Solar Builder

SEP-OCT 2018

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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median cycle time for interconnection applications submitted under the stan- dard net energy metering program approached 20 business days. By the end of 2015, PG&E had decreased the median cycle time to less than 5 busi- ness days and today boasts of a same-day turn around for some systems. What's more, as the number of days plummeted, the number of applications went from 20 a month to more than 6,000. So, even as the office was inundated with applica- tions, the turn times fell off a cliff. Lastly, as everything sped up, errors went down. Barnes with EQ Research was told by PG&E staff that its online application system would allow it to reduce application errors and applica- tion processing time to 5 percent by July 2015, down from a 30 to 40 per- cent error rate prior to the implementa- tion of the online application system. This happened because the utility linked existing customer data systems to interconnection and net metering application systems so that DG applica- tion systems can pull or verify informa- tion such as usage data, address, account numbers and even payment information from existing customer accounts. Alas, nothing is perfect. San Jose, Calif., was the f irst place to pioneer the online permitting process. It did this by requiring a minimal amount of infor- mation on the plans, making the plan check process super simple and basical- ly an instant permit approval, which proved ineff icient in its own way. "Installers in the f ield got ripped apart by the inspectors," Weiner reports. "Since no plans were required for a permit, this put all the pressure on installers to get it right the f irst time. If the installers screwed up or did some- thing the city didn't like, they'd have to rip off the roof and re-install." Installers specializing in San Jose came to understand the idiosyncrasies and made it work, but any installer just trying to install there every so often runs into problems. Proactive power We tried to come up with a number of jurisdictions avoided because of the many issues mentioned. That number doesn't exist, but those jurisdictions cer- tainly do. In those onerous jurisdictions, even more effects emerge: One project delay causes other delays, causing sched- uling difficulties and customer and installer frustration. This leads to fewer solar customers and installers avoiding certain territories, which then reduces competition. Reduced competition leads to a less efficient market, which can lead to higher costs or poor service on top of an already frustrating process. Contrasted with the pace of innovation by the solar industry to improve efficien- cies while decreasing costs, the barriers that exist in the public sector seem rela- tively straight forward to remove. Consider it from this perspective: How SOLARBUILDERMAG.COM | 29

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