Monday, July 16, 2018

The Case for State Clean Energy Standards [GTM Squared]



from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-case-for-state-clean-energy-standards

Friday, July 13, 2018

How Utilities Can Align 20-Year Resource Plans With Distributed Solar, EVs and More

In a striking move earlier this year, Arizona regulators did not endorse the state’s major utilities’ long-term resource plans.

The rebuke of the utilities’ integrated resource plans (IRPs) came along with a short-term freeze on new natural gas plants larger than 150 megawatts. In the two years since the IRPs began to form, the cost of energy storage had fallen dramatically — just one example of how new technologies are outpacing planning timelines.

Arizona, a state awash in distributed solar and with a far-reaching Energy Modernization Plan in front of regulators, is not alone. No matter the level of penetration of distributed energy resources like solar PV, battery storage and electric vehicles, most utilities and regulators are grappling with modernizing the IRP process to meet the changing market. More than 30 state commissions currently require an IRP strategy, while simultaneously mandating and/or incentivizing growing levels of decentralized and distributed energy resources (DERs).

“Two years ago, most utilities thought these transformations were five to seven years out,” said Gary Vicinus, managing director at Siemens Energy Business Advisory. “But they’re already here.”

It’s not a matter of simply focusing more on the near term or filing these roadmaps more often. It is a multi-year journey that requires rethinking entire utility operations.

Shifting horizons

According to Vicinus, one key issue is the mismatch between planning horizons for different aspects of utility operations. While generation planning is often at a 20- or even 30-year horizon, transmission planning might be a five- to seven-year view and distribution planning even less. As more DERs come onto the distribution grid, the planning horizons have to align among all operational areas. “To get that alignment, there has to be a cultural change in the vision for how long and how detailed the forecasts have to be,” said Vicinus.

Another problem with the horizons for planning is that the cost curve for DERs such as solar PV and energy storage can change dramatically in just a few years. For instance, natural gas may be the cheapest option for peak load today; however, that may not be the case two or five years out, thus making an IRP obsolete before it is approved.

“Based on our global experience,” said Michael Mount, principal at Siemens Energy Business Advisory. “No matter what you anticipate, it’s going to come faster and be more complex than you expected.”

Start by defining the goal

Most utilities have assumed that overhauling and aligning the planning across generation, transmission and distribution (GT&D) takes a long time. Siemens has found it is about a one- to two-year process for most clients to rework their separate planning activities into a more integrated GT&D planning approach. Michael Carlson, president of Siemens Digital Grid, recently discussed best practices for evolving the integrated planning process during a fireside chat at GTM’s Grid Edge Innovation Summit.

The logical place to start is by defining where planning processes are headed, not just for current needs but for the changes coming in five years or more. A well-defined roadmap to this planning process can identify the cultural, technological and programmatic practices that need to be improved, or reworked entirely, to produce more holistic integrated plans for GT&D.

The cultural aspect of the roadmap should not be discounted. Most distribution and generation planners never sit together to hash it out. Once everyone is working together, the data, the forecasts and the models have to be aligned.

It is not just the horizons for the plans that need to be reconciled — the data sources that flow into the models are rarely compatible. Especially in the case of distribution circuits, the data is likely not temporally or spatially granular enough to accurately evaluate DERs moving forward. Even if the data can be aligned, it then has to be able to move back and forth between planning models to support the updates and iterations required as the energy landscape changes with increasing speed.

“They do not all have to be developed from scratch,” Vicinus said of the systems needed. “We’re helping customers evolve their current systems, but it takes time and a structured approach.”

The only way to see a multi-department transformation through is for someone to have a sense of urgency. Mount noted that the successful utilities are going to be those that have a champion, ideally in the C-suite. “Everyone recognizes the direction this is going,” said Mount. “It’s just a matter of each utility’s pace and path toward lower-carbon, more distributed energy.”

