Interconnection is a critical and necessary step in the customer journey when seeking to install a grid-tied solar PV system. This is the process by which the customer is able to get permission from the utility to operate their system in parallel with the electrical grid, enabling homeowners to both consume solar-generated electricity and export excess power back to the grid. Understanding the fundamentals of interconnection is fundamental for anyone involved in the residential solar industry, as it directly impacts system performance, financial benefits, and regulatory compliance.

In this video excerpt from the Customer Contracts & Agreements course, we hear from HeatSpring instructor Vaughan Woodruff, as he explains the interconnection process. 

The simplest of interconnection processes is shown here in these five steps. 

It starts with the submission of an interconnection application. This is typically submitted by a solar professional on behalf of a utility customer and contains technical details related to the project, including the design and equipment specifications that are needed by the utility to determine whether that PV project can be safely connected at the location on the grid where it is being proposed. 

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That application may be submitted as a paper application. It may be submitted digitally to an email at the utility, or some utilities may have a portal in which the information can be uploaded on behalf of the customer. 

In step two, the utility is reviewing that information to make sure that it’s complete. And once it’s been deemed complete, the utility goes through a set of technical screens to verify whether the project can be safely interconnected. 

Step three is the notification by the utility whether the project has been approved or whether the project has failed its technical screens. 

If it has failed its technical screens – in the best of cases – there are rules that are on the books that require the utility to explain why it has failed, which will then allow the solar professional to determine (a) whether the customer has been treated fairly under the interconnection rules. And if they have, then (b) to be able to look at whether the design can be modified to permit for interconnection. That may be by downsizing the facility or by adding battery storage and limiting the amount of power that can be exported from the site. 

Once the project’s been approved by the utility, it’s step four. The utility creates an interconnection agreement from a boilerplate form for that specific customer and that becomes the contract between the customer and the utility.  

The interconnection agreement, as we’ll talk about in a little bit, details the responsibilities of the parties, both during and after construction.

This happens prior to construction, and it’s important to have an interconnection agreement  prior to beginning construction of the project.  

Finally, at step five, after the project has been built, the contractor notifies the utility that it has been completed by submitting a Certificate of Completion. 

The Certificate of Completion, or COC, is typically attested by the electrician of record and the local code enforcement official to verify that the system has been installed in accordance with the codes and standards related to that jurisdiction.  

Once the CoC has been submitted, the utility may inspect or test the system or they may waive their right to do so. 

At that time, a utility may also go out and replace the utility meter before approving operations. Again, this will vary based on the utility.

If you’d like to learn more about the interconnection process and documentation, consider enrolling in the Customer Contracts & Agreements course.