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Background

Solar energy is proving to be a key strategy in advancing both the long- and short-term goals of community resilience. Solar energy deployment helps reduce carbon emissions and curb the impacts of climate change. But when it’s designed and located strategically, it can improve the overall reliability and resilience of the energy grid and have immediate benefits on disaster preparedness and emergency operations.

The term “resilient solar” refers to the combination of solar power generation and energy storage designed to provide power to critical community facilities like shelters, medical facilities, communications infrastructure, and public safety buildings when the electrical grid is down. As battery technology continues to evolve, the cost, reliability, and effectiveness of these systems improve, opening more opportunities for communities to incorporate this technology into emergency response and resilience plans.

Through Solar Market Pathways, projects worked to:

  • Create plans and projects to implement solar and battery storage supporting community resilience
  • Explore the technical feasibility and cost-effectiveness of resilient solar
  • Engage stakeholders to integrate solar energy into city emergency planning and operations
  • Reduce costs, identify—and work to remove—regulatory barriers, and create new tools and resources to help other cities pursue resilient solar projects

Toolkit

This toolkit features the best available resources, tools, and real-world examples to help local governments, community advocates, solar project developers, emergency management professionals, facilities managers, and other stakeholders understand the practical, technical, regulatory, and financial aspects of implementing resilient solar.

Fundamentals of Resilient Solar

The frequency of grid outages has increased in recent years, and a growing number of communities, residents, and building owners are seeing the value in ensuring their solar panels can provide them with backup power when the grid is down.

Source: Blackout: Extreme Weather, Climate Change and Power Outages. (Kenward & Raja 2014)

Installing solar energy in a way that allows it to generate power during grid outages is seemingly simple and yet often quite complicated. A typical solar array shuts down when the grid is down. This avoids sending power back to the grid, which could endanger workers who are trying to restore the grid. However, the technology exists to disconnect, or “island,” the PV systems from the grid so they only serve the building or microgrid where they’re located. This then allows the PV systems to provide power even when the grid is down. Before making a decision about resilient solar, it’s important to be familiar with the basics of how it works, its benefits, and the possible challenges. Introductory resources like this fact sheet from the City University of New York and this webinar by the Clean Energy Group are a great place to start.

Resources

Tool:
Integrating Solar into Emergency Preparedness Integrating Solar into Emergency Preparedness
Author:  Utah Clean Energy

Essential information about solar and storage and how it can enhance resiliency.

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Webinar:
An Introduction to Resilient P... An Introduction to Resilient Power
Author:  Clean Energy Group

An overview of resilient power, including work to reach vulnerable populations and options for financing.

Case study:
Resilient Power Retrofit: How a Minnesota Nature Center Became ... Resilient Power Retrofit: How a Minnesota Nature Center Became a Solar+Storage Community Shelter
Author:  Clean Energy Group

The story of Hartley Nature Center and how they reduce electricity costs, provided public education, and improved community energy security by adding storage to an existing PV system.

Report:
Solar+Storage 101: An Introductory Guide to Resilient Power ... Solar+Storage 101: An Introductory Guide to Resilient Power Systems
Author:  Clean Energy Group

Basic overview of resilient power technology from components required to connecting to the grid, including case studies

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Video:
Using Solar Energy to Enhance Community ... Using Solar Energy to Enhance Community Resilience
Author:  American Planning Association

This video explores how communities can use solar to enhance resilience with recommendations for local government.

Tool:
CUNY Glossary CUNY Glossary
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

Developed by the NY Solar Smart DG Hub, this glossary explains commonly used technical terms related to solar and battery storage.

Report:
Summary of Results: Solar and Storage Cost Survey Summary of Results: Solar and Storage Cost Survey
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

This report summarizes the findings of a 2015 survey of the NY solar industry regarding the costs, revenues, and other economic factors affecting solar and storage projects.

Case study:
Clean Energy for Resilient Communities: Expanding Solar Generation ... Clean Energy for Resilient Communities: Expanding Solar Generation in Baltimore’s Low-Income Neighborhoods
Author:  Clean Energy Group

Examines how low income communities in Baltimore can benefit from battery storage.

