As part of our participation in the National Solar Conference, in San Francisco this summer, CSVP team members produced a paper for American Solar Energy Society Proceedings. The paper focuses on the value to utilities of adding a significant amount of distributed, local PV to the community solar portfolio. This is in contrast to opting only for low-cost centralized solar resource, delivered from the transmission grid, through a retail community-solar tariff. (An updated version of both the paper and presentation are now available; see below. This includes slight improvements, thanks to our generous peers.)
The so-called cost gap between centralized solar and distributed solar has created an unanticipated barrier to local community solar programs. At risk are some much needed local flexible-grid benefits and other strategic utility-program values. As we looked hard at that problem, the CSVP team began an analysis, which resulted in this paper. The paper, A New Tone of VOS: Improving the Argument for Local Community Solar, is available if you send us a note on the Contact page, and the presentation is available below, with this post.
It introduces a new process, aimed at triggering utility acceptance for a mixed fleet of community solar resources, which includes a significant and growing distributed PV. The process begins with discussion of a realistic hypothetical case, allowing internal utility stakeholders to consider solutions without arguing about details. And it is goal oriented, toward meeting a benefits target, rather than toward adding up every possible solar benefit. The process applies analytics sparingly, to facilitate better decision-making under highly changeable technology, market, and policy conditions.
In writing this paper, the coauthors, Jill Cliburn and John Powers from the CSVP team, with Joe Bourg of Millennium Energy, offer something provocative for utilities to consider. As we dicsuss, not all utilities will be able to implement this strategy point-by-point, and we know that. But the process described—focusing on the strategic narrative, rather than the spreadsheets—is, we believe, a timely and broadly useful contribution.
Finally, let’s add a word about the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), and its role in getting our team to sit down and write! The organization has sponsored the National Solar Conference for 45 years, and it continues to encourage rigorous thinking and academic-style presentations. This is a relatively small organization (these days) within our burgeoning industry. But the sometimes-painful process of writing a paper for publication has reminded us that careful research, analysis, and discourse can lead us all in new and exciting directions.