Interest in Community Solar Grows, Grid Connection Remains Vital
Top consumer smart grid news hand-selected and brought to you by the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative.
Solar energy is continuing its strong growth quarter after quarter. According to recent figures from SEIA, the US saw a record number of solar installations in the third quarter of 2016, and it’s predicted that record will be surpassed when fourth quarter figures are available. In light of recent news on the growth of solar in the U.S., it’s an optimal time to share the findings from SGCC’s Consumer Driven Technologies research.
Austin Energy recently cut the ribbon on Electric Drive, a transportation and charging hub aimed at supporting the city of Austin’s thriving electric vehicle infrastructure. Electric Drive is powered entirely by renewable energy sources and offers dedicated parking for two electric vehicle charging stations, as well as a solar powered kiosk that can recharge electric bikes, motorcycles, and small electronics through integrated outlets and USB ports.
PNM has selected Comverge to manage a 60 MW demand response program focused on commercial and residential customers. Pending regulatory approval, the program could be running next year. The program will offer both direct install Wi-Fi thermostats and a bring-your-own-thermostat approach, with Comverge's demand response platform allowing PNM to communicate with and control the devices.
PG&E said it sustained the reliability of its grid system in 2016 largely due to its investments in smart grid technologies. Pat Hogan, senior vice president of operations at PG&E, said the company's $15 billion smart grid investment made over the last five years to upgrade the utility's transmission and distribution infrastructure helped in enhancing the resiliency of the grid system.
As utilities face the rise of distributed resources and face stagnant load growth, a number of states are looking to alter the traditional sector business model through regulatory dockets. Under the traditional model, utilities make a rate of return for investments in the bulk power system — plants, transmission lines and the like. But those revenues can be threatened in a world where customer efficiency and DER adoption slows load growth.
How does the electric utility fit in to a rapidly-evolving energy system? That’s what the Illinois Commerce Commission is trying to determine with its new effort NextGrid. NextGrid will follow in the footsteps of New York’s innovative REV process, a multi-year effort to re-examine how electric utilities and customers interact. A new approach is essential to accelerating the adoption of clean energy technologies and services in the state.
Installing solar panels seems simple, according to all those companies selling them. Just sign up, invite someone onto your roof to install them, and boom, you’re in business — generating power even when the grid goes down. Right? Not exactly. There are rules governing grid connections and often distributed generators — homes or businesses generating power to primarily meet their own needs. A house with rooftop solar, for example, isn’t allowed to produce power when the grid is down.
Michigan's Lower Peninsula will face a projected 2,000 MW increase in peak demand between now and 2026, but a report from Advanced Energy Economy concludes the state can meet all of that need by using a variety of demand reduction strategies. Demand response, connected thermostats and time-varying rates could net benefits up to $1.2 billion over the next decade. A more moderate estimate of $482 million would still be a substantial win.