These utilities are adding the most solar, storage to the grid


The Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA) has announced its annual Top 10 lists recognizing the U.S. utilities that added the most new solar and storage to the grid in 2017. Compiled as part of SEPA’s 11th annual Utility Market Survey, the lists include the top utilities in four categories: new solar megawatts and watts per customer, and new storage megawatts and watts per customer.

On the solar megawatts list, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) regained the No. 1 spot this year with 831.3 megawatts (MW), while Southern California Edison (SCE), last year’s No. 1, was second with 547.1 MW. The small town of Madison, Maine took the top spot on the watts per customer list, with 1,819.6 watts per customer (W/C).

Top 10 solar utilities

solar watts per customer

On the Utility Storage Top 10, SCE ranked No. 1 on new megawatts, with 56.2 MW, while the Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC) was No. 1 in new storage watts per customer, with 415.3 W/C. All Top 10 winners will be recognized at an awards luncheon on April 25 at SEPA’s Utility Conference in Rancho Mirage.

top 10 storage utilities

storage watts SEPA

“Despite a small dip in the general solar market, we are seeing new regional and state markets making gains across the country and across all types and sizes of utilities,” said Julia Hamm, President and CEO of SEPA. “Beyond their impressive numbers, this year’s winners embody a range of strong models for innovation and leadership that our industry will be able to build on as we move toward a clean, smart and resilient energy future.”

This year’s Utility Solar Top 10 lists are based on data provided by 423 utilities, representing around 114 million customers across the United States. The Storage Top 10 lists draw on data from 169 utilities, representing 70.7 million customers. The full lists in all categories are attached.

Three Takeaways

• While California utilities took the top two spots on the solar MW list, the rest of the Top 10 in this category show the ongoing growth of strong regional markets. Rounding out the top five are No. 3 Xcel Minnesota (522.3 MW), No 4 Duke Energy Progress in North and South Carolina (355.4 MW) and No. 5 Xcel Colorado (318.8 MW).

• Nine of the Top 10 utilities on the solar watts per customer list are small municipals or electric cooperatives, underlining the spread of solar in rural communities. Joining Madison on the list are No. 3 Anza Electric Cooperative in California (1,455.5 W/C), No. 4 Clarksville Light and Water in Arkansas (1,202.1 W/C), and No. 5 Pickwick Electric Cooperative in Tennessee (1,195.9 W/C).

• By contrast, the Top 10 lists for storage — both megawatts and watts per customer — show growth still centered in the Southwest and Hawaiian markets, which have high levels of solar. Several utilities in these regions appear on both storage lists, including — SCE, KIUC, Tucson Electric Power and San Diego Gas & Electric.

— Solar Builder magazine

Massachusetts’ first community solar plus storage project now operational

Massachusetts community solar

Sterling, MA residents, elected officials and solar and energy storage professionals joined Origis Energy USA and Sterling Municipal Light Department at today’s Sterling Community Solar + Energy Storage project dedication event. The project marked the first solar plus storage project in operation in Massachusetts. (Photo: Business Wire)

Origis Energy USA and Sterling Municipal Light Department (SMLD) serving the Town of Sterling, Mass., completed the Sterling Community Solar + Energy Storage project, which is the first community solar plus storage and the first operational solar plus storage installation in Massachusetts, the project couples a 1 MWac rooftop solar installation with a 1 MW/2 MWh energy storage system to deliver an annual base load of 1.7 MWh in dispatchable clean energy to the town’s ratepayers. It was developed and is owned by Origis Energy USA, delivering power and storage benefits to SMLD through a Power Purchase Agreement.

Sterling, Mass., residents, elected officials and solar and energy storage professionals joined the two companies at the celebration under a “Community First” theme, highlighting the collaborative effort the project represents for the Town of Sterling and the many professionals involved with its completion. The dedication of permanent signage marking the installation location served as a focal point for the event.

RELATED: This community solar ‘Solutions Toolbox’ looks to grow the shared-solar market

A strong proponent of the project, Matt Stelmach, Chairman of the SMLD Board of Commissioners, said, “The Town of Sterling embodies the independent spirit of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Through the leadership of the Sterling Municipal Light Department, we now mark another milestone in our renewable energy leadership. We thank our ratepayers for their continued support and thank the Light Department staff and all of the professionals, led by the Origis Energy team, who have worked to install this important energy system.”

The Sterling Community Solar + Energy Storage project utilized community solar program guidelines from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to craft a subscription program for ratepayers in line with state policy.

“We are so pleased to offer residential customers this opportunity to participate in our new Community Solar Program,” said Sean Hamilton, Manager, Sterling Municipal Light Department. “This program allows them to receive up to 25% of solar kwhr’s based on their total bill at a rate that will be protected for 25 years. We have achieved our goal with the Sterling Community Solar + Energy Storage of competitive electricity rates while tapping the grid benefits of battery storage technology.”

Construction on the solar plus storage facility began in January and was completed the end of March. Just over 4000 Tier 1 solar panels are now located on commercial property owned by RockBreakers LLC and managed by Vincent J. CampoBasso, a resident of Sterling, MA. The battery system, Tier 1 lithium ion equipment, is located at ground level onsite.

“Every step of the way the Sterling team empowered our team and all those working with us to ensure we met the accelerated construction deadlines of this project” said Josh Teigiser, Director of Development & Energy Storage, Origis Energy. “Again, SMLD is providing a leadership example of renewable energy deployment. This progressive solar plus storage project demonstrates the viability of this technology for other municipalities in Massachusetts and leaders throughout the country and abroad.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Sungrow, Greensmith Energy working on 1-MW solar + storage project in Massachusetts

Sungrow, is working with Greensmith Energy, a part of the Wärtsilä technology group, to provide an advanced energy storage system to Origis Energy USA in Sterling, Massachusetts. The project couples a 1 MW rooftop solar installation with a 1MW/2MWh energy storage system to deliver an annual base load of 1.7 MWh in dispatchable clean energy to the town’s ratepayers.

