Monday, July 15, 2024

The ‘Wild West’ of hooking up giant photo voltaic tasks in New Hampshire • New Hampshire Bulletin


Nearly two years in the past, a Goshen couple signed a contract to permit an power firm to construct a photo voltaic farm on their hillside property. But the mission faces steady delays – stopping, too, the life plans that the household has made round it.

Kearsarge Energy approached the couple, Kathryn and Peter Hanson, concerning the mission in the summertime of 2022, Kathryn Hanson stated. It will span between 23 and 25 hectares and can take about two years to finish.

The prospect of extra revenue down the street means Peter Hanson can begin planning for his retirement, his spouse stated. But that timeline has been pushed again by a 21-month-and-counting wait to get Eversource to finish an interconnection examine, a step the utility firm takes to see how massive the tasks are. of power will have an effect on the remainder of {the electrical} grid.

As of August, it has been two years because the Hansons signed the contract, however there may be little indication of when the mission will come to fruition.

“If that is not OK, no person can proceed,” stated Kathryn Hanson.

In New Hampshire, utility firms primarily write their very own guidelines for the method of hooking up, or interconnecting, photo voltaic tasks bigger than 1 megawatt — sufficient power to energy the 173 homes, in keeping with the Solar Energy Industries Association – on the grid. The builders say this has resulted in lengthy, unpredictable delays.

“It’s a little bit little bit of the Wild West,” stated Sam Evans-Brown, government director of the nonprofit Clean Energy New Hampshire, “they usually (the utilities) haven’t got deadlines. There’s nothing that may be accomplished. implement, they usually can solely authenticate the builders.”

Kearsarge Energy is one in every of three firms — together with ReWild Renewables and Lodestar Energy — that filed a grievance in opposition to Eversource with the Department of Energy in March, saying the interconnection delays violated state regulation, price builders and landowners cash, and prevented municipalities from accessing power financial savings. The firms pointed to twenty-eight tasks which might be caught within the queue, unable to hook up with the grid.

Eversource rejected these claims, arguing that the corporate at all times “goes above and past any authorized or regulatory necessities by conducting proactive outreach” to facilitate tasks. It additionally says that firms have a job in mission delays, mentioning, for instance, six tasks that change in measurement, generally a number of instances.

One of the tasks that has modified in measurement is the Goshen photo voltaic farm, stated William Hinkle, the media relations supervisor for Eversource, which implies the mission should restart the queue. He additionally stated it might require a examine by ISO New England, the area’s grid operator.

Legislative involvement

The interconnection course of for big photo voltaic tasks might be dictated by the state as a substitute of the utilities. The laws is headed to the governor’s desk, Senate Bill 391will push the Department of Energy to “set up cost-effective, well timed, and predictable processes for buyer turbines wishing to hook up with the state’s electrical grid.”

It is critical that, inside 60 days of the passage of the invoice, the division will open a continuation of the examination and drafting of rules to set “uniform procedures” for the interconnection of the infrastructure of utilities.

If signed by Gov. Chris Sununu the invoice, the division has 15 months to submit draft rules to the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules, a physique that gives legislative oversight of the regulatory course of.

Clean Energy New Hampshire helps SB 391. Hinkle stated Eversource does not have any issues “with the ultimate invoice as amended.”

The lack of regulation for bigger photo voltaic tasks in New Hampshire has been compounded by an exploding curiosity in clear power growth lately, pushed by cheaper know-how, credit the federal taxes, and excessive electrical energy costs, Evans-Brown stated.

Five years in the past, Eversource, the state’s largest utility, obtained about 20 interconnection purposes per week, Hinkle stated. In 2022 and 2023, that quantity elevated to 200 every week and, now, sits at round 100.

Ninety-five p.c of the tasks — largely residential beneath 100 kilowatts — had been authorized for interconnection with Eversource inside days, Hinkle stated. Larger tasks – these between 500 kilowatts and 1 megawatt – can take 60 and 90 days for approval, he stated.

The largest tasks – these over 1 megawatt – normally take longer. Part of the explanation, Hinkle stated, is as a result of they may set off a evaluate by ISO New England. He additionally stated that transferring tasks via the queue in a well timed method is a “shared duty” between Eversource and builders and that delays from one developer may have an effect on others additional down the road. waitlist.

Interconnection research take about 60 days for Eversource to finish, Hinkle stated, however “it does not actually take a typical period of time” a mission can wait within the queue. Developers and property house owners say this wait typically lasts for months.

A disappointing journey

Howie Wemyss, a partial proprietor of the Glen House Hotel on the base of Mount Washington in Gorham, stated the interconnection course of took longer – and was extra irritating – than he first anticipated. This mission is within the vary of about 300 kilowatts, he stated, which implies it’s not one of many largest varieties of tasks.

The lodge plans to be as sustainable as doable when it opens in 2018. They have geothermal heating and cooling and a small hydroelectric station. Solar energy is the subsequent piece to cut back or eradicate the necessity for electrical energy from the grid, Wemyss stated.

So the lodge employed a contractor and submitted an utility to Eversource in May 2023 to hook up with a photo voltaic array. Wemyss thinks they are going to be authorized in time to reap the power advantages of the summer time months.

That hope was shortly dashed.

“Months handed, and nothing,” stated Wemyss. “And we’d electronic mail or name them and nobody appeared to know something, and it was very disappointing as a result of we thought we had been going to construct the array in 2023.”

He started calling some elected officers in hopes that it might assist transfer the method alongside. Coincidence or not, he stated, it did — however the mission appeared on the finish of Eversource’s lengthy listing, although the appliance was submitted months in the past.

Some immediate later, the lodge moved to the entrance of the waitlist. This May, it acquired the outcomes of the interconnection examine, figuring out it needed to pay a lot lower than anticipated, Wemyss stated.

Hinkle, the Eversource spokesman, stated the mission was fast-tracked and moved a number of months in an effort to get medium-sized tasks authorized extra shortly.

The mission was supposed to interrupt floor in early July and be completed within the fall, however the disappointment and the impression stay.

“It’s very disappointing,” Wemyss stated. “We misplaced a 12 months of manufacturing due to that and, in fact, every thing will get dearer as you go.”

For some builders, the unpredictability of the interconnection course of in New Hampshire makes it a much less enticing place to speculate.

Kate Tohme, director of interconnection coverage at renewable power firm New Leaf Energy, instructed a House committee in March that “a transparent set of interconnection requirements” is among the key components that thought of by the corporate earlier than investing within the state.

Tohme stated in written testimony that the corporate is “extraordinarily restricted” in transferring its three tasks within the interconnection queue ahead “attributable to lack of entry to info and regulatory certainty on timelines and prices.” (He didn’t specify the utility firm New Leaf was making an attempt to hook up with.)

And with out clear pointers in New Hampshire, he stated, the corporate is “compelled to focus our consideration and assets on different states.”

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