Thursday, October 12, 2017

Puerto Rico: Distributed Generation, Community Solar, and Microgrid Legislation and Rules

Puerto Rico has a solar gardens law already on the books! The 2016 statute provides for distributed energy, community shared solar, and microgrids. Further action will be needed to fully develop and implement policy in a situation of heightened urgency.

The potential for solar energy and microgrids has been in the news, both for relief and long term recovery. Both Tesla and Sonnen are reportedly sending batteries to the island.

On August 5, 2016 Puerto Rico approved SB 1666 to become Act 133-2016 (English text). The law eases interconnection procedures for renewable energy projects up to 5 Megawatts and encourages community solar and microgrids. The bill's statement of motives references the Commonwealth's 50% reliance on oil for electricity generation, high electricity prices (around 20¢ / kWh), and vulnerability to oil price shocks.

The Act directs the Commonwealth Energy Public Policy Office (CEPPO) to identify the best practices for community solar, and mentions the IREC Model Rules and NREL's efforts. It encourages microgrids and suggests that a community solar project with sufficient storage might become a microgrid. CEPPO is directed to develop plans around community solar and mircrogrids, while the Energy Commission is charged with updating interconnection rules for Puerto Rico's utility PREPA.

“Section 3.4. - Duties and Powers of CEPPO.
(ii) To  formulate  strategies  and  make  recommendations  to  the  Energy Commission  to  improve  the  electric  power  service  in  low-income communities through the study, promotion, and development of Community Solar Projects, using as guidelines the recommendations made by organizations such as IREC and NREL, adapted to Puerto Rico, and seeking the input of PREPA and the representatives of community organizations as well as relevant professional, and academic organizations.

(jj) CEPPO, in conjunction with the Commission and PREPA, shall study the best practices of the electric power industry and shall establish a plan for the development of microgrids in Puerto Rico. To minimize costs and broaden access to greater physical and human resources, CEPPO may partner with local or federal agencies, or recognized universities or institutes of electric power research, inside and outside of Puerto Rico, to carry out this task. Initially, this option shall be made available to low-income communities, universities, healthcare centers, and public institutions.

(kk) CEPPO, in conjunction with the Commission, shall determine the format and specific information to be shared by each microgrid.”

Regulations and online applications for DG interconnection can be found at the
Autoridad de Energía Eléctrica (AEE) website.

The status of the CEPPO studies on community solar and microgrids are uncertain. Many servers on Puerto Rico are still down. If you have any information please contact me - and I will post the info here.

I am willing to help however I can to help put an emergency policy in place, train solar gardeners in Puerto Rico and other affected territories, and work with communities to help initiate projects.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Canada's First Solar Garden in Nelson, BC

On June 24, 2017, a Grand Opening was held for the Nelson Community Solar Garden.
The Community Solar Garden (CSG) is a one-of-a-kind solar array that is comprised of individual solar panels that have been grouped together and maintained in a single location, compared to other systems that install panels on individual roof tops. This central location provides unprecedented access to those who may rent, have shading issues or unsuitable roofs. In addition, owners of the panels do not have to worry about the maintenance or how their panel is performing as it is part of a collective and not individually owned.
Nelson Community Solar Garden Opens
Nelson Hydro invited its customers to invest in the Community Solar Garden and has had an overwhelming response. In one month, the project was sold out and had to be expanded by 20%. All of the 240 available solar panels were sold. The CSG is a win-win for Nelson Hydro customers as it provides simplified access to solar power while providing a credit in proportion to their investment, which can be found on their Nelson Hydro electricity bill. The credit can be transferred from one account to another, so that the investment stays with the residents even when they move to a new local address serviced by Nelson Hydro. While there are other shared solar projects in Canada, Nelson is the first to offer this type of model. We see this as an opportunity that can be replicated across the country, giving more Canadians access to renewable energy.
This CSG was funded by Nelson Hydro, Bullfrog Power, CELP (Province of BC) and the Nelson Hydro customers that directly invested in the project.