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Solar Interconnection: Getting An Interconnection Agreement for Solar

Updated: Jun 20

solar interconnection

Traditionally, power on the utility grid flows from power plants to customers. By design, however, the grid is equipped to receive small amounts of power from distributed generation systems, like small solar energy installations, which is known as solar interconnection.

As alternative energy systems gain popularity, homeowners are increasingly feeding renewable energy to the grid. Allowing the power to flow from customers requires an interconnection agreement for solar with the electric company. Certain steps must be completed to receive permission for solar interconnection.

As photovoltaic (PV) solar power systems become more widespread, utility companies are gaining experience in approving interconnection applications for solar. In most areas, that results in a smoother interconnection process. Read on to learn about solar interconnection with our insights from over a decade of experience in solar design, interconnection, and engineering.

What is Solar Interconnection?

An interconnection agreement for solar allows homeowners to draw electricity from power lines when their solar panels aren’t producing enough energy. Utility interconnection also enables many customers to take advantage of net metering (when applicable) with the power company and receive solar credits for surplus power they supply to the electrical grid.

Why Is Solar Interconnection Important?

PV interconnection is necessary for solar homeowners to take advantage of net metering and receive compensation for the power they supply to the grid. Net metering credits often expire after 1 year and often require a specific type of electric meter. Without solar interconnection approval, surplus electricity would not result in solar credits on electric bills. Keep in mind that net metering is not available in all utility territories, and customers are sometimes compensated at a wholesale rate instead of a retail rate for surplus electricity.

Interconnection is vital for your clients to get the most value from the solar electric system, thus boosting the return on investment. If the solar power system doesn’t have batteries and isn’t connected to the power grid, homeowners get no benefit from the surplus solar power they produce.

Solar interconnection isn’t necessary for off-grid solar power systems. When the grid is nearby, it’s advantageous for most solar homeowners to be connected to it with a grid-tied solar power system. This arrangement allows homeowners to draw power when the solar power system isn’t producing enough power, such as at night or in cloudy weather.

GreenLancer offers numerous solar design and engineering services, including PV interconnection. Create a free account to begin shopping for permit-ready solar plan sets, interconnection drawings, and engineering reviews.

What Is the Solar Interconnection Process?

Applying for interconnection requires the following steps for home solar panel systems. Most solar installation companies complete these steps on the customer's behalf.

1 - Submit Solar Interconnection Application

To initiate the solar interconnection process, you need to submit a solar interconnection application to the utility company. This application should include crucial details about the solar system, such as its dimensions, precise location, and technical specifications. Providing this information ensures that the utility company has the necessary data to evaluate the feasibility and compatibility of the proposed PV system with the existing grid infrastructure.

Your interconnection application for solar may also need electrical diagrams, solar equipment data sheets, and any required permits or certifications. The utility company reviews your solar interconnection application to ensure compliance with safety standards, grid compatibility, and regulatory requirements. Successful approval of the solar interconnection application is critical for the integration of the solar system into the existing electrical infrastructure.

solar interconnection

2 - Obtain Solar Permits

The next step in solar interconnection is getting your PV permits. Once the application is approved, you'll need to obtain the necessary solar permits from the relevant authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs) to ensure that the installation complies with local and national regulations and safety standards.

Meeting solar permit requirements necessary for solar interconnection commonly requires the following:

  • Building and Electrical Codes Compliance: Grid-tied solar systems in the United States must comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC), building codes, and local AHJ requirements. NEC standards, which cover various aspects such as wiring methods, grounding, overcurrent protection, and equipment specifications, are updated periodically. It's critical to comply with the latest version, which is currently the 2023 edition.

  • Structural and Electrical System Design: AHJs may request detailed structural and electrical system design plans to ensure the installation meets safety and quality standards. Our solar design service can help with permit-ready solar plan sets with electrical diagrams.

