Archive for month: July, 2016

NY-Sun: A Multi-Faceted Roadmap for Creating a Self-Sustaining Solar Industry

Author: Maria Blais Costello, Clean Energy Group | Project: Clean Energy States Alliance

PHOTO CREDIT: Solar Schuyler

NY-Sun is a bold initiative that is driving New York’s solar industry and building momentum toward a sustainable, subsidy-free market by 2023. Through a comprehensive approach that offers incentives, reduces industry barriers, and addresses soft costs, NY-Sun has helped lead to a dramatic uptake in solar capacity, while reducing costs. More than 18,000 solar projects were installed across New York in 2015, increasing the State’s solar capacity by nearly 202 megawatts (MW) to 568 MW. Looking forward, projects already in the initiative’s pipeline will more than double the total amount of current capacity. NY-Sun aims to install 3 gigawatts of solar by 2023, while building a self-sustaining solar industry.

A Multi-Faceted Approach

NY-Sun is a comprehensive initiative established by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in 2012 to develop a sustainable and subsidy-free solar industry in New York State. It consists of numerous components administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), in collaboration with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). The components of NY-Sun include a photovoltaic (PV) incentive initiative, consumer education, a community solar joint purchasing initiative, an initiative to add solar to schools (K-Solar), a program to improve access to PV by low- and moderate-income (LMI) households, a Shared Solar initiative that enables residences to buy into a solar project, solar workforce trainings, and soft cost reductions associated with customer acquisition and installation. In 2014, NY-Sun was expanded into a $1 billion initiative featuring the “Megawatt Block” incentive structure, which adjusts incentive rates based on market activity in each sector and geographic region. NY-Sun stands apart from other initiatives in that it is not just an incentive initiative, but rather a multi-faceted roadmap for creating a self-sustaining solar industry.

Declining Block Incentives

The design of the Megawatt Block incentive structure reduces the available incentives by set increments as the solar market reaches pre-determined capacity targets. This structure allows solar customers to clearly see available incentives, and it gives the solar industry the transparency and certainty needed to forecast project economics and to attract investment. Real-time information on incentive levels and block capacity is available online. The program design divides the state by region and by market sector, allowing different parts of the market to accelerate over time at their own pace. As incentives decline, NY-Sun has more impact per dollar spent. In 2014, NY-Sun awarded more than $95 million in solar incentives, and had 121 MW of PV installed (effectively $0.79/watt). Last year, it awarded more than $125 million in incentives and saw 202 MW of PV installations (effectively $0.62/watt). 

Solar Accessible to All

Affordable Solar, a component of NY-Sun launched in 2015, expands access to solar energy to LMI households. It doubles the per-watt incentive provided by NY-Sun for solar on owner-occupied residences of LMI households. NYSERDA also launched a financing pilot program using low-interest Green Jobs-Green NY financing to prepay solar leases for LMI solar customers. NY-Sun support for LMI customers participating in Shared Solar projects will be introduced in 2016, which will enable residents to buy into or purchase shares of solar projects so they can receive bill savings without putting solar on their roofs. 

Soft Cost Strategies

NY-Sun is reducing soft costs in a variety of ways, including promoting customer aggregation, training, and streamlining. A statewide Solarize program helps homes and businesses use group purchasing to secure low prices and simplify the contracting process through aggregated demand. The K-Solar initiative provides technical assistance and an aggregated solar procurement process to public schools throughout the State. As with other aspects of NY-Sun, K-Solar relies on a high level of collaboration across New York State agencies. It was implemented in partnership with NYPA and the State Education Department.

NY-Sun has given considerable attention to municipal governments, because New York is a “home rule” state that relies on municipal governments to implement solar-friendly building, zoning, and taxation policies. NY-Sun’s PV Trainers Network provides technical training, general education, and tools to local officials involved in policymaking, purchasing decisions/negotiations, permitting, system inspections, and emergency response. In its first year, the network completed 100 trainings, reaching over 3,000 local officials. NY-Sun has also streamlined its internal processes and program requirements to eliminate unnecessary documents, reduce unnecessary document reviews, and expedite the process through which incentives are awarded to projects.

Program Highlights

  • By combining incentives with soft cost reduction, customer aggregation, targeted financing (especially for the LMI market), and training for stake-holders, NY-Sun is a comprehensive initiative to develop a sustainable and subsidy-free solar industry in New York State.
  • Growth in the New York solar market significantly outpaced national growth in 2014 and 2015. The total number of solar installations in New York State increased by 62 percent in 2015.
  • With 438 solar contractors participating in NY-Sun, projects currently in the pipeline will more than double the total amount of New York’s current solar capacity.

NYSERDA’s NY-Sun program was a recipient of a 2016 “State Leadership in Clean Energy Award,” presented by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). You can learn more about this program and other award recipients at


CESA hosted a webinar highlighting NY-Sun on July 26, 2016 – slides and a recording are available at

This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.

