That’s the time, in business days that it usually takes for a home or small business to go solar from initial consultation to installed and online, according to a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The lab analyzed more than 30,000 solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in key markets across the U.S. between 2012 and 2014 to see how interconnection regulations affect project timelines.
"This report represents the first data-driven evaluation of how PV deployment time frames compare to state regulations in key solar markets,” said Kristen Ardani, lead author and solar technology markets and policy analyst with NREL. "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."
The report, Understanding Processes and Timelines for Distributed Photovoltaic Interconnection in the United States, looked at PV projects across 87 utility territories and 16 states. While the average is 63 business days, NREL found the time to completion varied greatly. In some places it took less than one week to install solar. In others it took more than six months.
The report found that for small commercial (up to 50 kilowatts) and residential solar installations the fastest part of the process was the actual construction of the project, which took an average of four business days and had a median of two days. The interconnection application review and approval took the most time. The report found it took an average of 27 business days and a median of 18 days to complete that part of the process.
The report also analyzed how long it took to go solar in 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,” NREL said.
“Streamlining the application review and final authorization processes can ultimately benefit utilities and solar consumers by reducing the time and cost associated with going solar,” NREL stated. This has been a long-standing issue in solar and is often referred to as the soft costs of solar. Since ‘time is money’ the delay in the interconnection finalization is one area in particular that could be sped up and some states are definitely quicker than others because of mandates. For instance, New Jersey has one of the fastest review and approval requirements for small systems. The process takes 13 days. In Colorado and California it takes 25 days for the process, the report found.
The Distributed Generation Interconnection Collaborative (DGIC) working-group helped facilitate the SunShot Initiative-supported report. The DGIC is a consortium of more than 100 members.Tweet