The 'Orange Button' initiative will simplify and standardize solar data

By Jodi Delapaz

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 21, 2016 - The Energy Department (DOE) recently awarded nearly $4 million to four partners to help launch DOE's Orange Button initiative, which is designed to simplify and standardize solar data so that state governments, customers, utilities, financiers, solar companies and entrepreneurs can exchange quality data. The initiative aims to create an “industry-driven standardized data landscape” and increase solar market transparency to facilitate the growth and expansion of distributed solar.

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To understand the financial risks of solar energy project development, the solar energy community currently relies on fragmented datasets released by state energy offices and a limited number of private organizations. These datasets - such as project origination, grid integration and operations and retirement - vary widely in format, quality and content, says DOE, making it difficult for potential providers to have an accurate understanding of potential markets.

Establishing data standards and sharing key datasets throughout the industry will reduce the cost of capital for new solar energy projects by making information about the potential performance of solar projects more readily available and easy to understand, says DOE.

After the Orange Button data standards are created and launched, data producers, such as solar companies and utilities, can embed a graphic showing an orange button into their app, software or onto their website to show data users, such as consumers or financial professionals, that a given dataset can be downloaded in the established Orange Button format.

Implementing Orange Button standards for accessible, self-sustaining, industry-regulated data marketplaces will improve the ability of apps, software and other websites to store and use energy data, says DOE, and will ensure that the evolving data needs of the solar industry are met.

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The Orange Button initiative partners are:

kWh Analytics : $1 million to develop a data format translation tool that will instantly translate individual data formats into standardized data formats, significantly reducing effort and time required from data standards adopters.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory : $400,000 to develop a platform that will enable data sharing across the solar marketplace in support of consensus-based data standards.

Smart Grid Interoperability Panel : $750,000 to lead a 24-month stakeholder and public engagement effort to help drive out inefficiencies in data exchanges and thereby reduce non-hardware "soft costs" associated with solar projects.

SunSpec Alliance : $1.5 million to establish an open, commercially-embraced solar data exchange system to enable the free flow of data between commercial software products that addresses all aspects of the solar energy system life cycle.

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