New interconnection ruling in California should get more solar connected to grid more quickly
Last week, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced that new decision that will simplify the interconnection process for distributed energy sources (DER) such as solar and storage.
For the first time ever, the assessment of DER projects seeking interconnection in California will be based on a model of grid conditions commonly known as a Hosting Capacity Analysis (HCA), and referred to in California as the Integration Capacity Analysis (ICA). ). This replaces parts of the often imprecise “rules of thumb” used for the accelerated screening process, which can lead to costly, time-consuming and often unnecessary project reviews. California has also lifted limits on the size of projects that qualify for “fast track” assessment, increasing access to the accelerated assessment process, which will accelerate interconnection for eligible projects.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has been working on developing the ICA in California since 2014. verdict in September 2020 established the intention to use ICA in the state interconnection process. However, it has taken another two years to determine concretely how that will work. Now, within 45 days of Friday’s ruling, this new process will finally be available to all DER projects that want to connect to the net.
“Today’s decision reflects the culmination of years of persistent IREC commitment to enable the use of advanced approaches that simplify the interconnection process so that renewable energy can be deployed faster and more cheaply,” said Larry Sherwood, IREC President and CEO. “IREC applauds California for becoming the first state to use hosting capacity data to streamline and simplify the interconnection process.”
The new process replaces the “15% peak load” screen traditionally used to assess whether a project requires more detailed assessment to determine if grid upgrades are needed before being approved for interconnection. Under the newly adopted rules, projects that do not exceed 90% of the available capacity, as reflected in the ICA (a conservative buffer requested by utilities), will be able to pass the new screen. Projects that do not make it through this enhanced screen will be subject to additional assessments; however, the rule changes also include significant improvements to the additional assessment process, which is expected to allow for the integration of a greater number of DERs through the screening process.
Further innovations in the California interconnection process are pending, including a “constrained generation profile” approach that allows a DER (such as a solar-plus-storage system) to design a system using a generation profile to avoid system constraints that occur during several months of the year. This concept was approved in a 2020 decision by the CPUC, but a later ruling on how it will be implemented is still pending.
“Today’s decision by the CPUC takes the first step toward a vastly improved interconnection process that better reflects the realities of the grid and makes it faster and easier to install the levels of clean energy needed to meet California’s decarbonization goals. reach,” said Sky. Stanfield, Partner at law firm Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger and attorney for IREC in these proceedings. “We look forward to the Commission completing this process with a future decision on the implementation of restricted generation profiles.”
Using hosting capacity data also empowers clean energy developers to avoid time-consuming and expensive interconnection processes. Developers can explore the ICA map from the utility in their area (such as: this one from Southern California Edison) to identify preferred locations for DER projects where there is sufficient additional capacity for the project without the need for a grid upgrade. The data shown on the map is the same data used to evaluate the project, minimizing the guesswork involved in the interconnection process.
News item from IREC