Greetings and Happy New Year !
Next CSI Program Forum: January 26, 2011, 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
In This Issue
With unexpectedly high demand and higher-than-forecasted performance for nonresidential PV systems, California Solar Initiative program administrators at Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) report that the program has reached its $552 million nonresidential solar incentive budget cap ahead of schedule and that new applications are being added to a program waitlist. In October, the last CSI incentives for nonresidential solar projects in San Diego were similarly reserved; that waitlist is now worth $3.3 million, with 3.7 MW of solar projects and 47 applicants in queue.
For now, PG&E plans to continue accepting applications for nonresidential PV projects but all applications received after Dec. 23, 2010, are placed on the waitlist and reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis. Since establishing the waitlist on December 24, PG&E's has received 42 applications, now worth $2.6 million with 3.6 MW of solar projects.
Program Administrators at PG&E and San Diego’s California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) are working through the existing queues of active and reserved nonresidential PV applications to account for any cancellations and to maximize the incentive budgets. To free up more funding for viable projects, PG&E urges applicants that are no longer proceeding with solar projects to notify them as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Program Administrators plan to notify applicants individually if funding for their project becomes available; however, there is no guarantee that all projects will receive funding.
The residential sector is not affected at this time, CSI PAs are still accepting and providing reservations for all residential solar incentive applications. Furthermore, nonresidential incentives in SCE territory are still available, although these incentives are nearing Step 8 levels, as SCE has more megawatts currently under review (28.5 MW) than it has remaining (15.33 MW) in Step 7.
The most recent in a suite of public reporting resources offered by the California Solar Initiative is the CSI Weekly Budget Report, now live on the California Solar Statistics Web site. Program users can now track committed and remaining budgets for CSI in each program territory, including estimates of how far the remaining budget will last through the step table. As with most of the California Solar Statistics reports, the weekly CSI budget data can be exported to Excel for in-depth analysis.
SCE is again accepting CSI Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) Track 1 applications to the program’s waitlist. The MASH Program Administrators established the waitlist in 2009 when funds for the popular Track 1 solar incentives became fully reserved, then closed this waitlist at the end of April 2010 due to a large influx of applicants. Since then, SCE has been diligently monitoring Track 1 applications and has been able to move all of the MASH Track 1 waitlist applications into “active” status.
SCE is reopening the waitlist to ensure there are an ample number of projects in the pipeline ready to move forward if active projects downsize, withdraw or get canceled.
Those interested in placing an application on the MASH Track 1 waitlist should act now. Please note that all new applications must be sent through the mail; SCE cannot accept hand deliveries, faxes or emails.
The MASH Track 1 waitlist is still open in San Diego, according to administrators at the California Center for Sustainable Energy; however, PG&E’s waitlist is still closed until administrators are able to move projects into an active status.
To access the current program statistics, California Solar Initiative Handbook and MASH Track 1 forms and paperwork requirements, please visit us at www.sce.com/MASH.
The California Public Utilites Commission (CPUC) has granted a recent request by Multifamily Affordable Solar Housing (MASH) program administrators to postpone the fourth semiannual application cycle for Track 2 incentives, which was scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2011, until the Commission rules on a range of proposed changes to the program's budget.
The request came in late December as a result of a CPUC Scoping Memo and Ruling of Assigned Commissioner and Administrative Law Judges and Request for Comment on Phase I Issues that includes a recommendation to reallocate all unreserved Track 2 incentive funds to Track 1.
The Track 1 incentive funds have been fully reserved in all three utility territories and waitlists have been established for projects that hope to receive incentive reservations when more funds are made available via drop outs or other activity. Meanwhile, Track 2 still has more than 50% of its incentive budget remaining, and most of these awards are less cost-effective than those of Track 1.
A new feature has been developed for the CSI Power Clerk application database that allows applicants to re-upload documents that have not been received or approved. This function is only available for suspended projects and documents marked “rejected” or have not been marked “received” or “approved” are able to be re-uploaded.
When a reservation application is submitted through PowerClerk, the Program Administrator (PA) reviews the application for completeness. If the documents are completed and correct, they are marked as approved. If any errors or omissions are identified, the PA suspends the project and marks each individual document as rejected. If a document was not uploaded to PowerClerk, no check marks are present next to the document. Applicants can see the status of their document by clicking on the “View” button next to the appropriate application.
The new re-upload feature allows an applicant to view PA notes, which explain any mistakes in the rejected documents. Once all of the incorrect documents in question have been re-uploaded, the applicant can resubmit the application for PA review.
CSI PAs are hoping this will speed up the processing times for suspended projects and give applicants more control over suspended projects.
Effective project management is the key to optimizing profit margins on a solar installation, yet holdups in CSI rebate application processing can produce headaches for installers, customers and Program Administrators (PAs) alike. In addition to continual improvements at the processing level, CSI PAs have identified some common application mistakes that solar professionals should try to avoid in order to get their reservations and incentive claims processed as quickly as possible. Here’s the short list:
Top reasons for Incentive Claim suspensions
Interested in learning how to fill out CSI applications like a pro? The CSI Program Administrators hold free installer trainings each month throughout the state. Check the Go Solar, California! Solar Calendar for upcoming training opportunities, and see below for current offerings.
A fortuitous wave of federal tax cut extensions brought welcomed news to California’s solar industry. In December, Congress voted to extend numerous provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including a grant program that allows commercial solar projects to take a cash grant in lieu of the 30 percent investment tax credit.
