SEPA Crowns Top Solar-Friendly Utilities Of The Year


The Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) has issued awards to an investor-owned utility in Georgia, a public power utility in Northern California and an electric cooperative in Southern Maryland for their commitment to pushing ahead with solar energy projects.

The organization announced the awards at the Solar Power International conference, held this week in Las Vegas. In addition to the three utilities, SEPA also named a ‘Utility CEO of the Year’ and an ‘Innovative Solar Partner of the Year.’

Founded in 2005, SEPA's annual awards recognize organizations and individuals advancing utility innovation, industry collaboration and leadership in the solar energy sector. This year's winners include the following:

Investor-Owned Utility of the Year:
SEPA says it granted Georgia Power this award for building the largest and fastest-growing voluntary renewable energy portfolio in the U.S. Its acquisition and development model tripled the company's solar resources in less than two years.Â

Paul Bowers, Georgia Power's chairman, president and CEO, was on hand to accept the award.

‘We continue to cultivate solar resources as part of a balanced, diverse mix to provide Georgians with clean, reliable and affordable energy now and in the future," said Bowers." We're honored to receive this award as it recognizes the benefit to customers of Georgia's constructive regulatory environment and long-standing coordination with the Public Service Commission.’

Public Power Utility of the Year: SEPA says it awarded the City of Palo Alto Utilities this title for demonstrating solar energy's viability as a mainstream power source. The utility has continuously increased the size of its solar electric portfolio, including a recent power purchase agreement with 8minutenergy that puts the city on track to run on 100% carbon-free power by 2017. Â

Electric Cooperative of the Year: SEPA says it granted the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO) this award for its commitment to meeting Maryland's renewable energy targets with locally generated solar power. Its two utility-scale projects – including a 5.5 MW solar installation on land previously used for tobacco farming – have already put SMECO on track to meet its state-mandated renewable energy goals through 2018.

Utility CEO of the Year: Warren McKenna of the Farmers Electric Cooperative won this award for making one of the smallest utilities in the U.S. a national model for a hands-on, keep-it-simple approach to financing and building solar energy projects, according to SEPA. The co-op helped a Mennonite high school install a 51 kW solar system, launched a local feed-in-tariff to support member-owned installations at farms and homes, and built out a community solar garden that always has a waiting list.

Innovative Solar Partner of the Year: SEPA says it handed this award to Clean Power Research for working with utilities to develop online services aimed at streamlining the interconnection process for PV solar projects and reducing the"soft costs," of solar permitting, installation and inspection. Most recently, Clean Power Research partnered with NV Energy to develop the next generation of its PowerClerk software, the newly launched PowerClerk Interconnect, which further expedites approval of interconnection applications by taking current paper and mail-based processes online.

"Clean Power Research is proud to be recognized by the Solar Electric Power Association for the services we provide to utilities," said Jeff Ressler, president of software services at Clean Power Research." Since 1998, it has been our goal to simplify processes and enable informed decision-making while reducing costs through secure, cost-effective software services."

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