Blogs, Energy Efficiency, Solar

California Pushes Standard Software Models for Solar PV

One of my regular themes here is that there are more ways to look at improvements in solar efficiency other than the raw percentage of sunlight converted into electricity.

Systems that improve the performance of panels, or lower the legal cost of getting a deal, or reduce the heat loss in going from DC to AC power and back again are all important.

So here’s another one. It’s a standard software model for evaluating solar projects and moving that data among buyers and sellers. Called the Integrated Energy Project, it’s both a data interchange format and a set of best practices that makes certain an estimate for a project’s return is realistic.

Funded by a unit of California’s Public Utility Commission, the first version of the model has been created by kW Engineering, an Oakland company that specializes in helping buildings get to “net zero” energy use, generating as much from on-site renewable power sources as they consume . (The picture below shows the management of kW viewed through a fisheye lens.)

They were helped by Solar Nexus, which works in the area of workflows, and SaveEnergy123, a group that represents building owners interested in solar energy.

The IEP can be plugged into industry software, or used by consumers on web sites, giving a common language to both sides of the transaction, and helping speed the way to yes. It’s not just useful in California, either. The company that designed it already has an office in Utah, and you can sign up for the project here.

All this is necessary because even small solar projects are still capital expenditures. Evaluating returns on the money spent is vital in getting orders. Having an industry standard for doing this, one that has been vetted (even sponsored by) government regulators, not only lowers costs but reassures customers, increasing the size of the market.

It’s not as sexy as a sleek new thin-film PV module or a cheaper solar mirror, but it all adds up.