The Solar Value Project represents leading energy thinkers and doers, ready to make community-scale solar better through strategic design, storage, and load flexibility. Initially designed to support public power, electric cooperatives and the communities they serve, the Solar Value Project has contributed to the growth of community solar and solar-plus strategies nationwide. We offer a planning framework that encompasses best practices and innovations, as well as practical strategies for stakeholder collaboration and economic assessment. We also highlight the challenges that smaller and more rural utilities face and the rewards that their efforts can bring.
This website was first launched through our work on a U.S. DOE-funded effort, the Community Solar Value Project. A selection of those CSVP resources is provided under the tab for Shared Solar. Today, we also feature more recent work on SPECs–Solar-Plus for Electric Co-ops and for clients, including the National Community Solar Partnership.
Site Sponsors Cliburn and Associates and Extensible Energy (now Elexity) initiated the Community Solar Value Project in 2015, with partners from Olivine and Navigant Consulting (now Guidehouse). We were joined by SMUD and other utilities that wanted to "make community solar better." Our path led to ground-breaking work in solar-plus-storage and load flexibility. Today, Cliburn has added new work from the Solar Plus for Electric Co-ops project and more.
Presentation at ASES National Solar Conference Highlights Energy Equity
Cliburn and our colleagues from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center participated in the ASES flagship conference in 2022. Cliburn presented on community solar plus energy efficiency innovations, aimed at increasing program impacts from both the LMI customer's view and from the utility's view. A copy of the presentation is offered here. To join in the discussion, send us a comment.
Navigation Tips: Solutions Pages are Now Under "Shared Solar"
As the NREL Solar Energy Innovation Network culminates Round 2 efforts, our Solar-Plus for Electric Co-ops project has launched a suite of new tools. The Community Solar Value Project archives are now found under the Shared Solar tab. If you find a stray link for community solar related information that doesn't connect, just head over to the Shared Solar tab, and please let us know if a stray link got away!
Blog: It's Time to Join the Community Solar Conversation
At the Solar Value Project, we believe 2023 marks a shift in our industry and our work. Many utilities, including electric co-ops and public power, are embracing renewables, and some are accepting the challenges of advancing community solar, DERs and local grid orchestration. Utility relationships with wholesale suppliers and markets are still in flux, as are their relationships with business partners that are big and getting bigger. Yet the communities these utilities serve are clear in their focus on local benefits. As the clean energy transition takes off, we see tension between the drive for speed and scale on the one hand and for local decision-making, resilience, and social equity on the other. There is a role and a reason for local utilities to join in the work of striking this delicate balance.
I came to this conclusion while attending the recent National Community Solar Summit, co-sponsored by the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), as well as SEIA and SEPA. The event was co-located with a second summit, organized by the U.S. DOE-sponsored National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP). These tandem summits could easily have drawn stark contrasts between opposing visions—and each summit did hold a distinct perspective. But the meetings unfolded more as a game of Red Rover, where each side (one more motivated by business and one more motivated by social change) invited the other to “come over” and create a difficult, but necessary coalition. Read more
News and Resources
New! Solar Solutions for Texas Electric Cooperatives 2023
We were pleased to contribute recently to a virtual workshop on Solar Solutions for Texas Electric Cooperatives, which was produced by the Texas Solar Energy Society (TXSES), featuring presentations organized with our support through the National Community Solar Partnership (NCSP). Jill Cliburn, who is a Technical Advisor to the NCSP, presented an overview of new resources, an update on incentives from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and relevant co-op case studies. Other cases studies presented featured Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative in Texas and La Plata Electric Cooperative in Colorado, as well as a discussion led by Karl Rábago, Rábago Energy LLC, on reassessing the value of local solar. Enjoy a recording of the workshop on the TXSES website, and download Jill's slide presentation here.