The New Solar Homes Partnership: Transforming California’s Housing Market

Author: Maria Blais Costello, Clean Energy Group | Project: Clean Energy States Alliance

PHOTO CREDIT: California Energy Commission The California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership (NSHP) program is helping to make new homes in California environmentally friendly, while reducing energy bills. The program, a component of the comprehensive California Solar Initiative (CSI), provides financial incentives and other support to builders, developers, and homeowners to encourage the construction of new, energy-efficient solar homes. The NSHP, which was launched in 2007, has a 10-year goal of installing 360 megawatts (MW) of new residential solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity in California. It aims to have at least half of all new homes include solar by 2020. As of January 2016, the program has installed or reserved funds for 141.8 MW of solar capacity. It has already helped boost the new home solar penetration rate in the state from less than 1 percent to more than 20 percent.

Maximum Efficiency, Maximum Impact

The NSHP focuses on new home construction as a way to lower the upfront installation costs of solar energy systems by incorporating these systems seamlessly into the design of a building and installing the PV system while all the other construction activities of the home are underway. By focusing on new residential development, the program can produce significant benefits because builders can optimize the PV system design to maximize solar production and tailor the building’s electrical and roofing construction to seamlessly accommodate a PV system. The NSHP requires that projects meet minimum energy efficiency levels, which maximizes the project’s impacts: environmental benefits, market development, and cost savings for homeowners.

The NSHP’s performance-based incentives are based on the expected annual generation of the PV system weighted by its time-of-use value to the utility system. This encourages high-quality installations with optimal designs. To avoid incentivizing oversized systems, NSHP incentives are limited to the first 7.5 kilowatts (kW) of a PV system. The NSHP also takes into account and offers higher incentives for qualified affordable housing projects and for installations on buildings that achieve higher levels of energy efficiency.

NSHP incentives decline over time as cumulative MW capacity targets are reached. By allowing performance-based incentives to decrease alongside declining solar hardware costs, the NSHP maximizes the total number of incentivized solar systems and encourages the industry to rely less on incentives as solar costs fall and the market matures.

The Energy Commission has worked to administer the program efficiently and cost-effectively. The NSHP program may be one of the few solar rebate programs in California, if not the only one, that spends 100 percent of funds on solar system purchases and installation rather than subtracting 10 or 15 percent for administrative costs.

Market Development and Transformation

The NSHP program fosters a housing market in which builders routinely construct highly energy efficient homes and install solar energy systems as a standard feature. According to the California Building Industry Association, several major homebuilders began offering developments with solar as a standard feature in 2012, and “most, if not all . . . relied on NSHP incentive funding, which has provided key financial support in making a variety of business models work.” The program’s success has paved the way for cities, such as Lancaster and Sebastopol, to require solar on all new homes.

The NSHP program has also made significant inroads toward expanding solar access for affordable housing. The program guidelines have multiple provisions that support that market sector, including offering higher per-watt incentives for qualifying affordable housing residential projects and incentivizing solar systems that offset common area electricity loads. Reducing energy costs for low- income households frees up income to be used on other basic needs such as food, transportation, and medical expenses. The California Housing Partnership cited the NSHP program as a catalyst in improving the affordability and sustainability of multifamily rental properties.

A Model for Other States

Though builders and developers in other states and regions may not face identical barriers to wide-spread solar integration, the NSHP offers numerous tools that could be used or replicated across the country. One example is the NSHP web tool, an online portal that allows the administrator, homeowners, homebuilders, and installers to have one location to upload application documents and monitor projects through the multiple stages of reservation and payment review. The web tool database allows the program administrator to easily compile and report on program activity that can be used for studies and assist in improving program design. Other replicable tools include the NSHP Guidebook, which lays out the eligibility requirements, rules, and process for claiming an incentive and is routinely revised to address various industry conditions. The NSHP Solar Advantage Value Estimator (SAVE) tool helps appraisers and realtors better understand and incorporate the value of solar energy systems as part of real property valuation.

Program Highlights:

  • The NSHP has nearly 21,000 PV systems installed and another 24,000 in development.
  • As of January 2016, the program has installed or reserved funds for 141.8 MW of new solar capacity; and it has a 10-year goal of achieving an additional 360 MW of capacity.
  • The California Building Industry Association, California Solar Energy Industries Association, and California Solar Energy Industries Association have credited the NSHP program with boosting the new home solar penetration rate from less than 1 percent to more than 20 percent.
  • As of January 20, 2016, the program has paid $19.5 million to support 6.4 MW of installed solar capacity on affordable housing projects

The California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership was a recipient of a 2016 “State Leadership in Clean Energy Award,” presented by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). You can learn more about this program and other award recipients at


CESA hosted a webinar highlighting the California Energy Commission’s New Solar Homes Partnership on July 26, 2016 – slides and a recording are available at

This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.

Solar+Storage Makes Economic Sense for New York City’s Critical Infrastructure

Author: Seth Mullendore, Clean Energy Group | Project: Resilient Power Project

View of Lower Manhattan following power outage as a result of Hurricane Sandy from Brooklyn Bridge.

