The nation’s top two solar states are re-examining arcane rules that can discourage rooftop solar projects. Other states are expected to follow their lead.
Dec 23, 2011 - Prompted by pressure from clean energy advocates, Hawaii and California are quietly working to remove a regulatory obstacle that is slowing a boom in rooftop solar systems in the nation's leading solar states.
The culprit is an arcane provision in the rules many states have adopted for how utility companies handle "distributed generation," any system of small-scale power installations, usually solar arrays, that generates electricity at homes or businesses and hooks up with the main electric grid. The regulation requires that once distributed energy reaches 15 percent of peak demand on a local circuit, anyone wanting to add more solar must carry out a lengthy and costly review of the project's ability to connect with the grid.
Utilities in California and Hawaii pushed for the threshold about a decade ago because they worried that customer-owned solar facilities—which they can't always control or monitor— would jeopardize the stability of the electric grid, causing widespread blackouts and power surges and damaging equipment.
As the demand for solar has increased, however, renewable energy developers and advocates have begun complaining that the 15 percent threshold is too low and the studies too cumbersome and expensive.
More electrical circuits in Hawaii and California are nearing the 15 percent mark, and more business and homeowners are facing the daunting review process, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars and take more than a year to complete, with no guarantee that the project will pass the utility's review. To avoid the hassle and expense, many simply abandon their projects.
"The study requirement has been a virtual deal killer," Isaac Moriwake, a Honolulu-based attorney with Earthjustice, a national environmental law firm, told InsideClimate News. read more>>>