  • Equipment and Solar Inverter Specifications: AHJs may require information about solar panels, inverters, and other equipment to verify compliance with safety and performance requirements.

  • Solar Site Plan and Location: AHJs may need a site plan showing the proposed location of the solar system to assess its compatibility with local zoning regulations and building codes.

  • Electrical Diagrams: AHJs may require electrical diagrams detailing the wiring and interconnection of the solar system to the building's electrical system. They show the wiring, circuitry, and interconnections, which help identify any potential hazards or issues that could arise during installation, operation, or maintenance of the solar system.

  • Structural Analysis and Wind Load Calculations: In some areas, AHJs may request structural analysis and wind load calculations to ensure the solar system can withstand local weather conditions. This is most common for ground mounts and commercial PV systems. The GreenLancer network includes licensed engineers who can complete these solar engineering requirements.

  • Solar Permit Application Fee: AHJs often require an application fee to cover administrative costs associated with reviewing and processing the PV permit application. The fees can vary widely by AHJ, system size, and solar system type.

3 - Solar System Inspection

Following the installation of the solar array, authorized inspectors or relevant authorities conduct an inspection to verify that the solar project meets all safety and performance requirements. PV systems are inspected before solar interconnection to ensure the installation complies with safety regulations and is correctly and safely installed.

They will verify whether:

  • The solar system meets NEC and building code requirements and has structural integrity

  • The solar permit documents match the actual PV installation

  • There is proper labeling of system components, appropriate disconnects, and safety protocols

  • The PV system complies with solar interconnection requirements, including proper synchronization, anti-islanding measures, and voltage regulation

4 - Receive Permission to Operate (PTO)

After a successful inspection and compliance with relevant regulations, the utility company grants PTO, allowing the solar system to start generating electricity and feeding it back to the grid. This authorization is essential for legal compliance, solar interconnection, and activation of the solar system.

Solar PTO signifies that the system meets safety standards, enables the owner to benefit from net metering, and ensures ongoing monitoring and maintenance for reliable and efficient operation. Obtaining PTO is a crucial milestone in obtaining an interconnection agreement for solar, signifying that the system is ready to harness clean energy. Now, you can officially turn on the PV system, and your client will receive solar energy credits on their electricity bills.

What are Some of the Solar Interconnection Requirements?

There are numerous requirements for connecting a solar system to the grid to promote safety and promote grid stability.

  • Proper Synchronization: Solar energy systems must synchronize their generated electricity with the local utility grid to ensure safe and efficient power transfer.

  • Anti-Islanding Measures: Solar panel systems need mechanisms to prevent continued electricity generation during grid outages (anti-islanding), which would avoid safety risks for utility workers.

  • Voltage Regulation: Systems must maintain voltage within acceptable limits to ensure grid stability and the safety of connected electrical devices.

  • Protection Systems: Installing protection systems, such as overcurrent and ground fault protection, is crucial to prevent or mitigate electrical faults and abnormal conditions.

  • Metering and Communication: Solar systems require metering equipment for accurate electricity measurement and communication protocols for data exchange with utility companies.

  • Interconnection Agreements for Solar and Application Process: This process fulfills administrative requirements, including completing the solar interconnection application, setting the terms and conditions for interconnection, and supporting ongoing operation and maintenance.

What Information Is In an Interconnection Agreement For Solar?

A solar interconnection agreement typically contains essential information that governs the connection process between a solar energy system and the utility grid. This agreement outlines the technical specifications, safety requirements, and contractual terms necessary for the system's successful integration with the grid.

Some key information included in a solar PV interconnection agreement may involve:

  • Technical Requirements: Details on the technical specifications and standards that the solar system must meet to ensure safe and efficient interconnection with the utility grid.

  • Equipment Specifications: Information regarding the type of equipment, such as inverters and meters, that need to be installed as part of the interconnection process.

  • Safety Measures: Guidelines related to safety protocols, shutdown procedures, and equipment grounding necessary to protect both the solar system and the grid.