Engage differently

For utilities in the majority of states, IRPs are mandated by regulators. But the breadth and scope of IRPs vary widely. In most cases, utilities need to rethink their relationship with both regulators and their customer stakeholders as they modernize the IRP process, rather than delaying that engagement.

“A proactive approach is something that is certainly needed,” said Vicinus. “Historically, utilities haven’t been proactive with their regulators, but now it can be advantageous for utilities to get in front of the problem before the regulators dictate a solution to them. It’s [about maintaining] control over their own future.”

Taking a proactive approach need not stop at the public utility commission. Stakeholders of all sizes, including large commercial customers and consumer groups, should also be consulted early and often. Many regulators offer a review period for IRPs, but Siemens Energy Business Advisory maintains that stakeholder involvement is a valuable opportunity for utilities to improve their planning and gain a valuable communication link to their customers.  

“You need to think outside the box,” said Vicinus. “If you’re developing models and data networks to address today’s problems, you won’t be prepared for tomorrow’s problems.”



from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/how-utilities-can-align-20-year-resource-plans-with-distributed-solar-evs-a

It’s Time for the Solar Industry to Embrace Window Shoppers

Solar installers invest significant time and resources into educating their potential customers. And it can be a truly frustrating experience when all that effort doesn’t eventually translate into a sale.

We’ve heard it all: consumers are “fence sitters," “tire kickers” and “window shoppers.” In fact, one of the most common laments we hear from solar installers is about how often prospective customers ask lots of questions only to go silent after several conversations.

As solar evolves into a more mass-market product for American homeowners in the coming years, it’s time for us all to acknowledge a simple fact: today’s “window shoppers” are tomorrow’s customers.

It’s up to us to support these customers throughout their shopping experience so that they can gain the confidence they need to eventually make a purchase decision. 

Whether it’s solar panels, a new car, or a TV, window shopping is a crucial phase

My Panasonic plasma television is approaching 14 years old. For the last year, I’ve been looking at the new organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TV technology as a replacement. I’ve visited several different websites to understand how OLED technology works and get a complete understanding of my options.

I’ve probably spent a few dozen hours researching different features, prices, and expert and consumer reviews. I’m also checking prices every couple of months. I expect that I’ll pull the trigger later this year, when the combination of price and features is a little closer to my budget and my preferences. By that point, I will have spent almost two years before making this purchase — one that is likely to cost me between $1,000 and $2,000. 

This is how I bought my car, Bluetooth headphones, and many other purchases big and small. Window-shopping online helps me feel confident that I am paying a fair price for the right product – far more than speaking with any salesperson could. I expect that if I do talk to a salesperson, it’ll be the last step in my process. 

Now, imagine you’re a homeowner considering a rooftop solar energy system. You’ve never owned one before, and it’s likely to cost you $10,000 to $20,000. Wouldn’t you need to window shop first? 

The solar industry needs to make window shoppi​ng easier, not harder

Our industry is not yet set up to help prospective customers shop around. Many of the solar industry’s sales practices are holdovers from an era when prospects were early adopters who required a very hands-on, one-on-one approach. Without evolving these practices, we run the risk of pushing our future customers away.

As an industry, we still don’t make it easy for prospects to learn about their options and prices without speaking with a salesperson — and even then, it can be difficult to understand which factors have the biggest impact on price. We only want to talk to people who are ready to buy, and buy it now, from us, and without ever doing any homework or speaking to another company. We typically employ commission-only salespeople who don’t have time to educate their prospective customers, and try to avoid these so-called “tire-kickers."

When a homeowner contacts a solar company to get a sense of their options and prices, they often encounter a salesperson that will:

  • Ask several qualifying questions before offering any valuable information in return.
  • Suggest that the salesperson visit their home before providing price estimates.
  • Call the prospect repeatedly to follow up.
  • Use aggressive hard-sell tactics to close the sale.