When Superstorm Sandy hit the Northeast in 2012, New York City learned the hard way that backup generators don’t always add up to resiliency. Despite deploying over 200 generators, 80,000 New York City public housing residents found themselves in the dark in the wake of Sandy, along with several major hospitals where emergency generators failed. New findings from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and City University of New York (CUNY) provide more evidence that there may be a better, cleaner, and more economical way to protect residents when the next disaster strikes – solar+storage.

As part of the New York Solar Smart DG Hub-Resilient Solar Project, which is supported by the Department of Energy, NREL and CUNY released a new report analyzing the economics of resilient solar+storage for critical New York facilities, Economic and Resiliency Impact of PV and Storage on New York Critical Infrastructure. The report concludes that solar+storage delivers a higher return on investment than solar PV alone for the facilities evaluated and that resilient solar+storage and hybrid solar+storage+generator systems can be economically viable, offering a better return than relying on generators alone.

The analysis used NREL’s REopt modeling platform to analyze the technical and economic feasibility of solar and storage technologies for three critical facilities: a school serving as a coastal storm shelter, a fire station that flooded during Sandy, and a senior center that serves as a cooling hub during heatwaves. In addition to modeling optimal system sizing, the study explored economic optimization with a value assigned to the resiliency benefits the system could provide – essentially modeling an additional value stream that reflects the avoided cost of a power outage.

All of the facilities analyzed are served by the New York Power Authority (NYPA), which has very low electricity rates (averaging less than five cents per kilowatt-hour). Because of this, and the fact that two of the sites have limited space for PV placement, solar alone wasn’t found to be a particularly good investment. However, resilient solar+storage systems were able to deliver a positive return on investment for each of the facilities evaluated, even without factoring in the added value of resiliency. This was primarily due to the ability of energy storage to reduce peak demand charges, which are quite high in NYPA. In fact, storage improved the economics of PV in every case (a scenario also found to be true in California affordable housing).

While the economic picture for these systems was positive, the study found that solar+storage systems optimized for savings alone were not typically large enough to support critical emergency loads for more than a few hours. However, that doesn’t mean that longer duration solar+storage systems can’t be economic as well. Analysis of the school found that a solar+storage system designed to power the facility’s storm shelter through an average short-term outage of about seven hours could deliver a positive economic return over its lifetime. When the value of resiliency was factored in, the fire station was found to achieve a positive return for optimal solar+storage system designs capable of providing both short- and long-term resilient power solutions.

For hybrid systems incorporating solar and storage with traditional generators, the economics of resiliency look even more promising. Based on the results of the analysis, hybrid systems offer a more cost-effective approach to resiliency than the stand-alone generators currently serving the majority of New York City’s emergency power needs. While just putting a generator in a building comes with a low upfront cost, the study found that over time generators have higher lifecycle costs than hybrid systems.

In addition to lowering energy costs during normal operation, using solar+storage in a hybrid system allowed for a reduction in both the size of the generator needed to sustain critical loads during an outage and the volume of fuel that must be stored onsite. Optimal generators in a hybrid system could be sized as small as a third of the size required for a generator working alone. Fuel consumption was also reduced in every case, with reductions ranging from about 10 percent to almost 40 percent.

Though the report was limited in scope to only three facilities, the authors note that the same types of power systems should be economically viable for all city infrastructure with similar electricity demand profiles and utility rate structures. This is important for New York City, which has pledged to install 100 megawatts of solar on city-owned buildings by 2025 through its One City: Built to Last initiative. In cases where solar alone may not be cost-effective, the addition of storage may enable an integrated system to become a favorable investment, while also diversifying the city’s resiliency options.

Unlike the city-owned facilities modeled in this study, most commercial buildings in New York City are served by the utility Con Edison. These buildings are likely to face lower demand charges and higher energy prices, about twice the rate of those in NYPA. The authors note that this may result in optimal systems that rely more on solar and less on storage, which echoes the findings of Clean Energy Group’s report Resilience for Free: How Solar+Storage Could Protect Multifamily Affordable Housing from Power Outages at Little or No Net Cost. In that report, Clean Energy Group found that solar improved the economics of storage for multifamily affordable housing in New York City, allowing housing developers to install resilient solar+storage at no net cost over the lifetime of the system.

As solar and storage prices continue their decline and utility rates and market structures evolve to favor distributed generation (a goal of New York’s Reforming the Energy Vision), the economics of resilient solar+storage will continue to improve for both NYPA and Con Edison customers. However, there will still be a lingering market gap in how to value the benefits of improved resiliency. The analysis by NREL and CUNY marks an important step forward in addressing this market failure, but a true valuation of resiliency will have to include all parties that bear the cost of power outages, from private companies to federal agencies. Failure to recognize and monetize the full benefits of reliable power will continue the persistent undervaluation of resilient power investments and hinder market development supporting resilient solar+storage technologies.


This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.