Report:
Evolution of a New Clean Energy Strategy to Meet Severe Weather ... Evolution of a New Clean Energy Strategy to Meet Severe Weather Threats
Author:  Clean Energy Group

An overview of resilient power technologies, finance tools, and recent developments including the New Jersey Energy Resilience Bank and Green Mountain Power’s microgrid project.

Report:
Solar PV Emergency and Resilience Planning Solar PV Emergency and Resilience Planning
Author:  Meister Consultants Group

Overview of the benefits of solar in resilience planning with case studies.

 
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Webinar:
An Introduction to Resilient P... An Introduction to Resilient Power
Author:  Clean Energy Group

An overview of resilient power, including work to reach vulnerable populations and options for financing.

Tool:
Resilient Solar Photovoltaics (PV) Systems Resilient Solar Photovoltaics (PV) Systems
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

This fact sheet outlines resilient PV system designs and components, including a detailed battery comparison table with usage types, lifetime, costs, safety, and other characteristics.

Understanding the System Components

Before beginning a project, it is important to understand the technical aspects of—and different options for—resilient solar systems, including hardware, software, and safety issues.  Qualified system designers will create the technical specifications for a project, but there are many resources for groups and individuals interested in resilient solar to help them explore options and become informed consumers. For example, San Francisco’s free online energy storage tool  helps users determine the battery system required to power critical loads during grid outages.

Resources

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Report:
Critical Load Document Critical Load Document
Author:  San Francisco Department for the Environment

The document outlines a three-step process used in San Francisco to determine the power loads of five types of buildings used to provide disaster relief.

Article:
What is the best type of battery for solar storage? What is the best type of battery for solar storage?
Author:  Solar Power World

This article compares lithium ion, lead acid, and flow batteries as energy storage for solar projects in terms of their cost, maintenance considerations, lifespan, and disposal.

Tool:
Smart Grid Communications Smart Grid Communications
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

A summary of the software product options to support resilient PV and microgrids with a focus on monitoring and controls software, including software capabilities of advanced inverters.

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Webinar:
Resilient Solar Retrofits: Adding ... Resilient Solar Retrofits: Adding Storage to Existing PV and Making New Installations Storage Ready
Author:  Clean Energy Group

NREL and CUNY provide guidance on retrofitting existing solar PV with storage and how to reduce future costs by making new PV installations “storage ready.”

Tool:
Resilient Solar Photovoltaics (PV) Systems Resilient Solar Photovoltaics (PV) Systems
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

This fact sheet outlines resilient PV system designs and components, including a detailed battery comparison table with usage types, lifetime, costs, safety, and other characteristics.

Tool:
Resilient PV Retrofit and Storage Ready Guidelines Resilient PV Retrofit and Storage Ready Guidelines
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

A resource for installers, utilities, policy makers, and consumers on how to add energy storage to an existing solar PV systems or make new PV systems “storage ready.”

 

Community Plans, Permitting, and Programs

While storage projects ultimately come down to planning for each individual installation, leading cities like New York and San Francisco are exploring solar+storage opportunities across their communities and developing city-wide plans and roadmaps to accelerate deployment, remove barriers, and drive down costs. In 2016, New York became the first city in the U.S. to have an energy storage goal—100 Mwh of energy storage by 2020. The city’s DG Hub Resilient Solar Roadmap introduces strategies for addressing the key hardware, software, economic, and policy barriers to solar+storage in an urban environment. In San Francisco, work to plan storage projects across the city began with the creation of a map identifying critical facilities used during emergencies.

Local and state governments can encourage the deployment of resilient solar by taking actions such as passing tax incentives for energy storage—a step recently taken in Maryland—and clarifying and streamlining the permitting process, which can save costs. Communities can work with building inspectors, fire departments, and other code officials to clarify the process, remove barriers, and create opportunities to learn about storage systems, which are often new to these agencies and officials. Fire departments have expressed concerns about the fire safety of batteries, and a number of resources exist—or are in development—to ensure fire safety concerns are appropriately addressed when permitting these systems.

