Greentown Michiana 2.0: The Future of Inovateus & Solar Power: An Interview with TJ Kanczuzewski and Peter Rienks

Innovation is the common theme linking many healthy, sustainable communities across the country, and Inovateus, based in South Bend, Indiana, derives its name from the word “innovation.” Yet it is also focused on community well-being, says TJ Kanczuzewski, CEO, making it a natural partner for GreenTown.

Since its founding in 2003, this provider of integrated solar energy products and services has been laser focused on creating innovative alternative energy solutions, specifically using solar electricity.

GreenTown recently conducted an interview with Kanczuzewski and Peter Rienks, Senior Account Executive, to learn more about the future of Inovateus and solar power.

 

GreenTown: Tell us about the beginnings of Inovateus Solar, and how you have grown in recent years.

TJ: My father, Tom, was concerned about the world’s energy future, and he had this idea. He researched different types of renewable energy, and solar power was the one he thought made the most sense as it related to the electrical infrastructure in the United States.  And solar proved to be the solution that could be most easily implemented with existing buildings and during new construction.

Since we started ten years ago, we’ve grown quickly through our work with corporations, utilities and municipalities across the U.S. But it’s our focus on community well-being and sustainability that have opened many doors. We now have 25 employees, mostly in the South Bend area.

Peter: Another quality that differs from other solar companies is that as an integrator we are turnkey – but we’ll also work with any suppliers. So we are a service-oriented company. We sell engineering expertise and full-service, integrated photovoltaic solutions, from design to development to construction.

 

You have completed projects around the U.S. and in the Caribbean with companies such as IKEA, GE and Ford Motors. Tell us about some of your bigger projects.

Peter: Kari-Out is the largest maker of those packets of soy sauce and hot sauce that come with takeout food. The solar project we helped them create now generates 80 percent of the factory’s power. The business owners are very fiscally responsible and are driven by return on investment. They are saving about $500,000 a year on energy costs. Payback will take about four years.

As you mention, General Electric is a strong relationship. They were looking for a partner to help them with a solar carport. GE called and liked that we spend time educating people about solar – it’s part of our customer mission. The installation was so successful GE approached us about installing solar-powered charging stations around the country. We have done several installations for electrical vehicle or EV charging stations, which is a major municipal trend now.

 

GreenTown: What are the biggest hurdles to overcome?

TJ: Return on investment — ROI — normally comes up first. The second concern is about caring for a property: On the ground or on the roof, how does the installation take place? Are you making holes in the roof? Third, it’s people that make solar investments a success. Most of our clients don’t have much experience working with solar power projects, if any, so a lot of education is required.

The fourth hurdle is understanding how solar works. Most people and companies are tied into the utility. They don’t think about how much energy they use and consume, and they don’t think about how electricity is generated.

If you combine all these, the takeaway is that solar is a different way of thinking for most Americans. If you add solar panels to your house or business, you have to look at it as the same investment as a new facility or renovated kitchen. When you’re generating your own electricity, you achieve independence. That first step is difficult for many of us. Most people don’t like change. Now that we’re getting into the energy revolution, people and organizations are doing it their own way, producing their own electricity and no longer relying solely on the utilities and the grid. It’s a different way of thinking.

As experts in solar applications, there is a lot we have to teach. Typical payback, for example, ranges from two to ten years, with most projects in the three to five year range.

Peter: The Midwest is a very interesting solar market. We have decent sun exposure but the main driver is energy cost in the Great Lakes states. We have relatively low energy costs, which is great for businesses and residential customers, but those energy costs have been rising in the Midwest steadily, about three to five percent annually. Now we’re at nine cents per kilowatt-hour, or eight in some places, but as prices for solar drop [CORRECT?] and rates for electricity rise, we’re probably at about an eight-year payback. In the next five years energy costs could rise 25 to 50 percent.

So solar makes sense now but will be close to grid parity in the next several years. It’s an emerging market and we want to educate people so that they are ready when the economics of solar makes sense.

 

GreenTown: Discuss the differences between solar and wind power.