Expanding Access to Solar Financing in Connecticut

Author: Maria Blais Costello, Clean Energy Group | Project: Clean Energy States Alliance

PHOTO CREDIT: Connecticut Green Bank With the CT Solar Lease (SL2) program, the Connecticut Green Bank (Green Bank) continues to develop innovative financing solutions to advance solar and other clean energy technologies. The CT SL2 program builds on the success of the original CT Solar Lease program, the nation’s first residential PV financing program to combine ratepayer funds with private capital to leverage federal incentives. By expanding the Solar Lease program to include commercial and nonprofit projects that have traditionally been excluded from the solar financing market (along with serving more customary municipal credits), SlL2 has further opened the door to distributed solar by pairing Connecticut’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) financing mechanism with power purchase agreements (PPAs). The result has enabled the Green Bank to once again leverage ratepayer funds with significant private capital, in a scalable and replicable manner, in order to finance and deploy solar projects for “mid-market” commercial and nonprofit organizations that otherwise would not be able to make these projects happen.

Opening up a New Market Segment for Solar Finance

The principal financial barriers that prevent nonprofits from going solar include the lack of both a) upfront capital and b) tax equity appetite to monetize federal tax credits. The SL2 program uses the well-established solar tax equity fund model to provide low-cost, long-term power PPAs and leases to Connecticut nonprofit customers as well as municipalities and commercial customers. Within this widely adopted framework, however, what is unique about this fund is that the Green Bank received approval from both tax equity and debt investors to finance otherwise non-creditworthy projects by using C-PACE as a credit enhancement tool to secure customer PPAs. PPAs for nonprofits under this program enjoy an improved credit profile thanks to a C-PACE benefit assessment lien on each property, providing confidence to private investors that each PPA will be repaid. Through the use of the PACE + PPA structure under the SL2 program, solar adoption becomes viable for an entire class of customers who previously had no way to finance their projects.

Establishing a New Investment Model for Nonprofits

As the first nonprofit to utilize the SL2 program, the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven (JCC) has paved the way for other nonprofit organizations to go solar. The JCC project involved the installation of 755 kW of solar panels over three carports in their parking lot to provide a cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable source of energy. Using the Green Bank’s C-PACE-secured PPA structure, the project required no money down from the JCC and provided immediate cost savings when completed. The build cost for the JCC Solar Canopy Project’s was $3.12/W (or approximately $2.35 million in total), and the project benefited from a utility “ZREC” contract (a fixed-price, 15-year REC offtake contract) as well, offering $94.95 per megawatt-hour generated by the solar. All in, then, the JCC is now paying a discounted rate for electricity under a 20-year PPA, with a starting price of $0.102/ kWh (escalating at 1.5% annually), leading to an effective monthly rate of $7,568.00 (or nearly $5 million in lifetime project revenues and tax benefits realized for the Green Bank and its investors). The JCC is also expected to save more than $20,000 on its electricity bills every year. The JCC project represents the first nonprofit in the country to successfully utilize a PACE + PPA approach to financing a solar project.

Lessons Learned

While third-party ownership structures are not new to the solar market, the unique financing structure of securing a PPA via a C-PACE benefit assessment lien made the JCC Solar Canopy project financing possible for a nonprofit organization. From the investor point of view, PACE PPA payments are a senior benefit assessment lien on the property, and in the event of a default, the remedies are much stronger compared to a typical PPA. There were a number of achievements in leadership and innovation in creating this program. The first was getting the SL2 program’s investors comfortable with the C-PACE mechanism as a means to securing investments into traditionally non-investment grade credits. The second was establishing the initial set of documentation (available upon request) to fully capture the entire financing structure. Finally, the Green Bank had to create an outreach and marketing strategy to onboard local solar developers who could not only understand and deliver the financing offering to customers, but also generate growth for the program to help it achieve scale. Some of these challenges, and the Green Bank’s approach to overcoming them, are further discussed here:

The JCC project and the SL2 program under which it was financed can be replicated across the country, particularly in states with PACE programs that are already established or are currently in development. In fact, significant market participants are now looking to do just that:

Program Highlights

  • The CT Green Bank’s Solar Lease 2 program offers a new financing tool for commercial customers, municipalities and nonprofit organizations to go solar.
  • By securing solar PPAs with C-PACE benefit assessment liens, private investors have confidence that the PPAs will be repaid.
  • Under the Solar Lease 2 program, multiple megawatts of solar have already been deployed across 15 nonprofit projects in Connecticut, with no money down and PPA prices offered at less than the customer’s traditional electricity rate.

The Connecticut Green Bank’s Solar Lease 2 program was a recipient of a 2016 “State Leadership in Clean Energy Award,” presented by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). You can learn more about this program and other award recipients at


CESA hosted a webinar highlighting the Connecticut Green Bank’s Solar Lease 2 program on July 19, 2018 – slides and a recording are available at

This blog was also published in Renewable Energy World.

