Connecting the Interconnection Dots

Article Written By Matt Vanderbrook, Senior Project Developer

It’s a dynamic time for the solar industry in New York and in the Finger Lakes region as illustrated by the RBJ in an recent article: “The Finger Lakes region saw the second-highest growth in solar installations across the state in the last five years, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday.”

You may have heard that the cost of solar has rapidly dropped which, combined with regulatory and policy efforts at the state and federal levels, has made New York one of the best states for solar in the nation.

With such rapid growth, there are bound to be issues that arise around available interconnection capacity, programmatic incentive levels, and overall public acceptance surrounding solar. With updated net metering policies and the introduction of community solar, thousands of megawatts of solar are planned for development throughout Upstate NY. A 2016 Utility Drive report highlights this specific trend in detail.

Under the leadership of the Governor, the Empire State has tried to take a proactive approach to address these problems. Without this leadership and proactive approach, NY could end up in a boom and bust scenario which has occurred in places such as New Jersey and Hawaii. In order to avoid potential problems the interconnection queue in NY and the amount of solar generation that can be accepted on the web of distribution lines that run through our communities must be paid close attention according to a RTO Insider article from January of 2017.

We’re getting in the weeds here people, but basically each utility regulates when solar generation is tied into their lines. The new policies created a huge flood of applications to interconnect that have backed up the utility’s system and created confusion around what projects get priority, even if the developer has an agreement with a landowner.

NY created two working groups to specifically deal with these issues last summer and one of the groups, the Policy Working Group, issued recommendations and an order last month. This order will clear out much of the ‘logjam’ that has made it difficult for projects to move into the next stages of development by requiring developers, like SunCommon, to prove that they are moving forward. Basically put up or shut up time.

All in all this is good news, especially for your favorite hometown solar developers, who are trying to build a sustainable solar industry in New York that will employ workers and provide a solar power solution for years to come. Our first projects under this new program will start construction this summer and start delivering clean power to customers throughout the Greater Rochester Area by the end of 2017.

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