Solar Builder

MAY-JUN 2018

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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SOLARBUILDERMAG.COM | 9 and Texas, and focuses particularly on the CSS opportunity for rural electric cooperatives. The eyebrow raiser inside the report is RMI's research that shows a path to reduce CSS costs by 40 percent and enable a 30-GW CSS market — the equivalent of about 50 average-sized coal plants — by 2020. It's not all theory, either. In November 2017, RMI gathered 35 diverse stake- holders from across the solar industry to devise a collaborative concept that would realize this vision. "In demonstrating the ability today to already deliver clean energy at or below 5 cents per kWh on the distribution grid, utility-scale and residential segments decreased, for the first time since 2010, com- munity solar boomed. "Minnesota headlined a banner year for community solar, with more megawatts installed in that state than total U.S. commu- nity solar installations in all of 2016," said Austin Perea, GTM Research solar analyst and co-author of the U.S. Solar Market Insights Report for 2017. "We expect com- munity solar to diversify geographically in 2018, with Maryland and New York to be key growth markets for the sub-segment begin- ning this year." Zooming out to the broader community- scale solar (CSS) segment, defined as 0.5- to 10-MW projects that include co-op, munici- pal and IOU rate-based projects along with large C&I and shared solar gardens, reveals even more potential. In fact, we might be on the verge of an Occam's razor model for CSS that has a five-year roadmap to 50 cents per watt total installed cost — a cost level that could drive the potential for community solar and other mid-sized solar installations to 30 GW installed by 2020. What the what? This concept starts with the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), a renewable ener- gy think tank located in Boulder, Colo. RMI believes CSS sits in a sweet spot in the market and represents an economic opportunity of as much as $30 billion. CSS systems are large enough to access low costs through economies of scale and small enough to efficiently inter- connect into distribution systems. The poten- tial is in projects between 500 kW and 10 MW in size. "We believe the medium-size market is poised to accelerate very rapidly," says Jules Kortenhorst, CEO of RMI. "It has significant advantages in that it can be placed close to electricity load, doesn't need as much space, can go on top of parking lots or be more in the middle of communities. So, therefore the opportunity is very significant." In a new report, The Progress and Potential for Community-Scale Solar, RMI offers new approaches to help drive additional develop- ment and buyer adoption of this locally sourced resource. The report relays data and insights from RMI's work supporting co-op solar procurement in Colorado, New Mexico

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