PECO and Solar in Philly intro, PACE update

Property-Assessed Clean Energy Programs

PECO and Solar Everywhere in Philly intro:

Solar Everywhere Philly

In Peco dispute, solar homeowners wouldn’t give up

Peco is required to pay net-metering customers the same price for which it sells power. The utility’s price varies each quarter, but it tends to be 9 to 10 cents per kilowatt hour. From 2008 to 2012, it paid almost $196,000.

Peco Energy Co. crossed the wrong customer when it dismissed Mari Jensen’s complaint two years ago.

“I’m told I am like a dog with a bone,” she said.

Mari and Arthur Jensen of Delco waged a 19-month battle with Peco over payment for solar power they sell back to the grid. "It was absurd," she says.

Jensen lives in Concord Township, Delaware County, with her husband, Arthur. They spent about $30,000 in 2010 to install a rooftop solar system on their Sleighride Road ranch house.

For the last 19 months, the Jensens have fought a surreal David-and-Goliath battle with Peco over the formula the utility uses to pay them and other owners of solar systems for the power they produce and sell to the grid.

“It was absurd,” said Mari Jensen, a retired school bus driver. “The more they kept fighting it, the angrier I got.”

On Thursday, a unanimous Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission agreed with the Jensens and ordered Peco to recalculate its payments over the last five years to solar generators, who are known as net-metering customers

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Best Practice Guidelines for Residential Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing

On July 19, the U.S. Department of Energy released draft Best Practice Guidelines for Residential PACE Financing Programs. The original “Guidelines for Pilot PACE Financing Programs,” issued on May 7, 2010, have been updated to reflect the evolving structure of the residential PACE market, and to incorporate lessons learned from various PACE programs that have been successfully implemented since the original guidelines were issued. The updated Guidelines provide best practices for residential PACE programs, including protections to both consumers who voluntarily opt into PACE programs, and to lenders who hold mortgages on properties with PACE assessments.

Graphic of a four colored boxes in a row from left to right describing how property-assessed clean energy programs work. The first box on the left reads 'City or county creates type of land-secured financing district or similar legal mechanism.' The second box reads 'Property owners voluntarily sign up for financing and install energy projects.' The third box reads 'The lender* provides funds to property owner to pay for energy project.' The fourth and final box reads 'Property owner repays bond through property tax bill (up to 20 years).'

Property-Assessed Clean Energy

The property-assessed clean energy (PACE) model is an innovative mechanism for financing energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements on private property. PACE programs allow local governments, state governments, or other inter-jurisdictional authorities, when authorized by state law, to fund the up-front cost of energy improvements on commercial and residential properties, which are paid back over time by the property owners.

PACE financing for clean energy projects is generally based on an existing structure known as a “land- secured financing district,” often referred to as an assessment district, a local improvement district, or other similar phrase. In a typical assessment district, the local government issues bonds to fund projects with a public purpose such as streetlights, sewer systems, or underground utility lines.

The recent extension of this financing model to energy efficiency (EE) and renewable energy (RE) allows a property owner to implement improvements without a large up-front cash payment. Property owners voluntarily choose to participate in a PACE program repay their improvement costs over a set time period—typically 10 to 20 years—through property assessments, which are secured by the property itself and paid as an addition to the owners’ property tax bills. Nonpayment generally results in the same set of repercussions as the failure to pay any other portion of a property tax bill.

Research further Property-Assessed Clean Energy Programs

Solar Installation Guidebook – Solar PV Basics

This section of the guidebook provides an overview of solar photovoltaic (PV) technologies and systems. The reader is encouraged to review the Additional Resources listed at the end of this section to delve deeper into many of the topics presented here as well as the glossary (Appendix A) and Frequently Asked Questions (Appendix B).

How Does a PV System Work?

PV systems convert sunlight directly into electricity. PV systems allow homeowners and businesses to generate some or all of their daily electrical energy demand either on their own roof or somewhere on their property.

The majority of solar PV systems are ―grid-tied.‖ This means they remain directly connected to the power grid at all times and do not require battery storage. Grid-tied PV systems will generate electrical power to supply part of a building’s energy usage during the day and provide the greatest benefit during crucial times when the price and demand for electricity is the highest. Figure 2.1 depicts an illustration of a solar PV system interconnected to the grid.

A solar PV system can provide power to a home or business, reducing the amount of power required from the utility; when the solar PV system power generation exceeds the power needs, then the surplus power automatically back feeds into the grid. This arrangement is called ―net metering‖ for which PECO has a special tariff and will install a special utility meter that will essentially record the ―net‖ power coming in from the utility and the surplus power flowing out from the solar PV system.