US DOE, Sandia, CEG/CESA collaborate to provide municipal energy storage procurement guidance

Author: Todd Olinsky-Paul, Clean Energy Group | Projects: Clean Energy States Alliance, Resilient Power Project

mass doer larger mapThrough a no-cost contract with Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), CEG/CESA, in collaboration with US DOE-OE, Sandia National Laboratories (SNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL), has been providing hands-on technical assistance to Massachusetts resilient power projects that have received DOER grants. The assistance is intended to help these community projects with system design, procurement, installation, commissioning, testing and data collection – basically, to help ensure these projects are successful, both for the communities hosting them and for the state, as well as for the benefit of similar, future projects.

In speaking with community leaders about these resilient power projects, we noted a common theme; a number of communities needed help in the area of energy storage procurement. To address this need, CESA worked with DOE-OE, SNL and others to produce a set of Energy Storage Procurement Guidance Documents for Municipalities. This package, which is freely available on our website, contains two example RFPs for energy storage systems, one for a utility-scale system, and one for a smaller, behind-the-meter system. It also contains a matrix of elements that go into constructing an energy storage RFP. The matrix serves as a checklist of items that should be included in an energy storage RFP. It also suggests information that should be provided in the RFP and questions that should be asked of potential vendors. Finally, the matrix details what to look for in vendor responses.

estap report screenshotThe matrix was developed with input from communities, which we solicited during a webinar on the same topic. The sample RFPs are based on actual RFPs used by a municipal utility in Massachusetts, and developed with input from SNL and CESA. Municipalities should be able to adapt these materials to meet their own needs when drafting energy storage RFIs, RFQs or RFPs.

Response to this resource has been very positive, with a number of municipalities indicating that it has helped them. Already, the document has been downloaded more than 200 times. And IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, has invited our team to speak about the document at the IEEE Power & Energy Society General Meeting this month in Boston.

Clearly, there is a deep need for basic how-to information about developing energy storage and resilient power systems. Although many municipalities have gained some limited experience in the area of distributed energy resources, mostly due to the success of the distributed solar industry, adding energy storage and islanding capability to the mix raises a whole new set of questions. As we learn more about what communities need know in order to develop successful resilient power projects, we will continue to produce resources intended to bridge the knowledge gap, reduce risk, and ensure that systems will perform as advertised to benefit their host communities.


This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.

The Many Benefits of Oregon’s Irrigation Modernization Initiative

Author: Maria Blais Costello, Clean Energy Group | Project: Clean Energy States Alliance

PHOTO CREDIT: Energy Trust of Oregon Energy Trust of Oregon, working with the nonprofit Farmers Conservation Alliance (FCA), has developed a coordinated and comprehensive program to help irrigation districts and the farmers they serve to develop modern irrigation systems. The resulting systems will reduce energy use and operating costs; generate income from renewable energy production; increase agricultural production, quality, and diversity; reduce water use; and enhance environmental conditions. Twelve Oregon irrigation districts are currently undertaking assessments of the benefits they could achieve through modernization. This program reduces the cost and time required for project planning and implementation, addresses key regulatory and institutional barriers, leverages funding, and demonstrates how modern agricultural water management can mitigate the impacts of long-term drought.

The Need for Modernization

Oregon has more than 6,500 farms covering over 1,200 square miles of land. These farms typically receive irrigation water delivered via open canals owned by irrigation districts. The canals transport more than 480 billion gallons of water annually, but the aging, open systems are deteriorating; many are over 100 years old and are inherently inefficient. Because of seepage and evaporation, 20 to 50 percent of the water in a canal never makes it to a farm. Modernization is desperately needed. Modernizing an irrigation system starts by replacing open canals with pipes, conserving the water previously lost to seepage and evaporation. Gravity pressurizes the water delivered through the pipes, allowing irrigators to remove water pumps, thereby saving energy and related costs. In places where there is excess water pressure in the delivery system, electricity generation from hydropower can be produced. However, the expense of modernization, limited public awareness, and a lack of entities to coordinate modern infrastructure development meant that only three of Oregon’s approximately 200 irrigation districts had modernized before the start of the Energy Trust program.

Developing a Coordinated Approach

Over the past decade, Energy Trust engaged with a few irrigation districts on hydropower projects, most notably as a major funder of a 700-kilowatt hydropower turbine for the Three Sisters Irrigation District. That turbine, which produces 3.1 million kilowatt-hours annually, has helped defray the costs of an ambitious modernization program that piped 50 miles of the district’s 63 miles of canals. Among the many results of modernization, pressurized water is now delivered to 75 farms, allowing irrigation pumps to be removed, saving five million kilowatt-hours annually. In addition, 9,000 gallons of water per minute remains in Whychus Creek, the district’s water source, to benefit steelhead listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Through work with Three Sisters and other districts, Energy Trust recognized an opportunity. If more districts were able to move forward with modernization, Energy Trust could support more hydropower projects generating clean energy. In turn, financial support from Energy Trust would allow more parts of the state to achieve the many interrelated benefits of modernization. To tackle the planning associated with a coordinated, comprehensive approach, Energy Trust contracted with FCA, whose mission is to develop resource solutions for rural communities. With funding and staff support from Energy Trust, FCA created a methodology for developing individual irrigation district modernization strategies and built a large coalition of public and private sector partners. By the end of 2015, less than a year after starting, the program had signed up participation by 12 irrigation districts, including all eight districts in the Deschutes River Basin, one of Oregon’s most heavily irrigated areas.

