The State of California has just reopened its online portal for Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) applications, and Enphase would like our installers to know that funds are available for projects with the Enphase Storage System.

In this post, we will explain what SGIP is, which projects are eligible for funding, and what to expect if you enter the application queue. Find answers to all your questions and resources for your application at our SGIP information page.

If you have electric service from an investor-owned utility in California, you’ve contributed funds to SGIP. You and your customers might as well benefit by claiming some of the available incentives.

What is SGIP?

SGIP provides financial incentives for California investor-owned utility customers to install new technologies designed to meet some or all their electricity needs on site. The program, created in 2001, encourages deployment of renewable generation technologies, greenhouse gas reduction, and grid reliability improvements. Before the California Solar Initiative got underway in 2006, SGIP was providing incentives for grid-tied PV systems. Now SGIP places heavy focus on energy storage systems, with a carveout for residential systems under 10 kW. The California Public Utilities Commission has authorized and funded the program through 2020, or until funds are gone.

One important difference as California reopens SGIP is that the program now covers Southern California Gas Company customers. This extends eligibility to a few significant groups who get electricity service from municipal utilities, such as Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (LADWP) and Imperial Irrigation District.

Who’s eligible?

To qualify for SGIP funding, projects must be permanently installed with an expected lifetime of at least 10 years, interconnected to the grid on the customer side of the meter, and certified by a nationally-recognized test laboratory. UL issued Enphase its first UL 9540 certification, verifying that the Enphase Storage System meets the strictest national safety standards.

Systems that are not eligible to participate include those designed to provide backup power only; those that have been rebuilt, refurbished, or relocated equipment; and those that have been interconnected for more than 12 months.

Please note: You can apply for funding for recently installed energy storage systems. Systems that have received permission to operate within 12 months before the date of application are eligible for SGIP funds.

To ensure that SGIP funds are available to a variety of project developers, the program requires developers to disclose details about their business relationships and eligibility for funding in exchange for a “developer key” that must be provided with all project applications. Individual developers are limited to 20 percent of funds in each budget category and each funding round.

What incentives are available?

SGIP funding is split up with 25 percent for energy generation projects, including wind power, biogas, and fuel cell technologies, and 75 percent for storage, with 11 percent reserved for residential projects under 10 kW in capacity.

Funding for residential projects starts at 50¢ per Watt-hour (Wh) and drops down 5¢ at a time until the program reaches its fifth and final funding round at 30¢ per Wh. Funding is also affected by storage duration, with more incentives for short-duration storage of 2 hours or less. The incentive is cut in half for longer-duration storage up to 4 hours, and it’s halved again for longer-duration storage up to 6 hours.

It’s a good idea to include an energy storage kilowatt-hour calculation worksheet with each funding application. Contact your Enphase sales representative for a worksheet using AC Battery specifications. At the highest funding level, the Energy Storage System is eligible for an incentive covering $430.50 per AC Battery.

Funding is available on a first-come, first-served basis unless the budget is oversubscribed on a single day. If oversubscribed, applications are selected according to a random lottery.

In the event of a lottery, applications from West Los Angeles and LADWP get priority due to grid stability challenges associated with the nearby Aliso Canyon natural gas leak. All other applications are considered at random, and selected projects are offered full funding until funds are no longer available. Any remaining funds can be used to provide a partial project incentive or be rolled over for use in a subsequent funding round.

Please note: Under current SGIP rules, system suppliers would have to manufacture battery cells in California to qualify for an in-state manufacturer’s bonus incentive. Enphase does not qualify. Nor does any other manufacturer, as far as we know.

How will incentives be awarded?

SGIP opens for new project applications at 1 a.m. on Monday, May 1. This does not mean you have to be awake at 1 a.m. to be first in line. Any application submitted by 11:59 p.m. on May 1 will be considered for the first round of funding. But be prepared ahead of time. Funding cannot be transferred from one project to another down the road.

How to apply for Enphase storage projects

Visit www.selfgenca.com to apply. Be prepared to pay a reservation fee equal to 5 percent of the requested incentive, or about $22 per AC Battery at the highest funding level.

Documents required for application include the online reservation request form, the Enphase AC Battery datasheet, the Enphase UL 9540 Certificate of Compliance, and proof of utility service, such as a recent bill showing account number, meter number, site address, and host customer name. San Diego Gas & Electric and SoCal Gas customers must provide the previous 12 months of bills. PG&E and SoCal Gas customers must submit a recent gas bill. SDG&E customers also have to include a form authorizing the program administrator to receive customer information.

