all this time. We were asking the question of how to make oil from biomass or from solar. But why do we need the oil? Actually it is for transportation," he said. “We should have been asking the question: how do we use solar energy for transportation?

Agrawal’s proposed systems would employ hydrogen as a transportation fuel, produced with solar energy. They would also generate electricity much as solar panels do now, but without capturing the visible light plants need, and they could also reflect heat to a collector for water purification, he said.

Agrawal believes such a system could meet the food, energy and water needs of a growing population because it uses both land and solar radiation more efficiently.

Rakesh Agrawal proposes to simultaneously use different parts of sunlight’s spectrum to produce crops, generate electricity, collect heat and purify water on the same piece of land.Purdue University image/Rakesh Agrawal, Pamela Burroff-Murr

Rakesh Agrawal proposes to simultaneously use different parts of sunlight’s spectrum to produce crops, generate electricity, collect heat and purify water on the same piece of land.

By Jeff McMahon, based in Chicago. Follow Jeff McMahon on FacebookGoogle PlusTwitter, or email him here.

Vote Expected Today on H4421 aka SC Electric Consumer Bill of Rights Act

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   April 04, 2018  /   Posted in solar  /   No Comments

 

Hundreds gather at the Statehouse to rally for the future of solar energy

Hundreds of solar energy advocates gathered Tuesday morning on the steps of South Carolina’s Statehouse. Lawmakers stood beside industry leaders who say a statewide policy is threatening to slow the solar industry’s momentum in South Carolina.

Solar took off following the passage of Act 236 nearly five years ago. The piece of legislation paved the way for solar energy in South Carolina and created thousands of jobs and allow dozens of solar companies to open up shop. However, many are saying that a cap threatens future growth. This 2% cap was initially implemented as a sort of starting point for solar industry in South Carolina.

H4421, also known as the SC Electric Consumer Bill of Rights Act seeks to eliminate that limit on solar.

“If not passed soon (it) jeopardizes a lot of these jobs. Jeopardizes a lot of the businesses that employ these people and is an economic loss for the state of SC,” Bret Sowers, the chairman for SC Solar Business Alliance told News 4. “We shouldn’t be putting a cap on a homeowner's ability to take matters into their own hands and generate their own electricity.”

This comes amidst many frustrations following the VC Summer scandal at two South Carolina nuclear plants. The $9 billion fail for two nuclear power plants that are unable to produce a single unit of electricity have many in South Carolina looking for alternative energy options. South Carolina District 3 Rep. Gary Clary is one Upstate legislator on board with H4421.

“We see what’s happened having that big giant hole in the ground that’s never going to be finished in form of a nuclear reactor,” Clary said referencing the VC Summer scandal. “So I think it’s important for South Carolina to look at a lot of alternatives with what we do with energy in this state - solar, wind, you name it, we’ve got to diversify.”

Utility companies like Duke Energy oppose H4421. Duke Energy gave News 4 a statement which said “We have successful legislation in place already – Act 236 – and it addresses all of the 'concerns' the rooftop solar developers are focused on now, including caps and what to do once they are met."

"(H4421) is a government mandated solar welfare policy that robs from pensions and retirement funds for many South Carolinians to bolster the bottom line of California’s SunRun and other out-of-state rooftop solar developers. It is absolutely not needed.”

H4421 is expected to make its way to the floor on Wednesday for a vote.

Watch on line 4/4/18 starting at 10 am EDT.

https://www.scstatehouse.gov/video/chamber.php?chamber=H&audio=0

 

Gov. Holcomb Appoints Ober to IURC and Huston as Chair

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   March 20, 2018  /   Posted in Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC)  /   No Comments

Holcomb selects David Ober.jpg

Holcomb Selects David Ober To Fill IURC Vacancy & Appoints Jim Huston As Chairman

Updated March 20, 2018 7:23 AM

(INDIANAPOLIS) - Governor Eric J. Holcomb today announced that he has appointed David Ober to fill a vacancy on the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission created by the retirement of Jim Atterholt. Additionally, Holcomb announced that he has appointed Jim Huston to serve as chairman for the IURC. Huston has served as the interim chairman since Atterholt retired in early January.

"The nominating committee brought me a list of three qualified candidates to fill the IURC vacancy, and after careful consideration I have selected David Ober. I believe he will be an excellent addition to this important group," Gov. Holcomb said.

When a vacancy occurs on the IURC, applications are solicited from the public and accepted by a seven member nominating committee. The committee, comprising four legislative and three gubernatorial appointments, screens the applications and conducts interviews that are open to the public. After conducting the public interviews, the nominating committee recommends three candidates to the governor who then names a new member to the commission.

Members of the nominating committee who selected Ober are Committee Chairman Allen Paul, Eric Scroggins, John Blevins, Bill Davis, Jeb Bardon, Greg Server and Jonathan Little.

For nearly six years, David Ober has served as state representative for House District 82, a position from which he will resign prior to becoming an IURC commissioner. During his legislative service, Ober chaired the House Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications Committee. Ober has a bachelor's degree computer graphics from Purdue University Calumet. He is the tourism asset coordinator for the Noble County Convention and Visitors Bureau and previously worked for KPC Media Group in Kendallville.