Assessments of specific modernization benefits are now underway in all 12 districts. When completed by the end of 2016, the assessments will identify renewable energy, energy efficiency, agricultural, water, environmental, and economic benefits associated with modernization and lay out implementation options. After a district’s board selects a preferred approach, permitting and financing for projects will begin, followed by contracting and construction.

Benefits and Costs

The benefits associated with the initial 12 irrigation districts are expected to be 10-20 times greater than those seen at Three Sisters, and they will include installation of up to 10 megawatts of hydropower. Energy Trust is investing over $600,000 to help FCA design, build, and implement the program. Energy Trust has also committed to spend $1.3 million on the assessments at the 12 irrigation districts. That funding is more than matched by $1.8 million from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Oregon Water Resources Department, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Freshwater Trust, the Nez Perce Tribe, the irrigation districts themselves, and other watershed partners. As more irrigation districts participate in the program, Energy Trust expects to commit up to $200,000 per irrigation district for assessment studies. Additional funds will help the districts move into project implementation.

Spreading the Approach

Energy Trust and FCA designed the Irrigation Modernization Program with replicability in mind, because other states in the water-constrained western U.S. also have need for irrigation modernization. The Oregon program is producing open-source tools, methodologies, and process guides for irrigation districts and other organizations involved in modernization planning and implementation. Among the many resources that Energy Trust and FCA are making available are a model and template for creating a modernization plan at an irrigation district; tools for evaluating irrigation district organizational capacity, as well as for assessing economic, energy, water-saving, and agricultural benefits; a guide for developing hydroelectric capacity within an irrigation system; and guides for community and stakeholder outreach.


  • Replacing open canals with pipes saves water and reduces the need for farms to use energy to pump water. It also creates opportunities for new hydropower projects.
  • Twelve Oregon irrigation districts are currently undertaking assessments identifying the renewable energy, energy efficiency, agricultural, water, environmental, and economic benefits associated with modernization and characterizing project implementation approaches.
  • The program is producing tools, methodologies, and process guides that can be used by irrigation districts and other organizations across the western U.S.

Oregon’s Irrigation Modernization Program was a recipient of a 2016 “State Leadership in Clean Energy Award,” presented by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). You can learn more about this program and other award recipients at


CESA hosted a webinar highlighting Oregon’s Irrigation Modernization Program on July 19, 2016 – slides and a recording are available at

This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.

New Hampshire’s Groundbreaking Renewable Thermal Program

Author: Maria Blais Costello, Clean Energy Group | Project: Clean Energy States Alliance

PHOTO CREDIT: New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission Sustainable Energy Division

In 2012, New Hampshire became the first and only state to add a carve-out for renewable thermal technologies to its renewable portfolio standard (RPS). This carve-out requires electricity providers to support a minimum amount of renewable thermal energy each year that is produced by eligible biomass, solar thermal, and geothermal technologies. Since this law passed in 2012, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission Sustainable Energy Division developed rules to govern the metering, monitoring, and quantification of thermal renewable energy credits (T-RECs). New Hampshire’s T-REC program has provided substantial economic and environmental benefits for the state, and serves as a model that other states can use to support a wide range of clean energy thermal technologies.

A First-in-the-Nation Program to Promote Heat from Renewables

An RPS is a state target for renewable energy generation, generally focused on electricity. Even though many states have come to recognize that renewable thermal heat has many of the same benefits as electricity-generating renewable technologies, few state programs include thermal technologies in their RPS.

With New Hampshire’s cold winter climate, access to clean, reliable, and affordable heating systems is a concern for the state’s residents and policymakers. Currently, most of the estimated $6 billion that New Hampshire spends annually on fossil fuels leaves the state. New Hampshire’s T-REC program capitalizes on locally produced energy resources, keeping financial resources in state. The program requires electricity providers to secure renewable thermal generation equivalent to 1.3 percent of electricity sales in 2016, increasing gradually to 2 percent in 2023. This represents the first time a state has set a target within its RPS for thermal output. The useful thermal energy generated must be delivered in New Hampshire.

Local Resources, Local Benefits

The T-REC program expands New Hampshire’s economy by supporting the renewable thermal industry and by developing its work force. The T-REC program has benefitted the geothermal, solar thermal, and biomass industries by providing an additional revenue stream to make these technologies more cost-effective. A typical large commercial facility generates approximately 2,500-6,000 T-RECs (measured in MWh equivalent).