The difference between solar and wind is that solar produces power when utility charges peak rates and people are consuming most energy: 8am to 5pm. You can put solar on site where energy is being used, and you can build solar in the desert. Wind is more site-specific. Solar works most anywhere.

Wind works best when it’s big, as in a utility-scale project. Not everyone can put a wind turbine on their house or place of business, but there are many windy areas where you can put up a wind farm.

Solar power systems cater more to residences, businesses and consumers, while wind works at the utility scale.

 

GreenTown: What’s holding solar power back?

TJ: It needs to get a little cheaper in some areas. And we have to offer more education for customers. But people are becoming more knowledgeable about the benefits of solar. And if solar became less political, more people would support it.

Peter: Ten years ago people wrote it off because it was a 30-year payback. Now it’s a five-year payback. People are starting to notice, too.

 

GreenTown: What are your near-term business goals?

TJ: We are currently the 18th largest solar company in the U.S. We are hoping to be top 10 by 2016 and top five by 2020. We are very passionate about solar and think it will be big in our country. We have a great workforce in Michiana and have the professionals to achieve those goals. We see solar as needed and we are only in our infancy.

Peter: We are also getting into the manufacturing business and develop products to lower the installed costs of solar. It’s bringing more jobs to South Bend and lowering the installed cost of solar.

Innovation is what we’re about. We’re a very creative group and always challenging what’s out there and trying to raise the bar.

 

GreenTown: How can people learn more?

TJ: Come to GreenTown Michiana April 22 in downtown South Bend. And check out the tools we have on our web site. And there are many industry organizations we belong to that provide great information, including Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association, Indiana Renewable Energy Association, Illinois Solar Energy Association and others. Working with a group like Inovateus, people can get a handle on much of that information.

Peter: In South Bend, you can see one of our installations at TRANSPO’s LEED Platinum Administration, Maintenance and Operations Facility at 1401 S. Lafayette. We designed and installed the solar panels, which now help defray costs and improve the energy profile for TRANSPO. The 100 kilowatt installation helped grant the building LEED Platinum certification, and it’s the largest Uni-Solar installation in Indiana.

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Purdue Finishes Strong at SolarDecat​hlon; Achieves 2nd Place Overall

 

Bloomington, IN October 12, 2011—Purdue University and Solar Systems of Indiana, partnered in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon.

Team Purdue’s design recorded a 2nd-place finish overall, with a perfect score in Energy Balance. Their entry, called INhome, was described by one observer as “a refreshingly pragmatic and affordable energy marvel.”

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is an award-winning program that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

“In preparation for the 2011 Solar Decathlon, Team Purdue approached Solar Systems of Indiana, seeking an industry expert to lend design and installation support of solar panels for its solar INhome entry,” said Solar Systems of Indiana Vice-President Danielle Urschel.

“You’ll be interested to know that the PV system was one of the keys to our successful finish,” said Bill Hutzel of Purdue’s Engineering Department. “The weather was overcast during the entire competition and our solar panels gave us a distinct advantage.  Many of the contending teams did not produce enough solar electricity to complete the contest, even though they had large arrays, microinverters, and spent more money than we did. I think it was a combination of the high efficiency modules, proper mounting angles, and quality balance of system components.”

Solar Systems of Indiana assisted the Purdue team with the design, integration and installation of a 8.68KW PV array. The 36 module array included 24 high efficiency modules on the south roof and a 12 module tilt up array on the northside of the structure.

The U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon helps the visiting public learn about the benefits of applying sustainable, energy efficient and cost-saving features to their own homes. This year, twenty teams of university students competed in 10 contests, including architecture, engineering, energy balance and market appeal. Teams included American universities (Ohio State University, Middlebury College, CCNY); university consortiums (such as one formed by The Southern California Institute of Architecture and the California Institute of Technology); and a number of international universities, including China’s Tongji University, New Zealand’s Victoria University of Wellington, and Ghent University of Belgium.