It’s no surprise that these sales practices are dissuading people from considering a solar energy system. Anyone who has tried to buy a car, refinance their home, or make any other big investment knows that these high-pressure tactics can act as a big deterrent.

EnergySage has conducted in-depth research, including both one-on-one consumer interviews and surveys, to understand what today’s solar shoppers are looking for. Instead of holding it closely for our own competitive advantage, we want to share it with everyone in the hopes that it’ll help grow the industry faster. Here is a summary of what we’ve found: 

  • Millions of U.S. homeowners and businesses are considering solar today, and their first step is to go online.
  • The solar shopping journey can last anywhere from a few months to as long as a decade.
  • In each stage of the journey, customers want to know their solar options, prices and value.
  • Shoppers want to feel confident that they have thoroughly researched their options and are making an informed decision.
  • Because prospects have limited methods to research and window shop, they typically seek quotes early in their shopping journey as a means of self-education. But don’t mistake this for a sign that they’re ready to buy immediately.
  • The lack of transparent information into price and equipment quality limits consumer confidence and turns off prospects that then sit on the sidelines as a result of their experience.

The solar industry has a huge opportunity to turn millions of interested prospects into solar customers. If we can offer people an easy way to research — that is, to window shop — in a truly transparent manner, the industry can grow much faster than ever before.

We should be actively preparing ourselves to nurture the millions of prospective homeowners and businesses throughout the entire shopping process, from early research to decision-making. This may mean evolving solar sales strategies and getting away from the commission-only compensation model, for example. More collaboration and innovation is needed to solve this problem, and to get solar ready for mainstream consumer adoption.

At EnergySage, we are actively incorporating what we’ve learned from our consumer research: in the coming months, we will be launching even more powerful tools to make it easier for people to explore solar at their own pace, and from the comforts and anonymity of their own couch. Our team is confident that, if we do our part, we will make solar completely accessible and affordable to the mass market buyer.

By doing this, we hope to multiply the size of the solar industry in the upcoming years.

Vikram Aggarwal is the CEO and founder of EnergySage, a leading online comparison-shopping marketplace for rooftop solar, community solar and solar financing.



from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/its-time-for-the-solar-industry-to-embrace-window-shoppers

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Apple Launches a New Clean Energy Fund in China With Suppliers

Apple announced earlier this year that it has officially achieved its 100 percent renewable energy goal. But the tech giant’s climate action plan did not stop there.

Today, Apple announced a new clean energy investment fund in China that seeks to develop more than 1 gigawatt of renewable energy — or the equivalent of powering nearly 1 million homes.

Over the next four years, Apple and 10 initial suppliers will jointly invest nearly $300 million in the China Clean Energy Fund. The first-of-its kind investment vehicle is designed to connect suppliers with renewable energy resources, which is a particularly challenging process for smaller companies.

By virtue of its size and scale, the China Clean Energy Fund will give greater purchasing power to program participants, as well as the ability to attain more attractive and diverse renewable energy solutions. The power purchased with support of the fund will specifically serve Apple and its selected supplier partners.

The China Clean Energy Fund will be managed by DWS Group, which will also contribute to the fund. The initial participating suppliers include: Catcher Technology, Compal Electronics, Corning Incorporated, Golden Arrow, Jabil, Luxshare-ICT, Pegatron, Solvay, Sunway Communication and Wistron.

“We’re thrilled so many of our suppliers are participating in the fund and hope this model can be replicated globally to help businesses of all sizes make a significant positive impact on our planet,” said Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy and social initiatives, in a statement.

Increasing the use of renewables in its supply chain has been a top priority for Apple. According to the company’s latest environment report, manufacturing makes up 77 percent of the multinational tech company’s carbon footprint. Most of those emissions are from the electricity used to make product parts.

“So we’re sourcing lower-carbon materials, partnering with suppliers to reduce their energy use, and helping them switch to renewable energy,” the report states. “We believe that together we can transform the manufacturing process to dramatically reduce emissions.”

