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The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) Lab Call FY2019-21 funding program will enable U.S. national laboratories to provide accurate information and analysis related to solar energy on the grid, helping the industry overcome information barriers that inhibit solar energy access, affordability, and reliability. Overcoming these barriers will help decrease the cost and risk associated with research on new technologies and improve customer choice and transparency, all of which can lead to lower solar electricity costs.

Researchers at the national labs will also explore concentrating solar-thermal power, photovoltaic, and grid integration research as part of this effort. Learn more about the SETO Lab Call FY2019-21 projects.

APPROACH

These lab projects will develop new analysis, tools, and methodologies that can be used by a variety of stakeholders in the solar industry. This research will enable solar industry leaders to better understand the impacts of solar on the power grid and assess the costs and research opportunities for new technologies. To do this, projects will:

  • Create new analysis and tools that will lead to an increase solar energy affordability, access, and consumer choice and enable practitioners to better understand the impact of solar on the grid;
  • Collect and analyze solar-energy market data and make the results publicly available; and
  • Provide core analytical support to the Solar Energy Technologies Office. 

OBJECTIVES

These projects seek to provide solar stakeholders with analysis, tools, and data to catalyze innovation and investment in new technologies, enable them to better evaluate new market opportunities, and allow them to offer new, affordable services to customers. The projects aim to provide public information about the solar market based on data analysis, create industry-wide standards for grid and solar data users, provide analytical support to grid practitioners, and invent tools and methodologies that can be used by solar industry professionals to inform and address barriers to solar deployment.

AWARDEES

Project Name: Interoperable Energy Information Database for Real Estate          
Lab: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory      
Location: Berkeley, CA 
Principal Investigator: Ben Hoen
Project Summary Solar is growing rapidly, but data about the accurate valuation of homes with photovoltaic (PV) solar is lacking, as is information-sharing between solar data sources and real estate multiple listing services (MLS). Building on the project team’s past work, this project will combine previous ad hoc efforts to auto-populate PV data in an MLS database. This database holds energy-efficiency data and software infrastructure from the Home Energy Labeling Information eXchange (HELIX) repository, and this project would result in a solar-data-enhanced version of the HELIX package. Guided by an industry advisory team, the team will partner with the HELIX project leader and software developers to enable HELIX to accept solar data and disseminate information about it.              

Project Name: Solar-to-Grid (S2G): Analytic Support to Inform Reliability, Market Value, and Affordability           
Lab: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory      
Location: Berkeley, CA 
Principal Investigator: Andrew Mills
Project Summary: Along with the cost of a photovoltaic solar system, the competitiveness of solar energy depends on its market value and how solar interacts with other technologies in electricity markets. This project aims to better understand the location-specific market value of solar, the contribution of solar to grid reliability, and the impact of solar on the power system. The project team will combine historical production and performance data from solar energy systems across the United States with electricity market data to identify trends in solar’s historical value and contribution to grid reliability. To assess the impact of solar on the power system, the team will rely on market data to observe trends in wholesale prices and the resulting incentives to invest in flexible resources, like combined-cycle gas turbines and storage. The geographically specific results will be communicated through three annual reports, each building on and updating data from the previous year, to help inform stakeholders on planning, procurement, market design, and grid operations.

Project Name: Solar Market Data Tracking and Analysis 
Lab: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory      
Location: Berkeley, CA   
Principal Investigator: Ryan Wiser
Project Summary: This project will expand the availability of high-quality data and information on solar energy through extensive data collection, curation of shared databases, and timely analysis. The team will track and analyze solar technology, cost, performance, access, and market trends through foundational annual reports, publicly available data sets, and objective new analyses. Covering utility-scale and distributed solar, this work will support DOE and the energy industry more broadly by harnessing big data to track progress toward DOE goals. It will also facilitate market transparency, affordability, and consumer choice and protection by reducing information barriers.

