ORIGINAL REPORTING: The Better Ways To Connect Solar
Interconnection delays can be costly, but some utilities have found ways to save time and money; A recent report outlines best practices to speed up interconnection
Herman K. Trabish, Nov. 3, 2016 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The strategies described here remain the best practices and tension continues between the solar industry and utilities over getting them implemented.
Policy debates on solar incentive and valuation make headlines across the nation, but less attention is paid to the nuts and bolts of solar installation: the interconnection process. The struggle there is very real. In Hawaii, the high queue of solar applications and slow interconnection process slowed installations of distributed solar two years ago and still wavers under the hefty weight of applications. But performances by some of the busiest utilities in sunny states demonstrate that they have necessary skills to finish interconnections quickly. The new challenge lies in how to transfer those capabilities to utilities slow to catch on.
The average time it takes from when the rooftop solar installation is finished to when the utilities gives it permission to operate increased from 28 days in 2014 to 45 days last year, according to EQ Research’s Comparing Utility Interconnection Timelines for Small-Scale Solar PV. There are three overarching reasons why interconnection processes are slowing down. The number of interconnection applications is increasing, utilities are not prepared to handle more applications, and there are more applications for interconnections at parts of the distribution system near their interconnection capacities. Utilities interviewed by Utility Dive said there were some discrepancies in the numbers from EQ Research, which took their data set mostly from installers. But the conclusion was the same: slow interconnection queues didn’t help the growth of solar, leading those utilities to find ways to streamline the process… click here for more