Why California’s New Home Solar Requirement Includes Batteries and Not Zero Net Energy

Originally published May 17, 2018

Author: Seth Mullendore, Clean Energy Group | Project: Resilient Power Project

California’s recently adopted building standards require solar to be a part of all new residential construction. As the first state to enact such a standard, it’s been lauded as a historic and game-changing event for solar power in the U.S. But some have argued that the new standards don’t go far enough. There’s been less coverage about what the standards don’t do – they don’t meet the goal that California put in place in 2008 to have all new homes be Zero Net Energy (ZNE) by 2020. 

Why is that?  

The California Energy Commission (CEC) explains why in a frequently asked questions document, which accompanies their decision to adopt the standards. The document also explains why battery storage is included in the new building standards. 

For those not familiar with the concept of ZNE, it means that, through advanced efficiency measures and on-site generation, a building can produce as much energy as it uses over time (though not necessarily producing and using energy at the same time, thus the term “net”). 

In the FAQ document, the CEC explains that California’s energy landscape has changed significantly since 2008, primarily due to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards and net energy metering rules. Both brought about a lot more renewable generation and a much cleaner grid than the state had a decade ago. Because California is trying to figure out what do with all the solar energy it already has pouring onto the grid every day, the CEC notes, “It is ideal to generate the electricity and have it used onsite versus exporting it to the grid at a time it may not be needed. When the rooftop solar generation is entirely used to offset on-site electricity consumption, then the home has virtually no impact on the grid, reducing the home’s climate change emissions.” Translation: let’s not flood the grid with a bunch of additional solar just to meet ZNE requirements. 

The CEC goes on to say that, moving forward beyond these new standards, the most important outcome will be for a building to produce and consume energy “at times that are appropriate and responds to the needs of the grid, which reduces the building’s emissions.” Which brings us to why battery storage is, for the first time, included in the building standards. 

The new standards incorporate storage into the equation in a couple of places: 1) when paired with storage, the required solar system size can be reduced and 2) the inclusion of battery storage can be used as a credit against what are known as “energy design rating requirements,” which are used to evaluate a building’s overall compliance with the codes.  

To qualify for these adjustments, the battery system must meet certain requirements, including how the system is configured to operate. The battery storage system must be designed achieve one or more of the following: 1) maximizing solar self-consumption (using more of the energy onsite instead of exporting it to the grid); 2) load shifting (moving consumption from periods of high demand on the grid to periods of low demand); and 3) “grid harmonization” (basically, participating in a grid services program such as demand response). Notably, backup power is not on this list. Backup power is not prohibited, but the battery must do more than just sit there waiting for an outage in order to count toward meeting the building standards. 

The guidelines are designed to incorporate battery storage so that it can help new residential buildings become good grid neighbors, with PV systems that can limit the excess energy they dump onto the grid when it’s not needed and help out when the grid is overloaded with demand for electricity. As Bernadette Del Chiaro, executive director of the California Solar & Storage Association, explains, the decision to incorporate storage acts to “head off this issue [of solar over-production] at the pass. You should really think of this mandate as solar on the roof, battery in the garage.” 

It’s unclear if the standards will mark a new path for California, away from ZNE goals and toward buildings that have enough flexibility to use, or not use, energy as grid needs fluctuate. From its statements, the CEC certainly appears to view battery storage as an integral part of the state’s energy future. 

This potential shift raises the question: Is ZNE the right goal for buildings (or cities or states)? If lowering emissions is the ultimate goal, then maybe not. As the CEC lays out in their response to questions, buildings (and cities and states) that are able to shift and change their energy needs to match the availability of clean energy (whether generated on site or somewhere else on the grid) may be a better suited to achieve our emissions goals. In light of this, perhaps FRE (Flexible Responsive Energy) should be the new ZNE.

Article content from CleanEnergyGroup. Link to the full article provided below.

https://www.cleanegroup.org/why-californias-new-home-solar-requirement-includes-batteries-and-not-zero-net-energy/

California to Require Solar on All New Homes Starting in 2020

Includes Visionary Solar Plus Storage Option

With a historic vote, the California Energy Commission (CEC) unanimously agreed 5 – 0 to require solar on all new homes in California starting in 2020, becoming the first state in the country with the clean energy requirement.  The new rules will also include a solar plus storage option to give consumers more clean energy choices.

"Today, California made history. We are building a better future for consumers and the environment by embracing innovation and smart technologies,” said Kelly Knutsen, Director of Technology Advancement for the California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA). “Adding solar on all new homes, and giving consumers a solar plus storage option, will make our homes super energy efficient while generating their own clean energy. This is a win-win for consumers and the environment."

