EME 810
Solar Resource Assessment and Economics

9.3 USA: Interstate Renewable Energy Policy and Permitting

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Reading Assignment

Policy and permitting is an evolving pattern in the renewable energy world. As solar energy rolls out to new municipalities, and adoption rates increase, the pressure to establish an efficient permitting process arises. I would like you to read these documents.

Net Metering

One of the more recent trends from the past decade of photovoltaic adoption is the ability to connect directly into the power grid. In such cases, policies have been adopted to allow renewable generators to "bank" excess power into the grid and receive credits for the excess energy (in kWh). But each locale will be subject to different policies enabling or prohibiting such practices. Net metering is expanding in creative ways, including aggregation of multiple distributed energy sources for credit, and distributing joint credit from a centralized solar garden among multiple participants in a community.

Solar Permitting

Permitting is the unseen monster of project development that will slow or stop a project from moving forward. The key rewards of an established permitting process for SECS include reduced costs of installation and faster turnaround from design to deployment. It will be well worth your integrative design team's time to familiarize yourselves with the permitting process for your locale of interest.

Best practices have been itemized by IREC in our reading. We can distill those into a few core features that we would hope for in an integrative process that includes permitting:

  • speed of processing (expedited processing, online processing);
  • transparency of the process (requirements posted online and openly);
  • reduced permitting costs (flat fee over value-based fees); and
  • supporting permitting staff are knowledgeable of solar installations.

Self-check questions:

1. What is "net metering"?

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ANSWER: Users with locally generated renewable electricity can bank excess electricity on the power grid. The power company will then grant credits of kWh, offsetting electricity consumed by the client at another time.

2. What is "meter aggregation"?

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ANSWER: Net metering scenario where multiple systems from distinctly separate facilities can be aggregated for credit, given that they are on the same property (all owned by the client).

3. What is “community net metering”?

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ANSWER: Community solar-based net metering scenario: multiple systems come from a single community solar garden, and the joint benefits of the solar garden project are shared among the multiple users.

4. What are the key rewards to a smooth permitting process?

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ANSWER: The costs encumbered by the client will be reduced relative to a long and poorly understood process. Additionally, the team will encounter significantly faster turnaround from design to deployment, and the client could be granted rebates/refunds/grants faster with a knowledgeable design team.