Commercial solar PV systems often have capacity ratings of several hundred kilowatts, and many of them reach the megawatt scale. This represents an intermittent electricity source, which reaches peak generation during the hours around noon. For this reason, utility companies establish interconnection requirements for distributed energy sources. Generally, these requirements are simplified for small solar installations like those used in homes, but larger commercial systems are subject to additional technical requirements.
In this article, we will provide an overview of the commercial solar PV interconnection requirements established by the 7 main utility companies operating in New York State:
- Central Hudson Gas & Electric
- Consolidated Edison
- National Grid
- New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG)
- Orange & Rockland Utilities
- PSEG Long Island
- Rochester Gas & Electric
The NY Public Service Commission created Standardized Interconnection Requirements (SIR) for solar energy systems connected to local grids, but specific requirements vary depending on your utility company. If the capacity of your commercial PV system exceeds 50 kW, a Coordinated Electric System Interconnection Review (CESIR) is also necessary in most cases.
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The NY State Department of Public Service has a queue of all projects that are currently applying for interconnection under the SIR. The inventory is classified by utility companies and provides information such as project location, ZIP code, substation and circuit.
Central Hudson Gas & Electric Interconnection Requirements
If your commercial solar array will be located in the Central Hudson Gas & Electric service territory, the interconnection requirements will depend on project scale. There is one interconnection procedure for projects up to 5 MW AC, and another procedure for larger projects.
Solar power projects up to 5 MW of capacity that will not participate in the NYISO wholesale energy market are subject to the NYS Standardized Interconnection Requirements. If this is the case for your project, Central Hudson Gas & Electric has a link where you can submit the application online and request final interconnection approval. Central Hudson Gas & Electric has their own interconnection guidelines for solar projects larger than 5 MW.
These requirements apply for commercial solar projects that will connect to the Central Hudson Gas & Electric distribution grid, which participate in the retail energy market. On the other hand, if your project will connect to transmission lines or substations and you intend to participate in the wholesale energy market, you must follow the application process established by the NYISO (New York Independent System Operator).
Con Edison Interconnection Requirements
Con Edison also follows the SIR for commercial solar projects smaller than 5 MW. They have a simplified application through an online portal if your project is smaller than 50 kW, and a flow chart that explains the application process for projects ranging from 50 kW to 5 MW.
Con Edison conducts preliminary screening of all solar PV applications, and you get the interconnection permit directly if your project is approved at this stage. If your project is not approved immediately, there are three possibilities:
- Having a preliminary screening results meeting, where you agree to changes proposed by Con Edison.
- Having a supplemental screening analysis from Con Edison, delivered within 20 days.
- Having a full CESIR from Con Edison, delivered within 60 days.
The supplemental screening analysis has a cost of $2,500, and the CESIR cost ranges from $1,450 to $8,000 depending on system capacity.
Con Edison provides a guide If your project is not covered by the Standardized Interconnection Requirements. Their guide covers three possible scenarios:
- Solar PV projects up to 10 MW with 460 V service
- Solar PV projects larger than 10 MW with high-tension service
- Non-network projects
National Grid Interconnection Requirements
National Grid also classifies applications based on project scale. Solar projects below 50 kW will normally qualify for a simplified interconnection process with no CESIR required. However, a study may be necessary in some cases depending on local network conditions, and also if your inverter system does not meet UL 1741. National Grid provides flow charts for both application procedures:
Commercial solar projects ranging from 50 kW to 20 MW must meet additional requirements, which include a CESIR study. National Grid uses the SIR for projects up to 2 MW, and their own technical requirements for larger projects (2-20 MW).
NYSEG Interconnection Requirements
Like most other utility companies in the state, New York State Electric & Gas follows the SIR if your solar project is below 5 MW, and they have an online portal where you can submit and track the application. NYSEG supports community solar projects up to 5 MW, and they provide specific information and requirements if your project falls under this category.
NYSEG also provides a list of circuits where the distributed generation queue currently exceeds the system capacity. If you plan to connect a commercial solar array to one of the circuits in this list, you will need to wait until NYSEG increases the local grid capacity.
Orange & Rockland Utilities Interconnection Requirements
Orange & Rockland Utilities is a subsidiary of Con Edison, and they have very similar interconnection requirements for commercial solar projects. They classify solar PV projects into three categories, and there is a dedicate application portal for each category:
- Distributed generation projects up to 50 kW
- Distributed generation projects over 50 kW
- Community distributed generation
PSEG Long Island Interconnection Requirements
PSEG Long Island classifies distributed generation projects into two categories for interconnection purposes, providing a list of requirements and documents in each case:
- Distributed resource systems 0 kW to 5 MW, which qualify for online application
- Distributed resource systems 5 MW to 10 MW
The Smart Grid Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (SGIP) provide additional details about the interconnection process, depending on project size. In general, projects below 50 kW qualify for an expedited interconnection approval. However, commercial solar arrays and other inverter-based systems up to 300 kW can also qualify for the expedited process if they meet the latest version of UL 1741.
Distributed generation projects between 50 kW and 5 MW require a CESIR study, conducted by PSEG Long Island, and they may also include local grid upgrades. However, projects between 50 and 300 kW that qualify for expedited approval are exempt from the CESIR. Projects ranging from 5 to 10 MW are also subject to a feasibility study, to analyze their impact on the transmission system and determine the optimal interconnection voltage.
PSEG Long Island manages the interconnection procedure for solar power projects up to 10 MW. If your project exceeds this capacity, you must connect to the high-voltage transmission system, and your application must be submitted directly with the NY Independent System Operator (NYISO).
Rochester Gas & Electric Interconnection Requirements
Rochester Gas & Electric has the same interconnection requirements as NYSEG, since both companies are owned by Avangrid. Commercial solar projects below 5 MW are subject to the NY State Standard Interconnection Requirements, and the application is submitted through an online portal. Just like NYSEG, Rochester Gas & Electric provides a list of all circuits that are currently at full capacity, which means they cannot support interconnection with more distributed generation projects until their capacity is upgraded.
Solar Interconnection Requirements: Importance During the Project Design Stage
Commercial solar power is a proven investment: photovoltaic arrays have a service life of over 25 years when you use high-quality components, and the simple payback period can be less than five years under favorable conditions. However, the payback period can be reduced to zero if you qualify for grants and low-interest financing, and there are excellent incentive programs from NYSERDA if your project is located in NY state.
Utility interconnection requirements can represent a technical challenge if the applicant is not familiarized with them, and they can potentially delay your project. Getting your project designed and approved quickly is critical when incentive programs are available:
- Solar incentives are often calculated per watt of capacity, and the incentive rate is gradually reduced as more projects get approved.
- The NYSERDA NY-Sun Megawatt Block Program uses this approach, gradually reducing the financial benefits as capacity targets are met.
- There are also incentive programs with limited funding, and you may miss the opportunity if your solar PV design is not approved quickly.
NY Engineers is familiarized with both utility interconnection requirements and incentive programs guidelines, in NY state and abroad. We prioritize a fast project design and approval, making sure you qualify for the highest possible incentive rates.