How Solar Saves on Grid Costs – Episode 13 of Local Energy Rules Podcast

Date: 19 Dec 2013 | posted in: Energy, Energy Self Reliant States, Podcast | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

“We can avoid that $100 million investment in transmission lines, distribution lines, in capital infrastructure…”

How can a utility like Long Island Power Authority avoid all that new capital expenditure?  Find out in this interview with Vice President of Environmental Affairs Michael Deering, recorded via Skype on November 25, 2013.

Customer-Powered Utility

The first question we asked Michael was why one of the largest municipal utilities in the country was looking to its customers for power generation.  The answer was simple: 1) for the environmental value of solar energy but more importantly, 2) for the economy.  To generate jobs and economic development on Long Island.

Solar Programs Helping Meet Peak Demand

The Long Island Power Authority isn’t new to customer-owned solar.  They launched their first solar rebate program in 2001, and now have solar on over 7300 homes and businesses on Long Island.  They’ve added another ~50 megawatts (MW) with a few utility-scale projects, and then launched the feed-in tariff program in 2012.  In total, the utility will have 170 MW of solar installed by the end of 2014, sufficient to meet about 3% of its peak demand.

Limited Line Capacity Means High Value for Local Solar

LIPA isn’t a typical municipal utility.  It’s literally at the “end of the line,” and that limited import capacity puts a premium on locally generated energy.  The new iteration of the feed-in tariff program, launched in 2013, asks for 40 of the 100 MW to be developed on the south fork of Long Island (Montauk).  If they can attract the investment, the utility will pay an additional 7¢ per kilowatt-hour for energy from those solar projects because the energy will help defer big investments in transmission and power plants to serve growing peak demand.

What’s Next?

LIPA has plans to procure more large-scale renewable energy through a 280 MW request for proposal (RFP) in 2014 as well as a third wave feed-in tariff program, focused on non-solar renewable energy technologies, with a total capacity of 20 MW.

You can learn more about feed-in tariff programs from our 2012 report or about the way utilities are valuing solar power from our series on Minnesota’s value of solar law.

This is the 13th edition of Local Energy Rules, an ILSR podcast with Senior Researcher John Farrell that shares powerful stories of successful local renewable energy and exposes the policy and practical barriers to its expansion. Other than his immediate family, the audience is primarily researchers, grassroots organizers, and grasstops policy wonks who want vivid examples of how local renewable energy can power local economies.

It is published twice monthly, on 1st and 3rd Thursday.  Click to subscribe to the podcast: iTunes or RSS/XML

Avatar photo
Follow John Farrell:
John Farrell

John Farrell directs the Energy Democracy initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and he develops tools that allow communities to take charge of their energy future, and pursue the maximum economic benefits of the transition to 100% renewable power.