Annoyed by CMP’s delays, solar industry asks PUC to oversee assessments for grid connections

Pissed off by months of delays, members of Maine’s photo voltaic industry say Central Maine Power’s lack of ability to full interconnection experiments on time is putting projects in jeopardy, and they are asking the point out General public Utilities Fee to oversee the method.

The conflict requires the completion of so-called cluster studies, technological critiques done at the transmission technique stage. They are required by ISO New England, the region’s electrical grid operator, every time groups of strength tasks want to connect by means of a popular substation.

The experiments consist of voltage, thermal and short-circuit analyses. They are completed to make certain method reliability, so that including big quantities of new, intermittent generation does not have adverse outcomes on the steadiness of the electric powered grid.

“After recurrent conversations more than lots of months with CMP employees and independent authorities, it is clear that CMP has failed to fulfill its obligations or make a affordable exertion to use adequate resources that would allow these transmission/sub-transmission scientific studies to be addressed adequately and timely,” industry representatives wrote to the PUC final 7 days.

The consequence of CMP’s inaction is that two yrs soon after lawmakers handed a landmark invoice endorsing solar growth, the utility is continue to at least six months from acquiring benefits for the wide majority of these cluster reports, according to the Coalition for Neighborhood Solar Access and the Maine Renewable Strength Affiliation.

But in an interview Monday with the Portland Push Herald, a top CMP executive mentioned the utility is working difficult to entire the experiments amid shifting prerequisites and with a minimal pool of competent specialists.

“We unquestionably appreciate their frustrations,” stated Eric Stinneford, a CMP vice president.

Stinneford pointed out that the scope of function demanded by ISO New England on these scientific studies has turn into increasingly complex, as much more solar initiatives are proposed in the six-condition area. There are only so numerous consultants and in-property authorities obtainable to make the assessments, he claimed.

Even with this, CMP has pushed 145 projects via the procedure to date, Stinneford reported, representing 500 megawatts of solar capability. That’s more than enough era to electricity approximately 95,000 regular households, in accordance to market estimates. Nonetheless, another 196 projects with a full ranking of 751 megawatts are awaiting accomplished experiments. The assignments are in a overall of 20 cluster parts.

The PUC reported Monday that it acquired the photo voltaic industry’s letter and will wait around for it to file a official ask for, as is regular protocol. The fee also pointed out it is already examining connected problems in two individual cases.

AN ONGOING DISPUTE

The grievance to the PUC is just the most up-to-date squabble amongst photo voltaic developers and Maine’s greatest electrical utility.

Maine’s speedy-developing solar industry was in an uproar in February, complaining that CMP was causing unanticipated delays and requesting final-moment, multimillion-dollar rates to connect photo voltaic farms to the company’s substations. After Gov. Janet Mills termed for an investigation, CMP reported it experienced identified some technical solutions to do the get the job done quicker and cheaper. Since then, CMP’s top rated management and engineers have instituted techniques to slash substation updates from as considerably as $15 million to significantly less than $375,000.

But for the solar sector, a lot of concerns stay unanswered. Past spring, the two trade teams asked the PUC to formally open up an investigation, which it did on April 6. Among the the challenges: When did CMP master the extent of the so-referred to as “over-voltage” troubles it faced striving to satisfy hundreds of new interconnection requests? Was the reaction prudent? If not, must the corporation confront any penalties?

This investigation has been shifting by the PUC approach, which contains reviewing tens of 1000’s of emails as properly as in-depth questioning of key managers by personnel lawyers. A further so-termed complex convention is set for Friday.

The ongoing PUC probe focuses on connections at the nearby distribution degree, whereas the most up-to-date field worry is with regional transmission-degree scientific tests. 

Solar Projects AT Hazard?

The two difficulties are essential, even so. Maine has ambitious goals to battle weather adjust by encouraging inhabitants to heat households and push cars driven by electrical energy, not oil and gasoline. Significant-scale photo voltaic assignments will be essential to powering this envisioned clear electricity economic system, and hundreds of projects previously have been proposed.

But the transformation could acquire several years. And if photo voltaic farms can not hook into the power grid – for no matter what purpose – that is an speedy difficulty.

The total effects of hold off is that some assignments will lose their ability to get financing or contracts and land leases will expire, claimed Kaitlin Kelly O’Neill, the Northeast regional director for the photo voltaic coalition. O’Neill noted that whilst just one cluster analyze has been completed in the Augusta area, a number of other folks in CMP’s support territory are remaining held up.

O’Neill was asked if solar developers have been dealing with the identical stage of hold off with Versant Electric power, which presents electric company for much of jap and northern Maine. She explained it was way too quickly to say, as some cluster reports had been just beginning at Versant, which is a considerably scaled-down utility with less photo voltaic proposals.

Disappointment with the CMP delays has led seven photo voltaic builders that had been section of a doing work group assembly with the corporation on alternative remedies to abandon the approach. In a June 16 letter to Stinneford, associates of corporations – which include Longroad Growth LLC, Borrego Solar Methods and BlueWave Photo voltaic – explained they felt their attempts experienced been “exhausted,” and they requested that CMP “take immediate action” to meet cluster review timelines.

“This will result in the incapability for most assignments to advance to development and will protect against a meaningful total of clean electrical power from coming on the web in CMP territory,” they wrote about the holdup.

The builders also named for CMP shareholders to pay out for any “catch-up” expenses required to meet analyze timelines.

Stinneford said that’s not likely to occur. Longstanding regulatory insurance policies need turbines to spend the value of interconnections, he said, not shareholders or ratepayers.

Both equally CMP and the solar builders agree on 1 matter: The bottleneck in bringing photo voltaic online isn’t one of a kind to Maine.

In Massachusetts, point out utility regulators opened a case to assessment distributed generation connections in 2019, soon after utility Countrywide Grid set quite a few photo voltaic jobs on maintain to carry out cluster studies. Past yr, Nationwide Grid concluded that most of the delayed initiatives could transfer ahead, with out added value.


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