The economic benefits of the T-REC market go beyond the renewable energy sector. Androscoggin Valley Hospital, for example, displaced approximately 280,000 gallons of number-two fuel oil over the past two years with 7,043 tons of wood chips purchased through a local distributor. Since biomass facilities generally source wood products from New Hampshire’s North Country, an area that is heavily dependent on the forest product industry, the T-REC program supports local jobs in forestry, logging, pellet manufacturing, and transportation industries.

The environmental benefits of the T-REC program are substantial. Renewable thermal technologies are often more efficient than conventional heating and cooling systems, and biomass technologies are held to more stringent emissions criteria than would otherwise be required. In addition, these thermal technologies typically replace older, oil-burning technologies, which results in overall emission reductions (greenhouse gas, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter).

A Model for the Country

Incorporating renewable thermal into RPS programs presents a challenge, because RPSs were originally designed to measure electrical output. Some states allow some renewable thermal technologies to be eligible for their RPS, and many states offer other support for this developing market. However, New Hampshire is the first state to take on the challenge of developing from scratch a program with metering requirements, emissions qualifications, and defined rules; and its T-REC program is the most comprehensive initiative to support renewable thermal technologies in the country.

States across the country are looking to New Hampshire as a model for supporting renewable thermal technologies. This program can serve as a template for other states to adapt for use in their RPS or incentive programs. The metering standards could be duplicated, as could the framework of the rules. Massachusetts, for instance, has monitored the development of the New Hampshire T-REC program and looked to it as it develops a thermal standard. Other states have asked for assistance and feedback when considering the addition of useful thermal energy in their RPS.


  • The New Hampshire T-REC program has certified 18 thermal facilities with a total capacity of more than 36 MMBTU/hr from the installation of biomass and geothermal technologies.
  • Over 10 megawatts-equivalent of renewable thermal energy capacity have been added to New Hampshire’s RPS since the program began in 2012.
  • The NH PUC Sustainable Energy Division has provided over $2.2 million in grants to 12 projects that will develop thermal alternatives and create T-RECs with a total investment of over $11.3 million.

New Hampshire’s Useful Thermal Energy Certificate (T-REC) Program was a recipient of a 2016 “State Leadership in Clean Energy Award,” presented by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). You can learn more about this program and other award recipients at


CESA hosted a webinar highlighting New Hampshire’s T-REC program on July 13, 2016 – slides and a recording are available at

This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.

Exploring the Benefits of Distributed Solar in Rhode Island

Author: Maria Blais Costello, Clean Energy Group | Project: Clean Energy States Alliance

Photo Credit: Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources

The electric utility industry is in the midst of a fundamental transformation as it prepares for a distributed energy future. Key to unlocking this future is a better understanding of the costs and benefits of distributed generation and its ability to reduce peak loads on the electric distribution system. To this end, the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources (RI OER) developed a pilot project to explore how distributed solar could provide value to Rhode Island’s electric grid. The pilot project, initiated in 2014, has successfully mobilized the local community to adopt solar PV beyond initial expectations, helped to defer traditional utility capital investments, and provided important lessons for the consideration of “non-wires alternatives” in distribution system planning. Preliminary estimates indicate that solar resources that were geo-targeted by the project could provide enough peak load reduction to defer the construction of an expensive new sub-station feeder by two to four years.

Using Distributed Generation to Address Electric Load Constraints

For several years, National Grid, Rhode Island’s major electric utility, used an initiative called DemandLinkTM to geo-target customer adoption of energy efficiency and demand response to address a localized electric load constraint during late summer afternoons in the towns of Tiverton and Little Compton. In order to understand how solar might also help contribute to meeting the distribution need, RI OER proposed using an additional non-wires alternative: geo-targeted solar PV deployment. The System Reliability Procurement Solar Distributed Generation (SRP DG) Pilot Project aimed to use solar adoption to help defer the construction of a new substation feeder in the Tiverton-Little Compton area. It employed two key solar-adoption strategies: (1) an open solicitation for competitive proposals from solar developers and (2) a locally based Solarize campaign.

Solar Solicitation

RI OER designed the pilot project’s solar solicitation to fully integrate with and complement the state’s Renewable Energy Growth (REG) Program, which helps Rhode Island customers develop and benefit from renewable energy projects by using fixed-price, long-term, performance-based incentives. RI OER offered a competitive grant opportunity to REG Program participants based on the incremental costs that might be incurred to maximize a solar installation’s benefit to the distribution system. One developer submitted a proposal for a single-axis tracking system. The solar tracking system design helps maximize value to the distribution grid by providing increased electric generation during the late afternoon load peak when the area’s load constraint is most acute.