Jim Huston was appointed an IURC commissioner by former-Gov. Mike Pence in 2014 and reappointed by Gov. Holcomb in 2017. Huston serves as a National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) representative on the Gas Technology Institute's Public Interest Advisory Committee.

"Jim has a great deal of knowledge and expertise in utility regulation and a track record for successful leadership. He will be a strong chairman for the IURC well into its future," Gov. Holcomb said.

Huston served in the administrations of both Gov. Pence and Gov. Daniels. He was chief of staff at the Indiana State Department of Health during the Pence administration and executive director of the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives during the Daniels administration.

Jim has held a variety of leadership positions throughout his more than 30-year career at both the federal and state level, including service as Assistant Deputy Treasurer for the state of Indiana in 1989 and as Deputy Commissioner for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles from late 1986 to 1987.

Jim has both a B.S. (1986) and an M.A. (2016) from Ball State University. He also is a 1987 recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash Award and is a member of Brownsburg Kiwanis. Jim, his wife Christy and their four boys reside in Brownsburg.

The IURC soon will begin accepting applications to fill another commission vacancy. Commissioner Angela Weber's term expires April 1, 2018. She will serve until a new commissioner is selected.

 IndianaDG Note: Sharing both articles because they cover slightly different but important information.

http://121-jgweb.newscyclecloud.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/storyimage/JG/20180319/WEB/303199720/AR/0/AR-303199720.jpg&MaxH=400

Rep. Dave Ober chosen to fill IURC position

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb tapped Rep. Dave Ober, R-Albion, to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission Monday – leaving a vacancy in the northern House district.

Ober has served House District 82 for six years but decided not to seek re-election because he applied for the IURC job.

The district includes all of Noble County and portions of Allen, Elkhart, LaGrange and Whitley counties.

A caucus of precinct committee persons will pick a successor as soon as Ober officially resigns. He said he wants to give the caucus enough time to have someone in place for a May special legislative session.

Republican Noble County Commissioner Dave Abbott filed for the seat for the 2018 election after Ober announced he was leaving. He is a front runner in any caucus, and didn't immediately return a message seeking comment.

Ober interviewed with the governor's administration last week and got a call Friday that he was chosen.

Holcomb named current interim chairman Jim Huston to that full post and Ober is one of the other four members commissioners on the panel. His salary is almost $119,000.

Another resignation on the panel is expected next week, meaning the process with start all over again.

"The industry is changing so much I hope to bring a new perspective to the process," Ober said.

The IURC is an administrative agency that hears evidence in cases filed before it and makes decisions based on the evidence presented in those cases. An advocate of neither the public nor the utilities, the commission is required by state statute to make decisions in the public interest to ensure the utilities provide safe and reliable service at just and reasonable rates.

While in the General Assembly Ober worked on a lot of utility issues and chaired the House Committee on Utilities, Energy and Telecommunications.

He is 30 and is moving to Indianapolis to marry his fiancée.

The commission regulates various aspects of the public utilities' business including the rates, financing, bonding, environmental compliance plans and service territories. The commission has regulatory oversight concerning construction projects, and acquisition of additional plants and equipment. The commission has authority to initiate investigations of all utilities' rates and practices.

Bill prohibiting neighborhood bans on solar panels stalls

Posted by Laura Arnold  /   March 11, 2018  /   Posted in Uncategorized  /   No Comments

Bill prohibiting neighborhood bans on solar panels stalls

March 7, 2018

Olivia Covington

As Indianapolis resident Joey Myles was building his “forever home” on the south side, there was one feature he wanted: solar roof panels.

He hired a solar panel contractor, drew up the plans and invested the money. All that was left was getting approval from his homeowners association’s architectural review committee, a step he thought would be no more than a formality.

“It was 2014, who would be against solar panels?” Myles said of this thought process at the time.

But the HOA was against the panels, or at least the look of them. Myles had to submit three sets of blueprints before the architectural review committee approved a panel placement arrangement it felt would complement the look of the neighborhood. The five-person committee had nothing against solar energy, Myles said — it was simply a matter of getting the aesthetics right.

freeman-aaron-mug

Freeman

Myles was finally able to install 33 solar panels on his roof in 2016, but the difficult journey he took to get there left him smarting. He took the matter to Sen. Aaron Freeman, who was then a candidate, and the now-Republican senator agreed to take up the cause. Since taking office, Freeman has filed two bills to restrict homeowners associations’ ability to prohibit solar panels, including Senate Bill 207 filed this year.

But like Myles, Freeman is seeing what a tough sell solar panels can be where HOAs are concerned.

SB 207 would not allow for a total ban on solar panels in any HOA covenants drafted or amended after June 30. Associations may require preapproval of solar panels, but can only require a resident to take their panels down in extreme circumstances, such as when a court determines the panels would threaten public safety or violate a law.

