Archive for the ‘Tips and Tricks’ Category

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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On June 15th, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) will be holding its Clean Energy Connections event at the Conference Center at Massasoit Community College in Brockton. Through this event, DOER seeks to learn from clean energy project implementers about their experiences, their leadership role in this growing sector, and areas where DOER and other clean energy stakeholders can help maintain the momentum in clean energy investment in the Commonwealth.

The agenda for this event can be found here. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.

DOER is encouraging attendance for the entire day to ensure an engaging and fruitful dialogue in the morning roundtable discussions and in the afternoon interactive workshop sessions.  

The Conference Center at Massasoit is located at 770 Crescent Street (Route 27) in Brockton – on the Whitman line – and is accessible from Routes 3 and 24.  There is ample free parking and nearby accommodations for overnight guests.

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Massachusetts cities and towns seeking technical assistance with their energy efficiency or solar PV projects may be interested in the Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) recent solicitation for Owner’s Agent Technical Assistance (PON-ENE-2012-014). Municipalities can apply for Owner’s Agents Technical Assistance to support their solar power purchase agreements (PPA) or energy-efficiency performance contract (ESCO) projects.

DOER anticipates awarding 10-15 municipalities up to $10,000 worth of technical assistance services. Grants are awarded on a first-come first-serve basis, and applications are due by June 29, 2012 at 5:00 PM.

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The Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has published a new resource for those seeking to learn more about solar PV on landfills. This publication, The Guide to Developing Solar Photovoltaics at Massachusetts Landfills, is a 40-page guide intended to  help local officials identify, evaluate, and pursue opportunities to use undeveloped landfill space to generate electricity. The guidebook speaks to the physical requirements of PV systems, project economics, landfill considerations, procurement details, and the PV development process.

For The Guide to Developing Solar Photovoltaics at Massachusetts Landfills, click here.

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The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), in partnership with DOER, has selected the following 17 Green Communities to participate in the 2012 round of the Solarize Mass Program: 

  • Acton
  • Arlington
  • Boston
  • Hopkinton
  • Melrose
  • Mendon
  • Montague
  • Newburyport
  • Palmer
  • Pittsfield-Lenox
  • Shirley
  • Sutton-Millbury
  • Wayland-Sudbury-Lincoln

For those interested in learning more about the Solarize Mass model or implementing a similar program in their own community, MassCEC has posted an overview of the 2011 Solarize Mass Pilot Program on their website (available here).

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The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) and Renewable Sales held a Building Energy-caliber session at Renewable Sales’ showroom at 35 Jeffrey Avenue in Holliston, MA on February 16, 2012.

The evening featured networking in the Renewable Sales showroom followed by a discussion facilitated by The Cadmus Group about Massachusetts municipal solar PPA projects. Meg Lusardi, Director of the Green Communities Division of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), spoke to the Department’s support for community scale renewable energy and outlined DOER resources available to Massachusetts municipalities. The panel featured case studies from the City of Medford and Town of Natick –two of the communities that receive technical assistance services from Cadmus. Cadmus spoke to best practices and lessons learned from our efforts working with local cities and towns on their renewable energy projects. We also reviewed how developers and vendors can apply these lessons when doing business with Massachusetts cities and towns.

Read more about the February NESEA/Renewable Sales event at Medford’s blog, The Medford Patch

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The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MassCEC) Commonwealth Solar Hot Water Commercial Program provides funding through a non-competitive grant process for solar hot water projects. Pre-design study grants of up to $10,000 are available to help building owners, including public entities, assess the potential benefits of installing a solar hot water system on a municipal or school building (construction rebates are also available to help fund the installation of these systems).

This non-competitive grant application process requires that a municipality select a consultant to complete their pre-design study and complete the posted application documents. Cadmus is available to both help with the application process and conduct the pre-design study.

If you are interested in learning more about how your community could save money through solar hot water on a public building, visit the MassCEC Commonwealth Solar Hot Water Commercial Program website or contact Cadmus’ Erin Sweet at 617-673-7101 or erin.sweet@cadmusgroup.com.

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