  • Metering Arrangements: Specifications on how solar electricity production and energy consumption will be metered, measured, and reported to the utility.

  • Liability and Insurance: Terms outlining liability responsibilities of both parties in case of damages or accidents, as well as insurance requirements to cover potential risks associated with the interconnection.

  • Fees and Charges: Any applicable fees, charges, or compensation arrangements related to the solar interconnection process, including application fees, interconnection study costs, and ongoing maintenance fees.

How Long Does The Solar Interconnection Process Take?

The length of the interconnection application process varies depending on the size of the solar array and the utility company. Most solar interconnection applications that meet utility requirements receive PTO in less than a month.

The solar interconnection process can get slowed down by not facilitating utility company requests, such as making the system available for inspection. Also, using incompatible equipment can slow or halt the interconnection process. Some solar installation companies have experienced long delays with the utility company, but this issue is relatively rare and is sometimes due to issues with the utility meter.

How Much Does Solar Interconnection Cost?

Solar interconnection application costs for residential solar systems depend on the utility, location, and system size and typically range from zero to a few hundred dollars. Many solar installation companies absorb interconnection expenses into the total system cost, making them less visible to homeowners. Small-scale residential projects usually don't require significant grid upgrades for interconnection, unlike larger commercial solar projects where grid upgrades are more common.

What is a Solar Interconnection Agreement?

A solar interconnection agreement is a contractual agreement between a solar system owner and their utility company. It outlines the terms and conditions for connecting the solar panels to the electrical grid. The interconnection agreement for solar covers technical specifications, safety protocols, metering details, and any associated fees. It ensures a standardized and regulated process for integrating solar energy systems with the existing utility infrastructure.

Solar Interconnection For Systems With Batteries

PV systems with batteries can still qualify for solar interconnection. In fact, solar energy storage systems can allow your customers to take advantage of time-of-use rates if available through the local utility company.

Time-of-use Rates & Solar Interconnection

In some utility territories, the price per kWh of power varies by the time of day and even the time of year. This encourages customers to consume electricity during times of off-peak demand, thus smoothing out demand. If a solar system includes a battery, your customers have more flexibility in where the power originates (the grid vs. the battery). They can draw power from the battery during times when rates are higher and from the grid when rates are lower. Therefore, batteries allow your customers to save even more on their power bills.

Recent Solar Interconnection Reforms

The solar interconnection reforms in 2023 and 2024 had a significant impact on solar installations in the United States. On July 28, 2023, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order No. 2023, introducing substantial reforms to the procedures and agreements used by electric transmission providers to integrate new generating facilities into the transmission system. These reforms aimed to streamline the interconnection process, address the backlog of solar interconnection requests, and facilitate the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid.

In March 2024, FERC issued Order No. 2023-A, which provided further clarification and addressed rehearing topics related to the interconnection reforms announced in Order No. 2023. The order addressed 31 rehearing or clarification topics requested by parties interested in the reforms, demonstrating FERC's commitment to refining and implementing them.

These reforms have had a tangible impact on solar interconnection, reducing the complexity and delays in the process. By streamlining the procedures and agreements for integrating new generating facilities, the solar interconnection reforms have supported the timely integration of solar installations into the grid.

Obtaining Solar Interconnection Approval Is Critical

Although the PV interconnection process may seem daunting at first, it’ll get easier over time after you’ve navigated it once or twice. The process may vary a bit depending on the utility company in question, so there may continue to be a learning curve when applying for grid interconnection with a different company. However, the benefits of receiving permission to operate are significant and enable your clients to get more value from their solar energy systems.

GreenLancer can expedite the interconnection and solar permitting process with quality PV plan sets and our solar design services, so you can focus on what you do best. Have confidence knowing that GreenLancer’s partners will manage your interconnection application from start to finish. Complete the form below to learn more.


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