The Solar Value Project represents leading energy thinkers and do-ers, ready to make community-scale solar better through strategic design, storage and load flexibility. This website is your place to follow high-value innovations and to review your options, including access to free resources and consulting support.
Many of our resources derive from a multi-year U.S. DOE-funded effort called the Community Solar Value Project. We worked on CSVP with public power, investor-owned utilities and world-class innovation partners. Among new efforts, we have initiated Solar-Plus for Electric Co-ops (SPECs) with the U.S. DOE Solar Energy Innovation Network and we support the National Community Solar Partnership. Follow our Blog for new content, as well as our community solar Solutions pages and information advancing solar, storage, and load flexibility for local utilities and the communities they serve.
Site Sponsors Cliburn and Associates and Extensible Energy 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. In 2021, Cliburn manages this site, including new work from the Solar Plus for Electric Co-ops project, the Community Solar Partnership, and more.
A webinar sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society recently featured Jill Cliburn in a discussion about the nexus between local storage and community solar. This discussion blended findings from our Solar-Plus work for NREL's Solar Energy Innovation Network
with experience in community solar. Slides from the webinar are available here.
Despite the pace of solar and storage innovation, many principles of good project planning and lessons-learned still count. We've separated older material under the Archived Media and Archived Blog tabs, while we continue to add new material every month. We are working on a full directory, but in the meantime, we're happy to give you a personal tour of our Solutions guide. And, from the way-back machine, interest in adapting rates for solar and solar-plus is resurging. Here's our primer on solar rate-making principles and issues, which Cliburn co-authored for SEPA.
Blog: Utilities, Don't Run From Right-Sized Solar
In light of wholesale PPAs in the U.S. averaging less than 3 cents per kWh, the utility solar market is booming with expansive solar possibilities. Today, there is even a strong case to be made for purposely over-building centralized solar resources and dispatching or curtailing them to ease the need for storage in a mostly-renewables world. Yet our work is still focused on local, community-scale solar—sometimes integrated with storage or load management.
Recently, someone asked me why I've been so dogged about solutions on the local grid. I recalled how a few years ago, while our team was breaking new ground for community solar, I called our locally focused work "a market-based laboratory." That is still true—and still rewarding today. Work at the community scale provides specific solutions, replicable solutions and scalable solutions—the benefits of which are just starting to unfold. Utility culture bends toward centralized systems, but the future is so much more diverse and better than that. I'll tell you why... and how.
News and Resources
Cliburn and Kit Carson Electric Co-op Present at
PLMA and Policy Forums About Local Grid Optimization
Get ready to tune in May 10–12, 2021 for the Peak Load Management Alliance 43rd National Conference, where Jill Cliburn, Solar Value Project lead, and Luis Reyes of New Mexico's Kit Carson Electric Cooperative (KCEC) will discuss ways to use battery storage to optimize rising solar and DERs. KCEC is a leader among co-ops, on track to achieve 100% daytime solar this year in and around Taos, New Mexico. Cliburn will discuss the KCEC demonstration of SPECs project lessons-learned, and KCEC will discuss energy storage in combination with a complementary tool—grid-visibility software from Camus Energy. Camus software helps identify where KCEC would find storage most valuable, while showing in real time how local solar, storage and DERs are performing. The PLMA talk will build on a presentation that Reyes, Cliburn and the Camus team provided in January to state policymakers. As high-penetration solar markets are just emerging nationwide, this case study promises a real-world peek into the future.
Community Solar Solutions for Consumer-Owned Utilities
Jill Cliburn dubbed it the Best Zoom Call of the Fall: a kick-off meeting November 18 for public power utilities to launch new efforts with the National Community Solar Partnership. Dozens of utility program managers shared insights regarding the kinds of support they would find useful to move community solar forward in different markets and while facing a range of technical, financial and pricing challenges. For the Solar Value Project, it was a time to listen and learn–but also call to offer Solutions from the work of those who came before. Click here for a new Blog that details some of the most relevant, still-useful resources from our work with public power utilities in 2015-18. We look forward to the NCSP and its new resources, especially to address opportunities that just emerged in the past two to three years. But if you are working on a community solar project or program right now, we're sure you will find our new Blog on Community Solar Resources useful right "out of the box."
2020 Trends for Utility Solar and Storage
The Electricity Markets and Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs recently released updated information on solar and storage growth trends, including PPA pricing data that indicates a solar price drop of more than 70% in the last decade and relatively low storage-cost premiums across project sizes. LBNL presented findings during Smart Energy Week this fall. Although the conference is over, many presentations are downloadable for registrants. Another annually awaited source, from Lazard, provides ranges for solar and storage pricing, indicating that utility-scale renewables are now robustly cost-competitive. Lazard draws a price range for community solar on the low end of C&I projects, from $63 to $94/MWH.
Cliburn Presents at National Community Solar Virtual Conference
In November 2020, Cliburn joined community solar innovators and advocates from around the country for a virtual conference of the National Community Solar Partnership. Sponsored by the U.S. DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Program, NCSP welcomes participants to share best practices about policies, programs and projects nationwide. As a TA consultant to the NCSP, Cliburn has been assisting the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources in work with stakeholders toward a low/moderate income carve-out for their existing community solar program. Cliburn's conference presentation spotlights program innovations and successful public engagement in this time of Covid.