The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) revises its interconnection procedures for electrical generation, making it easier for smaller solar and wind systems to connect to the grid. These new interconnection procedures are a positive step forward for the deployment of low-carbon energy generation throughout Ohio.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has greatly revised its interconnection procedures for electrical generation. These guidelines and procedures help to govern the grid connection of distributed generation (DG) facilities like solar, wind, energy storage, or other small electrical generation systems.
Ohio is the first state to adopt new interconnection procedures modeled after similar revisions to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (SGIP). Both Ohio and the FERC even went as far as to adopt many of the same provisions. Overall, adoption of the revisions was heavily influenced by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), which provided the list of provisions and key recommendations to both parties.
The consensus throughout the renewable energy industry is that these new interconnection procedures are a very positive step forward for the deployment of low-carbon energy generation throughout Ohio.
The revised interconnection procedures should help to lower the costs of distributed solar and wind generation. This will work to benefit both the renewable industry and end-users. This is especially significant and beneficial news considering the recent research into the “hard” versus “soft” costs of solar. Reports have concluded that the soft costs account for over 60% of the entire system cost, especially with solar PV systems.
The interconnection of a solar PV system is considered a soft cost, and the process consumes both time and money. However, these newly passed and improved standards are expected improve the current situation.
Specifically, the new interconnection rules include these changes:
- All inverter-based systems under a capacity of 25 kW will be fasted-tracked rather than be subjected to an interconnection review. Furthermore, initial review time will be reduced from 1 month to 15 business days. This is significant because a lot of market growth in the near future will be in the residential sector, which tends to mostly accommodate systems under the 25 kW level.
- Expedited “Fast Track” is no longer limited to systems below 2 MWs, but expanded to 5 MW depending upon the generator type, the voltage of the line at the point of interconnection, the thickness of the wire, and the generator’s distance from the substation. This will ensure the expansion of the commercial and utility-scale solar PV market, as larger systems will be have an easier and faster approval process.
- A standardized supplemental review process will be implemented for applications. The application may fail one or more of the initial screenings without imposing significant challenges to warrant a more extensive study.
- The penetration screen in the supplemental review process will be 100% of minimum daytime peak load, supplanting the old 15% daytime peak load. This will ensure that areas with an already existing high penetration of DG will still be able to interconnect without undergoing an expensive study or an unwarranted denial to grid entry.
- The rules require utilities to provide interested customers with a pre-application report, for a $300 flat fee, to help identify areas on the grid that will accommodate distributed generation. This will benefit larger developers in their search for both locations that are suitable for DG and areas where interconnection can be easily approved and expedited faster.
In the end, Ohio, like every state, needs to continually update its interconnection procedures to keep up with today’s transformative and fast-growing low-carbon generation industries. It’s also imperative to have similar standards throughout the country as more companies and technologies penetrate multiple states. Ohio is setting a good example as one of the early adopters of these new standards. There is still much more that can be done in other states to allow electricity generators to feed and connect to the grid.