Please note: We recommend using electronic signatures on SGIP contracts. This will expedite the process if any applications are deferred to a later funding round. We also recommend that you scan checks for application fees, submit scanned images with each application, and mail checks within 7 days.

Upon receipt of a complete application package, the SGIP program administrator will organize a field visit to verify that projects are installed as specified in the application. Systems will be tested to validate discharge energy capacity. All systems require installation of metering devices to measure and record electrical output for measurement and evaluation purposes. For projects under 30 kW, the program administrator or a third-party consultant may install meters to collect measurements.

Displaying performance data in a place where many people see it, like the lobby of an office building, is a nice way to enhance system monitoring. The option is available to all Enphase System owners via Enlighten’s Kiosk View setting. Visitors may recognize patterns in the results and provide feedback if they notice something unusual. Ten sets of eyes, or a hundred, are better than one. Anytime a system is underperforming, it’s best to notify a technician as soon as possible. Putting system performance on display also reinforces the environmental and social impact of going solar with Enphase.

Enphase built these display settings into Enlighten in simpler times when it was enough to show pictures of the solar module array, lifetime energy output, and some additional site information. System owners have more urgent needs for performance data now. We’re addressing those needs by automatically updating the summary data shown to visitors every five minutes. The new functionality is included in the latest Enlighten software update.

Enphase maintains a help center to answer frequently asked questions about Enlighten. To learn about turning on display settings and customizing the information that visitors can see, please visit the Enphase Kiosk View page.

Fleet monitoring ensures the reliable performance of residential PV systems, but what happens when the Wi-Fi password changes or the kids unplug the solar gateway to connect their Xbox?

With more than 580,000 systems operating worldwide, Enphase recognizes the importance of reliable networking and the advantages of using cellular networks to transmit data without interruption. Our cellular solutions, Mobile Connect and Mobile Connect+, improve on traditional cable and wireless internet services in several ways.

For technicians, Mobile Connect is easier to set up than a Wi-Fi internet connection. You mount the modem on a wall or a flat surface, then attach the cellular antenna to the modem and connect the modem to the Enphase Envoy with a USB cable. That’s it. The system is preconfigured for a simple, plug-and-play installation.

Installers who provide operations and maintenance can use Mobile Connect to control access to monitoring data. This can mean the difference between monitoring and not monitoring, especially in places where the system owner or the system host hasn’t already set up a local network.

System owners protect their investment with cellular monitoring. When performance data comes through home networks, an Internet service disruption caused by a change in the home router or modem can cut off monitoring at any time. The cause may be something as simple as an unplugged network cable. If the homeowner cannot troubleshoot the problem themselves, the cost of a truck roll for a technician to restore monitoring can easily exceed the cost of cellular monitoring.

Cellular monitoring is an excellent option in locations where internet service is unreliable or nonexistent. It also opens the possibility of monitoring ground-mount systems where it would be too difficult or cost prohibitive to pull cable for a networking connection.

Enphase now offers two cellular monitoring options: Mobile Connect, a 3G service with a 5-year prepaid data plan, and Mobile Connect+, a new 4G LTE service with a 12-year prepaid data plan. Both options come with a 5-year hardware warranty, and both are compatible with residential systems using up to 60 Microinverters and IQ Envoy, IQ Combiner, Envoy-S Metered, AC Combiner Box, or Envoy S-Standard. Cellular coverage for Mobile Connect is provided by AT&T, making reliable, high-speed service available to the US, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Canada, and Mexico.

November 28, 2016

Two men examine solar modules set up in a field on the NREL campus.

NREL engineers Bill Sekulic (left) and Chris Deline look at the new PV array just north of the NREL parking garage. The new array extends the testing capacity for solar modules at NREL. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

Solar panels at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are ubiquitous to the point of practically being invisible, but new rows of photovoltaic (PV) modules installed on the southern edge of campus are intended to attract attention.

The newest modules are being installed to measure how their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity changes over time. That change, called the degradation rate, will be posted on NREL's website along with the manufacturers' names. To start, 50 solar modules made by three manufacturers will be deployed in 2017. Then, each year for the following two years, additional sets of 50 modules made by other companies will be added.