The competition commenced with an opening ceremony on September 22 in the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in Washington, D.C., and closed with the final awards ceremony on the afternoon of October 1. Throughout the competition, the public could tour the houses for free. The first Solar Decathlon was held in 2002, and competitions now take place every other year.

About Solar Systems of Indiana, Inc.

Based in Bloomington, IN. Solar Systems of Indiana, Inc. is a growing design/build solar firm serving Indiana and the surrounding states. The company has custom designed and installed solar energy systems for its commercial, institutional, government, and residential customers across the Midwest. Solar Systems of Indiana is focused on making it easier for customers to go solar.

 

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Want to participate in upcoming ASES/InREA Solar and Renewable Energy Tours in Indiana Sat., Oct. 1st?

The American Solar Energy Society  (ASES) is sponsoring the National Solar Tour  (NST) again this year and planning is now underway for Indiana Solar and Renewable Energy Tours throughout the state of Indiana on Saturday, October 1, 2011. This will be the third year that the Indiana Renewable Energy Association (InREA) will be coordinating tours.

There will be a big push this year to collect information on all solar and renewable energy projects throughout the state whether or not these projects are actually on the physical tours. The compilation of this data is expected to result in a new Virtual Solar and Renewable Energy Tour presentation which will be unveiled at InREA’s annual meeting in November 2011 and will eventually be uploaded for viewing on this website.

In the meantime, we urge everyone with a solar photovoltaic system to also participate in The Open PV Project sponsored by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  This is the type of data base that InREA hopes to create and we need your help.

Please let us know if you would like to participate by sending an email to: info@indianarenew.org.

See EVENTS http://www.indianarenew.org/events/.

 

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Solar PV Training Program Offered in Brown County to Prep for NACEB Exam

Greetings Fellow InREA Members:

Hey, how are you doing?

I wanted to reach out and spread the word about an upcoming solar training in August at the Brown County Career Resource Center located in Nashville, IN. This course will prep participants to sit for the NABCEP entry level exam. BCCRC is only one of two NABCEP approved “Entry Level” providers in the entire state of Indiana. You don’t have to drive to Wisconsin or Ohio!!

This is a fantastic opportunity to garner a RE credential and get a head start in the renewable energy field. The NABCEP credential is nationally recognized. If you know someone who might be interested, by all means…. pass this e-mail on.

The Details:

Solar PhotoVoltaic (PV) program at the Brown County Career Resource Center August 8-13, 2011

The Brown County Career Resource Center, located in Nashville, IN is offering a week long solar electric workshop. The course is designed for people looking to gain basic knowledge with solar PV technology and provide participants to sit for the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) PV Entry Level Exam.  Students attending the workshop will learn solar PV electricity basics, solar energy fundamentals, PV module fundamentals, PV site assessment, PV system components, PV system sizing, PV system design, working safely with PV and PV markets and applications. Participants will be given some hands-on training. Participants who have completed the workshop will be able to sit for the NABCEP PV Entry level exam.
The last day 8/13, will be a 1/2 day review to help students prepare for the exam, then the exam will be administered that afternoon.

The workshop is taught by NABCEP certified PV installer, Alex Jarvis.

Learning Objectives

The NABCEP PV Entry Level exam program is based on a set of learning objectives developed by a committee of PV subject matter experts. The learning objectives include ten (10) skill sets:
Photo Voltaic (PV) Solar Markets and Applications
Safety Basics
Electricity Basics
Solar Energy Fundamentals
PV Module Fundamentals
System Components
PV System Sizing
PV System Mechanical and Electrical Design
PV Siting
Performance Analysis, Maintenance & Troubleshooting

Time Table:
August 8-12 from 8:00 am – 5:00 PM
NABCEP Test August 13 or by arrangement.

Location:
Brown County Career Resource Center
246 E. Main Street, P.O. Box 2087 Nashville, IN 47448

Cost:
$650
Includes textbook, workshop materials and the NABCEP PV Entry Level Exam.

This coursework is offered at easily twice the price from other training providers.
We have tried our best provide excellent training while at the same time keeping the enrollment cost down. Space is limited so don’t wait too long to enroll.

