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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10 M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 8 NEWS IN THE CSS can be the killer app for cooperatives, supplying a cost-competitive, locally sourced, clean energy resource that also provides resilience benefits to their mem- bers," says Thomas Koch Blank, a princi- pal at RMI. "Seizing on the additional cost-reduction pathways that we identify will help ensure buyers have access to the best CSS offerings." The outcome of that November summit was a clear understanding and identifica- tion of one path to reduce CSS costs. In full, the plan involves working with manu- facturers, communities, utilities and solar developers to build a more transparent, standardized approach that expands mar- ket access for CSS installations — func- tioning, in a sense, as its own community. Here's how it will happen. Supply side streamline The plan starts with the rollout of one or more regionalized assembly plants of modular mounting systems. The goal here would be standardization and factory- assembled units that can be delivered and installed quickly. "What we really needed to get people to rethink is how solar currently gets solar installed in the field, where all of the com- ponents from a diverse set of sources arrive on the site and then everything gets assem- bled, often at height, which makes it diffi- cult to assemble," Kortenhorst says. "We needed to get people to think of completely different ways of doing this — a whole system design effort to industrialize the process of assembly, and the big idea that came out is creating a standardized unit that fits on the bed of a flat-bed truck and is easily transported into the field." Taken together, RMI estimates a reduction of 20 cents per watt from these regionalized factories. RMI issued a request for information (RFI) to get one or more of them built, and while they are in motion and close to announc- ing, as of presstime, no specifics were official. Kortenhorst is 100 percent con- fident one will be in place and deploy- able by the end of 2018. "Our concern is to make sure that this solution becomes commercially available at scale and cost effective as quickly as possible," he says. Demand side driver While the supply side is crucial, many of these system cost reductions might have happened organically from the manufac- turer side, and those innovations aren't quite as impactful without the second piece of the puzzle: a reduction in soft costs. Easier said than done, especially with complex community solar deals. To achieve this, RMI is collaborating with co-ops, municipal utilities and buyer aggre- gations to build more buyer-side efficiencies. "The biggest opportunity, in our view, is to help co-ops and municipal utilities real- ize if you put an RFP out and bring together the site, interconnection, the per- mitting, the financing and then you go to tender, you are likely to get a much more competitive offer from the developer because you have significantly reduced the risk," Kortenhorst says. Putting it that way makes it sound so simple, and it's not a stretch to expect a municipality to do such legwork at the outset. The more traditional way is kind of silly, really, with the RFP process requiring the developer to take responsi- bility for permitting and land acquisition pieces that the municipality is in a better position to organize. "As a municipality, you may know of the appropriate site, you may be able to work with the utility to get a clear com- mitment on the interconnect, you may be Clean Energy Collective is now accepting reservations in New York for its popular RooflessSolar program.

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