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Electricity customers are lining up to generate their own clean, affordable solar energy, but to get it to them, solar developers must navigate the impediments of a congested and outdated electricity grid.

For this episode of the Local Energy Rules podcast, host John Farrell speaks with Yochi Zakai, attorney with Shute, Mahaly, and Weinberger representing Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). The two discuss hosting capacity analysis and how publicly shared grid information can help solar developers, electric customers, and others make more informed decisions.

Listen to the full episode and explore more resources below — including a transcript and summary of the conversation.

Episode Transcript


Expensive Electric Accommodations

Electric distribution grids were built as top-down avenues for delivering electricity from large, centralized power plants. Now, as distributed generation and energy storage become more popular, utilities are having to accommodate the two-way flow of electricity. To do so, the utility often needs to upgrade the distribution system. This is especially true in areas where there is a lot of distributed energy development.

“The grid was built for this one way flow of electricity. But as more customers decide to install generation in their homes, the way that the distribution grid operates is also going to change.”

Solar developers looking to connect their new generation source to the grid may trigger the need for a system upgrade. In most cases, whoever triggers a grid upgrade must pay the upgrade costs — which can be severe. Larger solar gardens are more likely to trigger upgrades. If a developer is surprised by these costs, and building their solar garden is no longer feasible, they may be forced to drop their plans entirely. Hosting capacity analysis can provide key grid information proactively for individuals hoping to plug in.

Hosting Capacity Analysis

In a hosting capacity analysis, utilities compile information about the electric grid and publish it online for the use of developers and other stakeholders. The resulting map has pop-ups with data on various localized grid conditions: how much generating capacity that section of the grid can still handle, the voltage of the line, and the existing generation on that part of the grid.

This information, which Zakai calls “geeky grid data,” helps customers and solar developers make decisions.

“The studies produce a wealth of information that developers can use to cite and design the systems so they don’t trigger upgrades. And in some cases they can even make the grid more reliable.”

Utilities in seven states are required to publish hosting capacity maps. Some utilities even publish this information voluntarily. Zakai says that generally, hosting capacity analysis is most common in states with robust distributed energy development, including Hawaii, Massachusetts, and New York.

Image from Xcel Energy’s Hosting Capacity Map

Some Truth to California Exceptionalism

California’s hosting capacity analysis process, called integration capacity analysis, provides more useful information than the hosting capacity maps published in other states. This is thanks, in part, to a petition from Zakai and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). IREC asked the state of California to consider all kinds of interconnecting loads, including electric vehicle chargers, electric heat, and solar generating power, when implementing its integration capacity analysis. In January 2021, the California commission filed its petition to make changes to the analysis and its resulting map.

In California, grid users also uniquely share the cost of grid upgrades, rather than the typical ‘cost-causer pays’ model used in other states.

Automating & Simplifying the Interconnection Process

It is not possible to automate all new grid interconnections, says Zakai. Still, hosting capacity analysis could simplify many of the steps within this process. California is the first state in the country to try using hosting capacity analysis to reduce the complexity of the interconnection process.

“Hosting capacity analysis can be used to automate and increase the precision of some of the most problematic technical review processes that the utilities use when they evaluate new grid connections. Last fall, California became the first state in the country to make a final decision to use the hosting capacity analysis to automate some of these processes.”

Thanks to new rules adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission, solar developers can use the public hosting capacity maps to design and site projects with more certainty. As developers make more informed proposals, utilities will not waste resources reviewing projects that will never get built.


Read ILSR’s comments to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission detailing how Hosting Capacity Analysis Could Simplify Grid Interconnection for Distributed Energy Resources.


Episode Notes

See these resources for more behind the story:

For concrete examples of how cities can take action toward gaining more control over their clean energy future, explore ILSR’s Community Power Toolkit.

Explore local and state policies and programs that help advance clean energy goals across the country, using ILSR’s interactive Community Power Map.


This is episode 135 of Local Energy Rules, an ILSR podcast with Energy Democracy Director John Farrell, which shares powerful stories of successful local renewable energy and exposes the policy and practical barriers to its expansion.

Local Energy Rules is Produced by ILSR’s John Farrell and Maria McCoy. Audio engineering for this episode is by Drew Birschbach.

This article originally posted at ilsr.org. For timely updates, follow John Farrell on Twitter, our energy work on Facebook, or sign up to get the Energy Democracy weekly update.

Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.


 



 


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CEO says Ford is ‘getting close’ to Level 3 autonomous driving that enables ‘hands and eyes off’

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CEO says Ford is 'getting close' to Level 3 autonomous driving that enables 'hands and eyes off'

In a recent interview, Ford CEO Jim Farley discussed the American automaker’s progress in autonomous driving, stating that it has achieved Level 3, which allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. However, it’ll still be a while before Ford customers get to test it out.