Register by:
July 27th, 2011

Please contact: David Bartlett (812) 988-5880 or dbartlett@brownco.k12.in.us
or Shiela Roccia, sroccia@brownco.k12.in.us

Thank you,
Alex Jarvis

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Save the Dates: July 20-21, 2011 for Indiana Renewable Energy Conference

For more details and updates CLICK HERE.

WIndiana 2011 will be even Even Bigger and Better!

After 3 years of being Indiana’s only statewide wind industry conferences WIndiana 2011 is expanding to include the Indiana Renewable Energy Conference. Plus this year the Indiana Renewable Energy Association will be involved in the planning and presentation of entire track of “how-to” sessions for residential and small business owners on wind, solar PV and solar thermal systems.

DATES: July 20-21, 2011


PLACE: Indianapolis Convention Center

This year’s conference will include:

  • Sessions on Utility-level Wind, Solar, Biomass
  • How-to sessions for residential/small business Wind-Solar PV- Solar Thermal
  • National and State Speakers
  • Wind farm Tour-Solar Installation Tour-Biomass Tour
  • Expanded Exhibition Floor and hours
  • Continuing Education sessions for K-12 teachers

Registration Opens Soon!

Come back here and check for the opening of registration, or follow us on Twitter: IndianaEnergy

Interested in being a sponsor or exhibitor at WIndiana 2011? Click Here for Details.

This information brought to you by the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.

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Greenfield Daily Reporter: McCordsville family looks to slice electric bills with solar energy

Nick Hofmeister’s home uses 24 photovoltaic
(PV) panels to generate an estimated
7,500 kilowatt hours of electricity annually.
(Photo/Joe Hornaday/Greenfield Daily Reporter) 

By JOE HORNADAY
jhornaday@greenfieldreporter.com

McCORDSVILLE – In an effort to help the environment while at the same time lower their energy bills, Nick and Lisa Hofmeister have recently turned the roof of their McCordsville home into a small power station.

The residence now utilizes 24 photovoltaic panels to generate an estimated 7,500 kilowatt hours by harnessing the energy delivered by the galaxy’s largest power supplier – the sun.

“It’s something I had considered for a long time,” Nick Hofmeister said. “With all the talk on the consumption of natural resources and the impact on our environment as a whole, our family made a conscience effort to make some changes around the house. If there was an option that would help us reduce our long term expenses while reducing pollution, we should consider it.”

Though the Hofmeisters sought a way for their home to run on cleaner energy, part of their green effort was stimulated by the green that was leaving their wallets. They also wanted to decrease their energy bills.

According to Nick Hofmeister, during the past eight years, the family had taken several steps to reduce their electrical consumption, and were successful in decreasing their usage by 20 percent. Their efforts might have made things easier on the town’s electrical grid, it did little to help their bills.

“Our electric bill still grew from $75 a month to an average of $153,” Nick Hofmeister explained. “Once I realized the impact on my wallet, I started an all-out project to find a way to control current and future utility expenses.”

And that is when he began the necessary steps to make the solar power project a reality.

“I researched options and companies on Indiana Renewable Energy Association and Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s websites,” he explained.

After crunching the numbers, he realized that the implementation of any reduced-energy project was going to be costly. The Hofmeisters ended up fronting about $25,000 to make the solar panels happen.

“The upfront cost stings a little bit,” Hofmeister said. “It was the main reason I decided to take a class. I wanted to make sure I understood the investment I was considering.”

He traveled to the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and took a class on renewable energy so that he could better understand the technology and the impact it would have on both his life and bank account.

Initally, Hofmeister was interested in both wind and solar energy, before deciding that solar power was the way to go for his plan. Wind power was ruled out because it was not going to be asthetically appropriate in his McCordsville neighborhood. A wind tower needs to be about 80 feet in the air and the wind has to be blowing at least 20 miles an hour to work. The wind turbine would also be very noisy.

“I pursued solar panels because the back of my house faces south. I could fit enough panels on the back of my house to cover at least 50 percent of my electrical needs,” Hofmeister said.