Project Name: Open-Access ReEDS Model          
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Wesley Cole
Project Summary: The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed the Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS), a state-of-the-art model of the U.S. electricity sector that allows policymakers and researchers to forecast energy-generation investment decisions decades into the future. This model is a key tool for understanding how the electricity sector might evolve under a variety of circumstances, including those in which solar technologies achieve research and development cost targets and are more prevalent on the grid. This project will make the ReEDS model publicly available and enable other entities to use it to analyze the impact of new technologies.    

Project Name: Analysis of Municipal Franchise Agreements in Cities That Have Incorporated Energy Objectives
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Jeff Cook
Project Summary: Municipalities can use franchise agreements to let public utilities run electricity distribution lines in public rights-of-way like transportation routes. Solar energy can be incorporated into these agreements, but it is unclear how many municipalities have done so and what the outcomes were. This project will assess historical franchise agreements between public utilities and municipalities within their service territories, as well as ways in which municipalities have successfully integrated their energy goals.

Project Name: Sharing the Sun: Community Solar Cost, Design, and Deployment              
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Jenny Heeter
Project Summary: This project will collect and analyze data on existing community solar programs, benchmark community solar costs compared to other solar options, and identify pathways for new community solar program designs, such as community solar paired with storage. Working with experts in the solar industry, academia, and other relevant entities, the project team will develop a streamlined data-reporting process that could help to lower the cost of community solar projects, as well as next-generation community solar programs that can provide enhanced grid reliability.             

Project Name: Harmonizing PV and Energy Efficiency Metrics in Buildings             
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Washington, D.C.        
Principal Investigator: Monisha Shah
Project Summary: This project will identify a set of metrics and data-driven approaches that can help the building technology industry better assess the value of a building that uses solar energy, energy-efficiency technologies, and other distributed energy. By using an existing suite of building-to-grid models, this project team will model the complex interactions and potential value of building energy loads and solar photovoltaics (PV) under different grid conditions. The project will also provide a new method for incorporating time-sensitive data, like value of electricity, into building energy analysis that will help create a common analytical framework for valuing solar and energy-efficiency technologies.

Project Name: Resilient Planning for Distributed PV        
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Benjamin Sigrin
Project Summary: The Resilient Planning for Distributed Energy Resources (RiDER) project seeks to help grid planners better predict where distributed energy resources (DER) like rooftop solar and battery storage will be installed. The team will work with academic partners and all seven of the U.S. Independent System Operators and Regional Transmission Organizations to open-source its Distributed Generation Market Demand (dGen) tool. The dGen tool, a theory-driven model, will be upgraded with machine learning to make it a data-driven model. Improvements to the tool will also provide simulated electricity usage patterns with better resolution, resulting in at least 10% greater predictive accuracy compared to historic data on distributed photovoltaic adoption. The dGen tool will be used to predict customer adoption of new technologies, giving grid operators better insights on where more DER will be located, helping to improve planning and operation for a more resilient and reliable grid.      

Project Name: Collegiate Solar Innovation Challenge      
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Joseph Simon
Project Summary: The Collegiate Solar Innovation Challenge project will administer the Solar District Cup, a competition designed to motivate undergraduate students from colleges across the country in engineering, business, architecture, urban planning, data science, and policy fields to develop innovative solutions for a resilient, cost-effective district. Students will develop comprehensive plans for the design, performance, financing, marketing, and regulations needed to implement district-wide solar energy, dispatchable energy storage, and interdependent demand-response technologies, helping them prepare for jobs in the solar industry.

Project Name: PV Operations and Maintenance Industry Working Group             
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Andy Walker
Project Summary: This project is a collaboration between two national labs and private-industry practitioners to advance photovoltaic (PV) systems operations and maintenance (O&M). Using data from the field in different climates and weather conditions, the team will focus on understanding operational risks, drivers, and cause-and-effect relationships that lead to low performance ratios and high O&M costs. The team will conduct foundational analysis to create best practices and international standards for the reliability and availability of residential, commercial, and utility-scale PV.              