Apple and other large companies have been leading the way on corporate renewables procurement. In April, Apple announced that its global facilities are now powered by 100 percent clean energy. That includes all retail stores, offices, data centers and co-located facilities in 43 countries. At that time, the company had 25 operational renewable energy plants worldwide, with 15 more under construction.

More and more suppliers are now starting to follow suit. Apple launched its Supplier Clean Energy Program in 2015, and since then 23 manufacturing partners, operating in more than 10 different countries, have committed to powering all of their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy.

Apple and its supplier partners are on track to collectively generate more than 4 gigawatts of new clean energy worldwide by 2020, representing one-third of Apple’s current manufacturing electricity footprint.

Apple is also looking at new ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In May, the company backed a new joint venture with Alcoa Corporation and Rio Tinto Aluminum for zero-carbon aluminum smelting.



from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/apple-launches-a-new-clean-energy-fund-in-china-suppliers

SolarEdge Is Chasing Several New Markets. Utility-Scale Solar Is the Latest

SolarEdge has moved into the utility-scale inverter market as a new growth opportunity.

The Israeli manufacturer of solar inverters paired with DC optimizers has established a dominant position in the residential solar market in the U.S. and elsewhere. From there, the company entered the commercial and industrial segment, and now it is diving into utility-scale solar.

“There are more and more ground mount projects with SolarEdge around the world,” said Lior Handelsman, co-founder and VP of marketing and product strategy, in an interview at Intersolar this week. “The high-level goal is to make that a significant portion of our revenue, without making the other segments smaller.”

That will put the company into conflict with new and larger adversaries, as the Chinese technology giant Huawei prepares to enter the U.S. residential inverter space.

Meanwhile, SolarEdge has launched products that use inverters as the focal point for smart home applications and made initial forays into the virtual power plant business.

In just a few years, newfangled module-level power electronics have swept the residential storage industry, and SolarEdge and microinverter company Enphase have controlled most of the market.

For SolarEdge to grow, it has a few options: take market share within the residential space; expand into new geographical markets; expand into new market segments.

The company is pursuing all of the above. Much of its residential growth in the last year came from taking customers away from conventional string inverters, Handelsman said. SolarEdge has expanded its footprint in markets like Europe and Australia.

The utility-scale push represents a new strategic shift. The product for that market is not a far cry from the C&I product, but the company pitches it differently.

Whereas sales for customer-sited systems might highlight the safety features and design flexibility of module level power electronics, utility-scale sales lean more on added energy, O&M cost savings and reduced material needs for plant construction.

Those benefits — like reduced cabling because the optimizers allow longer string lengths — scale across a massive solar farm. That can be especially persuasive given the thin margins utility-scale developers have to work with.

SolarEdge has installed in the ballpark of 200 to 500 megwatts of utility-scale power electronics, Handelsman estimated.

But that’s not to say the new strategy will be easy.

SolarEdge will have to prove itself against string inverters already priced competitively for the utility-scale market, as well as central inverters. Shading tends to be less of a concern in wide open fields of solar plants, which removes one of the company’s best advantages for the rooftop market.

“The utility-scale market is extraordinarily difficult,” said Scott Moskowitz, a research manager covering inverters at GTM Research. “String inverters with optimizers are an inherently higher cost solution, so it will be SolerEdge’s priority to monetize the other benefits that their system gets.”

Even if shading from trees is less relevant, the module level optimizers can help with mismatch in module output, which can drag down a string’s productivity. SolarEdge also has developed technology to reduce potential induced degradation, another technical challenge.

“SolarEdge has been extraordinarily successful at executing on it plans in the past,” Moskowitz said. “If they set their sights on this, perhaps the sky’s the limit, but it will be a significant challenge due to the cost competitiveness of the current utility-scale inverter products.”

