SEIA pursues changes to interconnection standards

20. February 2012 | Markets & Trends, Global PV markets, Top News | By:  Jonathan Gifford

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) last week submitted a petition to have the standards for connecting smaller photovoltaic arrays to the grid changed. SEIA has sought to alter specifications that require installations to produce less that 15 percent of the annual peak load if they are to qualify for the "fast track" interconnection of small generation.

A solar array in America.

SEIA claims that by changing the qualification requirements for "fast track" installation, the amount of photovoltaic produced electricity being fed into the grid could be doubled.

SEIA claims this "fast track" interconnection saves time and money and, if more projects were to qualify, would see vastly more photovoltaic capacity installed. At present, under the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) guidelines, installations must be smaller than two megawatts (MW) and must have a total distributed generation of less than 15 percent of the annual peak load to qualify. This latter requirement is known as the "15 percent rule".

The alternative requirement SEIA has suggested in its application is that an installation must not exceed, "100 percent of the minimum daytime load for the period between 10 am and 2 pm" if it is to qualify for the accelerated interconnection. This, SEIA argues, is more appropriate as photovoltaic installations produce most electricity during these daylight hours and not at night when there is a minimal demand for power.

The FERC "15 percent rule" reflects utilities’ concerns that as more photovoltaic capacity is connected to the grid, reverse electrical flow, back towards a sub station, could occur. This, SEIA believes, is unlikely at night – when electricity demand is at its lowest – as solar arrays will not be generating any power.

Rhone Resch, President and CEO of SEIA, said in a statement that the 15-percent rule and two-MW cap were not impediments to increased levels of photovoltaic capacity some years ago, however times have changed. "It is essential that regulatory barriers that limit development be removed to allow companies that are developing solar projects to have access to electricity markets. SEIA is proactively engaging FERC to find a regulatory balance that maintains grid safety and reliability and facilitates fast-track interconnection of wholesale distributed generation."

SEIA has submitted its request to the FERC by way of a petition that addresses the relevant order, No. 2006. It also claims that the proposal has been, "carefully crafted so as to not diminish state authority to regulate the interconnection of retail distributed generation."

pv magazine has featured a special article on the US National Electrical Code in its February edition and will publish part two in the coming months.


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