Autonomous driving remains a hot topic in the world of EV innovation, but much like the 1960s vision of a post-millennium future full of flying cars, true self-driving vehicles are taking much longer to come to reality than anticipated.

Despite its name, Tesla’s “Full-Self Driving” feature is not even close to the Level 4 standard that truly represents such capabilities. In fact, Tesla’s Autopilot is not even Level 3 by SAE standards; the only automaker to deliver vehicles with that level of autonomy is Mercedes-Benz and its Drive Pilot ADAS. Still, that feature is only authorized to operate on approved highways in the US at speeds below 40 mph.

Level 3 autonomy means the driver can take their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road, and the car will be in control (and liable for any accidents). Most automakers, like Ford, have achieved Level 2 autonomous driving, which enables hands-free but eyes up.

In fact, Ford’s BlueCruise won Consumer Reports’ top spot for driver assistance systems in 2023, beating out GM’s Super Cruise. Tesla placed seventh. Recently, Ford CEO Jim Farley shared an update on the automaker’s progress in autonomous driving, which has already reached Level 3 at the prototype stage.

Ford autonomous
Ford’s Level 2 BlueCruise autonomous driving feature / Source: Ford Motor Company

Ford CEO: Level 3 autonomous driving coming in 2026

In a recent interview with Bloomberg TV, Ford CEO Jim Farley relayed that the company has already been testing out Level 3 autonomous driving, and the technology is about two years away from making its way to passenger EVs. Per Farley:

We’re getting really close. We can do it now pretty regularly with a prototype, but doing it in a cost-effective way is just the progress we’re going to need to make.

Level 3 autonomy will allow you to go hands and eyes off the road on the highway in a couple years so then your car becomes like an office. You could do a conference call and all sorts of stuff.

Farley didn’t share any details of how Ford intends to achieve Level 3 autonomous driving or whether the automaker is exploring LiDAR or vision camera technologies… or both. In 2022, Ford absorbed its autonomous driving arm, Argo AI, stating that full self-driving was too far off.

Given the quick success of hands-free driving through Level 2 ADAS, Level 3 feels like a natural next step for the industry and feels much more plausible than full autonomy being promised by other automakers. All eyes will be on 2026 to see if Ford can deliver a mass-market EV with Level 3 autonomous driving capabilities.

We will keep enjoying hands free driving with BlueCruise, Super Cruise, and Autopilot until then.

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Steep discounts boost EV registrations in April as Toyota, Ford, Rivian lead growth

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Steep discounts boost EV registrations in April as Toyota, Ford, Rivian lead growth

Ford, Rivian, and Toyota led the growth in April as US EV registrations perked up. The growth comes after drastic price cuts and other incentives led to over $10,000 in savings on some models.

Despite talk of cooldown, electric vehicle sales are still growing. Leading EV brands, except Tesla, saw significant growth in April 2024 registrations compared to the previous year.

According to new S&P Global Mobility vehicle data (via Automotive News), EV registrations were up 14% in April. With 102,317 electric cars registered in April, EVs accounted for 7.4% of total light-vehicle registrations.

EVs outpaced the overall light-vehicle market, which had a 7.3% gain. The report notes that the growth was driven by “bonus cash, subsidized financing and lease deals,” as many EV prices reach price parity with their comparable ICE models.

“Automakers are bringing EV prices down to the ICE level and it’s moving the merchandise,” according to Tom Libby, associate director of industry analysis at S&P Global Mobility.

April-EV-registrations
2024 Ford F-150 Lightning Flash (Source: Ford)

Significant deals charge up April EV registrations

Several electric models had double-digit registration growth in April compared to the year before. Leading the way was Toyota’s bZ4X, with 4,666 registrations, up 646% YOY.

However, to be fair, Toyota only sold 625 bZ4X models last April after a slow ramp-up following a recall in 2022 that halted production.

April-EV-registrations
Ford Mustang Mach E at a Tesla Supercharger (Source: Ford)

Ford’s Mustang Mach-E had the second-highest growth at 287%. In April, 5,538 Mach-Es were handed over, up from 1,384 last year. The growth comes after Ford slashed prices and introduced new lease incentives earlier this year.

The Ford F-150 Lightning, America’s best-selling electric pickup, had 96% more registrations (2,509 vs 1,282) in April than the year before. Ford also introduced significant incentives on the EV pickup.

