Green Street Power Partners buys up portfolio of community solar projects in New York via SunPower

SunPower Helix module mounting

Green Street Power Partners LLC (GSPP) has purchased a portfolio of community solar projects all in Con Edison’s service zone, from SunPower. A 918-kilowatt rooftop project in Maspeth, Queens, will be the first completed featuring SunPower Helix technology. The project was originated by SunPower dealer Accord Power, who is also providing development and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) services. Construction is set to begin April 1 and expected to be complete by late spring 2018. GSPP will own the system, highlighting the company’s increased focus on project acquisition.

“This project, along with the additional projects we are currently acquiring, will have a profound impact on our company while helping us achieve our goals of being a leader in community solar, and commercial and industrial solar markets,” said Scott Kerner, Co-Founder and CEO. “We are also thrilled about the next chapter in our collaboration with SunPower and its network of dealers, and are hopeful that these projects will be the first of many.”

The SunPower Helix advanced technology which will be used for this 918-kilowatt rooftop solar system is expected to offset approximately 20,496 metric tons of carbon dioxide from the five boroughs over the lifetime of the system, the equivalent of preserving 167 acres of forest. The project will provide power to more than 150 homes in New York City.

“We are thrilled that Green Street Power Partners is taking a leadership position in helping to encourage development of reliable solar energy projects like this one featuring SunPower’s leading-edge solar technology,” said Nam Nguyen, SunPower executive vice president, commercial. “We look forward to building on this shared success in the future, bringing value to even more customers.”

— Solar Builder magazine

EnSync, J. Walter Cameron Center sell 20-year solar-plus-storage PPA

Ensync energy systems

EnSync announced the sale of a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) it arranged on behalf of J. Walter Cameron Center (JWCC) to an undisclosed investor. The PPA will bring the nonprofit incubator space nearly half a million dollars in savings during the terms of the agreement.

EnSync Energy’s project engineers consulted with JWCC to size the non-exporting system to meet the center’s current operational needs while allowing room for expansion. The resulting solar plus storage project encompasses a 148-kW photovoltaic (PV) installation and EnSync Energy’s DER SuperModule—244 kWh of energy storage supported by EnSync Energy’s Matrix Energy Management System and DER Flex technologies. The alternating current, PV-only system directly serves the buildings’ loads, and a direct current system connected to the SuperModule stores energy for off-peak solar hours and for demand charge mitigation.

JWCC provides over 43,000 square feet of office space across six individual buildings to 16 resident agencies, including The American Cancer Society – Hawaii Pacific, The American Red Cross and The Maui Chamber of Commerce. The center also provides program space and support resources to over 250 community groups that together serve 30,000 Mauiresidents. Beyond cost reductions from the lower PPA rate, JWCC will benefit from demand charge mitigation services, which will decrease the center’s utility bills by relying on energy storage to manage high demand charges.
Construction will commence in the coming months.

— Solar Builder magazine

IBISWorld: Post-tariff solar market fundamentals remain favorable for buyers in short term

solar panel tariff pricing

It’s been about a month since the #TrumpTariffs officially went into place, and while the long-term economic and pricing implications of the tariff remain to be seen, analysts at IBISWorld say procurement professionals shouldn’t panic since the market’s fundamentals remain favorable for buyers, at least in the short term. IBISWorld employs teams of dedicated expert analysts in the US, UK and Australia who scour economic, demographic and market data, while adding analytical insight that helps organizations of all types make better purchasing decisions. Here’s a look into their thinking.

PV panels solar tariffPanel prices will still fall

While the tariff may place upward pressure on solar energy costs, PV panel prices are already falling, so the tax’s impact will be minimized. IBISWorld estimates that the average price of solar panels has been declining at an estimated annualized rate of 3.6% during the past three years, and is forecast to continue falling at an annualized rate of 3.3% in the next three years. While some of this decline is due to the availability of cheap imports, it’s also attributed to technological improvements and more cost-effective and scaled production. Consequently, though this price forecast may change, these factors will continue to keep PV panel prices in check, even as the tariff increases costs.

Moreover, in anticipation of the January decision, foreign suppliers, particularly from China and Mexico, rushed to bring in low-cost solar equipment for US customers toward the end of 2017 to beat the tariff. According to Bloomberg, there’s about five gigawatts of solar equipment already stashed in U.S. warehouses and ports, enough to supply U.S. solar projects for the next six months. This supply glut will help mitigate the impact of the tariff through much of 2018, when the tax will be the highest.

Mitigation through better procurement strategies

Businesses looking to install solar panels will also continue to enjoy tax incentives. Currently, the IRS offers a business investment tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of solar panel installation. Congress passed an extension on these tax credits in December 2015, which makes them available for solar energy systems in operation by the end of 2019. In 2020, the credit will be reduced to 26%, and then to 22% in 2021 before dropping permanently to 10% in 2022.

Procurement professionals can also take steps to insulate themselves from potentially higher prices by carefully considering their “soft costs.” These non-hardware expenses include financing, permitting, installation, taxes, inspection and more. Despite declining solar energy hardware costs, soft costs have largely held steady, and thus account for an increasing proportion of the price of solar power.

One of the best strategies for buyers to reduce soft costs is through scale. Many of these costs do not increase significantly with scale, which means buyers can spread these expenses out with large projects. Buyers should also look for vendors that offer standardized designs. These “plug-and-play” PV panel systems are modular and easy to install, enabling buyers to minimize permitting, inspection and connection costs by utilizing a standard system across all their locations.

