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Archive for the ‘Solar PV’ Category

The Green Communities Division of Massachusetts DOER is making funds available for Owner’s Agent Technical Assistance (OATA) grants. Applications must be submitted online beginning October 3, 2013.

Funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis until the $300,000 in available funds has been dispersed. Funding is available to all Massachusetts cities and towns, regional school districts, and water/wastewater treatment districts, regardless of Green Communities designation. Entities that have previously received OATA funds through the Green Communities Division are not eligible for this round of assistance.

Eligible applicants may apply for OATA grants for the following project types:

  • Solar PV systems no less than 15 kW on property owned by the applicant
  • Energy management services (that is, energy savings performance contracts)
  • ASHRAE Level 2 audits in oil- or propane-heated buildings
  • Assessments or feasibility studies for a zero-net energy building (ZNEB)
  • Engineering studies for more-efficient heating systems (for example, conversion from steam to hot water—not for a higher-efficiency boiler), or conversion to renewable- or alternative-fuel-sourced heating systems, including wastewater heat recovery.

An applicant may receive an OATA grant up to $12,500, except ZNEB projects for which the maximum grant is $5,000.

Application information is available on the Green Communities website under “Publications and Reports.” Applications submitted before 9:00 a.m. on October 3 will not be considered.

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Building and operating a solar PV system isn’t simple. For example, obtaining the necessary permits and inspections can present widely differing requirements among incentive programs, municipalities, and states.

In recent years, the industry has come to recognize the impact of these “soft” (that is, non-equipment) costs on the price of PV systems. Many efforts are underway to streamline and standardize the permitting process.

Staying focused on the post-installation inspection process is important too. Inconsistent or incomplete inspections can lead to increased project costs, impair system performance, or compromise the safety of those living and working around PV systems.

Robust quality-assurance programs, such as those offered by some state incentive programs, are a good way to provide expert review of PV installations. But these inspections often find issues not identified by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), such as local wiring or building inspectors. From an installer’s perspective, this means at least one return trip to the site on a system the installer may have considered complete.

Solar QA Pie Chart

That’s why it is important to provide local AHJs with the PV-specific training and support they need to complete a thorough and consistent inspection. Training and support means:

  • Rapid response on installation issues that may cause safety or performance issues.
  • Reduced burden on incentive programs to check for code compliance.
  • Lower incidence of system re-work.
  • The ability to leverage industry experts and tools across many AHJs.

Numerous programs and offerings are available to help AHJs successfully inspect PV systems. For example:

  • Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (ABCs) website. Solar ABCs is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop codes, standards, and best practices for PV installation. http://www.solarabcs.org/
  • Photovoltaic Power Systems for Inspectors and Plan Reviewers by John Wiles. This book, available from Amazon and the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, provides inspectors with a handy reference on codes and standards related to PV systems.
  • U.S. DOE Sustainable Energy Resources for Consumers PV Inspection Checklist. While there are variations, this version combines several of the better checklists in the industry and provides a printable format that is easy to use in the field. http://www1.eere.energy.gov/wip/pdfs/solarpv_checklist.pdf

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The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has released an Emergency Regulation with respect to the SREC program in Massachusetts.

On June 28, 2013, DOER filed an Emergency Regulation to establish rules by which the current RPS Solar Carve-Out program will be complete.  As an Emergency Regulation, the rules become effective upon filing, thus they are now in effect.  DOER has posted the Emergency Regulations on its website.

The emergency regulations expand the 400 MW cap of the current program to accommodate those projects that are well along in the development cycle, and to allow for small projects to continue moving forward in development.

Available on the DOER website is a list of projects that have been determined to be qualified or that submitted an administratively complete application, under the 400 MW cap.  Additionally, there is a list of projects that have applied outside of the 400 MW capacity limit.  If any projects that have qualified under the 400 MW cap have their applications withdrawn or revoked, project capacity from outside the 400 MW capacity limit will not be transferred under the cap.  Projects falling outside of the 400 MW capacity limit will be subject to the rules of the emergency regulations summarized below.

