Report identifies delays in meeting residential solar demand in the US

Residential solar

A new report documents the rapid growth of solar PV and offers solutions to speed up the lagging interconnection process.

Renewable Energy World’s Vince Font reports that according to the data released by EQ Research, wait times for the activation of residential solar PV systems in the US rose 68 per cent from 2013 to 2014.

This development points to the rapid growth of distributed generation solar and highlights inefficiencies that are preventing utilities from meeting the rapidly increasing demand for grid interconnection.
Residential solar
Comparing Utility Interconnection Timelines for Small-Scale Solar PV finds that utilities’ inefficient application review processes are the primary contributing factor to the slowdown. In 2013, the median waiting period for application approval was 18 days. In 2014, that number increased to 25 days. Only six utilities surveyed in the report were successful at achieving reduced wait times.

EQ Research combined information received from a sample base of PV installers, in addition to 34 utilities located in 13 states and Washington, D.C. with large volumes of net-metered residential solar systems. The report’s primary focus was on residential PV systems smaller than 10 kilowatts (kW).

The report found there is a spike in the number of permission to operate (PTO) denials handed down by utilities based on safety and grid reliability concerns. According to the report, only three utilities in two states issued denials in 2013. In 2014, that number jumped to 14 utilities across seven states.

Report findings indicate the best way for residential solar installers to avoid last-minute PTO denials is to request pre-construction data from utilities that will help determine available generation capacity for certain areas, thus reducing the chances of denial.

The report indicates PTO waiting periods are likely to continue to rise unless utilities take steps to streamline the interconnection process. Such efforts include the installation of automated online application systems, which cut processing time and reduce human error.

Chelsea Barnes, Policy Research Manager with EQ Research, said “Unfortunately, interconnection isn’t a major source of revenue for utilities, so they are unlikely to devote more resources to it unless they see an opportunity for cost savings.”

“Distributed generation is becoming a significant part of the electricity portfolio. We have to start incorporating it into long-term resource planning and grid modernization,” she added.

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