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Solar power sets a record in California

By Steve Scauzillo, San Gabriel Valley Tribune | July 2014

 

This factoid came across my desk a few weeks ago:

 

On June 1, California recorded a record hourly peak of 4,767 megawatts of solar electricity to the grid, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported.

 

In short, the folks who supply electrical power, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), are using record amounts of utility-generated solar, even if it is only about 5,000 MW out of a summer demand of 35,000 MW.

 

The U.S. EIA is reporting solar energy is being used by CAISO to keep the lights on and the air conditioners humming in late spring and early summer.

 

In May, during the peak time for energy between 11 a.m. and noon, solar supplied 14 percent of the state’s total power, as compared to 6 percent in May 2013, the U.S. EIA reported. When taking an average of the peak hourly generation for each month, solar energy sent to the grid jumped 150 percent in the same period.

 

I found this impressive for two reasons. One, this is not some California pro-solar agency reporting. This is a national agency that looks at electrical power sources in all 50 states. Second, the EIA is only talking about utility-generated solar power. California also has what it calls “behind-the-meter” solar like those installed in people’s homes or on building rooftops. Though small solar was not counted in its report, the EIA noted California installed 750 megawatts of residential and commercial solar photovoltaics in 2013 “further reducing midday baseload power demand.”

 

I spoke to an expert and an advocate of alternative energy, Evan Gillespie, western regional deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign who provided perspective.

 

California is a leader in solar, which makes sense. We get a lot of sunshine. The Golden State may reach the legislative goal of 33 percent alternative energy by 2020 early, he said, mostly because solar and wind power are growing.

 

But the United States is not at that percentage, unlike Germany which is approaching 50 percent of its electrical power from alternative-energy sources.

 

But for California, solar projects like those you see in the Mojave Desert are making a difference in the daily supply of electricity to homes. “On the hottest days, when everyone has the AC cranking, solar is literally keeping the lights on,” Gillespie said.

 

Those who don’t believe it are using old energy statistics, he said. That’s because American energy production has soared in the last decade, including more use of natural gas to make electricity as well as wind, solar and geothermal power.

 

And it is not just a California thing.

 

Gillespie said the state using the most wind power is Texas. And the next solar market to explode is in Georgia, he said. “One of the big reasons is energy independence,” he said.

 

So it’s not just about green energy or the California mandate to get off coal and fossil fuels because it is causing the globe to warm up. “Clean energy is a non-partisan issue,” he said.

 

The biggest problem with the ramp-up of solar energy (the EIA says California accounted for 75 percent of the new utility-scale solar capacity last year) is an inevitable slow-down after the state meets its greenhouse gas reduction goals in 2020.

 

Gillespie and others are concerned that jobs could be lost if solar slows down.

 

In California, the 47,000 solar jobs are more than employed by the big three utility companies combined: Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric, according to Gillespie’s own research.

 

In the U.S., the coal industry employs 87,000 people while clean energy industries employ 360,000, according to the EIA. Half of those in coal worked in two states: Kentucky and West Virginia, according to the EIA. As of November 2013, 143,000 people worked in the solar industry in the United States, according to a very recent census study from the Solar Foundation.

 

Whether solar becomes the dominant energy choice remains to be seen. But its impact on the grid, the economy and in particular, the job market, is already being felt.

 

Locus Energy Launches Virtual Irradiance™ Solar Analytics Solution

Via PR News Wire | July 2014

 

SAN FRANCISCO, July 8, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Locus Energy, a solar monitoring and data analytics platform provider for the distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) market, today announced the launch of its advanced irradiance modeling tool, Virtual Irradiance™ (VI), which provides solar fleet operators with valuable data on the amount of sunlight that is striking the ground, enabling a highly accurate assessment of solar PV system performance.

 

The first release as part of Locus Energy's PVIQ suite of analytical tools, VI allows fleet managers to determine if a system is performing up to expectations based on the amount of sunlight that is available at a particular time and location. Such information drives down costs by improving operations and maintenance efficiency, thus helping to accelerate the widespread adoption of solar.

 

"VI enables the PV industry to identify which solar systems fail to meet performance expectations, assess how much value was lost and efficiently solve problems at an individual site or across an entire portfolio," said Michael Herzig, Locus Energy's CEO. "This is a powerful, intuitive and user-friendly tool that will be vital in helping solar fleet managers understand performance across a fleet and effectively handle O&M issues. As solar becomes increasingly common, VI is also expected to become an important tool in helping utilities integrate solar into the electricity grid," he added.

 

VI uses data from weather stations and satellite imagery to provide highly accurate, ground-level irradiance data for any location in the continental United States. For small- to medium- sized systems, VI eliminates the need for an on-site sensor, which may be prohibitively expensive. For larger systems at which an on-site sensor may already have been installed, VI can fill gaps in and validate sensor data, which can become skewed due to miscalibration, soiling and other factors. 