And with some adjustments, he could one day get up to 75 percent of his electrical needs covered.

After communicating with McCordsville officials to make sure the project met the permit and code requirements and ensuring that his original homeowner’s covenants did not restrict solar panel use, Hofmeister began looking at panel providers.

He asked several solar panel system installers to provide estimates and recommendations, before settling on Green Works Energy LLC out of Yorktown. Hofmeister started working with Ryan Stout and looked at the three options for solar energy: grid-tied; off-grid; and grid-tied with battery backup.

“I decided on the grid-tied solution,” Hofmeister explained.

Grid-tied panels use a combination of the production their own energy and then using the utility company’s power when the sun is not available. The off-grid solution uses a combination of solar panels, batteries and generators to provide the home with energy. The grid-tied with battery backup proposition allows the user to consume solar energy during the day and batteries at night while the utility company is used as a backup.

Initially, Hofmeister wanted to use the off-grid option, but was told by Stout that a truly cost-effective battery solution was still five to 10 years away.

Working with Hofmeister and Stout, Central Indiana Power’s engineering department devised a plan to create a safe interconnection of the solar panel generation equipment to the grid as well as a metering plan to allow the utility to “net-meter” the energy usage. By net-metering, the utility deducts any excess energy generated by the equipment from the member’s total energy usage for the billing cycle.

Even though the solar panels result in lower energy costs and provide a way to protect the environment, there are other advantages to harnessing the sun’s rays for power. Through 2016, Hofmeister will be able to get a 30 percent federal tax credit, and not just a deduction from income. He will be able to get back that money in taxes that he paid this year.

“I also learned that power companies that are owned by investors must create or buy energy created through renewable processes,” he said.

Companies can buy the energy credits from someone producing it, if they are unable to produce or buy the amount of actual energy from a renewable process.

“That meant that even though I am using the solar energy I create, I can sell them credit for creating the energy,” Hofmeister explained. “Whatever I produce more than I’m using, it goes back into the grid.”
Those “credit dollars” from energy companies are wide ranging currently, which is why the payoff on Hofmeister’s system could be anywhere from five to 11 years.

“We are just starting the process of setting up the sale of my credits. Once that is completed, I will be able to nail down the payback period.”

Once the system payback period is complete, there are a few things that could happen. Hofmeister will either make money on the system, produce enough energy and make enough by selling credits that his electricity is completely paid for, or produce enough energy that Hofmeister at least limits increases in his energy bill.

“Since the dawn of human kind, I don’t know that energy has ever reduced in cost. If it did, it didn’t last long. So I’m guessing that the long term impact of my system will be a much smaller utility bill than those not utilizing some sort of renewable energy production,” Hofmeister explained. “After we get it paid off, we will have control over the electricity bill.”

Even though the installation of solar panels was the right move for the Hofmeisters, it might not be the right thing for everyone. With a steep upfront cost, the investiture in renewable energy might not fit into many budgets.

“It’s not a cheap investment,” Hofmeister said. “If you are more concerned about the environment, or simply (reducing) natural resources consumed to produce energy, then don’t worry about the tax credit or selling the green credits and install it. If I ignored the tax credit and the option to sell the green credits, my system would have taken 25 years to pay off.”

Any Central Indiana Power customer who is interested in information about member owned generation can contact Central Indiana Power’s energy adviser Darrin Couch at 317-477-2218 or at couch@cipower.com .

Ryan Stout and GreenWorks Energy, LLC in Yorktown is a member of the Indiana Renewable Energy Association and Indiana Distributed Energy Advocates.

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ECI Wind and Solar Selected to Install Wind and Solar Systems at Taylor University

January 11, 2011

News Release

Upland, Ind. — ECI Wind and Solar, owned by Craig Porter and Eric Cotton of Lafayette, has been awarded a contract to install two wind turbines as part of Taylor University’s $41.5 million science construction project. Additionally, students from Ivy Tech’s Lafayette campus will serve internships during the project.

