Category Archives: Southeast Solar Summit 24 June 2011

PSC lining up to vote for solar

Previously PSC Chair Lauren McDonald said he wanted Georgia Power to “come up with options in the next 30 days for expanding the tiny amount of electricity generated from solar power”. Yesterday, PSC Commissioner Chuck Eaton said “Solar is great for diversity, independence, research, and business,” and added that until recently he had discounted solar, but now he had seen it. And it turns out that Friday PSC Commissioner Tim Echols wrote an op-ed saying
It wasn’t until I entered the training room of Mage Solar in Dublin and saw 40 subcontractors in their solar academy that I got it. The growing solar industry is not just about funky collectors on a roof or left-leaning environmentalists who hate fossil fuel. It is about skilled jobs in manufacturing and construction, about economic development in Georgia, about consumers saving money on their power bill so they can spend it somewhere else, and about empowering people to essentially create their own power plant. This could eventually be big.
That’s three out of five commissioners. I’d call that a majority shaping up to do something in the PSC Energy Committee meeting of 16 July 2011. I couldn’t say what, exactly, since there nothing on the energy committee’s agenda about this. But something solar seems to be in the works.


Georgia officials are getting it about solar

Chuck Eaton, Georgia Public Service Commissioner, moderating a panel of Georgia’s Policy Makers at Southern Solar Summit said
Solar is great for diversity, independence, research, and business.
He said that until recently he had discounted solar, but now he had seen it. Continue reading

U.S. has plenty of solar energy everywhere —Jennifer DeCesaro of DoE

Jennifer DeCesaro of the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) said she liked showing a map of U.S. insolation outside the U.S. southwest because then she could point out that Spain has not as good resources and a larger solar market, while Germany, the world leader in deployed solar, has solar resources like the state of Alaska. So the U.S. has plenty of solar energy everywhere.

She made a few other comparisons between U.S. and Germany. U.S.: 30% investment tax credit. Germany: National Feed-in Tariff.

She talked about SunShot: the Apollo mission of our time. It aims to reduce solar costs by 75% by the end of the decade, making solar cost-competitive with fossil fuels without subsidy.

Actual panels cost about the same in U.S. and Germany, but the rest Continue reading

Projects that can actually be built —Jeff Glavan of MP2 Capital

Representing a San Francisco venture capital firm, MP2 Capital, Jeff Glavan said he’s looking for medium to large scale projects that can actually get built, with partners in each geographic market, since development is very local.

MP2 also does projects with municipalities that can’t take tax credits because they are tax exempt. MP2 funds instead.

It’s not just all about large systems…. There’s a market for 1 to 5 megawatt systems.

The three things they look at are credit, commercial terms, and economic terms. Commercial terms are what hold up most projects. MP2 likes to be involved in negotiating a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to avoid terms like host may need to repair roof which could involve removing the solar system for some undefined amount of time.

MP2 is actively looking for solar partners.


Transparency is key —Steve Kalland of NCSC

The earth receives enough energy from the sun in one hour to power the whole world for a year, reminded Steve Kalland of the North Carolina Solar Center (NCSC) at the Southern Solar Summit. So how do we get solar energy deployed? Kalland said transparency is key.

Other speakers had said you could have too much transparency, but Kalland pointed out that it was only through a hearing that North Carolina found out a major power company was going to use up its solar energy credits years ahead of schedule, and without transparency there couldn’t be real competition because the customers wouldn’t know who had which prices.

What else does it take to make a state competitive in solar? Kalland discussed this table (reformatted here from the copy of his presentation he gave me):

Foundational Steps to Focus on Solar

Installed Capacity Manufacturing
Interconnection Standards

Base Resources (economic or voices)

Early Adopters
Military or Large Federal
High Tech Firms
Corporate Greens
University Partnership Opportunities

Existing presence of businesses in multiple fields (diversification)
He said a lot more, but that’s a very interesting table to consider not only for a state, but for a region, like south Georgia, or a small metro area, like Valdosta MSA.

I know some people will react with: “but VSU is not a research university!” Nope, but this could be a way to add some research capacity to VSU.


91% of voters support using solar power in NC —Ivan Urlaub of NCSEA

Like the previous speaker, Ivan Urlaub of the North Carolina Sustainable Energy Association (NCSEA) pointed out there are downsides to too many incentives, such as too much dependence on them which means if they end, so can the industry. So how to generate demand?

They’ve done it in North Carolina:

91% of voters support using solar power to meet our growing needs for energy and electricity
Solar is hands down the most popular energy source across NC, across parties, ages, genders, etc. Coal and nuclear are the politically charged energy sources, and neither got a majority. Number 2 was offshore wind with 83% and number 3 was onshore wind with 82% support. Here’s the NCSEA press release. Here’s the survey.

How did they do this? Continue reading

If it works in Germany, it works everywhere —Nuri Demirdoven of McKinsey

Germany is a world leader in solar and other renewable energy because it decided to do it and provided incentives. Nuri Demirdoven of McKinsey & Company said at the Southern Solar Summit that in the U.S. southeast there is not currently enough demand to see solar become widespread before 2020: unless incentives are provided. Distributed solar is in a better position due to no need for distribution, he added.

About incentives, he asked:

“Why not Georgia?”
He recommends taking advantages of our strengths in this region. We may not have a lot of demand yet, but we have two solar manufacturers in Georgia, and increasing interest in incentives by the state.
Overall solar works, and is an economic development engine. But the question is what are the commitments you are willing to make, in understanding your strengths, and picking one or two goals.
He cited TVA as an example of an organization that has done that and is moving ahead.

He recommended making a business case for solar in Georgia. Many of the other speakers are busily doing various pieces of that.


Sign up for renewable energy from Georgia Power —Jaime Hockin @ Solar Summit

Panelist Jaime Hockin of Georgia Power pointed out that gapower customers can sign up for green energy right now. Here’s where: Residential Green Energy Signup.
  1. Standard Green Energy Option: $3.50 (plus tax) a month per 100 kWh block.
    This option delivers Green-e Energy certified renewable energy that is generated entirely by biomass.
  2. Premium Green Energy with Solar Option: $5.00 (plus tax) a month per 100 kWh block.
    This option delivers Green-e Energy certified renewable energy that contains a mix of at least 50% solar and 50% biomass energy.
You get a separate line item on your bill for whichever one you buy.

Some people claim that there’s no way to do this because it’s just electrons once it gets on the wire. Sure, and money is just dollars once you spend it. But contracts can determine where those dollars go, and in exchange for what:

Due to the way electricity is transmitted and distributed, energy purchased or produced from renewable energy resources may not be specifically delivered to you. However, the renewable energy you purchase will be added to the power grid and will displace incremental power that would have otherwise been produced from traditional generating resources.
So as Jaime Hockin advised, if you want to show you want renewable energy, and you are a Georgia Power customer, sign up and Georgia Power will hear you!


No land for solar in Georgia?

Nelson Hawk, after an excellent panel presentation at the Georgia Solar Summit, repeated the old canard that there’s not much land available for solar in the southeast. I couldn’t stand it, and blurted out “parking lots!” And airports, and road rights of way, and, let me think: rooftops! Or waste water treatment plants, like Valdosta just used, or barns on the north edges of fields, or the acreage Georgia Power is wasting on nuclear plants, or….

Gretchen Quarterman and Dan Corrie
Dan Corrie notes that Cobb EMC bought up 3600 acres in Ben Hill County for a coal plant. That acreage could generate quite a bit of solar power!