More Applicants Than Openings in LADWP Solar Pilot Program

Sadly, the Feed-in Tariff DWP is offering wouldn't include rooftop systems this small. | Photo: Mike Spasoff/Flickr/Creative Commons License

Even though the L.A. Department of Water And Power (LADWP)'s new solar incentive program has taken some heat for not offering enough cash per kilowatt, the new Feed-in Tariff (FiT) already has more applicants for its first round than were planned for in the whole program.

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During the first week in which LADWP accepted applications for its FiT program, the applications received represented 107 megawatts of potential new generating capacity. Only 20 megawatts' worth of contracts are available in the first round.

"We are very pleased by the enthusiastic response we've seen so far to the FiT Program, which paves the way for a robust local market and jobs for solar energy," said LADWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols.

A FiT is a program in which smaller power generators are offered contracts with utilities which buy all the power produced at a premium rate. They differ from net metering programs in that FiTs aren't necessarily tied to a metered account. The energy producer is paid for all power produced rather than running a meter backwards. LADWP's contracts will run for 20 years, and pay from 17 to 13 cents per kilowatt hour.

Not all the applications received will be eligible for consideration: some will likely be judged infeasible before formal proposal review even begins. Still, says LADWP's Senior Assistant General Manager Aram Benyamin, the outpouring of applications is heartening. "It is a tremendous response to the program," said Benyamin. "We expect that following the project review that will take place over the coming months, the first FiT projects will be on their way toward generating 20 MW of renewable solar energy for Los Angeles."

According to DWP, applications cover 97 projects throughout DWP's service area, including the Owens Valley. More than half the proposals within the city of Los Angeles would be sited in the San Fernando Valley. The FiT program is split into two tiers, the smaller including projects from 30-150 kilowatts, and the larger running up to 3 megawatts in capacity. Just 22 of the applications proposed projects in the smaller tier; it's possible that the relatively low price offered of 17 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first round of projects made smaller projects less economically viable.

Still, the number of apps indicates that there's a lot more demand for solar power purchase agreements than DWP had anticipated, even with residential rooftop solar written out of the game almost entirely. It looks like Angelenos are ready to go solar.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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