Panel Paper: Modeling Local Government’s Role in Optimizing Distributed Solar Energy Capacity

Thursday, July 19, 2018
Building 3, Room 211 (ITAM)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Dr. Damian Pitt, Virginia Commonwealth University

Solar energy is the topic of vigorous policy debate in the United States, at all levels of government. Some of the most contentious questions surround distributed solar photovoltaic (DPV) systems: What costs and benefits do DPV systems provide to the electrical grid, consumers, and society at large, and how should these systems be treated through state and local policy?

Most DPV customers are connected to the grid via a “net-metering” arrangement, and are compensated at the retail electricity rate for every kilowatt-hour that their systems provide. However, from a technical standpoint the benefits of DPV systems are highly variable, based on the time and place in which that power is provided. Therefore some states, most notably New York, are developing “post-net-metering” policies that more accurately compensate DPV system owners for the locational and temporal values that their systems provide.

Our research demonstrates the potential for local governments to work with electric utilities to optimize the installation of DPV within an urban context. We used GIS data from a local county in Virginia to estimate building-level DPV capacity and energy consumption within a neighborhood-scale study area. We then collaborated with electrical engineers to identify a distribution of DPV within the study area that would provide maximum grid benefits. Such inter-disciplinary modeling efforts can facilitate the implementation of state-level post-net-metering policies that compensate DPV owners based on locational and temporal benefits. It can also inform local policy, and support local sustainability efforts, through zoning code amendments that encourage DPV in high-value locations.