The CEC voted today to further increase the clean energy requirements in the California Building Energy Standards.  Updated every three years, the standards require California homes and businesses to meet strong energy efficiency measures, lowering their energy use.  For the first time, they will require solar photovoltaic (PV) panels to be installed on all new low-rise residential buildings starting January 1, 2020.  Low-rise residential buildings include single family homes and multi-family buildings of three stories or less; therefore apartments and condos are included in the new standards.  Additionally, the vote sets a path forward for solar plus storage in new homes by providing a storage option if the homeowner chooses.  The standards also continue solar water heating provisions for larger buildings, allowing solar energy continue to help reduce the water heating needs of our buildings.

For the past three years, the CEC performed detailed analysis on the new requirements, and gathered official public input from all stakeholders -- utilities, home builders, solar industry, lighting industry.  Their analysis showed the new solar requirement will be cost-effective in all climate zones in the state – from the mountains to the Central Valley to the coast.  The CEC stated today that the savings on the homeowners’ energy bills will be about $80 per month compared to adding roughly $40 per month to the mortgage payment, so the monthly savings are twice as high as the additional cost.  Homeowners would be saving on average almost $500 a year because of the new mandate.

Currently the solar industry installs solar on roughly 150,000 new and existing homes in California each year, with roughly 15,000 of those projects being new homes.  California on average builds 80,000 new homes annually.  Starting in 2020, all those homes will have solar; a four-fold increase compared to today.

Article content from California Solar Storage Association. Link to the full article provided below.

http://calssa.org/press-releases/2018/5/9/california-to-require-solar-on-all-new-homes-starting-in-2020

 

Warning About Russia: They can 'Shut the Power Off'

US says hackers have gained entry to power plants, including nuclear facilities

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 16, 2018 11:30 AM CDT

·       A first: The report is "damning confirmation of what has for months been suspected: that hackers in Russia are capable of infiltrating and compromising vital systems relied on by millions of Americans," per Time. This also marks the first time that the US has accused Russia of hacking the energy grid, and that development is "unprecedented and extraordinary," a former DHS tech official tells Reuters.

·       Any damage? Nope. The hackers appear to have done nothing malicious upon entering, but screenshots posted by the feds make clear that the hackers gained the necessary "foothold" on systems to take them down in, say, the event of a conflict, per the Times.

·       Now what? Lawmakers including Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell have been pushing for an assessment to the vulnerability of the US power grid, and Cantwell hopes the report "is the first step in a robust and aggressive strategy to protect our critical infrastructure," per Bloomberg. The US also has slapped new sanctions on Russia.

·       Ukraine example: Stories, including this one at Radio Free Europe, are pointing out that Russia has been widely blamed for turning the lights out in Ukraine in unprecedented energy-grid attacks in 2015 and 2016. The US also thinks Russia is responsible for the "NotPetya" cyberattacks of 2017 that hit businesses worldwide.

·       Different hackers: So are these the same hackers accused of meddling in the 2016 election? Apparently not. The Times suggests three different Russian groups were working: one stole emails from Democrats and others, another worked to foment divisions online with political postings, and the third worked on hacking the energy grid and other infrastructure systems. The US report links to an October report by Symantec calling the latter group "Dragonfly." They've reportedly hit targets in Turkey and Switzerland, too.

Article content from newer.com. Link to the full article provided below.

http://www.newser.com/story/256669/2/warning-about-russia-they-can-shut-the-power-off.html

World Record Solar, Now on Your Roof

World Record Solar, Now on Your Roof

The pioneering spirit that drives the Solar Impulse team to break boundaries and prove the infinite potential of renewable energy, is the same spirit that has driven SunPower to innovate for the past 30 years. Committed to changing the way our world is powered, SunPower delivers the industry’s most efficient and durable solar cells commercially available. The company has a rich history of supporting unique solar projects like Solar Impulse to demonstrate that solar power from SunPower is an incredibly durable, reliable, clean energy solution.

 

More than 17,000 Maxeon® solar cells keep Solar Impulse in flight on its journey around the world. In order for the plane to travel long distances across vast oceans on solar energy alone, every functional design element has to be as light as possible. SunPower cells have an average thickness of only 135 microns – about as thin as a human hair – and maintain industry-leading efficiencies, proving to be the best solution for Solar Impulse. The solar cells – which feature the same technology that SunPower uses to build solar panels for homes and businesses around the world – power the electrical engines of the plane so it can fly during the day, as well as recharge lithium batteries for night flying.

Click here to learn more about why the Solar Impulse team chose SunPower solar. 

 

"SunPower is pleased to be involved with such an ambitious project as the Solar Impulse airplane as it embarks upon its record-setting, around-the-world flight," said Tom Werner, SunPower president and CEO.  "As a vertically integrated company, SunPower not only powers distinctive projects such as Solar Impulse, but our high-efficiency, high-reliability solar panels are chosen by residential, commercial and utility-scale power plant customers worldwide. We are confident that our experience in developing our industry-leading technology with guaranteed performance will help the Solar Impulse airplane to successfully achieve its goal to circumnavigate the globe."

Click here for full article and source

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