The goal of the California Solar Initiative (CSI) Research, Development, and Deployment (RD&D) plan is to help build a sustainable and self-supporting industry for customer-sited solar in California. To achieve this, the legislature authorized the CPUC to allocate $50 million of the California Solar Initiative budget to focus on:
- Reducing technology costs and increasing system performance
- Focusing on issues that directly benefit California
- Filling knowledge gaps to enable wide-scale deployment of distributed solar
- Supporting the integration of distributed power into the grid
One of the important strategies laid out in this plan is to focus on funding different stages of RD&D activities. Another priority is leveraging cost-sharing funds from other research entities such as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and the California Energy Commission's Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program, as well as building on past experiences in California. By integrating new research with lessons learned, the CSI RD&D program will maximize the usefulness of ratepayer funds. The recommended breakdown of projects is as follows:
Stages of RD&D
- Demonstration: 45-55%
- Activities which bring promising technologies closer to market by demonstrating their real-world feasibility to manufacturers.
- Research: 20%
- Fundamental research to improve performance of energy technologies.
- Development: 10-15%
- Activities which convert research into working prototypes of improved technologies.
- Deployment: 5-10%
- Aiding new technologies in gaining wide-scale adoption or to reach a "tipping point" into widespread commercialization.
Target activities across stages
- Grid integration, storage, metering: 50-65%
- Production technologies: 10-25%
- Business development and deployment: 10-20%
Target milestones for results
- Results in 1-3 year horizon: 60%
- Results in 4-7 year horizon: 20%
- Results in 8+ year horizon: 20%
Note that these categories are not exclusive. For example, approximately half of the projects will demonstrate grid integration, storage, or metering advancements which will show results in less than three years.
The CPUC selected Itron, Inc. as the program manager for the RD&D program, and they started as Program Manager in late 2008. Itron is responsible for developing request for proposals, evaluating grant requests, entering into grant agreements, and monitoring progress on all approved projects.
Itron has identified potential co-funding partners, launched a website (www.CalSolarResearch.org), and facilitated an initial grant to the Helios project in Berkeley.