California regulators say they deny all legal challenges to their net metering rules

california net energy metering rules

The utilities have the option to appeal to state court, but it is unlikely they will do so because the chances for success are extremely low.

All states seem to have a problem with net metering except the one that has the biggest and best solar industry going — California. This commitment continues after the California Public Utilities Commission approved a resolution to deny all legal challenges to recently adopted net metering rules for solar customers.

In January, the CPUC issued a decision to create the net metering “successor tariff,” which did not accept the new fees and low compensation rates proposed by the utilities. The decision made significant changes, with increased assessment of non-bypassable charges and mandatory TOU rates for residential customers, but it left in place the fundamental structure of NEM.

The utilities responded by filing “applications for rehearing,” which allege that the decision contained legal error by ignoring many of the utilities’ arguments. PG&E’s application challenged the decision as a whole. The application from SCE and SDG&E challenged certain aspects. A ratepayer group, TURN, and a coalition of utility unions also challenged parts of the decision.

RELATED: U.S. solar policy update: 42 states take action (24 involving net metering) 

The CPUC resolution rejects those legal challenges. It made two minor tweaks to the language of the decision but did not change any elements of the order.

“This was a frivolous legal maneuver by utilities, paid for by ratepayers, and the Commission has put an end to it,” said Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar Energy Industries Association.

The utilities have the option to appeal to state court, but it is unlikely they will do so because the chances for success are extremely low.

“Hopefully the utility harassment of the CPUC is over,” said Del Chiaro added. “They didn’t get everything they wanted and it’s time to move on.”

Attention is now focused on the precursor activity to creating the next version of net metering. The CPUC has again hired the E3 consulting firm to build the next version of a solar cost-benefit model. The methodology will likely be debated for two years. The main question at issue is the extent to which utilities can incorporate distributed generation into their forecasting and spend less money on the distribution grid. The CPUC will take up NEM again in 2019.

— Solar Builder magazine

SunPower constructs 4.8-MW carport on two California campuses

sunpower helix carport

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR) are constructing a 4.8-megawatt SunPower Helix Carport solar power system at two university parking areas. CSULB will purchase the solar power generated by the system under a power purchase agreement that offers competitive rates, enabling the university to offset approximately 15 percent of campus electrical load with clean, renewable solar power.

The SunPower Helix platform is a fully-integrated solar solution for commercial customers. Available for installation as a carport, on the roof, or as a ground-mounted technology, Helix is a pre-engineered, modular solution designed to deliver more energy and greater reliability than conventional solar products. The elegant design of the Helix carport can also enhance the aesthetics on campus. Since launching the product late last year, SunPower has contracted a total of 40 megawatts of Helix Carport to deliver to customers in the commercial and public sectors.

In addition to generating power, the solar carports at CSULB will provide to the campus community needed shade and electric vehicle chargers with the capacity to charge 50 cars. All of the systems are expected to be operational by the end of next year. CSULB will own the renewable energy credits associated with the systems.

RELATED: Solar carports will spread across the country as costs decline 

SunPower estimates that one year of solar energy produced by the CSULB system, once it is operational, could power more than 2,200 electric vehicles for 30 years. According to estimates provided by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the annual power production of the system will be equivalent to the power required by 1,200 average California homes.

CSULB has three operating solar power systems on campus today, but this new SunPower project will be the largest solar power system on campus and within the 23 campus CSU system to date.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, the university’s Sustainability Task Force oversees a range of activities to reduce campus environmental impact, including energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable food service, and waste reduction and recycling.

— Solar Builder magazine

Baker Electric installs 167-kW rooftop system for Meziere Enterprises

Baker Electric rooftopBaker Electric Solar designed and installed a 167-kW rooftop solar system for Meziere Enterprises, cooling system manufacturer in Escondido, Calif. The company expects to see a 60-70 percent reduction in its annual electricity spend based on past consumption. It’s projected that Meziere will save an estimated $60,000 in energy costs in the first year. The system is comprised of 531 LG 315 60-cell solar modules with 10 SMA inverters.

When asked why Meziere chose to go solar, company partner Don Meziere shared, “We enjoy doing business in Southern California. However, there are some disadvantages to running a manufacturing company here. To be competitive, we need to do everything we can to reduce overhead for the long run. Manufacturing is heavily dependent upon electrical power and we know we can count on Escondido to be sunny most of the time. Turning that sunshine into energy efficiencies with a 5-year payback just made sense.”

RELATED: Load Warriors: Experts discuss rooftop ballast installation best practices 

Meziere Enterprises has been based in Escondido since the early 1970s. “The Baker name is a fixture in San Diego, and their reputation is excellent. We know Baker will be here for the long run,” added Meziere. “The on-site Baker team was always mindful of our need to continue our business tasks day-to-day and did their best not to impede our workflow. The workmanship and attention to detail was something we really appreciated.”

Speaking to the financial impact of the project, Baker Electric Solar’s Director of Commercial Solar Scott Williams said, “The Meziere solar system is expected to provide more than $1.97M in net savings over the 25-year warranted life of the solar modules. We never lose sight of the impact that predictable energy costs and increased profitability mean to our customers.”

— Solar Builder magazine

WATCH: Massive Mustang solar project comes together, ready for commercial operation

The Mustang solar power project in Kings County, Calif., is massive (100 MWac/134 MWp) and ready for commercial operation, says  Recurrent Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Solar Inc., one of the world’s largest solar power companies.

“The commercial operation of the Mustang solar project continues a historic year that will see Recurrent Energy complete more than one gigawatt of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) projects,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar.

In 2015, Recurrent Energy secured a tax equity investment commitment for the Mustang project from U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC).

The renewable energy generated by the Mustang project will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements to Sonoma Clean Power and MCE. The project is expected to produce enough electricity to power approximately 45,000 homes.

Construction of the 1,000 acre project created 450 peak construction jobs. Blattner Energy served as the provider of Engineering, Procurement, and Construction services.

RELATED: The value of a team approach to fixed-tilt ground-mount projects 

— Solar Builder magazine

Sungevity completes Phase I of microgrid project at California golf course

Cleanspark LLC announced the completion of Phase I of its first commercial microgrid that is working on in partnership with Sungevity and San Francisco-based builder Webcor.

SungevityThe 832-kW solar system with distributed controls, located at the Ram’s Hill Golf Course in Borrego Springs, features a highly advanced monitoring intelligence platform. In addition, an upgrade to consolidate property loads for a private behind-the-meter 12-kV infrastructure was deployed that enables plug and play capabilities in the future such as energy storage integration and additional microgrid functionality.

RELATED: Microgrids: Why are they gaining in popularity, what part does storage play? 

The Rams Hill installation was completed in five months and is expected to save approximately $300,000 per year with an eight-year return on investment from the project. With the intelligence platform already delivering cost savings information, that return is expected to drop further in the coming six months.

“The system installed by the microgrid team has performed beyond our expectations. We are very happy with our partnership with Webcor and CleanSpark and look forward to the continuing development of our power system,” said Becky Holeman, CFO of Rams Hill.

CleanSpark offers advanced energy software and control technology that enables a plug-and-play enterprise solution to modern energy challenges. By integrating new and existing energy generation and storage assets with advanced load management capacities, CleanSpark’s software allows energy generated locally to be shared with other interconnected microgrids.

— Solar Builder magazine