In this week’s Solar News Report, New Hampshire removes their solar net-metering cap for consumers, Oregon approves new rules for large community solar undertakings, and a new way to generate power from the sun using solar windows.
New Hampshire eliminates solar net-metering cap
New Hampshire’s public utilities commission (PUC) released a new order in late June dismantling the existing net-metering cap. The new rule kicks in on September 1st of this year, and allows customers with systems under 100kW to be reimbursed via an export bill up to 100 percent for energy/transmission costs, and 25 percent for distribution services. Customers generating power are still required to pay non-bypassable charges, which include system benefits, stranded cost recovery, and storm recovery, for the electricity that they draw from the grid.
It is a fear of regulators that with too many customers subscribing to net metering, costs will be unfairly shifted to those who can’t afford to install solar or other distributed energy resources. However, the move was praised by the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, who says that the record shows no evidence of cost-shifting, and that net-metering is beneficial for all.
Oregon moves closer to widespread community solar
More than a year after Governor Kate Brown signed a bill directing the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) to develop a community solar program, the PUC approved new community solar rules, moving the state a step closer to allowing all Oregonians to participate in local solar projects. The PUC’s staff and commissioners have worked for the past year with stakeholders to develop the program rules. The approved program would enable the initial development of more than 150 MW of community solar statewide – enough power to service about 22,000 households. Any electric customer in the state is allowed to participate, including schools, homeowners, and governments. Additionally, 10 percent of the program is to be reserved for low income households.
There is still work to do, however. Most importantly, the PUC has not finalized what bill credits customers will receive on their utility bill for taking part in a community solar project. Jeff Cramer, the Executive Director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), says this about the new rules and projects:
“Our member companies are looking forward to investing in clean energy infrastructure for the state and helping meet consumer demand for solar. Following on today’s order, we urge the PUC to finalize key details of the program as soon as possible to ensure equitable access to solar for all Oregonians, whether through solar panels on their roof or in their community.”
World’s first solar power-generating windows installed
Our last news roundup featured solar paint, and this time it’s solar windows. Tech startup Physee has installed the world’s first commercial, fully transparent solar power-generating windows at the headquarters of a Dutch bank. The windows, dubbed PowerWindows, don’t have solar capabilities on the actual glass, but have solar cells lining the edges at specific angles to capture incoming light. The bank had 323 square feet of PowerWindows, and Physee says the bank’s employees will now be able to plug their smartphones into the windows through USB ports to charge their batteries.
Physee is currently working on next-generation technology aimed at tripling the efficiency of their windows. Future PowerWindows designs will include coated windows that transform incoming visible light into near-infrared light using the rare-earth metal thulium. The transformed light is subsequently transported to the edges of the windows and the installed solar cells to generate power.