The truSolar initiative wants to create a comprehensive, across-the-board assessment of risks for project development. It would be an open-source, standardized credit screening for the choosing, underwriting, and approving of commercial and industrial photovoltaic (PV) projects.
“Any commercial or industrial project would go through the screening and come out the other side with a score,” explained GTM Research VP Shayle Kann to the Greentech Media Solar Summit audience at an interactive session designed to get industry feedback on truSolar. “If that score is accepted, it would potentially make financing the project easier and/or cheaper and could open up new sources of capital and other opportunities.”
Before going through a list of questions with the audience of solar professionals that the initiative's leaders hope will shape it, Kann introduced the five prominent and diverse solar industry players on the panel and asked them to explain why they are backing truSolar.
Solar Assurant Senior Product Manager David Smith said both Assurant (NYSE:AIZ), an insurer, and the initiative want to make it easier to complete more solar projects.
Sandia National Labs Principal Technical Staff Member Roger Hill said the lab’s research, data assimilation and neutral testing of risk and reliability fit with the truSolar goal.
Distributed Sun Co-Founder/CEO Chase Weir said it is a market-driven solution to evaluate commercial-industrial projects in a standard way. It will unlock marketplace efficiencies. These will lead to reduced capital costs, increased access to capital, reduced project failures, lowered transaction costs, lowered sunk cost losses, improved reliability and, ultimately, accelerated commercial-industrial project growth.
Booz Allen Hamilton (NYSE:BAH) Principal Gary Leatherman said truSolar would help enable his clients -- DOE, DOD and other federal government agencies which together represent one of the biggest renewable energy buyers in the world -- to meet their renewable energy procurement goals.
Below are the questions the audience of solar industry professionals and the panel took on. Register your answers and hit submit to compare them with the answers the audience and the panel thought were right. Or just skip ahead to see the results of the audience and panel.
What did our audience think about the same questions? See how your opinion compared below.
1. What percentage of commercial PV projects fail after a PPA is signed?
The audience replied that 25% to 50% of PV projects fail after a PPA is signed. The panelists upped that to over 75%.
2. What is the most common source of project failure?
Site, interconnection, counterparty, contract structure and terms were all selected by the audience as common sources of project failure. While this covers a wide selection, the panel noted that financing can be a common source of project failure as well.
3. To ensure system performance, your primary focus should be:
Audience members identified a strict quality testing program through development and operation. However, the panelists weren't willing to pick just one focus; they pointed out that component selection, design optimization, and an aggressive repair/replacement program for components can't be overlooked.
4. Which is the best way to mitigate module risk in a project?
Everyone agreed that manufacturing and quality process screens are the best ways to mitigate module risk.
5. Which is the best way to select an inverter supplier?
The audience selected track record/installed volume as the best way to select an inverter supplier; however, the panel couldn't agree on one best way.
6. Reliability can best be assured by:
Panelists and audience members alike chose "all of the above" when it came to reliability factors, including:
- Tight specifications during project development
- Performance modeling
- Laboratory and field testing and certifications
- Contract requirement for availability performance
- Training of O&M staff
7. What is a reasonable contractual standard for annual system degradation?
The industry standard was upheld, with everyone agreeing on a 0.50% standard.
8. The risk of module degradation can best be managed by:
The panelists and audience members agreed that the risk of module degradation can best be managed by overproduction through having spare capacity installed in place.