New! SPECs Solar-Plus Model and Guide Address
Policy and Market Game-Changers for Non-Profit Utilities
Over the past year, Jill Cliburn and Technical Associate Christian Casillas teamed up with the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center to test the SPECs Early-Stage Decision Model (ESD) with public power communities in North Carolina. In the course of that work, we demonstrated the model's appeal to both electric co-ops and public power utilities. We made enhancements to the model and fixed minor bugs to improve usability for all users. Since coincident peak demand reduction has been a major driver for NC Electricities members, a new CP-reduction (only) scenario was added to the list of use cases that already supported forward-looking "value stacking" scenarios. Refinements in the Version 4 model and manual also address varying peak forecasting capabilities and supply-chain uncertainties that affect today's solar and storage pricing. Most important, new benefits in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 are incorporated. The IRA opens more direct-purchase options for co-ops and munis, as well as technical design options for solar- and/or grid-charged battery systems.
The ESD's ability to quickly assess changing market conditions and to support broader community participation in early-stage decision-making remain among the model's greatest strengths. We invite readers to check out the ESD Model, its fully documented User's Manual, and on-line educational guidance. From what we can tell, the Solar Value Project is one of only a few solar and storage modeling tools that jumped on the need to update for today's game-changing market and policy conditions.
Just Released: Workbook from NREL and APPA
Outlines Community Solar Solutions for 2022 and Beyond
You don't have to work for a public power utility to appreciate the new Municipal Utility Community Solar Workbook, released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and American Public Power Association this summer. We, at the Solar Value Project, are proud to see that some of the resources posted on our own Shared Solar web pages are referenced in the document, including timeless webinars featuring public power's community solar innovators, resources explaining common solar business models, a procurement library (see also, our newer library of solar-plus RFPs), and a catalog of community solar projects that use different customer-facing pricing options. But even if we love working at the forefront of community solar, the truth is, a lot of great new things have happened in the field of community solar in the past 5 to 7 years, when most of our original Shared Solar resources were developed. We've kept up with postings and blogs on these pages. But this Workbook is truly a treasure trove of current best practices, and we highly recommend it!
Cliburn Expands Associates Roster to Ready for New TA Assignments
If your organization is looking for technical assistance (TA) to expand community access to solar, then catch the latest news from the National Community Solar Partnership. The NCSP already represents more than 1,000 member organizations in all 50 states. It offers a breadth of technical assistance (TA), and the recently streamlined TA application process is easy. Cliburn and Associates has been a NCSP TA provider and coach to a total of twelve projects so far, regarding program design, pricing, policy, marketing strategy, stakeholder engagement and more. Last year, Cliburn presented at a national NCSP conference on her engagement with the State of Rhode Island, as they planned a low/moderate income carve-out for their existing community solar program. Looking ahead, we have added some new, outstanding independent associates the Cliburn team roster, including Dr. Christian Casillas and Dr. Gilbert Michaud, in order to contribute to the growing success of the NCSP. Stay tuned!
Updated Trends for Utility Solar-Plus-Storage and Distributed PV
The Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Berkeley Lab is a valuable source of information on utility solar and storage growth trends, including its 2021 Tracking the Sun report, which focuses on distributed PV, and it 2021 update on utility solar costs and configurations. Additional publications at LBL have focused specifically on hybrid project market development, including solar-plus and other resource-plus projects. Recently, LBL shared their Top Ten Lessons Learned about hybrid (solar or wind plus storage) development. It's worth a read!
Cliburn and Kit Carson Electric Co-op Present at "PLMA," the
Peak Load Management Alliance Conference
The Peak Load Management Alliance included presentations from Jill Cliburn, Solar Value Project lead, and Luis Reyes of New Mexico's Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC). The pair discussed ways to use battery storage to optimize rising solar and DERs. KCEC is a leader among co-ops, recently achieving a 100% daytime solar goal for its territory in and around Taos, New Mexico. Reyes shared his experience, which led to the co-op's recent procurement of 15 MW of utility-side battery storage at two sites. Those projects will tap multiple value streams, including wholesale coincident demand reduction, but also management of solar over-production and possibly, market needs for ancillary services. Cliburn discussed SPECs project tools as they apply to each of these needs, in addition to addressing the hard-to-monetize value of resilience in a fire-prone region. The PLMA tuned into SPECs' perspective on the likelihood that, as storage value streams become better understood, a variety of combined use cases will emerge. For example, demand reduction may be achieved by orchestrating solar-plus-storage and also demand response or load flexibility. As a bit of time has passed, it is important to note that KCEC continues to innovate and to add solar-plus projects.