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NREL: Updating Small Generator Interconnection Procedures for New Market Conditions

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By 2015, the United States will need to interconnect more than 30,000 MW of new renewable generating capacity to meet existing state and federal renewable energy policy goals. By 2035, the additional generating capacity needed to satisfy existing policy goals increases to 100,000 MW. Already, state and federal policies are promoting nearly 1,900 MW of solar PV installations annually.

This report recommends reforms to federal and state interconnection procedures to meet the demands of a growing national marketplace for solar photovoltaic (PV) and other small renewable generators that interconnect to electric distribution systems. Updating federal and state interconnection processes can have a significant, positive impact on the efficiency and transparency with which renewable energy systems are interconnected nationwide, which in turn can have a significant impact on the cost of meeting state policy goals. For instance, with increasing interconnection applications, recent experience shows many applications at the distribution system-level do not actually go forward to implementation. Thus, reforming interconnection procedures may indeed make the process more effective for everyone involved – system owner and integrators, as well as the electric utilities.

Interconnection processes serve two fundamental purposes: 1) they provide a transparent and efficient means to interconnect generators to the electric power system; and 2) they maintain the safety, reliability and power quality of the electric power system. Federal and state regulators are faced with the challenge of keeping interconnection procedures updated against a backdrop of evolving technology, new codes and standards, and considerably transformed market conditions. This report is intended to educate policymakers and stakeholders on beneficial reforms that will keep interconnection processes efficient and cost-effective while maintaining a safe and reliable power system. Although the discussion in this report focuses on PV, which is the dominant generating technology presently seeking interconnection to electric distribution systems, the interconnection reforms recommended in this report apply to all generating technologies.

 

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