According to company CEO Eric Cotton, ECI Wind and Solar, based in Fairmount, Ind., has installed a number of renewable energy systems throughout the State of Indiana. Taylor officials say the renewable wind energy is a component of their efforts to earn LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) green building certification for the new complex, scheduled for opening in the fall of 2012.

At a cost of $700,000, the Taylor University project consists of two Endurance E-3120 50 KW wind turbines, which will be installed on 120 foot monopole towers. ECI will also install a 10 KW solar photovoltaic system on the new science complex.

Cotton said the project represents a significant milestone in the growth of ECI Wind and Solar. “This project will allow us to expand our workforce. It is a great example of how renewable energy projects lead to real economic development while providing energy independence, educational experience, and environmental benefit,” he said.

Isaac Slaven, Program Chair for the Sustainability program at Ivy Tech’s Lafayette campus said, “This is the exactly the kind of opportunity for which we have been preparing our students; first as interns, then as graduates ready for the renewable energy workforce.”

About ECI Wind and Solar: ECI Wind and Solar designs and installs turnkey renewable energy solutions and has installed some of the most notable Renewable Energy Systems in the State of Indiana, including the largest battery based system in the Midwest.

Source: ECI Wind and Solar INC

ECI Wind and Solar is a founding member of both the Indiana Renewable Energy Association and Indiana Distributed Energy Advocates.

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Richmond Power & Light (RP&L) might buy excess power

Original Article: http://www.pal-item.com/article/20101108/NEWS01/11080320

Utility considers allowing customers with wind, solar power or generators to sell power back

By Pam Tharp • Correspondent • November 8, 2010

Richmond Power & Light customers who also generate their own power might soon be able to sell extra kilowatts to RP&L.

Customers with wind or solar power systems or generators could sell their excess power back to the electrical grid if RP&L adopts a net metering ordinance, RP&L general manager Steve Saum said. The RP&L board will review a proposed ordinance for net metering at its Nov. 15 meeting.

The amount of electricity a customer could sell to the grid is limited to 10 kilowatts at any one time. Customers with higher generation capacity would need an agreement with the Indiana Municipal Power Agency, Saum said.

RP&L charges its customers 7.5 to 8 cents per kilowatt hour. Customers with extra power to sell would be paid at half of that rate, about 4.5 cents, because the higher rate includes the utility’s fixed costs for line maintenance and overhead, Saum said.

Saum’s unsure how many customers are generating power using solar panels or wind turbines but said he’s had some inquiries about selling power back to the grid.

“Green” energy systems that power the sustainable living house at Centerville’s Cope Environmental Center have transferred 540 kilowatts to Whitewater Valley REMC since April 2009, said Cope executive director Stephanie Hays-Mussoni. A 1-kilowatt wind turbine and a 900-watt solar panel power the sustainable living house.

Cope staff gets numerous inquiries about wind and solar power for home use, Hays-Mussoni said. Few follow through because of the substantial capital investment required — about $20,000 to $25,000 for the systems and extra insulation, she said.

“We aren’t currently selling the power back, but it does go back to the grid,” Hays-Mussoni said. “It’s not a whole lot of power. The turbine and solar panel provide 60 percent of the energy used by the residents of the sustainable house throughout the year. The systems don’t provide energy all the time because sometimes the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.”

A disconnect switch is required for any system that would send power back to RP&L or other utilities. The switch automatically disconnects the private system line from the utility during a power failure, Saum said. Without the switch, a lineman working on a power failure issue could be injured by electricity flowing back into the line from a home generation system. The disconnect switch also must be inspected by the city building inspector before power sales can begin, Saum said.

RP&L board member Larry Parker was concerned earlier this week about the safety of RP&L linemen if a power outage occurred.

“How will we know if the disconnect switch has been installed?” Parker asked. “I don’t want one of our linemen being killed because of this.”

Those who enroll in the net metering program would be required to sign a form verifying the disconnect switch was installed, Saum said. Linemen also are trained to be cautious during outages, he said.

“If the line is out and we see lights, they know there’s a generator or something producing power in the home,” Saum said.

Board member Jack Elstro questioned the wisdom of the program.