 

"To sustain growth at the record levels of the past few years, the solar industry needs to find new ways to cut soft costs," said Pavel Molchanov, Sr. VP and Equity Research Analyst at Raymond James & Associates. "Locus' VI can be a useful tool for solar asset managers looking to efficiently keep tabs on their growing asset base and keep ancillary costs to a minimum."

 

Extra Space Storage, the nation's second largest owner and operator of self-storage properties and the nation's largest self-storage management company, with more than 700,000 units and approximately 78 million square feet of rentable space under management, is partnering with Locus Energy on VI to help manage its portfolio of 150 solar systems. The company chose VI because it provides the most accurate actionable information.  

 

"As our solar fleet has grown, it became clear that we needed a more precise tool for assessing how our solar assets are performing," said Nathan Morrill, Extra Space Storage Inc.'s National Procurement Manager. "After working with VI, we are much more aware of how much energy each and every one of our sites should be producing, which helps us prioritize O&M activity."

 

VI may be used with existing system software or as an add-on to Locus Energy's SolarNOC™ (Network Operations Center) software, a cloud-based software application providing enterprise-class tools for fleet managers to collect, organize and assess performance data from a diverse set of solar PV assets. The filters of SolarNOC's customized dashboard provide an unprecedented level of control over how performance data is aggregated and displayed.

 

About Locus Energy
Locus Energy is a solar monitoring and data analytics platform provider for the distributed PV market spanning the residential, commercial and utility sectors with more than 40,000 systems deployed in North America. Locus Energy's cloud-based software aggregates, organizes and analyzes performance data from multiple sources, making it easier to access, manage and identify the causes of a solar system's failure to meet performance expectations. With the deepest intellectual property portfolio in the industry, Locus provides many of the largest utilities, capital providers, equipment manufacturers and asset managers with sophisticated software to track performance across distributed solar installations. Headquartered in Hoboken, N.J., Locus Energy also has an office San Francisco. For more information, please visit www.locusenergy.com.

 

About Extra Space Storage Inc.
Extra Space Storage Inc., headquartered in Salt Lake City, is a fully integrated, self-administered and self-managed real estate investment trust. As of March 31, 2014, the Company owned and/or operated 1,052 self-storage properties in 35 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The company's properties comprise approximately 700,000 units and approximately 78.0 million square feet of rentable space. The company is the second largest owner and/or operator of self-storage properties in the United States. For more information, go to www.extraspace.com.

 

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20140707/124822

 

California set to extend ‘critical’ distributed storage funding

By Ben Willis, June 2014

 

California governor, Jerry Brown, is expected imminently to sign off new legislation extending a funding programme said to be a vital lifeline for the state’s nascent energy storage sector.

 

Bill AB1466, approved last week by California’s senate and assembly, will mean the ‘Self-Generation Incentive Program’, an $83 million-a-year initiative supporting distributed energy projects in the state due to expire next year, will run until at least 2019.

 

First launched in 2001, the SGIP was designed to reduce peak load demand in California through the fostering of low-carbon distributed generation technologies. It was the state’s original support programme for PV, until the popularity of the technology saw it spun out to its own programme, the California Solar Initiative.

 

Janice Lin, co-founder of the Global Energy Storage Alliance and California Energy Storage Alliance, said the bill, which now awaits Governor Brown’s signature to pass into law, would provide a big boost to storage in California.

 

She said: “When it’s signed into law AB1466 will extend the programme for another five years. And that’s very significant, because what it means for storage and the other technologies it incentivises is that they’re bankable – this is a funding source they can count on.”

 

Lin said that since storage was included in the SGIP, it had become hugely popular, accounting for some 25MW of proposals in 2013.

 

The programme supports ‘behind-the-meter’, customer-sited storage projects, among other technologies, which form an important chunk of California’s target of building 1.3GW of storage by 2020 announced last year.

 

“The storage mandate that Commissioner Peterman [of the California Public Utilities Commission] set forth includes a target for customer-sited storage – 200MW by 2020,” Lin said.

 

“When the utilities filed their applications in March for how they plan to fulfil that target, all three said the customer target will be fulfilled by the SGIP. So that’s another reason why the funding of this programme was so critical – because it’s important to achieving another key state policy objective.”

 

The number of completed storage projects completed under the SGIP is still comparatively few, but include high-profile installations such as a 4MWh battery unit incorporated into a microgrid at Santa Rita Jail, providing the facility with up to eight hours of power back up.

 

But Lin said the extension of the SGIP would help drive up the number of completed projects: “It’s really a much needed market signal and especially needed for storage because it’s the newest technology class into the programme. So it’s critical for storage and really important for building the market ecosystem.”