Illinois lawmakers have adopted new interconnection standards that will make the solar siting and installation process significantly quicker and cheaper, clean energy advocates and utilities say.
The Illinois state standards, adopted Oct. 11, are based on a rule establishing best practices that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) adopted in late 2013. The standards are being held up as a model for other states, including Iowa and Minnesota, which are currently going through interconnection rule-making processes.
Interconnection is the process of making sure that a new solar installation won’t cause problems on the grid, including studying the infrastructure and typical supply and demand on that section of the grid and installing any equipment needed to moderate energy flow. In some states where large amounts of solar power were added to the grid quickly, including Hawaii, California and Massachusetts, backlogs in the interconnection process caused headaches for utilities, developers and customers hoping to install solar.
The concentration of solar energy is still relatively low in Illinois, and solar advocates say it is important that Illinois has adopted forward-thinking interconnection standards so that it will be ready as — solar advocates hope — increasing amounts of solar are proposed.
“Illinois is the first through the gate” with the new standards in the Midwest, said Brad Klein, an attorney for the Environmental Law and Policy Center, which took the lead on the Illinois standards along with the Citizens Utility Board.
“But there’s a real trend to adopt these best practices, and we in the Midwest are doing a good job of being prepared. We’re looking to states that have actually experienced high volumes of solar, they’ve had to be ahead of us because of the state of the market. We’re doing a good job in taking those lessons and applying them here so we’re prepared and ready.”