“Why do we want to do this? To me, it’s foolish,” Elstro said.

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is encouraging utilities to allow customers who generate excess electrical power to sell it to the power grid, Saum said.

“The IURC is trying to push it pretty hard. They’ve had complaints from customers whose utility didn’t have a net metering ordinance,” Saum said. “It’s not mandatory yet for utilities to do this. We’re trying to be proactive and be ready to handle it.”

For more information

A customer interested in selling electricity to Richmond Power & Light should contact the utility for additional information, RP&L manager Steve Saum said. The net metering agreement is a legal document that includes acceptance of liability, and the required disconnect switch must be inspected and approved by the city of Richmond’s building inspector, Saum said.

Comment on this story at palitem@pal-item.com.

This article brought to you by the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.

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The price of solar in California

Original article: http://www.renewablesinternational.net/the-price-of-solar-in-california/150/511/29293/
California’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) says that although the price of solar has plummeted in recent years, the bids for utility-scale projects in the state are paradoxically rising.

In the study (PDF) released last Tuesday entitled “California’s solar PV paradox: declining California solar initiative prices and rising investor owned utilities bid prices,” the DRA authors Nika Rogers and Derek Fletcher of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) find that the price of retail solar PV – the small rooftop systems on family homes and small businesses – dropped by 19-22 percent from Q4 2008 to July 2010. However, the price of utility-scale solar projects (defined as “mostly 10 MW or more”) slightly increased from 2007 to 2009.

The authors identify three main risks behind the latter:

  • difficult credit markets,
  • deadlines for California’s RPS, and
  • the CPUC’s “reluctance to reject high-priced contracts providing a disincentive for developers to price their bid competitively.”

The authors also make a number of recommendations about how to fix the problem, including having the CPUC reject pricey bids. The authors recommend that California’s solar market be compared to New Jersey’s “with a specific eye toward whether New Jersey experienced the same discrepancy in utility and consumer-side price trends,” although the authors stop short of saying that the California market should be compared to other markets abroad, such as Ontario’s booming PV sector or the many thriving solar markets in Europe. In the final sentence of the report, the authors do, however, recommend “further research” into “expanded feed-in tariff provisions to allow for excess solar energy to be sold back to the grid,” which clearly shows that the authors are bound to the notion of net-metering and that feed-in tariffs should only be paid for power not consumed by the array owner – even though no such provisions apply to any solar feed-in tariffs anywhere.

John Geesman, a former member of the California Energy Commission (CEC), says he is not surprised by the study’s findings as his criticism of California’s RPS goes along similar lines: “the lack of transparency creates little downward pressure on price; the feel good, happy talk about contracts signed creates little pressure for actual delivered energy; and the distinction between flexible compliance and regulatory capture remains murky.” It is interesting to note that, while feed-in tariffs for solar have been accused of overpaying, feed-in tariffs have been plummeting in countries like France and Germany during the timeframe under investigation here, whereas the policy used in the US has apparently been overpaying solar.

The California Solar Initiative at the heart of the study only covers solar rooftops, not utility-scale field arrays, and some of the largest solar projects announced recently concerned concentrated solar power (CSP), not photovoltaics, but one of the study’s authors Nika Rogers told Renewables International that “we only looked at solar PV projects and filtered out any solar thermal or solar trough projects.” Overall, the study provides an interesting overview of the California solar market for anyone looking to understand it better.

By Craig Morris (cm)

This article brought to you by the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.

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Duke Energy, Integrys Energy Services and Smart Energy Capital Launch Partnership to Build and Finance Solar Projects Throughout U.S.

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Oct. 13 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Duke Energy, Integrys Energy Services and Smart Energy Capital today announced the launch of a partnership to build and finance distributed solar projects throughout the United States.

Through the partnership, Duke Energy Generation Services (DEGS) and Integrys Energy Services (Integrys) will focus on jointly owning rooftop and smaller ground-mounted photovoltaic (PV) solar projects that deliver electricity to investment-grade commercial, government and utility customers under long-term power purchase agreements. Smart Energy Capital will develop the projects and arrange financing, enabling DEGS and Integrys to create a streamlined, end-to-end approach to bringing solar projects to market.