The company must balance that push with several other strategic initiatives. It made its first acquisition in May with the $11.5 million purchase of uninterruptible power supply  provider Gamatronic Electronic Industries.

SolarEdge also launched a cloud-based virtual power plant service, which taps its fleet of smart inverters to control and dispatch distributed energy. Utilities in Vermont, the Netherlands and Australia are using that service.

Many companies are touting their entry into the VPP market, but Handelsman is more frank than most about the market’s current limitations.

“This is not yet an activity that is revenue effective, but I think it is the future of solar energy,” he said.

That growth potential informs SolarEdge’s expansion of product offerings to include solar inverters with built in plug-ins for storage and electric vehicle charging. The company also has new gadgets that don’t need solar on the rooftop, like a smart home energy monitoring panel and a standalone EV charger.

The more controllable a home’s energy usage, the more valuable it will be as a virtual power plant participant.

Now SolarEdge will have to prove that it can translate early success in residential power conversion to an increasingly diverse range of business ventures.

“When you grow, you need to grow carefully so you don't lose focus or lose momentum,” Handelsman said.



from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solaredge-is-chasing-several-new-markets-utility-scale-solar

Energy Jobs: Powelson Out at FERC, Tesla Exec Churn Continues and More

The churn doesn’t stop in Washington just because summer is in full swing.

Less than a year after Robert Powelson was confirmed as a commissioner at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), he is moving on.

Powelson will become the president and CEO of the National Association of Water Companies, an industry group for private water companies (the majority of Americans are served by public water systems). The formal departure comes just after a 3-2 party-line vote that will undo PJM’s current capacity market and likely cause considerable uncertainty in the PJM market in the short term.

And in case you were completely unplugged under a rock on a remote island for July 4, EPA head Scott Pruitt resigned amid mounting scrutiny of his spending and ethics practices. The new acting head of the EPA is former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, who is unlikely to change course from Pruitt’s agenda. For an exclusive, in-depth interview with Mandy Gunasekara, principal deputy assistant administrator at the EPA Office of Air and Radiation, about the EPA's priorities following Pruitt's departure, listen to the latest episode of GTM's newest podcast, Political Climate.

Also, ICYMI, Tesla’s engineering chief Doug Field will not come back from a personal leave, according to the Wall St. Journal. A few months ago Field told his team to “prove the haters wrong” as Model 3 production fell short of its mark. Tesla was able to scale up to 5,000 Model 3s per week, but many people are skeptical of whether that can continue. This is just the latest in a steady churn of executives at Tesla.

Solar tracking firm Array Technologies has introduced Jim Fusaro as the company’s new CEO. He will take over Array’s founder Ron Corio. Fusaro was most recently at Avnet and Honeywell before that.

Javier Cavada Camino, the outgoing president of the power division and EVP of Wärtsilä, is now president and CEO at Highview Power, a company commercializing a long-duration bulk liquid air energy storage concept intended to have capacities in the hundreds of megawatt-hours per plant. He will drive the company’s 10-year global expansion plan.

Also in the world of storage, Engie Storage (formerly Green Charge) has brought on Marc Roper as CCO. He has had previous roles with Alta Energy, Sovereign Modular, and CODA Energy. He’ll be focusing on developing channel enablement and driving revenue growth for both behind- and in-front-of-the-meter businesses. 

Canadian energy storage firm Eguana Technologies has hired Livio Filice as director of residential sales for North America. Filice comes from Mercedes-Benz Energy and was previously with Sonnen.

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Enertech Search Partners, a boutique talent acquisition and advisory firm focused exclusively on the intersection of the new energy economy and connected industries, is the sponsor of the GTM jobs column.

Among its many active searches, Enertech has been exclusively engaged to find a regional territory utility manager in smart resources.

