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Utility and Solar Industry Collaboration Accelerates Solar Growth

By Bob Gibson

The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) created the annual Solar Power Players Awards to recognize the innovation and collaboration by electric utilities and their industry partners that is strengthening utility solar and providing consumers with better access to solar. The 2015 winners listed below will be honored at an awards luncheon on Tuesday, Sept. 15 at  Solar Power International in Anaheim, CA.

“Our winners this year were selected by a nine-member panel of judges with diverse and distinguished experience in the utility and solar industries,” said Julia Hamm, President and CEO of SEPA. “Sifting through a large field of worthy nominees, the judges put forward a slate of high achievers with approaches and solutions that can be replicated by other utilities and solar stakeholders across the country.”

The 2015 Solar Power Player Winners

Solar Champion

Carmine Tilghman, Senior Director of Energy Supply, Tucson Electric Power (TEP), Tucson, AZ. Among Tilghman’s accomplishments as a leader of TEP’s solar programs have been innovative approaches to utility-scale solar, community solar and residential distributed generation. From one of his letters of nomination:: “While the media wonder what Utility 2.0 will resemble and how the transformation will be achieved, it is revolutionary ideas like Carmine’s that are already proving that there IS a way forward…He goes out of his way to share his program ideas with leaders in government and academia [and] he is extraordinarily generous with the time he devotes to educating his colleagues in the field.

Innovative Partner

Enphase Energy, Petaluma, CA. Enphase Energy is recognized for its partnership with Hawaiian Electric Company to quickly upgrade 800,000 microinverters on solar PV systems in Hawaii to allow the state’s largest utility to improve grid stability. The two companies – working with other local partners – determined new frequency and low voltage ride-through smart inverter settings that would allow rooftop solar systems to function smoothly and productively. These grid management techniques will be of value to all utilities and solar vendors as solar grows in other parts of the country.

Investor Owned Utility

Con Edison, New York, NY. Serving one of the most populous and energy-intensive pieces of real estate in the world, Con Edison’s challenges include providing the highest level of reliability and power quality to many large customers through isolated or “networked” installations. Initially, the task of exporting solar power from the rooftops of these commercial buildings proved daunting, as the reverse power flow was seen by the network protectors as a fault – and shut down. Con Edison engineers worked with solar developers and its customers to devise a software solution, one of a number of notable achievements by a utility that is finding ways to integrate solar and other customer-sited resources to create a more resilient grid.

Electric Cooperative

The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina and Central Electric Power Cooperative, Columbia, SC. Although the electric cooperatives are exempt from most state electric service regulation, the co-op state association and the co-op power supplier in South carolina volunteered to take a leadership role in a two year effort to craft the state’s first solar legislation. The Distributed Energy Resources Act of 2014 won the support of a coalition of utilities, solar businesses and conservation advocates, as well as unanimous passage in the South Carolina legislature. The law has triggered progress on new utility incentives and programs, net metering, interconnection and solar leasing, and will result in 300 MW of solar in the state in next five years. From the nomination letter: “The Cooperatives effectively changed the conversation in South Carolina from one that was very adversarial and positional, to a conversation about ‘what we are interested in doing’ and ‘a shared vision’ for the future.”

Public Power Utility

New York Power Authority, White Plains, NY. Hosting solar on schools has long been a popular way to introduce solar power to communities and to engage young people with the benefits of renewable electricity. New York’s public power agency has taken solar on schools to a new level with its “K-Solar” initiative. The program is eliminating red tape, speeding and standardizing the process of procuring and installing solar on schools in the state, from kindergartens through high schools. It is a part of the NY-SUN public-private initiative, designed to drive growth in the solar industry and to make solar affordable for all state residents. The program design is one that can be modified and customized for any jurisdiction.

Attendees of Solar Power International are encouraged to join SEPA in recognizing the Solar Power Players at our awards luncheon at the Anaheim Convention Center. The $20 registration fee will benefit SEPA’s scholarship fund.

Registration and SEPA event information