A solar PV system will not operate during a power outage unless it has battery backup. It ceases to operate during outages as a safety feature for utility personnel who might be working on electric lines trying to restore power (a PV system would energize electric lines that the utility assumes is not energized, and create a shock hazard to personnel).

PV systems can also include battery backup or uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems that can operate selected circuits in a building for hours or days during a utility outage.

The basic building block of PV technology is the solar “cell”. Multiple PV cells are connected to form a PV ―module,‖ the smallest PV component sold commercially. A PV system connected or “tied” to the utility grid has these components:

  • PV Array: A PV Array is made up of PV modules, which are collections of PV cells. The most common PV module is 5-to-25 square feet in size and weighs about 3-4 lbs/ft2. Modules range in power output from about 10 watts to 300 watts (although higher wattages are available for utility-scale PV applications), with the power density ranging from about 5- to-18 watts per square foot.
  • DC to AC Inverter: This is the device that takes the DC power from the PV array and converts it into standard ac power used by the household appliances.
  • Balance of System equipment (BOS): BOS includes mounting systems and wiring systems used to integrate the solar modules into the structural and electrical systems of the building. The wiring systems include disconnects for the DC and AC sides of the inverter, ground-fault protection, and overcurrent protection devices, junction boxes and possibly circuit combiner boxes. (See Figure 2-2).
  • Metering: While meters indicate home energy usage, metering for a solar installation is used to record and display total electricity generation by the solar PV system and may provide indication of system performance.
  • Batteries (optional) can provide energy storage or backup power in case of a power interruption or outage on the grid. (This guidebook does not cover solar PV systems with battery backup because of their increased complexity compared to grid-tied PV systems, and because they account for less than 5% of all the solar PV systems installed.)

Applications for PV systems are constantly expanding with new uses being identified all the time. In addition to offsetting loads for homeowners as described previously, PV systems also serve facilities such as commercial, educational, industrial, and government buildings. PV technologies are rapidly becoming installed at the utility-scale supplying power for utilities and retail electric providers in multi-megawatt capacities. Read More at source


Pennsylvania Rebates and Incentives Summary

Pennsylvania has a history of innovation and forward-thinking ideas. It was the first state to put its website URL on its license plate. It’s home of the first baseball stadium, built in 1909. The first automobile service station went up in Pittsburgh in 1913. And, in 1946 Philadelphia became home to the first computer. The state is not quite leading the charge on solar the way it has in so many other fields. But it’s not far behind either.

Pennsylvania offers home and business owners as well as non-profits and government properties incentives and rebates for installing alternative energy, including photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind turbines and geothermal systems. In 2008, the state fueled its renewable energy program when Gov. Ed Rendell (D) signed a law creating the commonwealth’s $650 million Alternative Energy Investment Fund. This legislation broadly increased funding for projects of all sizes and included an additional $16 million Alternative Fuels Investment Fund. Large sums are reserved to help home and property owners invest in energy efficiency – $237.5 million. And the state invests another $428.4 million in developing alternative energy and creating green jobs.

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Integrate self-generated power

 Net Metering and Interconnection with PECO

Net metering is a way to capture the energy used and produced by a renewable energy generator located at a home or small business. Homeowners and small business owners who have a solar power system, wind turbine or similar energy generator can use net metering to offset their traditional utility costs. The excess power that is generated enters the general utility grid, and is tracked as negative usage on the meter. Interconnection refers to the technical, contractual, and rates and metering requirements that are settled between the system owner and PECO before the system is connected to the grid.

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Solar, DIY: Two Philadelphia handy men take solar into their own hands

You would think Greg Scott was talking about building bookshelves from a box, not installing a solar array on his roof. “Once you know how to build stuff for a reason, you sort of figure out how to build things,” he explains. Scott, together with his do-it-yourself partner Tom Weissert, thinks we can do it, too.

Scott and Weissert have installed both a solar hot water system, which heats water with solar warmth, and a photovoltaic (PV) array, which converts sunlight into electricity, on Weissert’s house in Narberth, and they are close to installing another PV system at Scott’s house in West Philly.

Scott and Weissert don’t want to stop with their houses; their vision is for a more project-sustainable community model of home PV installation. They’re still hammering out how this would work and are always looking to others for inspiration and help. “I’m not an electrician, I’m not a carpenter,” says Scott. “I want to demystify the process. I’d like to see solar panels on every house in Philadelphia.”

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 Sharing Renewable Energy: Solar Power Co-operatives in the UK

Solar power co-operatives are fast emerging has an innovative way for local communities to gain access to renewable energy generation. Over the last few years, several such initiatives have been successfully launched in the UK — with new schemes opening in a number of cities including London and Bristol. So, how do such schemes work? And what benefits can they provide to local people?


Justin Hall-Tipping: Freeing energy from the grid

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