[Ok-sus] OGE's obstacles to home solar PV generation

Michael Givel mgivel at earthlink.net
Fri Sep 21 07:45:51 CDT 2012

Thanks for forwarding this. Oklahoma was not one of the ten states in this study. What are the current incentives versus costs for installation of PV panels in Oklahoma? Is there a place we can view the incentives and costs-on line?
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: David Nordahl 
  To: ok-sus at lists.oksustainability.org 
  Sent: Friday, September 21, 2012 12:20 AM
  Subject: Re: [Ok-sus] OGE's obstacles to home solar PV generation

  Here is a link I found to a study on effective vs. ineffective state incentives: http://solar.gwu.edu/Research/10StateReport_GWSolar.pdf

  The main thing is nudging the early adopters of a technology enough to where the remaining 95% of possible customers will start following suit.  For any given technology, the vast majority will not even consider it until they start seeing others using it.  Cost is of course a factor, but not the only factor.  People are spending $40-50k on luxury SUV's left and right.  $20-40k on kitchen remodels and new garages all the time.  The new Chevy volts cost 100% more than a regular car and you still have to pay for the electricity to charge them.  The panels to power a house for 30 years add about 10-25% to the cost of a reasonably efficient modern home.  For the wider consumer base everything has much more to do with public perception and trend evolution than any other factor.  

  I was amused to see a recent article where a Oklahoma state legislator was taking pride in passing a bill to create jobs for Oklahoma coal miners all while Oklahoma does little legislatively to add renewables to its energy portfolio. Meanwhile Asia and Europe set themselves up as the power players in the renewable energy industry.. building infrastructure based on power that doesn't cost them anything going forward.  http://oklahomawatch.org/story.php?sid=82

  Few people realize that one great irony may develop is that the state's military bases end up having the biggest influence on finally getting the state finally seeing, talking, and thinking about solar.  There is a good chance that Fort Sill may have more solar installed than the rest of the state combined in just a few more years.  The biggest planned/installed arrays in the state are currently at Fort Sill and Altus AFB which is just the tip of the iceberg: http://solarenergy-usa.com/2012/03/us-military-makes-big-solar-power-push/

  The army alone plans to spend $7.1 billion in solar going forward by leveraging its equity in all the base housing it now possesses and paying back the debt with the savings. It may come to pass that there may be more homes on base with solar panels than the entire rest of the state. 

  On 09/20/2012 10:49 PM, Bob Waldrop wrote:

This is interesting and very nice to hear that the author of the 
original letter may not have all his facts straight.  Or, he may have a 
different interpretation of a similar set of facts than David, but I 
know David and trust his opinion on such issues without question.

Bob Waldrop, Oklahoma City

On 9/20/2012 10:30 AM, David Nordahl wrote:

As someone who has filled out several OG&E grid tie applications I'd
have to disagree on almost all the points and say that OG&E's
application is by far the simplest out there taking at most 10 minutes
for someone that knows what they are doing.  Perhaps things have
changed, but the form on their website looks the same as I've been used
to.  Oklahomans are fortunate to actually have such a simple process
with as little red tape as we have here.  The process in areas like
California, Austin, and the northeast are normally extremely complicated
and very drawn out, and the author would not have been able to DIY his
own system and application in most of these developed markets and still
qualify for the state/utility grants and incentives they have there.  As
a result the installed cost per watt here is nearly half of what it
averages in these other markets.  So to see someone complain about it
and to see such little adoption of PV here despite how cheap and easy it
is to install here for a DIY-er or retail customer seems very
misdirected to me.

On the first point, their application does not require any of the one
line diagrams or engineering documents and drawings that most other's
require.  It is more like a legal document, and the few technical fields
can easily be obtained with a brief call to the inverter manufacturer
and/or OG&E.

On the second point, the smallest limit I've seen for residential grid
tie systems is 25kw for the simple grid interconnect agreement formats.
Scanning through their documents on their website, I see maximums much
larger than this. Above these sizes, the system is considered more of a
power plant and the implications of grid connections change so there are
different processes involved. No residential system is going to be this
large. If there has been a cap introduced on maximum total KWH output,
then that specifically needs to be addressed.

On the third point, most people are not going to size a system large
enough to produce more power than they are going to use in an entire
year.  Past this point, a system owner is assuming the role of a power
plant rather than someone that is off setting their own power.  I'm not
sure why one would assume entitlement to a retail rate pay back for
power (though a few states have some provisions for this).  That's like
assuming that a grocery store is obligated to buy goods from walk-in
customers at the retail rate they sell them for.  There are a lot more
regulatory mandates that would be more effective and reasonable than
requiring retail buy back for excess production.

The forth point is the only real point of contention I see worth
mentioning, but I don't see any information on their website regarding
it and the article should have focused specifically on this point if it
is actually the case.  A couple years ago I was aware of an effort by
OG&E to potentially co-brand or develop their own grid tie inverters and
require customers to use this equipment if they wanted to connect any
solar to the utility.  They had issued an RFP several years back which
included the strange request that the contractor source several non-UL
listed grid tie inverters for them.  Upon searching around nobody was
really able to find any for them to the best of my knowledge.. and I
partly suspected their motive was to provide a basis for at some point
in the future requiring customers to use OG&E issued inverters. I've
never heard of any California approved list.  Rather any inverter
connecting to the grid must comply with the UL-1741 spec. OEC requires a
copy from the inverter manufacturer of their actual certificate for it's
grid tie applications.  If for whatever reason OG&E is no longer
allowing UL-1741 conforming inverters to interconnect, than this is an
issue that needs to be addressed.  I also have the impression it might
be a possible future goal of OG&E to get involved to some degree in the
installation and design process.

My impression is that their long term goal is to figure out a way to
make grid interconnection a mutually beneficial arrangement for both
customer and utility, rather than purely an entitlement/regulatory based
thing.  If they do get into the PV business in some measure or start
producing their own options for inverters and equipment, then certainly
consumer choice needs to still be maintained.

TL;DR Targeting OG&E as the culprit for making PV inaccessible in
Oklahoma is would be what I'd consider a very misdirected effort. But if
OG&E has started disallowing customer supplied UL-1741 inverters to
connect to the grid, than the issue should be taken up with regulatory

-David Nordahl
NABCEP Certified PV Installer
NABCEP Certified Solar Thermal Installer

On 09/20/2012 07:57 AM, Bob Waldrop wrote:
There is an interesting letter to the editor in the Norman Transcript
outlining what the author believes to be unnecessary obstacles in the
process for getting approved for OGE's buy-back program for electricity
residential users may generate with PV panels or wind.  From the
article, it appears that OGE is less than enthusiastic about encouraging
homeowners to invest in solar PV.

Read the letter at

There may be some process beginning with the Corporation Commission in
an attempt to change this.

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