Distributed Energy Resources are more commonplace today than they have ever been. Recent reports by Wood Mackenzie (U.S. Energy Storage Monitor | Wood Mackenzie and U.S. Solar Market Insight: Q4 2020 Report | Wood Mackenzie) indicate that residential solar PV and battery storage installation growth in the United States is increasing despite the pandemic. Solar photovoltaics added between 600 to 800 MW per quarter in 2020. Not to be outdone, residential battery storage installations grew at approximately 50 MW per quarter. This is placing a workforce burden on electric utilities as they must approve each system’s interconnection to the grid. For many utilities today (75%), the interconnection process is a manual process. Standardized forms and documents facilitate the interconnection workflow. After submission of DER application, it usually takes four long weeks to issue Permission To Operate (PTO).
The current interconnection approach involves many staff review hours spent per application, multiple document submittals between the utility and the installer or customer, and much frustration for all involved parties. Last October, ANB Systems announced a significant milestone of processing 50,000 utility DER interconnection applications using the workflow automation system eTRACK+.
This considerable experience places ANB in a leadership role in the DER interconnection field. So, it should be no surprise that their latest product, ZAPconnect, aims to make the interconnection process nearly “touchless.” The heart of ZAPconnect is the eTrack+ system and another ANB product, the Document Recognition System.
ZAPconnect can import a one-line diagram and then cut the processing time down from 45 minutes a project to just five minutes. This efficiency improvement in processing times will allow personnel to focus on higher-value activities rather than transcribing information from diagrams.
Improved processing times will no doubt be a boost to customer satisfaction ratings. However, there are additional risk management benefits as well. A major utility is facing a $1 million fine because of delays in approving solar PV applications. This appears to have stemmed from several hundred residential applications being submitted and delays in their approval. It only makes business sense to automate the processing of a high volume of standardized applications. ZAPconnect is a configurable tool and a reporting engine that will allow more insights into the interconnection workflow. Moving to ZAPconnect is cost-effective on its own, not to mention avoiding regulatory penalties for non-compliance.
Written by – Michael Stockard
Michael Stockard is an independent consultant at Stockard Energy Advising and is a member of the Advisory Panel at ANB Systems. Michael has over 40 years of experience in the design and implementation of demand-side management programs.