Written by Mary Conley, October 2006
DENT Instruments became a key tool in California's public policy when the state decided to encourage utility customers to invest in alternative energy sources. California instituted the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) to encourage business owners – as well as homeowners – to install solar power, wind turbines, micro-turbines, engines or fuel cells to ease their demand on the state's strained electrical grid. DENT's ELITEpro helped make sure that the state knew exactly what it was paying for.
The state had given hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers to help with the installation of on-site generation systems, but eventually regulators and SGIP administrators realized they needed to quantify results to make sure they were getting what they paid for. Because incentives were based on the capacity of the generators' rated outputs, continued funding of the program became dependent upon determining actual performance of real projects versus reliance on manufacturers' ratings.
Meanwhile, customer response to the SGIP and the new $3.3 billion California Solar Initiative was growing rapidly. In order to maximize the impact of the incentive funds, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) realized it needed to make the programs performance-based instead of capacity-based. But how could they determine that performance in any real way? DENT's ELITEpro was the solution.
SGIP administrators came to Nexant, Inc., a company that consults on energy usage and distributed generation technologies, who had used DENT's products successfully for years.
Until DENT Instruments and Nexant came into the picture, the SGIP program managers had no way to determine how much energy the alternative sources were actually generating on their own. Jeff Cox, Nexant Inc.'s Program Manager, knew that the DENT ELITEpro could give them the answers.
"I've been in the industry 20 years and started using the whole range of DENT products in 1993. I've tried everybody else's products in the metering business, but nobody else can do what DENT can do as well as they do it," says Cox. "I'm a fanatic for their stuff. They save you lots of work at the project site and provide solid data transfer from remote installations."
Cox pointed to the dependability and reliability of the ELITEpro as major factors that simplify his company's work. In a marketplace where distributed energy systems often involve uncommon electrical distribution configurations – often made in other countries – the ELITEpro has never failed Nexant's needs. He finds the software very accessible, easy to use, and produces accurate results regardless of the system being measured.
"Say you have a wind turbine out in the desert. You've got 6 hours of drive time just to go out and find the specs on it. You take those down, drive back 6 hours, order a competitor's unit, wait a few weeks for it to show up, then drive back to the turbine to install it. With DENT, you don't have to go through all that. You can order it generically, drive out there once, and install it right away. You just saved yourself 12 hours of driving and you get a product that works straight out of the box. What's most important about DENT," he adds, "is that when you go back to get the data – it's always there. Other systems frequently fail to record or leave you with no data when you need it most."
With DENT's range of CT's for the ELITEpro, Cox has been able to install it wherever the Self-Gen program needed measurements – on anything from a small house to a huge industrial plant. In addition, the ELITEpro helped them report on elements that the program's designers hadn't contemplated when estimating the impact of solar and wind on the state's peak power profiles. This is crucial in a state like California that has suffered from rolling blackouts during peak periods. The ELITEpro in solar systems helped them realize that peak power production drops significantly by 3:00 in the afternoon when the state's demand for more power is at its highest level. The DENT units also showed how important location is when considering solar power for sunny inland installations versus California's foggy coastal cities.
Thanks to the functionality and accuracy of the ELITEpro, California can now better use its energy incentives to target them where they'll do the most good for consumers and the environment. And Nexant, Inc., is happy to have been part of making that happen with the help of DENT products.