Procurement departments can also look to build solar energy systems in states that have taken actions to reduce soft costs. For example, Colorado’s Fair Permit Act caps the fee for commercial permits at $1,000. Five New England states, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont and Rhode Island, have joined forces to form the New England Solar Cost-Reduction Partnership. The partnership aims to reduce soft costs through measures such as online permitting and expedited review processes that automatically issue permits after a specified period of time.

Armed with a supply glut of imported PV panels, tax incentives and strategies for reducing soft costs, this tariff doesn’t have to be a death knell for businesses looking to adopt solar panel systems. In particular, the 30% tax credit in operation by the end of 2019 will continue to be a strong incentive for buyers considering solar panel systems.

— Solar Builder magazine

RMI report shows path for a 30-GW community solar market by 2020

sunlink iowa community solar 2

Community solar project in Iowa, courtesy of SunLink.

While recent CSS market growth has exceeded that of both behind-the-meter solar like rooftop photovoltaic systems and that of utility-scale solar between 2015 and 2017, barriers surrounding cost, access and demand continue to drag on the CSS sector’s overall growth. The Progress and Potential for Community-Scale Solar report offers new approaches to help drive additional development and buyer adoption of this clean, reliable, locally sourced resource.

The report relays data and insights from RMI’s work supporting co-op solar procurement in Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, and focuses particularly on the CSS opportunity for rural electric cooperatives. It follows RMI’s research highlighting levers to reduce CSS costs by 40 percent and enable a 30-GW community scale-solar market—the equivalent of about 50 average-sized coal plants—by 2020.

How do we get there?

RMI believes the CSS segment sits in an economic sweet spot in the market and represents an economic opportunity of as much as $30 billion. Community-scale systems are large enough to access low costs through economies of scale and small enough to efficiently interconnect into distribution systems. Via these solar arrays — between 0.5 megawatt (MW) and 5 MW per installation, interconnected to distribution networks and sited directly within the neighborhoods they serve —cooperatives can leverage local connections to facilitate the development process, further reducing costs.

“In demonstrating the ability to already today deliver clean energy at or below 5 cents per kilowatt-hour on the distribution grid, CSS can be the ‘killer app’ for cooperatives, supplying a cost-competitive, locally sourced, clean energy resource that also provides resilience benefits to their members,” Thomas Koch Blank, a principal at RMI, said. “Seizing on the additional cost-reduction pathways we identify will help ensure buyers access to the best CSS offerings and their range of benefits.”

Here’s a plan to cut solar costs to offset impact of new tariffs on panel prices

RMI in December announced the start of construction on a new 3 MW solar project in New Mexico that will sell its output below 4.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, a price RMI believes is the lowest reported contract for distributed photovoltaic solar energy in the U.S. RMI provided project analysis and supported the competitive procurement process for Otero County Electric Cooperative, Inc.

RMI is working with communities, utilities, and solar developers to build a more transparent, standardized approach to help expand market access for community-scale solar installations. The organization also is continually expanding its network to both raise awareness of the benefits of this technology, and simplify the process to help stakeholders determine how CSS can help lower electricity costs and bring more clean energy onto the grid.

— Solar Builder magazine

Lightsource BP to build largest solar farm in Kansas

lightsource bp

Lightsource BP has signed a 25-year power purchase and asset acquisition agreement with Mid-Kansas Electric Company (Mid-Kansas) Inc. An affiliate of Sunflower Electric Power Corp., Mid-Kansas is a cooperatively operated wholesale generation and transmission utility serving members across the state of Kansas.

Located in Stanton County, Kan., the 20-megawatt project will be built, owned and operated by Lightsource BP. Mid-Kansas will be purchasing all of the solar energy from the facility. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2019. When completed, the project will be the largest solar facility in Kansas.

“Harnessing the power of the sun is not a new concept. The economics are what have changed,” said Steve Epperson, Mid-Kansas Chairman of the Board. “The decreasing cost of photovoltaic technology, along with other industry dynamics, makes it the right time to bring solar energy into our generation mix.” Lightsource BP will provide the capital requirements for project financing and construction.

In addition to generating cost-effective on-peak energy and capacity, the solar facility will also reduce loading on a transmission line that is nearing full capacity, thus deferring or eliminating a costly upgrade requirement for the Mid-Kansas transmission system.

“We are delighted to team up with Mid-Kansas and Sunflower to deliver this landmark project,” said Lightsource BP’s North America Chief Commercial Officer Katherine Ryzhaya. “It is energizing to see solar be both a cost-effective power resource and a viable alternative to infrastructure upgrades. This project is a win-win for the communities of western Kansas.”

Lightsource BP is actively developing projects for cooperative, municipal and investor-owned utilities throughout the United States. “Solar economics have crossed a critical threshold of competitiveness versus traditional power sources,” said Ryzhaya. “We understand the needs of generation and transmission operators, and we are aligned in our mission to deliver cost savings and clean energy supply to their customers.”

The project has been collaboratively developed with the National Renewable Cooperative Organization (NRCO), which worked with its member-owner Mid-Kansas in structuring the Lightsource BP partnership.

“NRCO is pleased to have helped another one of its electric cooperative owners develop and contract solar capacity for its portfolio,” said Eric Spigelman, Director of Renewables Development. “Johnson Corner solar is a shining example of how a partnership approach can create significant value. NRCO applauds Mid-Kansas and Lightsource BP on their transaction.”

— Solar Builder magazine