Cornell University takes solar project beef with NYSEG to New York PSC

Cornell University on June 16 sought relief from the New York State Public Service Commission related to start-up issues for a solar project it has done in partnership with Argos Solar LLC.

They constructed a 2-MW (ac) solar photovoltaic (PV) facility located at Cornell’s agricultural research facility in the Town of Seneca, New York, within the service territory of New York State Electric & Gas (NYSEG).

The project is grandfathered for remote net metered monetary crediting pursuant to the New York State PSC’s order establishing a transition plan. As such, the project was designed to generate monetary credits under NYSEG’s Service Classification 6, which is NYSEG’s rate for non-demand billed customers.

During the project’s testing phase, beginning December 2015, the project unexpectedly encountered a limited number of brief spikes in electric demand above 5 kW. Through additional testing, it was determined that the root cause of the spikes lay with inverters that did not operate as expected. Cornell and Argos Solar have since implemented a temporary solution using portable generators and coordinated with the inverter’s manufacturer to replace the problematic components with new inverters that operate within NYSEG’s S.C. 6 tariff specifications.

By correspondence dated Feb. 15, 2016, Cornell was notified by its account representative that NYSEG was re-classifying the project’s “Host Account” to a demand-based rate based on the fact that the brief spikes in demand resulted in the project registering a demand in excess of the 5 kW threshold for S.C. 6. NYSEG has stated that it will not change the project’s service classification back to S.C. 6 until it has operated for 11 consecutive months without registering demand greater than 5 kW.

Cornell and Argos Solar said the demand spikes that have occurred were an unexpected anomaly that arose during project testing. They have taken concrete and timely steps to address these spikes, and a permanent remedy will be installed at the project before NYSEG finishes all of its obligations under the Standardized Interconnection Requirements (SIR). By re-classifying the project, NYSEG has misapplied the express language of its tariff as well as the commission’s transition plan order grandfathering certain projects into monetary crediting, they added. They want a declaratory ruling from the commission that the project qualifies for service under S.C. 6, and that NYSEG should issue a refund to Cornell for the difference between the S.C. 6 and S.C. 2 credit values from the date of the re-classification. In the alternative, based on the unique circumstances of this case, they requested that the commission grant the project a waiver from the 5 kW threshold in NYSEG’s tariff and direct NYSEG to return the project to S.C. 6 and issue a refund to Cornell for the difference between the S.C. 6 and S.C. 2 credit values from the date of the re-classification.

Argos, a special purpose entity formed and managed by Distributed Sun LLC and Building Energy Holdings LLC, owns the project, and has entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with Cornell to provide Cornell with the net metering credits generated by the project.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.