Writer: Therese Shakra
Renewable energy from any of the potential sources requires adaptability for the current system in electrical production and delivery. Critical to these requirements are the electrical codes and standards that ensure safety of the users, installers and operators.
New Mexico State University’s Southwest Technology Development Institute, a part of the Institute for Energy and the Environment (IEE), is leading such an effort and was recently awarded continued funding from the U.S. Department of Energy for leadership and operation of the Solar America Board for Codes and Standards (Solar ABCs). The new funding of $1.75 million brings the total award for this 5-year program to $5.95 million.
Led by the Technology Development Institute, the Solar ABCs is a 10-member consortium of public and private entities that develops national and international codes and standards to support part of the emerging renewable energy industry. Standards-making bodies set priorities on technical issues and uniform characteristics of products and services around the world. Performance and safety parameters are paramount in any developing industry.
“Standards are a part of the foundation in building the green revolution,” said Dr. Abbas Ghassemi, IEE Director. “They facilitate implementation of innovative renewable technologies with impact on economic, technical, societal and environmental development.” He said energy performance requirements benefit the national economy, consumer welfare, jobs and income for regional commerce, and overall climate goals. These innovative solutions inevitably enhance policy and growth in international areas as well.
During the past two years, the Solar ABCs have produced major reports for policy makers, utility planners, engineers and solar designers to use in their decision-making processes. Each report examines a different concern or barrier posed by current codes or policies and outlines specific actions to reduce or eliminate the problem.
The Solar ABCs last year completed a gap analysis, which surveyed hundreds of solar energy stakeholders to define their barriers to the use of photovoltaics in the U.S.
“The gap analysis was critical to planning the Solar ABCs’ activities for the remaining tenure of this program. The issues we identified include concerns with advanced metering, building and electrical codes, and fire safety and performance ratings, among others,” said Andrew Rosenthal, senior program manager for the Technology Development Institute. “We distilled their responses to the 10 most pressing needs, and that constitutes our marching orders for the next few years.”
Solar ABCs grew out of the Solar America Initiative, a technology and market transformation program to accelerate widespread commercialization of clean solar energy technologies by 2015. Learn more about Solar ABCs at www.solarabcs.org.
Another example of NMSU’s leadership in this Year of Sustainability is demonstrated by the upcoming energy conference — “Re-Energize America: Policy, Practice and Possibility for America’s Energy Future.”
The summit is co-hosted with Honorary Chairman Congressman Harry Teague on campus Aug. 31-Sept. 1. The Institute for Energy and the Environment is comprised of WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development, CEMRC, the Carlsbad Environmental Monitoring and Research Center, and the Southwest Technology Development Institute. For more information, contact Ghassemi at (575) 646-2038.