The New York State Public Service Commission has announced new regulations that it says will make it faster and easier for solar energy, microgrid and other distributed generation (DG) projects to connect to the electric grid and advance the development of renewable power throughout the state.
“Today’s action is another step in New York’s long-term commitment to bringing clean, low-cost power to every corner of New York State,” remarks Commission Chair Audrey Zibelman. “These new regulations will make it easier for distributed generation developers to work with utilities to find the best places to connect innovative solar power projects that will protect the environment, lower energy costs and improve the efficiency and reliability of the electric grid.”
The commission’s order increases the size of DG projects (from 2 MW to 5 MW) that may apply under the state’s “standardized interconnection” process. In addition, under the previous regulations, interconnection developers had to pay the entire cost of interconnections up front. That upfront cost will now be cut to 25%, although construction will not begin until full payment is received.
The commission says it has also amended its rules to enable utilities to more easily process and analyze the large numbers of applications currently filed by solar and other DG power developers.
In developing the order, the commission took comments and suggestions from industry developers, utility managers and environmental groups. For example, the commission will now require the filing of a pre-application report that helps utilities determine whether a proposed interconnection project is viable and located in the right geographical area.
“While other states have recently slowed solar development through regulatory actions, New York has strongly embraced the development of renewable power as it considers changes to encourage and promote the financing and installation of solar and other clean power sources,” says Zibelman.
John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), adds, “The new standardized interconnection requirements, in conjunction with other actions taken by the state, will improve coordination between solar developers and utilities, and provide a smooth pathway for additional solar projects that can help achieve the governor’s energy vision.”
Dennis Phayre, director of New York City-based commercial solar developer EnterSolar, says the new regulations “will help create a cleaner, more reliable and lower cost electric grid.”
“In addition to facilitating the deployment of greater amounts of solar electricity, it will enable the utilities to better manage the grid by playing the role of a ‘distributed energy resource platform’ provider,” he adds. “Above all, however, it removes unnecessary obstacles that add time and cost to projects. We feel that it is a balanced approach to ensuring the physical integrity of the grid and the financial well-being of its service providers and ratepayers.”
Furthermore, NYSERDA and the Department of Public Service (DPS) will provide ombudsman services to assist developers and utilities with interconnection applications and new distributed generation projects. Each investor-owned utility has appointed an ombudsperson of its own to help manage interconnection applications.
The state has also created the New York State Interconnect Working Group, which is made up of representatives from DPS, NYSERDA, utilities, the New York Solar Energy Industry Association, and a few individual installers. While the ombudspeople will work on issues regarding individual installations, the working group will work to solve technical interconnect problems that affect large numbers of projects.
The commission says that from 2012 to 2015, New York has seen an increase of 575% in the amount of solar power installed and in development, which has also generated a significant increase in the number of solar-related jobs across the state.