San Diego begins to tap city’s vast solar parking lot potential

January 18th, 2019 by  on Clean Technica

San Diego has an untapped 500 megawatt solar potential at commercial sites within the city, with parking lots representing three-quarters of the total, according to a new survey by the Clean Coalition. The San Diego Solar Siting Survey identified 120 sites that could host 1 megawatt (MW) of solar, and suggested the number of host sites could double, if installs as small as 100 MW were made.

Solar Parking Canopies Fuel EVs at the San Diego Zoo. Credit Greentech Advocates.

While San Diego has more than 100,000 solar installations, mostly residential, the potential for commercial-scale solar remains largely untapped.

The City of San Diego has a goal of having 25% of the total electricity consumption provided by local renewable energy sources sited within the city by 2035.

The survey helps identify the best solar sites, thereby reducing the costs associated with developing solar and solar+storage projects.”

By pairing distributed solar with other distributed energy resources, such as energy storage, demand response, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the city has the potential to establish community microgrids, a new approach to designing and operating electricity grids and providing indefinite, renewables-driven backup power to critical facilities, the coalition says.

The Clean Coalition will use the Solar Siting Survey to develop a proposed Feed-In Tariff (FIT) that streamlines procurement opportunities for commercial-scale renewables and energy storage.

The Solar Siting Survey was conducted as part of the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN), a collaborative effort to explore new ways solar energy can improve the affordability, reliability, and resilience of the nation’s electricity grid, the coalition says.

The Solar Energy Innovation Network was established in July 2017 as a new three-year private-public collaboration managed by the NREL and supported by the US Department of Energy (DOE) SunShot Initiative. Teams were expected to be composed of electric utilities, regional planning commissions, state and local governments, and others working on innovative initiatives such as testing new financing mechanisms, deploying solar photovoltaics (PV)-enabling technology, and scaling up utility programs, NREL says.

San Diego was selected by NREL as one of a short list of cohorts around the country to pursue its project, “Improving Reliability and Affordability of Renewable Energy through Options Analysis and Systems Design.” The city’s task in the program is to focus on identifying the grid impacts and costs anticipated with various penetration levels of solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs).

Other jurisdictions or groups and goals involved in the project are: Orlando: Renewable and Resilient – led by the City of Orlando; Montana Solar-Powered Community Transportation Initiative – led by the Montana Renewable Energy Association; Renewable Electricity Impacts and Solutions in Utah – led by Utah Clean Energy; and Resilient Renewable Energy Roadmap for Rural Electric Cooperatives – led by Kit Carson Electric Cooperative.

Research topics for the group include analysis of the impact of electrification and demand-side management measures on utility system load profiles, which are prerequisites for effective roadmapping and assessment of impacts and options for high penetrations of variable renewable energy.

The methodology for this project includes: developing data sets and geo-spatial mapping tools that assess impacts on reliability of various levels of variable generation at municipal or utility service territory scale; identifying and validating new solar siting methods that minimize grid impacts and reduce distribution system costs; and exploring alternative rate designs and compensation mechanisms, among other things, NREL says.

The San Francisco-based Clean Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to accelerate the transition to renewable energy and a modern grid through technical, policy, and project development expertise. The Clean Coalition collaborates with utilities, community choice aggregation agencies, municipalities, and other jurisdictions to create near-term deployment opportunities that prove the technical and economic viability of local renewables and other distributed energy resources (DER).

The DOE SunShot Initiative is a national effort to drive down the cost of solar electricity and support solar adoption. SunShot aims to make solar energy a low-cost electricity source for all Americans through research and development efforts in collaboration with public and private partners, DOE says.