“The words ‘always’ and ‘never’ are not in my vocabulary — you should look at each individual situation and make a good decision,” Freeman said. “When somebody says ‘absolutely no’ (solar panels), that’s just not right.”

Like a similar bill Freeman filed last year, SB 207 failed to garner support in the House of Representatives after passing the Senate. Despite that, both Myles and lawmakers say they plan to continue fighting for what they consider an important environmental issue.

“This is not an effort to curtail homeowners associations,” Myles said. “It’s just the rules on solar panels.”

Old-school rules

chandler-greg-mug.jpg

Chandler

Many homeowners associations drafted their covenants — including solar panel restrictions — in the 1980s or 1990s at a time when the panels were much bigger and bulkier than they are today, said Greg Chandler, a partner at HOA law firm Eads Murray & Pugh, P.C. Similarly, Laura Arnold, president of the Indiana Distributed Energy Alliance, Inc., has researched neighborhood covenants and found that some solar panel restrictions date all the way to the 1970s, when solar panel manufacturers built models that are no longer even on the market.

But amending neighborhood covenants is a tall order, Arnold said. In some neighborhoods it takes a simple majority, while other associations require approval from 75 percent of residents. Given that high bar, Chandler said HOAs may be powerless to do anything about solar panel restrictions, even if the restrictions no longer make sense given today’s solar technology.

Freeman likened the situation to satellite dishes, which many HOAs banned in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The federal government eventually stepped in to end the total ban on satellite dishes but allowed associations to fashion rules regarding their appearance and placement.

SB 207 is a state effort to enact similar legislation regarding solar panels, Freeman said.

“I don’t see it as any different,” Freeman said. “… It makes a lot of sense for the environment and for homeowners while still giving homeowners associations a say over what’s installed and how they’re installed.”

 Level playing field

buschmann

Buschmann

From a legal perspective, attorneys who represent HOAs say their clients have few concerns about SB 207. Stephen Buschmann, an Indianapolis HOA attorney who sits on the legislative action committee for the Indiana chapter of the Community Associations Institute, said the July 1 effective date of the bill lessened concerns about the implications of the legislation.

The bill Freeman introduced last year would have been retroactive, a provision he acknowledged was a major sticking point for HOAs. But SB 207 removed the retroactive language, so now existing neighborhood covenants would be unaffected by the legislation, Buschmann said.

Of those existing covenants, very few include total solar panel prohibitions, Buschmann said, and in the 30-plus years he’s been practicing, no one has ever asked him to draft a total prohibition into neighborhood rules. Most covenants require prior approval from an architectural committee — much like the process Myles faced — and that requirement would not have been affected by SB 207, he said.

Solar-panel-4.jpgsolar-panel-5.jpg

Joey Myles’ Indianapolis homeowners association rejected his solar panel plans twice before allowing his rooftop installation. Myles is pushing for a law to bar HOA solar panel bans. (Photos courtesy of Joey Myles)

The bill also exempted townhomes and condos, another provision the Thrasher Buschmann & Voelkel, P.C. president said has provided reassurance to entities with concerns about the solar panel legislation. That exemption carves out an exception for communities where individual residents don’t own their roofs, but rather pay joint maintenance fees with other residents to cover the cost of the property’s upkeep.

“This bill only says, ‘If you don’t have it (a prohibition), you can’t come in and do it,’ and nobody’s asking to do it,” Buschmann said. “And it excepts the ones the association is responsible for maintaining.”

Legislative hurdles

Despite a lack of concern from HOAs, Freeman’s solar panel bills struggled to gain traction in both 2017 and 2018.

Both of his bills made it through the Senate — including a 36-12 vote for SB 207 in early February — but failed to get hearings in the House. Freeman speculated that this year, the issue may be the contractual nature of HOA covenants. If a person doesn’t like the rules of a neighborhood, then the natural assumption is that they don’t have to live there, Freeman said.

But the rules those associations enforce should be reasonable given the prevalence of HOAs, he said, especially when it comes to alternative energy options.

Chandler also pointed to lingering confusion about the implications of SB 207 on existing covenants that are amended after June 30.

When asked about the amendment provision in the Senate, Freeman said he was unsure whether an amendment after that date would subject an HOA to SB 207. Chandler similarly said he was unsure about the exact meaning of the amendment language but surmised that HOAs that amend covenants after the effective date would find themselves subject to the legislation, even if the amendment was unrelated to solar panels.

Next steps

Those concerns have kept SB 207 and its 2017 counterpart from getting a House committee hearing, so its proponents tried to amend the language of SB 207 into another 2018 property rights bill, Senate Bill 197. However, the proposed amendment was deemed not germane to SB 197 and, thus, was not brought before the House Judiciary Committee for consideration, Myles said.

The plan then shifted to finding a home for SB 207 in a conference committee bill, but on March 2, Rep. Woody Burton informed Myles the legislation was once again dead. The Whiteland Republican, who sponsored SB 207 in the House, has already agreed to carry similar legislation next year, and Myles said he is prepared to continue the fight for his legislation.•

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