“What makes this partnership unique in the marketplace is its focus on distributed solar solutions that produce renewable electricity close to where it is used, rather than at centralized power plants,” said Greg Wolf, DEGS senior vice president and head of the unit’s commercial solar business. “The companies involved bring a wealth of project development, construction, management and financing expertise to the partnership.”

DEGS, part of Duke Energy Corporation’s (NYSE: DUK) Commercial Businesses, and Integrys Energy Services, a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group (NYSE: TEG), believe the majority of PV solar growth over the next several years will involve commercial-scale ground-mounted and rooftop applications. While DEGS and Integrys will continue to independently develop commercial solar projects pursuant to their respective strategies, this partnership will serve as a way to cooperatively boost growth in an attractive segment of the solar market.

“We have invested more than $65 million in 20 different distributed generation solar projects across the U.S. with a combined capacity of more than 10 megawatts,” said Joel Jansen, managing director and head of energy assets at Integrys Energy Services. “Partnering with DEGS and Smart Energy Capital enables us to expand our presence in this market in an efficient, strategic manner.”

DEGS and Integrys will equally supply the necessary equity capital for construction and ownership of the distributed solar projects. Over the next two years, the companies intend to invest up to $180 million in total project capital. Individual project size is expected to be 500 kilowatts and up, depending on the needs of the customer. DEGS and Integrys will be responsible for operating and maintaining the projects.

Smart Energy Capital will work with its strategic origination partners, including CB Richard Ellis (under the name CBRE Solar) and Tremco Roofing, to help customers achieve their sustainability and energy objectives on optimal terms. The financing structure of the partnership enables DEGS and Integrys to monetize all available federal tax benefits associated with the distributed solar projects.

“We believe this partnership provides a solution to one of the fundamental challenges in the commercial segment of the solar market – reliability and certainty of financing,” said Rob Krugel, managing partner of Smart Energy Capital. “We are excited to form a strategic partnership with such large, experienced and well-capitalized power project owners as DEGS and Integrys to pursue distributed solar projects wherever market opportunities in the U.S. present themselves.”

About Duke Energy Generation Services

Duke Energy Generation Services, part of Duke Energy’s Commercial Businesses, is a leader in developing innovative renewable energy solutions, including wind, solar and biopower projects. DEGS builds, owns and operates electric generation for large energy consumers, municipalities, utilities and industrial facilities. DEGS is also working to build commercial transmission capacity to help the U.S. meet its energy needs of the future. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 500 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available on the Internet at: www.duke-energy.com.

About Integrys Energy Services, Inc.

Established in 1994, Integrys Energy Services, Inc. provides competitive energy supply solutions, structured products, and strategies that allow retail residential, commercial, and industrial customers to manage their energy needs. Its principal energy marketing operations are in the northeastern quadrant of the United States. Through its subsidiary, Integrys Energy Services – Natural Gas LLC, Integrys offers natural gas products to a full range of end-users throughout the Midwest. Areas of generation expertise include cogeneration, distributed generation, renewables such as solar and landfill gas, as well as clean fuel generation, with facilities in selected markets throughout the United States. More information about Integrys Energy Services is available online at www.integrysenergy.com.

About Smart Energy Capital

Founded in 2009, Smart Energy Capital is a leader in the financing and development of solar energy projects. The company manages the development, financing, installation and operations of distributed power plants throughout the United States and Canada using proven photovoltaic technologies. The company delivers fully managed, predictably priced solar energy services for its commercial, government and utility customers. More information about Smart Energy Capital is available at www.smartenergycapital.com.

MEDIA CONTACTS

Duke Energy:
Greg Efthimiou 704-382-1925
24-Hour 800-559-3853
Integrys Energy Services:
Joel Jansen 920-617-6029
Smart Energy Capital
Rob Krugel 914-595-2641

This article brought to by the Indiana Renewable Energy Association.

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