  • Units under the 400 MW capacity limit, as determined by DOER with a Statement of Qualification or an application deemed administratively complete by DOER that are greater than 100 kW, must meet the following construction timelines to maintain qualification in the current solar program.
  • Units that are outside the 400 MW capacity limit, as determined by DOER, and are greater than 100 kW must have an Interconnection Service Agreement fully executed by the customer and utility dated on or before June 7, 2013. They must meet the construction timelines below to be awarded a statement of Qualification under the current program.
  • Construction Timelines for Projects greater than 100 kW:
    • Receipt of Authorization to Interconnect from its local distribution company by December 31, 2013.
    • Units that do not receive an Authorization to Interconnect by December 31, 2013 may receive an extension to June 30, 2014 only if it can be demonstrated, to the satisfaction of DOER, that the Unit has expended at least 50% of its total construction costs by December 31, 2013.
    • If a Unit is not in receipt of the Authorization to Interconnect as of June 30, 2014 but can demonstrate, to the satisfaction of DOER, that the missing Authorization is due to delays of the local distribution company or due to remaining steps required by other parties for safe and reliable interconnection, the Statement of Qualification will be extended until the Authorization is received or denied.
  • Units equal to or less than 100 kW, or designated as a Community Solar Garden by MassCEC, regardless of their placement in the 400 MW capacity limit, will be qualified under the current program provided they submit a Statement of Qualification Application to DOER and have an Authorization to Interconnect by December 31, 2013 or prior to the effective date of the new solar program, whichever is later.
  • Units failing to meet construction timelines will have their Statements of Qualification revoked.
  • The effective date of all Statement of Qualifications issued by DOER under the current program will be no later than December 31, 2013. This provision will ensure that the compliance obligation of the current solar program will not be extended an additional year, at additional ratepayer cost.
  • The compliance obligation formula of the program as of the effective date of the regulation and after the program reaches its program cap will be revised from 400 MW to the new Program Capacity Cap announced by DOER in July 2014, to accommodate actual supply. DOER will provide exemption to the additional compliance obligation, once the obligation reaches the new cap, for load under contract prior to the effective date of the emergency regulation.

Continuing Regulatory Procedure

While DOER is confident in the Emergency Regulation as written, in accordance with administrative procedure laws (M.G.L. ch. 30A), the regulation will remain in effect for 90 days, with the opportunity for the Department to make the regulations permanent. DOER will soon schedule and announce a Public Hearing and comment period, in accordance with administrative procedures, and move to quickly promulgate the final regulation so as to keep the regulations in effect throughout the construction timelines and until the new Solar Carve-Out Program has started. Given the importance of timely business decisions being made based on the rules of the Emergency Regulations, DOER recognizes the prudence of completing the regulatory process quickly.

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The Vote Solar Initiative is developing Project Permit, an interactive Website that scores municipal solar permitting practices nationwide. It helps permitting staff, solar advocates, and municipal leaders understand how their city or town’s permitting practices compare with best practices.

Visitors to ProjectPermit.org can view a Solar Permitting Scorecard for their community, and see how their community contrasts with others around the country and with solar permitting best practices. If there is little or no information available for a community, stakeholders can contribute missing information about their communities’ permitting processes through www.solarpermit.org.

Vote Solar and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council have collaborated to release residential solar permitting best practices, used as a baseline comparison for the Solar Permitting Scorecard. The best practices were developed with feedback from the municipal officials and permitting experts.  However, not all officials and experts may agree to all of the recommendations. For example, contrary to the best practices listed, our own PV inspection experts believe that performing more than one inspection, or requiring photos documenting the installation of roof mounted equipment as it is installed,  may allow permitting  officials to perform a more thorough overall inspection.

In addition to contributing data to solarpermit.org, solar stakeholders can help improve solar permitting in their city or town by encouraging officials to establish the solar permitting best practices identified.  We recommend stakeholders make town officials and inspectors aware that a tool like ProjectPermit.org is available, and then allow town officials an opportunity to provide more information about the community’s current solar PV permitting practices, before assuming practices need to be changed.