Many communities are creating microgrids that link multiple buildings and are powered by renewable energy generators, including wind and solar. While these systems are technically more complex, they can provide many benefits in power quality and reliability. The number of microgrids in the U.S. is growing significantly, and examples like this mixed-use community in Prince George County, Maryland and the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology are proving the benefits of microgrids.

Resources

Report:
Guidance Memo for Including Storage in Community Solarize Pr... Guidance Memo for Including Storage in Community Solarize Programs
Author:  CUNY, NREL, Meister Consultants Group

Information for communities interested in group purchase or solarize programs which incorporate storage.

Report:
Energy Storage Safety Strategic Plan Energy Storage Safety Strategic Plan
Author:  USDOE

This strategy for ensuring safety of energy storage systems includes discussion of various storage technologies, validation methods, incident response, and safety documentation.

Tool:
Solar+Storage Project Checklist Solar+Storage Project Checklist
Author:  Clean Energy Group

This checklist is a helpful guide for anyone pursuing a solar+storage project and describes the key steps along the way.

Report:
New York City Resilient Solar Roadmap New York City Resilient Solar Roadmap
Author:  CUNY, NREL, Meister Consultants Group

This roadmap identifies strategies and barriers to solar+storage related to hardware, software, economics and policy in order to increase resilient solar installations in NYC.

Tool:
The Energy Storage System Permitting and Interconnection Guide ... The Energy Storage System Permitting and Interconnection Guide for NYC
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

The guide summarizes the permitting and interconnection process for valve-regulated lead-acid battery energy storage systems in NYC, outlining the approvals that must be obtained.

Tool:
San Francisco Critical Facilities San Francisco Critical Facilities
Author:  San Francisco Department for the Environment

A map of critical facilities in San Francisco created collaboratively by the San Francisco Department for the Environment and the Emergency Management Department.

 
Case study:
Konterra Solar+Storage Microgrid Konterra Solar+Storage Microgrid
Author:  Clean Energy Group

Completed in 2013, at a 2000-acre business and residential mixed-use complex, the Konterra solar + storage microgrid was the first commercial solar + storage microgrid in Maryland

 
Report:
Distributed Solar PV For Electricity System Resiliency Policy ... Distributed Solar PV For Electricity System Resiliency Policy And Regulatory Considerations
Author:  NREL

This report discusses different models of resilient solar, incentives for promoting it, rate structures, interconnection issues, and other regulatory and policy considerations.

 
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Webinar:
McKnight Lane: A Rural Low-Income ... McKnight Lane: A Rural Low-Income Resilient Solar+Storage Housing Project
Author:  Clean Energy Group

This webinar introduced the McKnight Lane Redevelopment Project-14 net-zero modular homes in Vermont with solar+storage and the ability to operate independently during a grid outage.

 
Report:
Battery Energy Storage Market: Commercial Scale, Lithium-ion ... Battery Energy Storage Market: Commercial Scale, Lithium-ion Projects in the U.S.
Author:  NREL

This presentation includes maps of storage projects and utility demand charges, cost data, common use-cases, tax credit information and a summary of NREL’s optimization modeling.

 
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Webinar:
New Initiatives in Community Resilient ... New Initiatives in Community Resilient Power
Author:  Clean Energy Group

A discussion of the lessons learned in the early development of community resilient power projects in New York City, Washington DC and throughout the country.

   
Case study:
Oregon Fire Code Requirements for Stationary Storage Battery ... Oregon Fire Code Requirements for Stationary Storage Battery Systems
Author:  State of Oregon

The chapter from Oregon’s State Fire Code that includes a section on the permitting of battery storage systems, including descriptions of various battery types.

