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Published on March 9th, 2015 | by James Ayre


In-Depth Analysis Of Solar Project Completion Timelines Released By NREL

March 9th, 2015 by  

Data from more than 30,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) installations throughout the United States has been compiled and analyzed by the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as part of a new study to explore the relationship between interconnection regulations and actual project completion timelines.

The quick takeaway here? Interconnection process delays are fairly common — and generally range from simple of a couple of days up to several months. The study authors note that the streamlining of the application review + final authorization processes could benefit utilities as well as solar consumers, by reducing the notable time and costs currently accompanying the process of adopting solar energy.

Figure 11 solar PV integration time US


“We now have a clearer understanding of the different process elements associated with connecting a PV system to the grid, such as how long it takes to review and approve an application for interconnection, how long it takes to construct and inspect a system, and how long it takes to get final authorization from the utility,” stated lead author Kristen Ardani, a solar technology markets and policy analyst at NREL. “This report represents the first data-driven evaluation of how PV deployment time frames compare to state regulations in key solar markets.”

A recent press report sums up some of the key points:

The authors of the report examined PV project data across 87 utility territories and 16 states. NREL found that for the residential and small commercial (less than 50 kilowatts) systems sampled, it took an average of 63 total business days (median 53) from the date a PV installer submits an interconnection application to when the utility grants permission to operate. However, there is wide variation around these values, ranging from less than one week to more than 6 months. System construction represents the fastest part of the process, taking an average of 4 business days (median 2 days). Interconnection application review and approval accounted for the most time of any single process examined in this analysis, requiring an average of 27 business days (median of 18 days) to complete.

The report also provides state-level findings based on an analysis of five states with active solar markets-Arizona, California, Colorado, New Jersey, and New York. The research suggests that states with more stringent interconnection time frame regulations might reduce overall project length. However, such regulations do not necessarily limit time frames to the targets specified by interconnection standards. Additional insights on the research effort and report findings are available through a STAT Chat podcast and an educational webinar.

The motivation for this new work came via stakeholder discussions initiated via the Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative — which is a working-group consortium that currently includes over 100 members. The Solar Electric Power Association, the Electric Power Research Institute, and the Western Area Power Administration, are all known supporters of the collaborative.

Those interested can find the full report online, here. And below are numerous charts and tables from the report. Enjoy.

Figure 3 Table

Figure 3

Figure 3 Table 2

Figure 5

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Figure 6 Table 6

Figure 7 Table 7

Figure 7 Table

Figure 8

Figure 8 Table 8

PTO = Permission to Operate

Figure 9 Table 9

Figure 9

Figure 10

All images via NREL 

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About the Author

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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