New York makes interconnection policy changes to boost community solar

New York solar power

The New York Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted changes to the State’s Standardized Interconnection Requirements (SIR) that dictate how renewable energy and distributed generation systems sized up to 5 MW are connected to the distribution grid. This decision provides additional clarity and certainty to the interconnection process that will enable more efficient, cost-effective solar development in New York. It will help allow community solar projects to move forward across the state, bringing access to solar to millions of New Yorkers for the first time.

Existing policy

 

Under the existing policy in New York state, when developers submit an application for interconnection to a utility’s distribution grid, they are placed in a pipeline while the utility studies their project to determine what upgrades to the local electric system would be required to connect the project to the grid, and how much those upgrades would cost. The presence of proposed projects ahead of an application in this “queue” can have profound impacts on the costs and timelines for interconnection whether or not the other proposed projects are ever built.

What the changes accomplish

This decision makes a number of important changes that will increase the efficiency and transparency of this process. It requires applicants in the queue to demonstrate proof of property owner consent within 30 days so that highly speculative projects are not taking up valuable space in the queue. Additionally, it requires developers to abide by binding decision-making and payment timelines to ensure that projects move along at a reasonable pace and that non-viable projects do not forestall projects that follow in the queue from moving forward in the most efficient manner possible.

Today’s decision also takes an important first step toward more equitable distribution of grid upgrade costs among solar projects utilizing common upgrades that benefit more than one project.

“Community solar companies stand ready to invest tens of millions of dollars in private capital to upgrade public energy infrastructure – new distribution lines, new, more reliable equipment at substations – all of these upgrades benefit the solar project participants but also result in a more reliable and resilient electric grid for everyone,” Cramer said. “The cost-sharing mechanism adopted today is a first step toward a smarter way to handle those upgrades.”

“An efficient, transparent interconnection queue process and a fair way to share the costs of upgrading our electric system will be increasingly important to meeting the growing demand for community solar,” said Hannah Masterjohn, CCSA Board Chair and VP of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at community solar company Clean Energy Collective. “We appreciate the collaboration of the New York utilities in this process and we look forward to working with our colleagues across the state to bring local clean power to more New Yorkers through community solar.”

“Community solar represents an enormous opportunity to open up solar savings to New York residents. We are pleased to see the progress made by the NY PSC today.” said Tom Matzzie, Founder and CEO of CleanChoice Energy.