National Grid pursues okay for 14 MW of solar projects in Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities will conduct an Aug. 15 public hearing to receive comments on the proposed Solar Phase III Program of National Grid.

The hearing will take place at the Department’s offices in Boston.

National Grid on June 30 sought certain approvals and findings from the Department of Public Utilities in connection with the third phase of its solar program (called the “Solar Phase III Program”), consisting of up to 14 MW of solar facilities with advanced inverter designs owned and operated by National Grid on either company-owned or customer-owned property.

Specifically, the company is seeking pre-approval of its range of estimates for the upfront capital and ongoing annual costs, including property taxes, property rental, lease payments, grounds-keeping, oversight and analysis, operation and maintenance (O&M), and other costs, associated with the solar arrays it may purchase in its Solar Phase III Program.

Fouad E. Dagher, the Director of Customer Solutions within the New Energy Solutions organization of National Grid USA, and Timothy R. Roughan, employed by National Grid as the Director of Energy and Environmental Policy, supplied joint supporting testimony.

The purpose of their testimony was to describe Massachusetts Electric Co.’s and Nantucket Electric Co.’s d/b/a National Grid proposal. The company is submitting this petition to meet the sunset deadlines of: department approval for recovery of costs that will be associated with the Solar Phase III Program 15 prior to Dec. 31, 2016; and construction of solar facilities prior to Dec. 31, 2017. Construction of the Solar Phase III Program projects could begin as early as January 2017. Bid selection will be contingent upon a guaranteed completion of construction on or before the sunset date of Dec. 31, 2017.

In its third solar effort, the company proposes to purchase, own, and operate in targeted geographical areas up to 14 MW of “turn-key” projects with advanced inverter functionality, plus additional enhancements and pairings of technologies. The company is interested in advanced inverter solar generation systems with enhancements (e.g., sun tracking systems, solar canopies, solar with energy storage, pole-top solar, etc.), as well as pairings of technologies (e.g., a solar tracking system coupled with energy storage, solar canopies paired with electric vehicle (EV) charging, etc.).

The company’s first effort to construct, and own, and operate solar generation consisted of approximately 5 MW of projects on company-owned property. The company’s ongoing second effort to own and operate solar generation consists of the purchase of approximately 16 MW of “turn-key” projects with advanced technology on property owned by third parties. The Solar Phase II Program was designed to test the functionalities of advanced inverters to understand how these various functions could provide additional value to the electric distribution system (i.e., voltage control, reactive power management, etc.), and determine whether the use of the advanced inverter functionalities could streamline the interconnection process.

In addition, Phase II is comparing fixed tilt panel orientation for maximum energy production, versus modifying the orientation (i.e., oriented more to the west) to better line up solar output to local feeder peaks.

The Solar Phase III Program will include advanced inverters functionalities like the Solar Phase II Program, include a similar approach for pre-selected target locations, could also include new “test cases” based on the enhancements and pairings, and could explore baseline and incremental solar comparisons.

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.