Project Name: Data and Analysis of Solar Curtailment    
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO
Principal Investigator: Lori Bird
Project Summary: Curtailing solar projects can impact their financial viability and delay achieving renewable energy targets for states across the country. This project will assess the historical magnitude of solar energy curtailment in the United States, past treatment of curtailment risks, and effective mitigation strategies. The team will collect production and curtailment data from interviews and resources from independent system operators, utilities, solar energy developers, and other stakeholders. The research results will be summarized and disseminated through a report and webinars and made available on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Open Energy Information knowledge-sharing platform.           

Project Name: Valuation and Operational Performance of Solar-Plus-Storage Power Plants         
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Paul Denholm
Project Summary: As energy storage costs decrease, new opportunities arise to create solar power plants with dispatchable energy, making power available whenever it’s needed from both concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) and photovoltaic (PV) technologies. But understanding the various plant configurations and storage-operation modes can be challenging. For example, PV and battery developers must consider the relative sizes of module, inverter, and storage power and energy capacities, as well as where in the system to integrate energy storage. This project will develop improved methods for evaluating and comparing different solar-plus-storage technologies and configurations to help utilities and system planners develop low-cost, reliable power systems.

Project Name: Transitioning Orange Button        
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Debbie Brodt-Giles
Project Summary: This project will extend the use and functionality of the Orange Button data standards by adding system performance monitoring and modeling components. These additions will include data structures and elements for electrical current monitoring; weather data records like irradiance, temperature, and precipitation; module characterization; and performance model parameters. In order to encourage adoption, expand use cases, outline steps for users, and demonstrate value to industry, the team will create an open-source implementation and build a self-sustaining Orange Button community of practice.

Project Name: DOE Big Data Project       
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Debbie Brodt-Giles
Project Summary: This project will provide the opportunity to change how the energy industry accesses and interacts with data from different energy technologies—including solar, wind, water, and smart grid—by leveraging cloud computing to encourage innovation and build capabilities, solutions, and businesses. The project will provide storage repositories with large volumes of widely accessible raw data. The team will leverage open data agreements with key cloud-hosting vendors to host free data sets when possible. It will also partner with cloud-computing providers to share the DOE data sets with the largest audience yet so potential power users can use them to add value to the solar industry and the energy industry as a whole. This work will provide an innovative environment for data access and accelerate analysis capabilities for all consumers of DOE energy data.    

Project Name: InSPIRE 2.0: Facilitating Low-Impact Solar Development through Data and Analysis for Environmental Resiliency and Compatibility       
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Jordan Macknick
Project Summary: This project will conduct field-based research to address data gaps relative to expanding solar in agricultural areas. Specifically, there is a lack of data about how solar projects on agricultural land affect revenues, which solar configurations best meet agricultural needs, and how solar and agriculture co-location results differ regionally. In addition, the project will conduct three analysis and modeling studies to augment field research, including an analysis of land-management practices at existing solar facilities, an economic assessment of low-impact operations and maintenance practices at solar facilities, and a quantification of ecological services, such as pollinator services and erosion control, provided by solar-agriculture co-location. The team will develop a Wiki-style data portal with user-input capabilities for co-location research data.            

Soft Costs Core Capability Projects

Project Name: Techno-Economic Analysis of Solar Energy Technologies
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Robert Margolis
Project Summary: This project directly supports leadership in the Solar Energy Technologies Office with versatile, on-call analysis of the technical and economic performance of solar technologies. To grant the core support required to address market feasibility and other issues related to solar, this project may range from providing quick data or model results to longer-term research leading to published papers.       

Project Name: Strategic and Programmatic Analysis to Support DOE       
Lab: National Renewable Energy Laboratory       
Location: Golden, CO    
Principal Investigator: Robert Margolis
Project Summary: This project will provide core support to the Solar Energy Technologies Office through a bottom-up analysis of solar costs. Using inputs and validation from both industry sources and academic papers, the team will estimate the current state of solar technologies and system costs, as well as future industry progress toward the cost targets, set by the Solar Energy Technologies Office.

Learn more about SETO’s soft costs research and other SETO Lab Call FY2019-21 projects.