Vote Solar is a non-profit grassroots organization working to fight climate change and foster economic opportunity by bringing solar energy into the mainstream. Since 2002, Vote Solar has engaged in state, local, and federal advocacy campaigns to remove regulatory barriers and implement key policies needed to bring solar to scale. Project Permits is funded by Solar 3.0, a U.S. Department of Energy Sunshot Initiative grant.

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The solar program in Massachusetts has been so successful that the governor has announced a bold new goal.

On June 7, 2013, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) will hold a stakeholder meeting to present its proposed policy for the post-400 MW Solar Carve-Out program in Massachusetts. The meeting will be held at 10:00 a.m. in the Gardner Auditorium in the State House.

The policy design changes follow Governor Deval Patrick’s announcement of the state’s ambitious new solar goal of 1600 MW installed by 2020.

The current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Solar Carve-Out program has been highly successful in growing solar development throughout the Commonwealth. The program stimulated enough growth to meet the governor’s goal of 250 MW of solar installed by 2017—four years early. The program’s success has prompted the continuation and expansion of the RPS Solar Carve-Out that will be outlined at the June 7 stakeholder meeting.

In recent months, DOER has received a surge of Statement of Qualification Applications (SQA) for the current Solar Carve-Out programs, with over 550 MW of applications either qualified or under review, of which more than 400 MW of SQAs are at least administratively complete. Until June 7, DOER will review applications and allow applicants two weeks to correct any deficiencies before rejecting an application. Starting on June 7, SQAs will be reviewed under the revised regulation.

The DOER has posted the presentation from a stakeholder meeting on March 22, 2013; it will guide stakeholder discussion.

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On April 18, 2013 Cadmus staff attended the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) conference in Baltimore, MD. Featured at the conference was a panel discussion of net metering and new finance and policy approaches. Cadmus associate, Erin Sweet, was one of three panelists in this session. Her presentation, entitled “The System of Assurance of Net Metering Eligibility: Early Experiences and Lessons Learned,” drew from Cadmus’ experiences as the developer and administrator of the Massachusetts’ System of Assurance, commonly called the “net metering queue.” Ms. Sweet highlighted distributed generation stakeholders’ historic concerns regarding the availability of net metering services at the time of a project’s interconnection and how 2012 Massachusetts regulations help increase transparency and investor confidence.

Cadmus’ Erin Sweet on the Net Metering and New Finance and Policy Approaches panel at ASES’ Solar 2013

Cadmus’ Erin Sweet on the Net Metering and New Finance and Policy Approaches panel at ASES’ Solar 2013

Working collaboratively with DG stakeholders, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) developed the System of Assurance of Net Metering Eligibility. This net metering queue ensures that businesses, communities, and other entities developing these facilities will be eligible for net metering services when their projects are complete, assuming they can meet and maintain certain requirements. This web-based application system is now located at www.MassACA.org.
This unique system represents a means to smoothly and efficiently approach a cap on an important incentive. Following the presentation, conference attendees shared positive feedback on the Commonwealth’s approach, and speculated on the applicability of such a system to other, similar capped incentive programs. With 43 states in the U.S. having already established some form of net metering, it may not be long until stakeholders in other states are looking for certainty that their project will receive this important incentive; and the System of Assurance provides a window into one state’s solution.

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The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has announced the 10 communities that will participate in Round 1 of the 2013 Solarize Mass program. The Solarize Mass program is designed to increase the adoption of solar and drive down the overall cost through widespread participation. The more people in a particular community who participate, the greater the savings for everyone in that community.

The following cities and towns are participating in Round 1 of the 2013 Solarize Mass program: Bourne, Brookline, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Lee, Medford, Medway, Newton, Northampton, and Williamstown; with Carlisle and Chelmsford participating as a group.

In the 2012 rounds of Solarize Mass, 17 communities participated with nearly 750 residents and businesses signing contracts to install solar PV systems for a combined capacity of 4.8 megawatts (MW). Last year participants saved an average of 20 percent when compared to the statewide average cost of installing solar PV, all while creating 32 new jobs. Due to state incentive programs, such as Solarize Mass, installed costs of residential solar PV dropped by more than a quarter in 2012; helping the state reach its goal of achieving 250 MW of solar PV by 2017, with 243 MW installed to date.

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