Tag: "solar farms"


  08:32:00 am, by Laurel Hamilton   , 420 words  
Categories: All About Solar Power, Energy Efficiency, Energy Storage, Solar Policy

50% Renewables by 2030...How Will California Do It?? - Part 1

California has a long-standing reputation as a clean energy trendsetter. The state leads the nation in solar energy usage, energy efficiency overall, cleaner cars and energy storage. Currently on track to reach our goal of one third energy derived from renewable sources by 2020…Governor Jerry Brown kicked it up a notch in January by proposing California achieve an unprecedented 50 percent energy from renewable sources by 2030.

How will California accomplish such an ambitious target? This is the first in a series of blogs in which Run on Sun will addresss the challenges and possible solutions to reaching 50% by 2030 as opportunities unveil.

50% by 2030: Part 1 - Maximize Urban Spaces

SoCal's Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station

While rooftop solar is great for offsetting the usage of those fortunate enough to be able to invest in an array, most people tend to think utility-scale solar requires wide open spaces only available in remote parts of our state. The best example being Ivanpah, the world’s largest solar power plant - generating 345 megawatts on five square miles near the Cali/Nevada border. However, growing to 50% renewables using vast spreads of desert solar arrays has the potential to harm ecosystems. Far away solar farms also incur enormous infrastructure costs just to transport the power from the source to your toaster.

Fortunately a new study provides evidence that we needn’t look further than our urban back yards to find sufficient space for solar. Stanford researchers published their findings in the March edition of Nature Climate Change:

We tested the hypothesis that land, energy and environmental compatibility can be achieved with small- and utility-scale solar energy within existing developed areas in the state of California.  We found that the quantity of accessible energy potentially produced from photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) within the built environment exceeds current statewide demand. 

Westridge School

Urban solar installed at Westridge School by Run on Sun

The urban landscapes we design are already great at capturing the sun’s rays, as evidenced by the heat island effect. It turns out we have the capacity to develop enough solar power to meet three to five times California’s demand just by utilizing urban flat spaces such as carports and rooftops. Obviously developing small and utility-scale solar in our built environment greatly improves efficiency and cuts infrastructure costs by generating power directly where it is used.

As the study’s authors note, it’s important to remember there will always be trade-offs. It’s not an all-or-nothing, urban-or-rural question but looking more closely at the opportunities for solar in our urban backyards should be a priority.

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  09:06:00 am, by Jim Jenal - Founder & CEO   , 879 words  
Categories: LADWP, Feed-in Tariff

FiT to be Tried - Can LADWP Make a Feed-in Tariff Work?

The folks at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) are talking about creating a Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program in their service area, but if the information provided so far is any indication, they have a very long way to go before this program is ready for prime time.

First, before trying to describe what LADWP is doing, we should make clear what they are not.  In particular, this is not a German-style FiT where anyone can put up solar panels and get paid for every kilowatt hour that they produce.  (Ah, for such a program here in California - you would literally see solar panels everywhere!)  To the contrary, this FiT will be entirely unavailable to regular customers.  Instead, this program is designed for systems where all of the energy produced is delivered directly to the grid instead of first off-setting a local load.  In that regard this looks much like a solar farm program, except that participating systems can be as small as 30 kW, but no larger than 1 MW (solar farms are usally in the 1-5 MW range).

LADWP's FiT process flowchart - it only looks complicated
Draft FiT Flowchart - it only looks complicated!

Since no local load is being offset, this is not a net metering arrangement.  Instead, LADWP is looking for project developers to enter into a “Standard Offer Power Purchase Agreement” (SOPPA) based on a “bid base price of energy” that is subject to Time of Delivery adjustments.  The initial demonstration program will consist of 5 MW of selected systems.  Project developers must submit a prescribed FiT Application and pay a non-refundable $1,000 application fee.  If the application is deemed to be acceptable based on LADWP’s “Technical Screening” (more on that later) the project developer must then pony-up a $1,500 Interconnection Study Fee to determine how much it will cost to interconnect the proposed project into LADWP’s grid.  Once that amount is known, the project developer can opt to continue - and pay 10% of the anticipated interconnection cost plus a refundable Development Deposit of $50 per kW - or fold their cards and eat their costs.

When pressed for some guiding parameters, staff was vague.  What, we wondered, was the possible range of interconnection costs?  And without knowing what the worst case cost might be in advance, how could a rational project developer know what to propose for their “bid base price of energy"?  For that matter, what was the anticipated range that would be acceptable to LADWP for the bid base price?  After all, you simply cannot produce energy from a 30kW system as cheaply as you can from a 1MW system.

LADWP indicated that it will likely create some sort of small system (30-150kW) carve out to insure that some smaller systems will be built.  This is important since LADWP’s top priority for selecting which systems can proceed is getting the lowest cost energy.  A possible bid energy price for small systems was in the $0.20-0.22/kWh range whereas larger systems (>150kW) would need to be in the $0.15-0.175/kWh range.  Even so, without knowing in advance what interconnection costs might be - or better still - having a way to choose a site so as to minimize those costs - it is next to impossible to make a rational proposal without being at substantial risk of losing your deposits - to say nothing of your time investment.

As presented at the public workshop, the present design includes a number of “Technical Requirements"  and process steps which could use some clarification.  In particular:

  • Developer Experience - “At least one member of development team has developed one or more similar projects."  What constitutes a “similar project"?  If the team had previously developed a 75kW system, would they be deemed to have adequate experience to propose a 100 kW system?  What about 150 or 500?  And what sort of experience is key here?  The development team will need to bring together many talents - system design, construction, electrical, financial, legal - does it suffice that the team’s lawyer has papered together “similar” projects in the past?
  • Site Control - “Must demonstrate site control over proposed site” - if the entire proposal is speculative until the SOPPA is signed, how much control must the developer actually have over the site at the time the application is submitted?  Would a lease or purchase agreement with appropriate contingencies suffice?  Given the degree of uncertainty with this process, it doesn’t seem reasonable to require full control at the time the application is submitted.
    (This was not explained during the workshop, but it appears from the Draft Guidelines that a contractual option for lease or purchase will suffice.)
  • Inspection & Maintenance Reporting - “Provide Inspection & Maintenance Reports Every Other Year” - staff could not explain what the full scope of this requirement would be and the Guidelines aren’t much more help other than to indicate that the inspection must be done by someone not associated with the project.  This seems unduly burdensome - after all, the project owner has as much of a vested interest in keeping the system performing according to expectations as does LADWP.  Since they will need to be doing their own maintenance anyway, the requirement for an unrelated party to do the inspections simply adds unnecessary cost to the project.

The Demonstration phase is supposed to kick-off this Fall.  We will continue to monitor the development of this program and provide additional information as we get it.


Jim Jenal is the Founder & CEO of Run on Sun, Pasadena's premier installer and integrator of top-of-the-line solar power installations.
Run on Sun also offers solar consulting services, working with consumers, utilities, and municipalities to help them make solar power affordable and reliable.

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