Solar Builder

JUL-AUG 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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24 J U LY / AU G U S T 2 0 1 8 NREL notes that "There are almost 3,500 electricity provid- ers in the United States, and each one has their own set of tariff sheets, rate structures and pathways for compensating non-util - ity-owned energy generation." Add a dynamic dimension of rate evolution arising from rate cases, and it becomes a bit difficult to keep up with when it is most economic to use how much power. Here the data crunchers enter the fray. Stem, for example, recently launched its Athena analysis product, which uses artifi- cial intelligence to learn, predict and optimize energy in real time. Athena collects data at a rate of 400 megabytes per minute to continually fine-tune its algorithms. The system also has learned from operating systems for over 5 million hours, from processing nearly 200 million data intervals and from running over 35 million project simulations. As a result, the system decides and tells the battery when to store and to discharge power, responds to demand response opportunities and method- ically shaves peak utility rates. Stem has working relationships with eight utilities thus far and expects that number to grow significantly as the company helps shave peak demand, which is costly on both sides of the trans- former. Stem has been dispatching batteries into California's wholesale energy markets where it responded to more than 600 calls from state grid operator CAISO last year, according to the company. On top of new legislative challenges, the industry has faced high and growing customer acquisition costs over the past few years. According to GTM Research, customer acquisition costs on average now represent a disproportionate 17 percent of the total system cost. This is where a new service from Urjanet, a global leader in utility data aggregation, comes into play. Its new Utility Data for Solar, a data-as-a-service solution that provides on-demand access to residential and commercial energ y usage, cost and location data from more than 900 electric utilities in over 15 countries. Urjanet Utilit y Data for Solar enables a more cost-effective, customized approach to selling solar systems that allows vendors to effectively focus on the needs, requirements and situation of each residential or com- mercial buyer. Storage as a service emerges When solar leasing became popular, the common knowledge about actual savings from such arrangements was about 15 per- cent of a residential utility bill, if that. With C&I customers, the savings opportunities are as high as the sky or at least whatever the utility bill looks like pre-storage. JLM Energy is one of the latest energy storage solution provid- ers that offers financing for energy storage customers through a $25 million project financing fund. The company uses a lease structure to achieve shared savings on a monthly basis for 20 years, with no upfront cost. JLM owns, maintains and guarantees system performance. Stem has long been financing storage solutions, and now has a $500 million investment pool from which it can draw to finance a project, thanks to a host of private sector investors, including the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan. Wall Street may not have climbed onto the PV wagon when the industry began to mature, but the storage peak-shaving proposition apparently seems as clear and understandable to such investors as the bottom line of the utility bill. Charles W. Thurston is a freelance writer covering solar energy from Northern California. Fig 1. Example of the steep savings achieved just through shaving peak demand.

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