Xcel asked to upgrade solar interconnection process

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission said January 20 that it would require Xcel Energy to implement new ways to review solar projects applying to connect to the grid while continuing to maintain reliability and safety standards.

As part of the Commission’s decision, Xcel will pilot group application reviews, roll out a customer cost sharing proposal for system upgrades, and report back to the Commission on its progress. 

These decisions come in response to an increasing volume of interconnection applications, high numbers of already connected solar, as well as complaints of significant delays affecting customers who apply to connect solar projects to the grid. 

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“Minnesota utilities, especially Xcel Energy, have experienced significantly increased customer interest in solar energy, requiring evolved and improved interconnection practices,” said Commissioner Matthew Schuerger. “The measures adopted today will put Xcel on a better path forward in support of safe, reliable, and timely interconnection of proposed solar projects.” 

As of 2020, Minnesota utilities have interconnected 1.2 GW of distributed energy including a total of 11,377 customer-sited, utility, and community solar garden systems. As of January 1, Xcel Energy’s public queue alone had an additional 1,708 applications totaling 490 MW awaiting interconnection.

(Utility-reported distributed energy resource data and charts showing growth over the past 10 years can be found at this link.)

The Commission’s decisions complement the Minnesota Distributed Energy Resources Interconnection Process (MN DIP), which created a set of statewide standards in April 2019. The MN DIP details the process utilities use to review applications to connect distributed generation projects to the grid and to develop interconnection agreements with applicants.

Minnesota is seeing mostly solar projects, but interconnection standards are technology neutral and apply to all distributed energy resources.