Solarize with a Twist

Solarize initiatives use community engagement techniques and competitive tiered pricing to promote targeted adoption of solar while driving down costs for all participants by leveraging economies of scale. The Solarize Rhode Island component of the SRP DG project brought together multiple collaborators, including the Renewable Energy Fund at Commerce RI, SmartPower, a non-profit marketing company, and RI OER. RI OER added a new twist to the traditional Solarize tiered pricing model for the Tiverton and Little Compton campaigns: a sliding-scale of incentives for westward-facing solar projects, which were based on the solar project’s incremental value to the distribution system during the local summer peak periods. Recognizing that solar panels facing west and southwest would generate electricity during the critical time of peak demand when the value to the grid is highest, the Solarize campaigns in Tiverton and Little Compton offered extra monetary incentives to homeowners who oriented their solar systems westward, to offset their lower overall solar production. Sixty-seven Rhode Island customers signed contracts for solar during the course of the Tiverton and Little Compton Solarize campaigns. Many received the added incentive for westward-facing solar installations.

Leadership, Lessons, and Legacy

The RI OER’s SRP DG project represents a successful geo-targeted effort to promote customer adoption of solar. Collectively, the project enrolled 735 kW of solar DG, exceeding its original goal of 520 kW. Not only did the project result in substantial new installed solar capacity, but it also achieved cost savings for residents of Tiverton and Little Compton, as well as for statewide rate-payers. The addition of solar is anticipated to contribute to the deferral of a proposed new substation feeder. National Grid estimates that the solar enrolled through the project will contribute 362 kW of projected peak load reduction. Beyond the immediate savings and increased solar penetration achieved, the project offers a real-world demonstration of the strategic integration of distributed solar deployment with electric distribution planning. The project provides an example of a successful partnership between a state energy office and an electric distribution company, and the use of geo-targeted solar as a viable “non-wires solution” to address localized electric load constraints. It provides a replicable model that other states can use to strengthen cooperative planning with utilities on distributed generation.


  • The System Reliability Procurement Solar Distributed Generation Pilot Project demonstrated how distributed solar PV can provide value to RI’s electric gird.
  • National Grid estimates that the project will contribute 362 kW of projected peak load reduction, demonstrating a viable “non-wires alternative” in distribution system planning, and potentially deferring a new substation feeder by an estimated two to four years.
  • The project was a constructive collaboration between a utility, state agencies, and key energy stakeholders to advance knowledge of solar distributed generation through a real-world demonstration of its strategic integration with the electric grid.

Rhode Island’s System Reliability Procurement Solar Distributed Generation Pilot Project was a recipient of a 2016 “State Leadership in Clean Energy Award,” presented by the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA). You can learn more about this program and other award recipients at


CESA hosted a webinar highlighting Rhode Island’s System Reliability Procurement Solar Distributed Generation Pilot Project on July 13, 2016 – slides and a recording are available at

This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.

Report from BOEM’s New York Auction Seminar and Public Hearing

Author: Valerie Stori, Clean Energy Group | Project: Offshore Wind Accelerator Project

ny osw photoStrong winds, advanced offshore wind technology, and a large market all come together in New York where the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently designated 81,130 acres as a commercial wind energy area (WEA). BOEM discussed the auction process for lease rights to the WEA and reviewed the timeline and milestones for bringing the WEA to auction at an auction seminar and public hearing on Wednesday. Seven developers have already qualified for the auction, which requires a bid down payment of $450,000. In addition, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has indicated that it will bid in the lease auction as well. If successful, NYSERDA plans to carry out site studies and environmental assessments before leasing the site to a developer.

Before the WEA goes up for auction, BOEM is soliciting public comments on the site’s draft environmental assessment and the proposed sale notice. Comments are due by July 6th for the environmental assessment and August 5th for the proposed sale notice. Once the environmental assessment is revised and released, BOEM will publish a final sale notice with a commercial lease sale date; the New York WEA sale is expected to take place in December. Once the lease is executed, there will be several more opportunities to provide public input such as on the site assessment plan and on the draft environmental impact statement of the developer’s construction and operations plan.

At Wednesday night’s public hearing in New York City, a turnout of about 40 people expressed their overwhelming support for offshore wind in New York. Numerous attendees spoke not only in support of offshore wind, but also in support of local jobs, fast-action on climate change, and long-term commitments to grow the industry. A diverse group of citizen activists called on Governor Cuomo, the state Public Service Commission, and NYSERDA to adopt an offshore wind tier in the state’s new Clean Energy Standard and urged that the state’s Renewable Energy Vision contain a specific target for offshore wind. Many reiterated the view that BOEM’s five-year timeframe for a developer to submit a construction and operation plan (COP) was too lengthy, stating that we cannot afford to wait to act on climate change. BOEM Director Abby Hopper clarified that developers can submit a COP at any point in the five-year time period, and that the length of the entire BOEM timeframe was developed to maximize efficiency while reducing opportunities for litigation.

Representatives of New York City and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability were also present at Wednesday’s meetings. The Mayor’s staff noted that the Mayor was interested in connecting the offshore wind into NY ISO Zone J (NYC); offshore wind power would help the city meet its OneNYC goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050 and from City government operations 35% by 2025. Power may also connect into Zone K (Long Island).

To comment on BOEM’s draft environmental assessment or the proposed sale notice, visit BOEM’s New York activity page:


This blog post was also published in Renewable Energy World.