"We're going to buy up modules that represent the average cross-section of installed modules each year in the United States and see how they do over time," said Chris Deline, an engineer at NREL who also serves as director for Colorado's two regional test centers: SolarTAC (an 8-acre site near Denver International Airport) and one on NREL's 327-acre campus in Golden. The test centers, funded by the Energy Department, are used to validate new technologies and measure the performance of solar modules over time. Across the NREL campus, solar modules are integrated into the buildings, including the roof of the five-story parking garage near the new array field. Another building, the Outdoor Test Facility (OTF), has an adjacent solar array field but doesn't have much room for more modules on its concrete pads.

"The main difference is this large grassy area gives us the capability of having larger systems," Deline said. "Over at the OTF, because of our space constraints, we can only have 8 or 10 modules for a given system. With this one we're able to do side-by-side comparisons of larger systems."

Workers install PV modules at NREL’s new solar array field.

Workers install PV modules just north of the NREL parking garage. Modules in the first row are part of a small demonstration project for the PV industry to help obtain initial performance validation. The PV modules in the other rows are part of a new Energy Department program called PV Lifetime. The intent is to study, with high accuracy, the initial degradation of PV modules, and to make all of the data publicly available. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

More Modules to be Added Each Year

Once completed, the new solar array field will house four rows of PV modules. The first row, already in place, is for partner manufacturers' modules that NREL is either studying or comparing to similar products. For example, a California company, SolarCity, has NREL testing its modules against those made by a Chinese manufacturer.

Further along the row, high voltage (up to 1,500 V to represent the high voltages used in some PV systems today) is applied to modules of a range of constructions. This helps quantify their susceptibility to degradation associated with the leakage currents that can occur at these high system voltages. How the modules do at NREL will be assessed against the performance of identical setups in Singapore and China.

"This greatly expands our ability to work with commercial partners," Deline said. "The other neat thing is it allows us to get access to some of these cutting-edge products because a lot of this stuff is not commercially available. We're like customer No. 1 for some of these new technologies. It gives us the ability to get in at the forefront."

Although the degradation rates for modules will be made public, the contracted testing done for clients will be kept confidential.

The experiments at the new array field will run for three years on average. At the OTF, some experiments involving the longevity of solar modules have been ongoing for decades. No matter how long the solar panels undergo testing, all of the power they generate will flow into NREL's circuits. About 19% of electricity used on the campus comes from the sun.

Two men stand next to solar modules in a field on the NREL campus.

NREL engineers Bill Sekulic (left) and Chris Deline monitor the progress of the new PV array just north of the NREL parking garage. The new array will be used in part to make more data available to the public. Photo by Dennis Schroeder

Importance of Regular Measurements

Over time, solar modules become less effective at converting sunlight into electricity. NREL researchers examined the results of nearly 200 studies and found this degradation rate ranges from 0.5%-1% a year, depending on the technology used. A high degradation rate means less power will be produced over the lifetime of a PV system, and that increases the per-kilowatt-hour cost of generating solar electricity.

The performance of most PV modules is measured only once: at the factory. For studies reporting degradation rates, frequently, the degradation is calculated from the measured performance at the time of the study (after several years in the field) compared with the nameplate rating, which is the expected output a module will have. Sometimes the degradation rate follows a non-linear path, so a regular measurement will provide more accurate information.

"It is important to determine how the degradation rates vary because a module that maintains its output for many years and then fails on the last day of its life will generate a lot more electricity than a module that degrades 10% in the first year and then is stable," said Sarah Kurtz, an NREL research fellow and co-director of the National Center for Photovoltaics. A weakened solder bond, for example, could break and that would throw off the performance of a module.

Ongoing measurement of the new solar modules is part of the PV Lifetime project, a new effort led by Sandia National Laboratories. In addition to the modules deployed at NREL, similar arrays will be installed at regional test centers at Sandia and in Florida. The data collected will be published on NREL's website.

PV Lifetime is an outgrowth of the SunShot Initiative, launched by the Energy Department in 2011. The original goal of the initiative was to bring the price of solar-generated electricity down to 6 cents a kilowatt-hour by 2020. The initiative last month announced the goal is close, with prices at 90% of the way there. The revised target calls for dropping the price further, to 3 cents between 2020 and 2030.

Learn more about solar research at NREL.

— Wayne Hicks