“Sungrow is glad to be part of this Origis solar plus storage project in Massachusetts to push energy storage to the next frontier,” said Mizhi Zhang, the Managing Director of Sungrow-Samsung SDI, “with the advanced technology and expertise of Greensmith Energy and Origis Energy, this system will certainly help to provide reliable solar power and cost savings for this town.” John G. Jung, CEO of Greensmith also said, “Milestone installations like the Sterling Community Solar + Energy Storage project can serve as a technological benchmark for the region.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Residential solar buying trends: Quality matters, storage interest increases

residential solar buying

At Bloomberg’s Future of Energy Summit in New York, EnergySage released its latest semiannual Solar Marketplace Intel Report. EnergySage’s report is based on millions of transaction-level data points generated within its Solar Marketplace, and serves as one of the country’s foremost leading indicators of the future of residential solar shopping.

This sixth and latest report features new datasets and analyses including complete visibility into the specific brands of solar panels most likely to drive sales on EnergySage, and what other energy-related products and services today’s solar shoppers are considering, such as the Tesla Powerwall home battery.

Here are three insights from the latest report.

Equipment quality, not lowest price, drives buying decisions

EnergySage reviewed the equipment that consumers chose most frequently on the Solar Marketplace. In 2017, the most successful quotes all included higher quality panels such as SunPower, LG and Panasonic. This reflects a broader trend seen throughout the report: prospective solar customers are compelled by offers that include quality products at the right price.

RELATED: How solar installers can build business through third-party programs

Three in four solar shoppers also considering energy storage

In 2017, 74% of solar shoppers who shared their non-solar energy interests with EnergySage stated they were also considering a home battery like the Tesla Powerwall. While this hasn’t yet translated into an equivalent sales volume, batteries present a massive new market opportunity for installers, manufacturers, lenders, and utilities to capitalize on in coming years.

Cost of solar continues to fall, the lowest prices seen to date

When EnergySage first started tracking the cost of solar offered to consumers in 2014, the national average was at $3.86 per watt. By the end of 2017, the national average had fallen to $3.13 per watt. In many parts of the country including Florida, Arizona and Maryland, average costs were below $3.00 per watt on EnergySage and as low as $2.00 per watt in some counties.

“Today’s residential solar consumers are opting to own their systems, and as our data shows, they’re prioritizing equipment quality and value over whatever is the cheapest option,” said EnergySage CEO and founder Vikram Aggarwal. “Our mission to make solar more accessible and affordable for Americans through transparency is allowing today’s solar shopper to find the right solutions at the right price.”

Additionally, EnergySage analyzed quotes submitted to Solar Marketplace shoppers in five different utility service territories. The report compared the cost of solar energy to today’s electricity rates in territories served by Green Mountain Power, Pacific Power, Puget Sound Energy, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Tampa Electric. Remarkably, in every utility service territory except for Puget Sound Energy, the cost of solar was at least 50% below the 2017 residential electricity rate offered by the utility, and often lower.

— Solar Builder magazine

California retirement community expected to save $250,000 a year with Sharp solar+storage system


The NW Photon Energy and Paradise Village Retirement Community, a senior Independent Assisted and Memory Care Community in San Diego, Calif., is adding a 240 kW/324 kWh SmartStorage system from Sharp in six buildings on the community’s grounds and integrated with 516 kW of solar PV. The decision was a no-brainer after a detailed analysis of Paradise Village’s energy usage revealed that the hybrid solar plus SmartStorage system is expected to yield an estimated $90,000 in demand savings annually. Additionally, when factoring in the solar PV system coupled with the SmartStorage system, Paradise Village can expect to save over $250,000 a year on its utility bills (this includes both energy and demand savings).

“The significant savings unlocked by addressing peak demand may have a positive impact on the quality of life for the seniors in Paradise Village’s care, so we’re very proud to be involved in this project,” said Carl Mansfield, General Manager and Founder of Sharp’s U.S. based Energy Systems and Services Group. “In addition to this retirement home, we’ve now had SmartStorage systems installed at a wide variety of facilities such as lumber yards, non-profits, service stations, school campuses, manufacturing plants, and more. This demonstrates how economically impactful our energy storage system can be for virtually any commercial and industrial building that is struggling with high utility bills that are punctuated by expensive demand charges.”

RELATED: Generate solar+storage proposals quicker with Sharp’s SmartStorage platform 

Paradise Village is a resort-style Independent, Assisted Living and Memory Care Community located in San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) utility territory. The multi-building community consumes a significant amount of energy from HVAC, refrigeration and a variety of medical equipment that can have a significant startup load, which in turn increases demand request peaks with SDG&E. In some parts of California, up to 50 percent of commercial utility customers’ bills are a result of demand charges, making them ideal candidates for solar plus SmartStorage systems. It is estimated that Paradise Village’s system will reduce demand by over 2,000 kW annually.

Paradise Village’s SmartStorage system installation is backed by Sharp’s innovative 10-year Asset Management Service Agreement, which provides routine and unscheduled maintenance coupled with a 10-year demand reduction performance guarantee. If guaranteed demand reductions are not met within the terms of the agreement, Sharp will compensate for the deficit in promised peak demand reductions.

— Solar Builder magazine