Presentation of the awards was made in conjunction with Solar Power International 2011, which is jointly presented by SEPA and the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“2011 has been a watershed year for the addition of solar electricity onto the grid thanks to leadership, creative thinking and collaboration from all corners of the utility and solar industries,” said SEPA President and CEO, Julia Hamm. “Armando J. Olivera, our 2011 Utility CEO of the Year, personifies these qualities better than anyone, and is an outstanding example of a leader who understands the vital and ever-growing role utilities play in expanding U.S. solar markets.
“Thanks to the vision and leadership of Armando and others like him, solar power has advanced from a niche market in the sunny Southwest to a growing portion of utility portfolios across the nation.”
Winners of the 2011 SEPA Solar Business Achievement Awards are:
Utility CEO of the Year: Armando J. Olivera, Florida Power & Light Company
Under the leadership of President and CEO Armando Olivera, Florida Light & Power Company (FPL) has built more solar power than any other utility in the U.S. To achieve this in Florida, which has resisted enacting a Renewable Portfolio Standard, FPL worked with the state’s Legislature and Public Service Commission to enable the groundbreaking investment in 110 MW of solar generating capacity. In the span of three years, from 2008 to 2010, FPL built two solar photovoltaic (PV) projects — a 25 MW array in DeSoto County and a 10 MW array at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center — and the world’s first utility-scale hybrid plant, connecting a 75 MW solar thermal array to and existing combined-cycle natural gas plant in Martin County.
Utility Solar Portfolio Leadership Award: Sacramento Municipal Utility District
With a variety of net metering, virtual net metering and grid connected programs, Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD) PV efforts result in a wide mix of residential and commercial solar opportunities. Seven distinct offers in the SMUD portfolio have helped spread solar power across homes and businesses in Sacramento. Under the SolarSmart New Homes program more than 850 new solar homes have been built, with another 2,500 under contract, sustaining it as the largest new-home PV program in the country. The Residential Retrofit program is responsible for generating 3.18 MW on more than 2,000 customers’ homes that now take advantage of net metering, thanks to rooftop PV. The Commercial Retrofit program helped install more than 16 MW on rooftops for businesses such as Aerojet, REI, Kohl’s and Costco. Home renters now have an opportunity to utilize the benefits of solar power through the SolarShares program that installed 1 MW of grid-connected solar power in .5 kW – 4 kW virtual net metered increments. The Low Income Multi-Family Solar program is responsible for a 500 kW system at a 160-unit low-income complex in Citrus Heights, CA, with 6 MW still in the pipeline. In addition to these innovative programs, SMUD’s Community Solar project raises money from existing customers, voluntarily, to help install solar power on local community buildings such as the Sacramento Zoo, SPCA and Habitat for Humanity. All told, there is something for everyone who wants to go solar in Sacramento.
Utility Innovation in Solar Program Design : Two Recipients — Salt River Project; Tucson Electric Power
Salt River Project (SRP) is the third-largest public power utility in the country, serving nearly 950,000 electric customers through a variety of resources. The SRP Community Solar program brings solar power to schools and residential customers without the upfront costs and maintenance required for rooftop systems. Schools and residential customers are able to purchase blocks of solar energy generated at the 20 MW Copper Crossing Solar Ranch through this innovative program. The first of its kind in the Valley of the Sun, Community Solar empowers SRP customers to make an energy choice that reduces carbon emissions while expanding renewable energy resources. Participating school districts will also receive access to solar educational materials and a web portal that will allow students to learn about the benefits of solar energy. SRP plans to add additional solar plants to meet future demand.
Tucson Electric Power’s (TEP) Bright Tucson Community Solar Program allows customers to purchase energy from local solar arrays in 150 kWh blocks, designed to target customers who are unable to purchase their own solar system. The program allows customers to sign up for any number of blocks at a cost of $3.00 per block per month, up to their average monthly consumption. The program adjusts the energy portion of their bill for up to 20 years, and offsets a proportional amount of the purchased power and fuel adjustor surcharge as well as the RPS surcharges. The program started accepting its first Community Solar Program customers in February 2011 using the output from a TEP 1.6 MW solar array. The Bright Tucson Community Solar Program offers an easy and innovative way for TEP customers to tap into Tucson’s abundant sunshine to meet their daily energy needs.
Utility Community Outreach and Public Awareness: Pacific Gas and Electric Company
To help raise the awareness and utilization of solar power in California, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) continually educates its customers about the value of this clean, renewable energy source. Through 43 webinars and on-site classes, PG&E reached more than a thousand individuals, educating them on topics such as solar basics, the financial implications of installing solar and the various California solar initiatives. PG&E also partnered with Diablo Valley College to offer an innovative, hands-on Solar Water Heating course to candidates with valid contractor’s licenses, including many who have begun to offer solar water heating services. In October 2010, PG&E launched an integrated, multi-touch outreach campaign with 278,000 direct mail pieces, online banner ads, search engine marketing, and two 5-minute television segments highlighting the financial and environmental benefits of solar and promoted available incentive programs. Thirty-eight thousand customers responded to the campaign with some level of engagement. In addition to the many education and outreach activities, PG&E also partners with local governments to increase solar adoption through events such as the Sonoma County Solar Energy and Efficiency Fair and the UC Berkeley Energy for Sustainability Planning and Policy panel.
Solar Partner of the Year: Arizona State University
Arizona State University’s (ASU) commitment to solar energy is unparalleled. ASU’s relationship with its local utility, Arizona Public Service (APS) has proven to be a successful partnership in accelerating the university’s solar program. ASU is setting itself apart from other public universities by installing more than 10 MW of solar on three of its campuses in the Phoenix metro area, providing the university with clean power while accelerating the growth of the solar industry in the state. ASU requires that each installation have the ability to collect, analyze and display performance data. APS commends ASU not only for its leadership in adopting solar energy, but also for comprehensively improving efficiency and reporting of each system. ASU’s solar installations are facilitated, in part, by the APS Renewable Energy Incentive Program.
The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) is an educational non-profit dedicated to helping utilities integrate solar power into their energy portfolios for the benefit of the utility, its customers and the public good. With more than 1000 utility and solar industry members, SEPA provides unbiased utility solar market intelligence, up-to-date information about technologies and business models, and peer-to-peer interaction. From hosting national events to one-on-one counseling, SEPA helps utilities make smart solar decisions.