Interconnection time is an important piece of the residential solar puzzle. It refers to the amount of time it takes for the homeowner to gain permission from their utility to tie into the grid. The longer this process takes, the more money homeowners lose. Until permission to operate (PTO) is obtained, the homeowner may not turn the system on. No energy can be produced without this approval. No cost savings will be seen from the solar system.
Complete Solar’s latest study focuses on interconnection times for California PV owners. Their results are striking. They have found that there is a significant gap in the amount of time it takes for residents to obtain these permits. The length of time that it takes for the utilities to grant PTO varies wildly.
The costs associated with delays are staggering. Homeowners lose an average of $4.02 per day. This adds up to about $59 per week and $113 per month for each homeowner. In total, these waiting periods have cost California residential PV owners $4,782,016.93 of production over the last 4 years.
“In California, interconnection time is incredibly important. It determines when solar will start saving the homeowner money,” Will Anderson, CEO of Complete Solar, said. “We’re looking at over a million days worth of interconnection days and lost production over the last four years. Hopefully, this will also help motivate utility companies to step up their game.”
Two utilities are worth mentioning for their speed of approval. Sacramento Municipal Utility District offers the fastest approval time, averaging same day approval. A close second is City of Palo Alto Utilities, averaging one day for approval. After this there is a sizable jump to 11 days for the number three spot. A few more companies come in around 2 weeks, and the rest take close to a month to grant interconnection approvals. Missing from this list is LADWP, which serves Los Angeles. This company was not included in the study due insufficient data. However, initial research suggests that they take 12-18 months to issue PTO. This adds up to a cost of $1,708.50 in delayed solar savings per customer — far more than any other utility company.
The Complete Solar study analyzed data collected from around 1500 solar installations in the last five years, between 2010 to 2015. Interestingly, Complete Solar’s previous study, the California Cities Solar Ranking, found that cities with shorter permit wait times tend to have lower permit fees, while those with longer permit wait times tend to have higher permit fees.
Furthermore, PTO delays are not only found in California. An EQ Research report released last month found that wait times across the country ranged from 5 to 76 days in 2014.
The issue of interconnection delays is one that will have to be addressed not only in California, but on a national scale as well.