SEPAPower Blog :

Expanding opportunities for solar collaboration in Minnesota -- and at SEPA

Earlier this month, Julia Hamm, SEPA's CEO, traveled to Minnesota to do something she, or any other SEPA representative, had never done before -- testify at a state legislative hearing. Her appearance at the hearing reflects the increasingly rapid transitions underway in the utility and solar industries, the resulting challenges for policy makers and SEPA’s own evolution to stay in front of these changes.

Electric co-ops get creative to finance solar

Across the United States, electric cooperatives serving rural areas and small towns are fielding a growing number of requests from their owner-members to provide options for them to use solar energy. But as nonprofit businesses that cannot take advantage of the 30-percent federal income tax credit, co-ops have had to come up with smart, creative ways to finance and deliver solar power at competitive prices.

SEPA project aims to spread community solar

A $705,830 competitive award from the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative will allow the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) to launch a groundbreaking research initiative aimed at accelerating the spread of community solar energy programs across the country.

Tanuj Deora Joins SEPA as Chief Strategy Officer

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has announced that Tanuj Deora has joined the educational nonprofit's executive team in the newly created position of Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President. Deora will provide strategic direction and leadership for SEPA and oversee the organization’s advisory services, education, research and communications activities.

Multiple strategies needed to cut solar interconnection times

When utility customers decide to go solar, the question frequently uppermost in their minds is -- “How long will it take before my system is up and running?" The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, along with the Solar Electric Power Association and other organizations, have launched the Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative to help the solar industry cut interconnection time and costs.

Solar panels 'far as the eye can see' coming to rural Georgia

Solar is growing in all corners of the U.S., but what is happening in rural Georgia provides a compelling example of the transformative nature of the solar market. On a flat, open stretch of land along Highway 96 in the south central part of the state, ground will soon be broken for a 131-megawatt (MW) solar project that will, in one stroke, more than double the amount of solar power procured by electric cooperatives across the country.

Arizona's utility-owned solar programs: New price models, grid integration and collaboration

While left off most year-end reviews, the approval of programs that will put two Arizona utilities in the rooftop solar business could be 2014's watershed event. Rather than the potential setback for solar some advocates and installers fear, the programs that Arizona Public Service and Tucson Electric Power will launch this year could be a pivotal step toward much-needed new pricing models and technology for integrating more renewables onto the grid.

We've got 40 entries for the 51st State -- now, where's yours?

Launching a visionary initiative such as the 51st State is always a leap of faith -- exhilarating, but also a little bit daunting. Would people sign on to the Solar Electric Power Association's call for new ideas of how to build a clean, affordable and resilient energy system from the ground up, as if for a hypothetical 51st state with no rules or regulations? So far 40 groups and individuals are on board -- and we want more.

The Caribbean is a test-bed for solar utopia

On the surface, the azure blue waters of the Caribbean Sea have the makings of a solar energy utopia — combining the islands' warm, sunny climate and retail electricity prices topping 60 cents per kilowatt hour. But, as with most ideals, the devil is in the details, and the Caribbean represents a real-time laboratory for two of utilities' most pressing solar challenges: grid integration and cost recovery.

Renewables give utilities a fresh start on customer communications

Creating a smart, resilient grid -- one integrating advanced technologies with local, renewable energy and innovative business models -- means utilities must develop better customer communications strategies. "Customer engagement" has become a hot topic across the industry, pushing utilities to gain a better understanding of whom they're talking to and how to best to reach them.

The E.ON effect: Will U.S. utilities have their own energy transition?

When E.ON, one of Europe’s largest utilities, announced this week it would spin off its conventional power generation business into a separate entity and refocus on renewables, efficiency and grid operations, an obvious question arose. Could similar transitions be coming to utilities in the United States? In a word, yes.

Mainstreaming solar energy means trade-offs -- and rewards

Two concentrated solar power plants are among five finalists for a major industry award, nominations that underline the technical achievements and increasing acceptance of large-scale solar into the United States' energy mainstream. CSP may remain controversial in the public mind for its costs and environmental impacts, but anyone who has seen one of these mammoth projects spreading out over thousands of acres of public land in the American Southwest cannot help but be a little awestruck.

Another record quarter and new trends in the drive for grid parity

New signs that utility-scale solar projects can successfully compete with traditional generation in wholesale markets may be the big story coming out of new third quarter figures for the utility-scale sector. Of the 18 utility-scale projects coming online in Q3 -- a total of 424.28 megawatts (MW) -- three were built and went into operation without power purchase agreements (PPAs). All three are instead selling their electricity into bulk power markets.

51st State has space for a range of ideas for new energy system

The Solar Electric Power Association's 51st State Initiative is looking for impatient innovators, like the individuals who posted comments to articles about the nonprofit's effort to draw ideas for an energy system of the future. From energy efficiency to cut demand, to combined heat and power plants to provide electricity for local manufacture of solar panels, the 51st State is already generating a broad range of possible solutions for building a clean, affordable and sustainable energy system from the ground up.

Electric co-ops power up a solar surge

Across the country, scores of electric cooperatives are turning to solar power, for largely pragmatic reasons -- economics and customer choice. Recognizing the opportunity, co-op leaders are seeking and beginning to find active ways for their utilities to support and shape the growth of solar among their members, with community solar projects and other innovative business models.

With Climate Change Accelerating, What's the Role for Solar?

Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association, slept in Sunday, so she did not listen to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change release its final report on the current state of climate change, live-streamed from Copenhagen. Still, reading the report's Summary for Policy Makers, she makes clear connections between the IPCC findings and trends in the United State's solar industry.

Sterling Municipal Light: A small utility goes big on solar

For small utilities looking to tackle the challenges of financing solar projects and integrating them into their energy portfolios, at least one key component is executive level buy-in and a commitment to finding innovative, smart solutions. In other words, they need someone like Sean Hamilton, general manager of Sterling Municipal Light Department (SMLD), a public utility providing power to a small town in central Massachusetts. Hamilton is, by his own admission, not a big self-promoter, so he and SMLD have largely flown under the utility solar radar in recent years, all the while building out local solar projects equal to 30 percent of the department’s peak load. I

The 51st State: Full text of Julia Hamm's SPI speech

At the opening session of Solar Power International in Las Vegas on Oct. 20, Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) launched the 51st State Initiative, a challenge and invitation to stakeholders across the solar industry to come up with new visions for a future energy sector outside current regulatory and market structures. Here is the full text of her speech.

Will the 51st State offer a fresh start for solar?

Imagine a future in which solar energy and all the industry stakeholders -- from utilities to installers and manufacturers to customers -– were unhampered by existing regulatory and market structures and the challenges and at times divisive debates they have created. What if we could start over again in a hypothetical 51st state, building from the ground up a fully diversified and integrated energy sector that would benefit all?

Can Germany power down big generation and still thrive?

One of the many revelations of SEPA’s 2014 fact-finding mission to Germany is that the impacts of the country's energy transition -- the Energiewende -- are bigger than the growth of solar or wind, the shuttering of nuclear plants, rising electricity rates or an electricity generation market turned on its head. Germany is betting that a wealthy, industrialized nation can transform its economy from one powered almost entirely by electricity from central generation stations to one largely run on distributed, renewable energy sources.