Accelerating Distributed Power in New York

The New York State Public Service Commission has voted to expand uniform electricity interconnection standards in the state. Expanding the standards should encourage the installation of larger on-site power generators to help meet customers’ power needs.

The new interconnection standards apply to all distributed generation technologies regardless of the fuel used to generate electricity, but will prove particularly beneficial to renewable technologies such as photovoltaics (PV), small-scale wind turbines, or fuel cells. The Commission established standards in late 1999 so it would be easier for customers throughout the state to connect their energy systems to the grid. “Connecting a self-generating unit to a utility’s local delivery system presents technical and operational challenges,” Commission Chairman William M. Flynn said. “We are making it possible to accommodate even larger power generating units, while also opening up all of the local utility delivery systems in the state to such connections to provide more choice and flexibility to customers.” Standard interconnection protocol for residential and commercial customers who generate up to 300 kW of electricity for their own facilities provides time limits for utility analysis of applications, and regulates interconnection equipment standards and contracts. The Commission’s vote will expand the protocol for distributed generation systems up to a maximum of 2 MW, and facilitate their connection to all local utility delivery systems in the state. Distributed generation contrasts to the traditional, large centralized power generation facilities that require special connection to a utility’s transmission system. Making distributed generation connections easier for customers should widen the appeal to smaller-use customers, and subsequently play a role in advancing the competitive generation market. Sources, safety and reliability concerns have limited connection of distributed generation units under the initial standard interconnection protocol. Connections were only allowed to radial segments of a local utility’s delivery system, and excluded the network systems located primarily in the larger cities of the state, especially New York City. The difference between radial and network sections of a local delivery system is in the configuration of the wires used to deliver electricity to customers’ premises. The six electric-delivery utilities affected by the Commission’s decision are Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation, Consolidated Edison Company of New York, New York State Electric & Gas Corporation, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, Orange and Rockland Utilities, and Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation.

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