The client is a predictive analytics solution for utilities, which solves challenges around asset health/maintenance, storm recovery, and CMI. This is a small but established firm, which recently received additional funding as well as some recent highly visible wins that will take them to the next level. They seek a Regional Territory Utility Manager, a utility solution sales executive who has carried quotas in excess of $1 million dollars to leverage their network of VP level contacts within the IOU and muni/co-op markets. They must also have knowledge of T&D, asset management, GIS, or OMS sales to drive and build relationships with prospects and customers to close complex sale opportunities while mentoring less experienced sales team members.


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Mike Butler, director of solar operations at Duke Energy Renewables, has left the company after 15 years to join TerraForm Power as regional solar operations manager for the East. Brookfield Asset Management bought TerraForm Global and TerraForm Power for approximately $1.7 billion in 2017.

PPL has hired Vijay P. Singh to lead the utility’s efforts with distributed energy resources and to work with Safari Energy, a commercial solar EPC that PPL recently acquired. Singh was most recently executive director of Renewable Energy Development and Energy Storage for NextEra Energy Resources.

James McGinnis has left Mainstream Renewable Capital, where he was founder and CEO, to join PJ Solomon as managing director of the firm’s Infrastructure, Power and Renewables Advisory Group where he will lead its renewables coverage.

Heather Sanders has a new position as director of management consulting with Black & Veatch. She was previously a special advisor to the California Public Utilities Commission working on interconnection issues.

Vivint Solar has brought on Miranda Barnard as VP of marketing to raise the profile of the residential installer. She was previously with Sorenson Media, a technology provider to broadcasters.

Former GTMer Andrew Krulewitz has left Geli where he was director of marketing, strategy and product for Geli to join AAA (well, sort of). He’s not providing roadside assistance; instead he’ll be the manager of autonomous vehicle strategy for A3Ventures, the innovation lab and corporate venture capital division of AAA Northern California, Nevada, and Utah. 

Solar installer Sunfinity has a handful of new hires. Richard Grosdidier is the new president of utility scale solar after being at Innogy Renewables for the past two years. Hazen Burford joins Sunfinity from AECOM to be the president of C&I solar, and Dallas Tharpe is now SVP of utility-scale solar for the company.

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Please send clean energy jobs moves to tips@greentechmedia.



from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/energy-jobs-powelson-out-at-ferc-tesla-exec-churn-continues-and-more

A Snapshot of the U.S. Market for Smart Solar Inverters

Advanced solar inverters could be one of the biggest distributed energy resource (DER) communications and control points out there someday. With California now requiring at least early-stage “smart” capabilities from all new solar projects — and a standards roadmap for next-stage efforts like real-time communications and active controls — this future now has a template. 

There are still a lot of unanswered questions about how smart inverters will be used.

That was the consensus at Intersolar this week, where experts discussed the latest developments on the U.S. smart solar inverter front. After years of pilot projects, multi-stakeholder technical working groups, and slow and steady standards development, solar smart inverters are finally starting to hit the market en masse — even if it’s not yet clear just what will be done with them once they’re installed. 

“From the technical perspective, the standards are firm,” Roger Salas, distribution engineering manager for Southern California Edison, said. In September last year, his utility started requiring that all new solar installations come with so-called “Phase One” advanced inverter functionality, as defined under the state’s Rule 21.

Later this month, it’s going to start requiring “reactive power priority” for these inverters, and in February 2019, it’s going to start requiring that inverters support the communications capabilities described in “Phase Two,” as well as some more advanced, “Phase Three” capabilities. 

Increasing hosting capacity: a win-win for solar and utilities

Each of these phases aligns with a different value proposition for smart inverters. The first phase is largely preventative, aimed at solving the kinds of problems that have forced costly upgrades to how inverters operate in solar-heavy Germany and Hawaii. 

The key standard in question in the U.S. is IEEE 1547, which sets the rules for what grid-connected DERs must do to stay safe, such as trip offline when the grid goes down, or avoid overloading local transformers or circuits. 

The old version of the standard, however, had a lot of restrictive rules on tripping off during relatively common voltage excursions, which could cause real problems on circuits with a lot of solar dropping off all at once. 

