Annoyed by CMP’s delays, solar market asks PUC to oversee opinions for grid connections

Pissed off by months of delays, customers of Maine’s solar marketplace say Central Maine Power’s lack of ability to complete interconnection studies on time is putting tasks in jeopardy, and they are inquiring the point out Community Utilities Commission to oversee the procedure.

The conflict involves the completion of so-called cluster experiments, complex critiques done at the transmission program level. They are necessary by ISO New England, the region’s electric grid operator, each time groups of strength assignments want to connect as a result of a typical substation.

The studies include things like voltage, thermal and quick-circuit analyses. They are completed to assure process trustworthiness, so that introducing big amounts of new, intermittent technology doesn’t have adverse outcomes on the stability of the electric grid.

“After regular discussions more than many months with CMP team and unbiased specialists, it is obvious that CMP has unsuccessful to fulfill its obligations or make a reasonable energy to implement suitable sources that would permit these transmission/sub-transmission scientific tests to be dealt with effectively and timely,” sector associates wrote to the PUC previous week.

The consequence of CMP’s inaction is that two several years just after lawmakers passed a landmark invoice selling solar progress, the utility is however at least 6 months from possessing results for the huge the vast majority of these cluster research, according to the Coalition for Group Solar Access and the Maine Renewable Electricity Association.

But in an job interview Monday with the Portland Press Herald, a best CMP executive claimed the utility is performing really hard to entire the research amid shifting necessities and with a minimal pool of skilled industry experts.

“We definitely enjoy their frustrations,” mentioned Eric Stinneford, a CMP vice president.

Stinneford observed that the scope of work demanded by ISO New England on these experiments has turn out to be increasingly sophisticated, as more photo voltaic initiatives are proposed in the six-point out region. There are only so many consultants and in-property gurus offered to make the assessments, he said.

Regardless of this, CMP has pushed 145 initiatives via the course of action to day, Stinneford said, representing 500 megawatts of photo voltaic capability. That is more than enough era to electric power roughly 95,000 common houses, according to field estimates. Even so, an additional 196 tasks with a overall ranking of 751 megawatts are awaiting finished reports. The tasks are in a complete of 20 cluster spots.

The PUC reported Monday that it received the photo voltaic industry’s letter and will wait around for it to file a official request, as is conventional protocol. The fee also noted it is presently analyzing linked problems in two individual scenarios.

AN ONGOING DISPUTE

The criticism to the PUC is just the most up-to-date squabble amongst photo voltaic builders and Maine’s largest electrical utility.

Maine’s rapidly-developing photo voltaic industry was in an uproar in February, complaining that CMP was leading to unforeseen delays and requesting very last-moment, multimillion-dollar charges to hook up photo voltaic farms to the company’s substations. Immediately after Gov. Janet Mills termed for an investigation, CMP reported it experienced uncovered some technical solutions to do the get the job done more rapidly and cheaper. Since then, CMP’s major management and engineers have instituted ways to slash substation updates from as substantially as $15 million to a lot less than $375,000.

But for the photo voltaic business, lots of queries stay unanswered. Final spring, the two trade teams requested the PUC to formally open up an investigation, which it did on April 6. Between the problems: When did CMP study the extent of the so-termed “over-voltage” challenges it confronted making an attempt to fulfill hundreds of new interconnection requests? Was the reaction prudent? If not, should the company facial area any penalties?

This investigation has been moving via the PUC method, which contains reviewing tens of hundreds of e-mails as effectively as in-depth questioning of key supervisors by workers attorneys. A further so-known as complex convention is established for Friday.

The ongoing PUC probe focuses on connections at the nearby distribution stage, whilst the most up-to-date sector problem is with regional transmission-level studies. 

Solar Projects AT Possibility?

Equally troubles are critical, however. Maine has ambitious targets to combat climate modify by encouraging residents to warmth houses and travel autos driven by electricity, not oil and gas. Large-scale solar assignments will be significant to powering this envisioned thoroughly clean strength financial state, and hundreds of assignments already have been proposed.

But the transformation could take lots of decades. And if solar farms just cannot hook into the electricity grid – for whatsoever rationale – which is an instant trouble.

The total impact of hold off is that some tasks will shed their capability to get financing or contracts and land leases will expire, reported Kaitlin Kelly O’Neill, the Northeast regional director for the photo voltaic coalition. O’Neill noted that whilst one cluster review has been finished in the Augusta area, a number of some others in CMP’s support territory are becoming held up.

O’Neill was questioned if solar builders were suffering from the same level of hold off with Versant Energy, which supplies electric powered assistance for significantly of jap and northern Maine. She claimed it was as well before long to say, as some cluster research were being just starting at Versant, which is a considerably smaller utility with fewer solar proposals.

Annoyance with the CMP delays has led 7 photo voltaic builders that ended up element of a operating team meeting with the business on choice methods to abandon the process. In a June 16 letter to Stinneford, associates of organizations – such as Longroad Development LLC, Borrego Photo voltaic Programs and BlueWave Photo voltaic – reported they felt their initiatives had been “exhausted,” and they asked for that CMP “take fast action” to fulfill cluster examine timelines.

“This will outcome in the incapacity for most initiatives to advance to development and will avert a meaningful amount of thoroughly clean energy from coming online in CMP territory,” they wrote about the holdup.

The builders also known as for CMP shareholders to pay for any “catch-up” bills wanted to satisfy examine timelines.

Stinneford explained which is not going to take place. Longstanding regulatory insurance policies require turbines to shell out the cost of interconnections, he reported, not shareholders or ratepayers.

Equally CMP and the photo voltaic developers agree on one particular thing: The bottleneck in bringing photo voltaic on the web is not exclusive to Maine.

In Massachusetts, condition utility regulators opened a case to overview distributed generation connections in 2019, following utility National Grid place several solar assignments on hold to conduct cluster research. Very last year, Nationwide Grid concluded that most of the delayed assignments could go ahead, without having extra price.


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