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What’s the solar landscape? Let’s review

08032015-solar-calendarIt’s been a busy time for renewable developers and planners, especially in the case of solar development. We’ve seen quite a few news articles and commentary recently for a number of reasons. And with an investment tax credit set to be scaled back at the end of 2016, it is likely we will hear many more news stories over the next 18 months.

What is interesting is that the industry could not be moving forward with any less force. It may even be increasing as we see solar in the headlines more often. From major acquisitions such as SunEdison’s continued renewable land grab with the Vivint Solar acquisition, as well as recent stories of record-breaking power purchase agreements in the Southwest.

What is even more interesting for me is the recent local news in my home state of North Dakota.  As you all know, North Dakota is known for blizzards, farms and cloudy winters. So what possible advances could solar be making in North Dakota? Well, there are actually some very interesting plot lines coming from the great white north including, in a first for the state, a community solar garden being built by one of the larger electrical cooperatives, Cass County Electric.

Another interesting story is a developing rate recovery battle between Excel Energy, Minnesota and North Dakota. Minnesota has mandated a certain amount of a utility’s power generation needs to come from solar by 2020. That’s led to a dispute over how cost recovery should be shared when a utility who services multiple states has to follow one state’s renewable portfolio standards.

This will likely become an even bigger issue in the next few years as the distributed generation debate of the haves and have-nots moves from residential and industrial customers to individual states. Should the other states served by that utility be affected by the rate increase required to implement the one state’s renewable standards? To be continued…

photovoltaic cells and high voltage post.

To add to the fodder, this brewing story coming out of Minnesota is another little gem about solar installers who lack the foresight to engage utility experienced engineers during design and construction of a solar installation. For one firm, that’s caused nothing but pain for the installation owner, who’s been stuck without a connection between the utility and his solar system. One utility spokesman said in a StarTribune news article:

‘“Connecting a solar array to the grid isn’t as simple as plugging your cellphone into a power supply,” Gabler said in a follow-up e-mail. “These interconnections are complex engineering challenges and can impact the stability and reliability of the grid that all of our customers rely on every day.”

I couldn’t agree more, Mr. Gabler.

It’s all one can do to keep updated on what’s happening in solar; these are just a few of the pieces that, to me, seemed to highlight the unpredictability of our ever-changing power industry. The one thing that is predictable is the common theme in all these stories is that of disruption and changing landscapes. We’re going to see a continuing evolution in our industry, and when I look at the future, it may be a bit uncertain, but exciting nonetheless.

About the author

Mike is our account executive for the Renewable and Power markets. His responsibilities include serving renewable energy clients throughout the United States as well as utilities located in the western part of the country, and he specializes in developing renewable energy, energy storage and electronic power solutions for his clients. He has more than 10 years of experience as a project and substation engineer. His background encompasses project management, commissioning, protective relaying, SCADA systems, substations and switchyards, conduit and raceway systems, grounding systems, field investigation and testing. From issues and techniques to new technological developments, he keeps you updated on what's happening in clean power generation.