Phase One implementation of IEEE 1547 is all about removing these barriers, Salas said. “They need to be stable, they need to be connected, they need to be able to support the grid.” 

This should increase hosting capacity on circuits that would have otherwise been constrained by these unwelcome behaviors, he said. 

Reactive power: where utility and solar imperatives collide

The old versions of IEEE 1547 also didn’t provide rules for how inverters could use one of their more flexible capabilities — the ability to inject or absorb reactive power to mitigate voltage fluctuations, including those that may be caused by the PV itself. The new version opens up this capability, which could allow for an active application of reactive power to further increase hosting capacity, as well as solve other grid edge challenges for utilities.

But where utilities see opportunity, the solar industry sees a threat. Every unit of reactive power comes at the cost of a reduction in the real power output of solar inverters — and almost every solar installation out there is paid based on the real power they produce. 

“If you’re tasked to do things that rob your energy sales, that will reduce compensation,” noted Ric O′Connell executive director of the Oakland, Calif.-based GridLab. “And a lot of systems have third-party owners — the SunRuns, the Teslas —  that have contracts, performance guarantees, and they want to get those financed. It’s harder to do that if there’s uncertainty in the future, with curtailment."

“That’s the bottleneck right now,” said Daniel Munoz-Alvarez, GTM Research grid edge analyst. “As we develop markets on the retail end for VARs to be compensated, or volt-VAR control to be compensated on the grid edge and that is compensated back to the customer, then the customer will be more willing to allow the utility to control their smart inverters, or to allow some automation.”

But first, “we need some agreed-upon functions.” 

The future: communications, controls, and DER integration

The next stage of smart inverter functionality is establishing communications with the utility. After that, utilities will be able use them to monitor key distributed energy resource (DER) data, or issue disconnect and reconnect commands in emergencies, as well as actively orchestrate other utility devices and systems. 

This last area is where Salas sees the greatest opportunity to putting mass market smart solar inverters to use. “If you want to maximize the DERs and what they can do, the need information from the grid. And DERs provide operational and capability information to the utility.” 

Inverter makers have already been forced by California to enable the latest IEEE 1547 capabilities into their existing controls systems — but they are clearly embracing the role that their devices can play on the grid as well. Microinverter maker Enphase leveraged its work in Hawaii into a grid services business, seeking to provide data to utilities where they already had a significant number of installations. While Enphase has since scaled back dramatically, its main rival SolarEdge take up the same challenge, launching its own grid services arm earlier this summer.

Inverters have been technically capable of doing most of these things for a long time. But utilities and regulators have been waiting for the completion of IEEE 1547 to move forward decisively. Patrick Dalton, senior engineer for Xcel Energy, said his company’s utilities in Colorado and Minnesota are still several years away from mandating advanced inverter capabilities, and is waiting for California’s example to inform how it moves ahead. 

In the meantime, it’s possible that Xcel's front-of-meter volt-VAR optimization investments in Colorado, including edge-of-grid devices from startup Varentec, could solve many of the issues that have been addressed by smart inverter efforts in Hawaii and California, he noted. 

The broader landscape for rolling out smart inverters for solar installations hasn’t changed much, with Hawaii and California still out ahead of the pack. Arizona is the next most important state, with a high penetration of distributed solar, a contentious policy climate surrounding its proper treatment in future years, and a big smart inverter pilot from utility Arizona Public Service to inform stakeholders. 

All told, eight separate smart inverter pilots are underway across eight states at present, according to GTM Research: Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric in California; APS and Salt River Project in Arizona; Hawaiian Electric in Hawaii; Duke Energy in North Carolina; Con Edison in New York; and a three-state pilot funded by the Department of Energy’s SunShot program and led by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). 

 



from GTM Solar https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/a-snapshot-of-the-u-s-market-for-smart-solar-inverters