"2011 ASES Trip Report"
Solar Oregon Board Member Kacia Brockman reports back on her participation in the American Solar Energy Society conference in Raleigh, NC.
Solar 2011, the annual solar energy conference organized by the American Solar Energy Society, took place in Raleigh, NC, in April. The conference typically has a two-part focus on scientific research and solar policy. I go for the policy discussions. As a board member for Solar Oregon and manager of Energy Trust of Oregon’s solar incentive program, it’s my chance to network with my counterparts from other states and share best practices.
I organized a panel discussion for the conference that presented several different markets successfully using group purchasing strategies to increase and accelerate the number of solar installations. The group models we discussed are all designed to make it easier to get solar installed on one’s home by organizing homeowners into groups. The Solarize model used so successfully in Oregon was presented by NW SEED, which authored a Solarize Guidebook and is now running a Solarize campaign in Seattle. The City of San Jose described a group purchase program it organized to encourage its employees to install PV systems on their homes. One Block Off the Grid presented its for-profit service to organize residential group PV purchases for communities around the country. And the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society presented its coordination of a group purchase of residential solar water heating systems.
At the conference, I was particularly interested to learn about successful solar water heating programs and was impressed by two innovative programs created by electric utilities. Valley Electric Association Coop, a consumer-owned electric utility in Nevada, negotiated a bulk purchase price with a solar water heater manufacturer to bring down the cost of residential solar water heating for its customers. The program has resulted in 500 new installations and 11 jobs in the community and is still growing. The utility sees residential solar water heating as an effective way to reduce peak demand on their distribution network.
Lakeland Electric, a consumer-owned utility in Florida, offers a solar hot water service in which the utility installs, owns and maintains solar water heaters on its customers’ homes and charges a fee on the customers’ bills. Based on customer feedback, Lakeland recently shifted its service charge to a flat monthly fee, fixed for 20 years, and it hopes to increase the numbers of installations from the hundreds to the thousands.
Finally, the California Solar Initiative has launched a large scale incentive program for residential, multifamily and commercial solar water heating systems. This program will dramatically increase the scale of the U.S. solar thermal market and should capture the attention of manufacturers, hopefully resulting in increased competition and equipment price reductions. I expect Oregon to benefit from those market changes.
Next year’s ASES conference will be in Denver. Hope to see you there!
Solar Oregon Board Member