The Open PV Project goes offline

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A number of academics and energy writers are expressing concern about the disappearance of data and the slow rates of publication of reports on websites run by the federal government under the Trump Administration.

First it was the SEAMS project by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which has not yet been published, which energy writer Peter Fairley says was due to it being “blocked” by political appointees at DOE. DOE has denied this, and says that the publication is still being developed.

Then it was the dataset for a paper on high levels of renewable energy which got pulled from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) site. And today, pv magazine has discovered that The Open PV Project, a site which had real-time tracking of costs for distributed solar, is offline.

This appears to be the continuation of a slow decline. Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), which helped to found Open PV, says that Lawrence Berkeley National Lab was supplying most of the information for Open PV, and that it hasn’t been uploading data recently.

SEIA also says that the site “never really worked out”. “It was a great resource for many years that provided great visualizations,” reads a statement by SEIA. “Unfortunately, the crowdsource strategy never really panned out and OpenPV never had anything close to complete information on PV deployment.”

NREL says that the project had been discontinued since June. “NREL discontinued the OpenPV project in June because OpenPV wasn’t able to keep up with the rapid pace of the PV market and continue to provide good, timely information and data,” explains Wayne Hicks, a public affairs specialist at NREL.

Hicks also says that the design of the site as a Wiki didn’t really work out.

As the market developed and the project evolved, we found we were able to get more complete data by collaborating with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) under their Tracking the Sun effort. During the past couple of years the rationale for maintaining OpenPV as a separate application became difficult to justify due to parallel and superior data collection efforts being conducted by staff at LBNL.

Also, while the removal of the site was a surprise, NREL and SEIA note that the LBNL data is still available on the Tracking the Sun site

However, this doesn’t help independent researchers like Dr. Christopher Clack of Vibrant Clean Energy, who says that he is among the researchers that were using Open PV data for his work:

It is important for us to keep up to date with installation rates and prices of solar across the USA to calibrate the modeling we do in WIS:dom for the evolution of the grid as renewables are integrated. This is integral as a complement to the EIA, FERC and other data sources for corroboration and validation.

Update: This article was updated to include a statement by NREL and modified to reflect this information at 10:15 AM EST on September 20.