Interconnection of renewable energy projects to the grid is generally one of the toughest parts of developing a successful renewable energy project — second only perhaps to obtaining a power purchase agreement.
California, generally a leader in interconnection matters, has reformed its interconnection procedures in recent years, solving some problems, but potentially exacerbating others. I’ll focus here on the positive.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is currently considering a petition from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to adopt some of the key reforms in California’s interconnection procedures so they apply to all states. We should be seeing some major improvements throughout the country as a consequence. For now, these improvements will only impact smaller utility-scale projects, generally 5 megawatts and below.
In California, there are two parallel interconnection choices/procedures: the state-jurisdictional Rule 21 process and the FERC-jurisdictional WDAT/WDT process. Both have been reformed in recent years, but the Rule 21 process has been reformed more significantly and beneficially.
Two key changes to Rule 21 have been very helpful for developers so far:
- A pre-application report from the utility now answers a number of crucial questions for developers about the proposed point of interconnection; the idea is that developers can get a decent idea about the suitability of the proposed location before they actually apply for an expensive interconnection process.
- A new screen that allows Fast Track projects (3 megawatts and below) to interconnect at a penetration level two or more times higher than was previously allowed.