Most solar conferences are powerpoint marathons, interrupted by coffee breaks and low-grade lunch food.
SolarTech forums don’t settle for that. Except for maybe the food part.
Theseare not high-tech meetings with deep dives into Tellurium supplies –they are nitty-gritty forums for installers, utilities, and regulatorsto figure out how to bust through the roadblocks that preventresidential solar in the U.S. reaching wider and faster deployment (seeCalifornia’s Top Solar Cities).
SolarTech’s charter is to effect change in the solar installation process – and the organization wants concrete results.
One of its stated goals is a 50 percent decrease in interconnection cycle time by 2012.
Another long-term aim of the SolarTech team is to define a plan to get to 3 gigawatts of PV by 2017.
DougPayne, the driven Executive Director of SolarTech definesinterconnection as "The point from the system being approved to finalinspection, connection to the grid, and getting the benefits of netmetering."
Some of the process changes that SolarTech is working on:
Online applications and tools (shared, automated, with FAQs)
Streamlining the application process (permitting process, fees, consistency, communications and usage info)
Simplified meters (real-time delivery)
Peter Rive, the Co-Founder and COO of SolarCity had some good comments:
"You don’t get your margin until the interconnection and the rebateis provided. We will do anything to reduce that cycle time. Theworking capital requirements when you scale this are enormous. Theindustry is motivated and ready to invest time and effort to reducecycle time."
"You have to think of solar as a consumer product – and it’s afreaking annoying product – you have to be home six or seven timesduring the course of the installation. It’s more annoying than buying ahouse." (Both the Rive siblings are prone to cursing in public fora.)
But who owns this process? How does the solar industry implement these changes?
"TheCalifornia Public Utilities Commission needs to own the process"according to a CEO I spoke with. He didn’t want attribution so as notto anger the CPUC.