This report characterizes existing interconnection practices for six Minnesota utilities and assesses opportunities to streamline them.
Over the next two years, the Minnesota Solar Pathways project, sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office, is exploring various strategies for meeting the State of Minnesota’s 10% by 2030 solar goal. A central objective of the Pathways research is to identify best practices for reducing PV grid integration costs while upholding grid reliability, power quality, safety, and security standards.
As part of the project, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has conducted an evaluation of existing utility solar photovoltaic (PV) system interconnection practices and assessed opportunities for streamlining them. Drawing from content gathered from in-depth interviews with utilities operating in Minnesota as well as secondary sources, this “interconnection streamlining assessment” activity characterizes existing interconnection approaches, successes, and challenges and highlights potential pathways for accelerating PV interconnections that can improve both utility and end-user economics (e.g. thru utility labor savings, accelerated application processing, etc.). It is intended to complement the Minnesota Public Utility Commission’s current effort to update the state’s 2004 interconnection standard.
This report summarizes findings uncovered in the assessment. It first provides an overarching rationale for pursuing streamlined interconnection processes and activities. Next, it offers context for analyzing utility interconnection procedures and protocols by comparing the PV interconnection experience, levels of demand, and customer make-ups of a range of electric utilities operating in Minnesota. A comparison of utility interconnection practices – spanning administrative processes and technical review approaches – is subsequently described. The baseline status of utility interconnection practices and the degree to which they are optimized according to numerical, process-oriented, and functional indicators is then assessed for streamlining opportunities. Finally, a concluding section recommends pathways forward for enhancing utility interconnection processes, categorized as easier, moderate, and stretch implementation opportunities.