Integrating Resilient Solar into Emergency Management Plans and Procedures

While cities often feature solar and energy storage projects in their climate or energy plans, these projects are often not integrated into emergency management plans or processes. However, as cities are creating strategies that use solar+storage to power critical facilities during disasters, they are also looking at opportunities to embed these strategies into emergency management. In both San Francisco and New York, resilient solar roadmaps were developed in close partnership with city emergency management staff. If solar+storage is part of ensuring the function of critical facilities, it’s important for these systems to be documented in emergency operations plans and for all agencies involved to have buy-in and a strong understanding of the value and function of the system.

Resources

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Webinar:
Resilient San Francisco: How to ... Resilient San Francisco: How to Develop a Citywide Solar+Storage Disaster Plan
Author:  San Francisco Department for the Environment

This webinar recording from March 2016 provides an overview of the San Francisco project and progress to date.

Case study:
Deploying Solar+Storage for Emergency Power in a Disaster Deploying Solar+Storage for Emergency Power in a Disaster
Author:  Clean Energy Group

A case study of two solar+storage projects—one in Rutland, VT and another in Duluth, MN.

Report:
What Cities Should Do: A Guide to Resilient Power Planning What Cities Should Do: A Guide to Resilient Power Planning
Author:  Clean Energy Group

This guide suggests how cities can create resilient power plans and highlights best practices from cities around the U.S.

Case study:
Using Solar Energy in Emergency Preparedness and Response Solar ... Using Solar Energy in Emergency Preparedness and Response Solar PV Emergency and Resiliency Planning
Author:  Meister Consultants Group

A summary of how solar PV can be used to support emergency preparedness and response, including case studies and decision criteria to help communities.

Report:
Rooftop PV and Firefighter Safety Rooftop PV and Firefighter Safety
Author:  Meister Consultants Group

A brief overview of concerns firefighters have regarding solar PV with a case study and recommendations to ensure that first responder safety.

Financing Resilient Solar

While the costs of solar+storage are both on the decline, they are still significant and financing these systems can be a challenge. In certain energy markets, these systems can pay for themselves based on energy costs alone. However, the value of resilience often determines whether a system makes economical sense. This factsheet developed by the City University of New York helps explain the economics of solar PV projects that include battery storage systems in New York City. Financing mechanisms are emerging to implement projects and can attract private capital to make solar and resilient power installations more affordable.

Resources

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Webinar:
Financing for Clean, Resilient ... Financing for Clean, Resilient Power Solutions
Author:  Clean Energy Group

An overview of the challenges and strategies for financing solar PV with energy storage, especially for low income communities

Report:
Financing for Clean, Resilient Power Solutions Financing for Clean, Resilient Power Solutions
Author:  Clean Energy Group

This report describes a range of financing mechanisms that are being used or that have a strong potential for providing low-cost, long-term financing for solar + storage.

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Webinar:
The Economics of Resilient Solar+ ... The Economics of Resilient Solar+ Storage for Critical Infrastructure
Author:  Clean Energy Group

An overview of the technical and economic viability of solar+storage on three critical infrastructure sites in New York City with discussion of how to value resiliency.

Report:
A Resilient Power Capital Scan: How Foundations Could Use Grants ... A Resilient Power Capital Scan: How Foundations Could Use Grants and Investments to Advance Solar and Storage in Low-Income Communities
Author:  Clean Energy Group

This report summarizes how foundations can support resilient power in low income communities by developing a portfolio of capital interventions, from grants to impact investments.

Report:
Economic and Resiliency Impacts of PV and Storage on New York ... Economic and Resiliency Impacts of PV and Storage on New York Critical Infrastructure
Author:  NREL

This report explores the economic and resilience benefits of solar+storage and analyzes the technical and financial viability of projects at three critical infrastructure sites in NYC.

Report:
The Economics of Battery Energy Storage The Economics of Battery Energy Storage
Author:  Rocky Mountain Institute

This 2015 report explores how battery storage can provide a broad range of benefits and services.

 
Tool:
Economics and Finance of Solar+Storage Economics and Finance of Solar+Storage
Author:  NY Solar Smart DG Hub

A summary of the economic and finance considerations of solar+storage in NYC, including financing options, tax incentives, utility bill impacts and potential payment/revenue streams.