Place Top 10 EV models in April April 2024 Registrations April 2023 Registrations % Change YOY
1 Tesla Model Y 32,922 34,542 -4.7%
2 Tesla Model 3 8,912 19,844 -55.1%
3 Ford Mustang Mach-E 5,358 1,384 +287.1%
4 Toyota bZ4X 4,666 625 +646.6%
5 Hyundai IONIQ 5 4,078 2,117 +92.6%
6 Rivian R1S 2,855 1,259 +126.8%
7 Ford F-150 Lightning 2,509 1,282 +95.7%
8 Tesla Cybertruck 2,181 0 N/A
9 Kia EV6 2,178 1,124 +93.8%
10 Tesla Model X 2,094 1,883 +5.8%
Top ten EV models by registrations in April 2024 (Source: S&P Global Mobility)

Rivian’s R1S also saw triple-digit year-over-year growth in registrations. The R1S had 2,855 registrations, up 127% from the 1,259 in April 2023.

Kia’s EV6 had 94% more registrations, with 2,178, compared to 1,124 in April 2023. Meanwhile, the Hyundai IONIQ 5 continued its hot streak with 4,078 registrations, up 93% YOY.

Rivian-R1S-EV-registrations-April
Rivian R1S (Source: Rivian)

Tesla was the only automaker in the top ten, with EV registrations slipping in April. The Model Y had 32,922 registrations, down 4.7% from 35,542. Tesla’s Model 3 registrations were down 55% YOY with 8,912.

Although many reports suggest Tesla is dragging down the sector, several events, like the new Model 3 launch, contributed to fewer registrations.

Hyundai-new-IONIQ-model
Hyundai IONIQ 5 (Source: Hyundai)

The momentum is expected to continue, with several automakers introducing even more discounts and savings opportunities this month.

Ford slashed Mustang Mach-E lease prices in June with an up to 400% discount. Hyundai is offering a $7,500 cash bonus on all EV models, including the IONIQ 5, IONIQ 6, and new Kona Electric.

Several new EVs are already hitting the market with significant discounts. Chevy Equinox EV lease prices fell to as low as $379 per month, while the Blazer EV is listed as low as $369 per month.

If you’re looking for a new EV, now is the perfect time to start shopping. We can help you get started today. You can use our links below to find deals on popular EV models in your area.

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Tesloid’s Model Y Camping Tent Gen 2 released – here are all the new features

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Tesloid’s Model Y Camping Tent Gen 2 released – here are all the new features

Drive a Tesla Model Y? Love the outdoors? Then you’re going to love Tesloid’s Model Y Camping Tent – Gen 2! Keep reading to learn more about all its terrific new features, plus get free expedited shipping US-wide!

Model Y Camping Tent – Gen 2

Popular US accessory maker Tesloid‘s “big, tiny home” for your Model Y lets you have outdoor fun without the hassle – no leaky pup tents, no sleeping on the cold ground. It’s 100% waterproof, and you sleep on a mattress in the back of the car. (Model Y Camping Tent – Gen 2 fits all model years of the Model Y.)

Teslas are perfect for camping – no toxic tailpipe emissions! – so you can back your Model Y right into the tent. Suppose it gets too chilly or hot when you’re ready to sleep. In that case, Model Ys have the Camp Mode feature that maintains cabin temperature and powers electronics using the USB ports and low-voltage outlet without draining the car’s battery. 

When you want to go out in your Model Y, you can close off and seal the tent, even on the side that connects to the car.

What’s new with Gen 2

Tesloid has taken a great Model Y Camping Tent and made it even better. Gen 2 is more robust – it has a dome-shaped exoskeleton that can withstand stronger winds, plus three sets of straps to mount it to the car. And like Gen 1, it’s bug-proof.

Model Y Camping Tent – Gen 2 only takes 15 minutes to set up and 10 minutes to take down – nearly half the time of setting up Gen 1. Plus, when folded up, it fits inside the frunk, leaving the trunk wide open for all your other gear.

Gen 2 has a tighter seal around the Model Y, and it comes with lightweight fiberglass poles and sturdy ripstop fabric.

Model Y Camping Tent – Gen 2 has 40% more floor space, with a 7-foot ceiling, 9.5 ft x 9.5 ft floor space, and 25 square feet of awning. And that’s not including the sleeping area inside the car. It also now features skylights and a flap that lets you easily access your charge port.

Photo: Tesloid

Let’s go camping, Tesla-style

You can order the Model Y Camping Tent – Gen 2 from the Tesloid website today for $499.99, and Tesloid offers free expedited shipping US-wide.

Tesloid also offers a Model Y Camping Bundle for a discounted price of $549.98 that includes an inflatable mattress specially designed to fit the back of the Model Y. Get ready to enjoy the outdoors without sacrificing comfort.

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