7-Day Solar, Really. Is that even possible?
Many forms of energy take a long time to install. Coal plants, nuclear plants and natural gas generators take years just for permitting to take place and several more years before they are producing power. Solar and wind energy technologies are what is referred to as “scalable” which means the power can start flowing as soon as the first panel or turbine is installed ( well almost).
Home solar systems should be really fast to install right? Well this is not always the case and the US department of Energy is aiming to change this.
The Northern and Central California SunShot Alliance have announced plans to construct and interconnect rooftop solar systems in one day or less, an unprecedented goal given the industry”s current average of 30 days. In a contest sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative, teams made up of local governments, solar and technology companies, and electric utilities will compete for a total of $10 million in cash prizes that will go back into local communities.
The alliance, which includes Pacific Gas and Electric Company, SolarCity, Qado Energy, Accela and the City of Livermore, will compete in the small systems category (1 – 100 kW) for a first-place prize of $3 million and second-place prize of $1 million. The potential winnings would be split between the City of Livermore and possibly other jurisdictions that will use the funds to enhance the solar experience in their communities. The alliance is also eligible for the Change Prize Award of $100,000, which will be used to develop necessary technologies and recruit additional jurisdictions to join the team.
Despite exceptional cost reductions for solar hardware over recent years, the “going solar” experience in many parts of the country can be long and arduous due to inefficient processes and complex administrative obstacles. Sponsored by the SunShot Initiative, the “SunShot Prize: Race to 7-Day Solar” competition aims to spur innovation and improvements in the solar implementation process. Teams will be judged on their ability to improve process certainty and reduce the “permit-to-plug-in” time from the current duration to a swift seven days for small systems.
Members of the Northern and Central California SunShot Alliance have excellent track records in efficient solar installation and software innovation, making the collective group a strong contender for the national prize. PG&E interconnects more than 5,000 rooftop solar systems per month with an average cycle time of less than five days. SolarCity crews are repeatedly able to install rooftop solar systems in less than one day. Accela is the leading provider of permitting and inspection technology and has helped local governments decrease solar permit processing time by 75 percent. And Qado Energy’s integrated platform helps streamline solar interconnection while ensuring process transparency and efficient fulfillment.
The performance period for the competition begins on Sept. 22, 2015, and concludes on March 17, 2017. The winning teams will be announced on June 26, 2017.
Laurie Giammona, senior vice president and chief customer officer, PG&E said:
With more than 180,000 solar rooftops in our service area, PG&E understands that solar power is a vital part of our country’s energy future. We’ve worked hard to become the nation’s leading utility for customers using solar systems. Through close coordination with our partners, our goal for this competition is to dramatically improve the ‘going solar’ process so that more Americans can take advantage of this valuable resource.
Nick Armstrong, a regional vice president at SolarCity commented:
Rooftop solar can grow even faster across America if we can improve local permitting and interconnection. Regardless of who wins, we believe this contest will demonstrate that compliance with permit streamlining requirements in AB 2188, approved by the Legislature last year and effective on September 30, 2015, is achievable and that means making it even easier and less expensive to go solar.
Maury Blackman, president and CEO, Accela, commented:
This is a unique opportunity to work closely with government and industry partners to greatly improve the solar experience—from permitting to installation. Accela’s technology has a proven track record of dramatically reducing the solar permitting and inspection timeline. This saves solar companies and their customers time and money. We’re excited to work with motivated local governments and our team of industry leaders to further revolutionize the end-to-end process and cycle times for rooftop solar installations.
Gordon's expertise in the area of industrial energy efficiency and alternative energy. He is an experienced electrical engineer with a Masters degree in Alternative Energy technology. He is the co-founder of several renewable energy media sites including Solar Thermal Magazine.