Commonly known as “1630 Grants” in reference to Section 1603 of the act’s tax title, the tax grant program was created to temporarily fill the gap created by low investor demand for tax credits during the national economic downturn.
According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, the 1603 tax grant program has awarded more than $444 million to solar projects (electric and thermal) nationwide with nearly 35 percent of the grants ($154 million) awarded to California solar projects. Originally set to expire in 2010, the application deadline has been extended to Oct. 1, 2011.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) are partnering to highlight the current technical challenges and propose creative solutions to integrate high penetrations of solar energy onto the grid. The event, called the DOE-CPUC High Pen Solar Grid Integration Forum, will bring together industry experts to present on current demonstration and modeling projects as well as interim findings of these projects, which are funded through DOE's High Penetration Solar Deployment award and the California Solar Initiative's RD&D solicitations.
As we begin the fifth year of the California Solar Initative program, there is much to report on our progress thus far. Join the CSI team for program and industry updates and engage in a dialogue with these subject matter experts – bring your questions!
The California Solar Initiative (CSI) Program Forum provides a venue for public stakeholders to identify and discuss priority issues related to the administration and implementation of the CSI program with the California Public Utility Commission and the three Program Administrators (PAs): Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison and the California Center for Sustainable Energy.
Registration is not required and the forum will be simulcast online for those who cannot attend in person. The Program Forum’s agenda will be posted before the event.
The commercial component of the CSI-Thermal program officially began accepting applications in October 2010. Shortly thereafter, Taco Bell in Albany, Calif., became the first commercial project in California to receive an incentive for the installation of a solar water heating system.
The solar water heating system is expected to offset approximately 300 therms of natural gas per year and the incentive Taco Bell received represented about 27% of the total project costs. Taco Bell director of operations, Andrew Hennan, said the installation not only helped save the restaurant money, but was also the right thing to do. “This installation demonstrates the commitment of Taco Bell, like many of our customers, to a renewable energy future and also shows how California continues to be an environmental leader,” he said.
PG&E, local community leaders and government official gathered on Nov. 30 to celebrate this milestone in the city of Albany. Among the representatives present were Mayor Joanne Wile, Council Member Marge Atkinson, Executive Director of the Albany Chamber Winkie Campbell-Notar and a Board of Director Member Paul Cruce. The keynote speakers highlighted the significance of the project as PG&E presented the owners of the business, PRB Management, LLC of Fairfield, Calif., a ceremonial check to mark the occasion.
The CSI-Thermal program encourages all customers — residential and business alike — to take advantage of the benefits of using solar to heat your water and become the next Californian to receive an incentive.
There is no shortage of Californians who are excited about the clean energy they generate with their own solar PV systems — in fact, solar system owners now number nearly 70,000 throughout the Golden State.
That’s why Southern California Edison publishes a special series of Solar Energy Management Success Stories — to showcase solar-savvy customers who know how easy it is to “go solar.”
From homeowners to businesses large and small, SCE’s solar customers reflect California’s strong affinity for energy efficiency and solar power. The latest customer success stories come from Wendy Moonier, the Moon family and the Museum of Latin American Art. Click here to read more.
The holidays came early for Elmer Rankin of Sun City, Calif., who recently received a free solar photovoltaic system through the Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) Program. Rankin is a 70-year-old Navy veteran with a medical condition that requires him to have an electric wheelchair, an in-home oxygen system and a constantly regulated environment throughout the year. According to Rankin, before receiving the SASH solar system, he had to make some difficult decisions about his energy consumption. He commented, “I can have heat and cool air now when I need it. I am on oxygen and other medical equipment where I need to choose which ones to run. This [solar system] will allow me to afford both. This is literally going to save my life.”
Rankin extended his sincere gratitude to everyone who helped make this project happen, from the ratepayers who fund the CSI Program and the California Public Utilities Commission to GRID Alternatives, who worked closely with him throughout the process. He said, “I appreciate it very much and would definitely recommend the program to anyone who can qualify."
The installation will offset roughly 80 percent of Rankin’s electricity usage and expense. GRID Alternatives is the program administrator for the SASH Program that provides low-income families with free or low cost solar systems to reduce household energy expenses and to allow families to direct those savings toward other basic needs.
For further information about the SASH Program or GRID Alternatives, visit their Web site or call 866-921-4696.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory released a new study on the installed costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems in the U.S., showing that the average cost of these systems remained largely unchanged from 2008 to 2009, before beginning a steep decline in 2010.
"Tracking the Sun III: The Installed Cost of Photovoltaics in the United States from 1998-2009" provides a comprehensive summary of installed cost trends for grid-connected PV systems and provides preliminary cost trends for systems installed in 2010. The report is based on project-level data from approximately 78,000 PV systems, representing 70 percent of all grid-connected PV capacity installed in the United States through 2009.
The report finds that real average installed costs declined over time, from $10.80/watt in 1998 to $7.50/Watt in 2009 (in 2009 dollars). Wholesale module prices declined precipitously from 2008 to 2009, and preliminary cost data for 2010 suggests that this drop in module prices has finally made its way to retail customers. According to the report, average installed costs in California dropped by $1.00/watt between 2009 and the first ten months of 2010.
The report, along with a PowerPoint briefing and associated data file, can be downloaded from the LBNL Web site.
Call for Photos of CSI-Funded Solar Systems
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