December 23, 2022

Last month we launched a Thanks/Giving program that expressed gratitude to our clients for their loyal business in 2022. With that gratitude we wanted to give back. We searched for an organization that fit not only the mission and goals of SepiSolar, but also the missions and goals of most of our clients so that, in a way, we were donating on their behalf. We searched for an organization that supported the growth of the solar industry, and alleviated burdens of low income and disadvantaged communities.

On Wednesday, November 23rd, we announced that 1% of SepiSolar’s expected 2022 net income would be donated to GRID Alternatives. In this month’s blog post, we’d like to tell you more about Grid Alternatives, and why we feel they’re a good fit for our Thanks/Giving program.

About Grid Alternatives

GRID Alternatives is a non-profit organization that works to promote and provide access to clean, renewable energy for low-income communities. Its mission is to make renewable energy technology and training accessible to underserved communities, and to promote the use of renewable energy as a means of addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

GRID Alternatives works on a variety of projects in the United States and internationally, including the installation of solar panels on the homes of low-income households, the development of community solar projects, and the implementation of energy efficiency measures in affordable housing. The organization also provides job training and education programs for individuals from underserved communities, helping them to enter the renewable energy industry.

GRID Alternatives’ work has a number of impacts, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving public health by reducing air pollution, and providing affordable access to clean energy for low-income households. The organization’s job training programs also help to create career opportunities in the growing renewable energy industry, particularly for individuals from underserved communities who may have previously had limited access to these types of jobs.

GRID Alternatives Helps Low Income Families

GRID Alternatives has a number of specific impacts on low-income families:

1. Reduced energy bills: By installing solar panels on the homes of low-income households, GRID Alternatives helps to reduce energy bills and make energy more affordable for these families. Solar panels can generate a significant portion of a household’s energy needs, which can result in significant savings on monthly energy bills.

2. Improved health: GRID Alternatives’ work helps to reduce air pollution, which can have a number of health benefits for low-income communities. By promoting the use of clean, renewable energy sources, GRID Alternatives helps to reduce the negative health impacts of air pollution, such as respiratory issues, heart disease, and stroke.

3. Economic benefits: GRID Alternatives’ job training programs can provide economic benefits for low-income families by helping individuals from these communities enter the renewable energy industry and gain access to well-paying, stable jobs.

4. Environmental benefits: GRID Alternatives’ work helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment. By promoting the use of clean, renewable energy sources, GRID Alternatives helps to reduce the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuel use, such as air pollution and climate change.

Overall, GRID Alternatives’ work helps to improve the quality of life for low-income families by reducing energy costs, improving health, providing economic opportunities, and protecting the environment.

GRID Alternatives Trains the Next Generation of Solar Professionals

GRID Alternatives provides a variety of training programs to help individuals enter the renewable energy industry and become solar professionals. These programs include:

1. Hands-on training: GRID Alternatives provides hands-on training opportunities through its solar installation projects, where individuals can work alongside experienced solar professionals and learn about solar panel installation and other related skills.

2. Formal education programs: GRID Alternatives offers a range of formal education programs, including courses and certification programs, to help individuals learn about renewable energy and gain the knowledge and skills needed to become solar professionals.

3. Apprenticeship programs: GRID Alternatives offers apprenticeship programs that provide on-the-job training and education, allowing individuals to learn from experienced professionals while also earning a wage.

4. Job placement assistance: GRID Alternatives provides job placement assistance to help individuals who have completed its training programs find employment in the renewable energy industry.

Overall, GRID Alternatives’ training programs are designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills needed to enter the renewable energy industry and become solar professionals, with a focus on helping individuals from underserved communities gain access to these types of careers.

During this season of giving, we encourage everyone to give generously to an organization they believe will make the world a better place. We chose GRID Alternatives. Whatever your focus or beliefs, let’s all find ways to contribute, to give back, and to uplift those less fortunate than us.

From all of us here at SepiSolar, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.


September 1, 2022

This summer, the California Public Utilities Commission rolled out a new set of rules for utilities to decide when solar and energy storage projects get permission to interconnect with the grid. We’ll share some information that has helped us understand what’s happened, plus a short Q&A we put together with support from the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), an advocate for regulations supporting clean energy adoption and a driving force for the new rules.

Interconnection is a mission-critical step in renewable energy project development. To get interconnection approval, projects have to show they can operate safely and reliably and prevent grid disruptions. Projects need an interconnection agreement before they can start exporting energy to the grid.

California, like many states, has had long-standing rules to screen projects for potential to compromise grid reliability so projects can be approved to interconnect faster when the risk of grid disruption is de minimis. But as more renewable energy projects come online, fewer projects are passing this screen.

Out: 15% limits on annual peak load

Under the old rules, projects passed this screen, avoiding additional time-consuming studies by the utility, if distributed energy made up less than 15 percent of the annual peak load on the nearest electric distribution lines. Once distributed generation topped the 15 percent limit, projects could be held up for further review. In a recent PV Magazine article, one project developer said commercial and industrial solar projects often wait more than three years for interconnection approval.

California’s new rules ditch the 15 percent threshold and replace it with a more precise analysis of the grid’s operational limits, known as a hosting capacity analysis (HCA). The analysis, as described on the IREC website, shows where distributed energy projects can seamlessly interconnect to the grid. It also shows where solar and storage can add value to the grid and where network upgrades are needed most.

Want to find out how suitable a project site would be for solar and energy storage projects? Here are maps with results from the latest analyses for California’s three investor-owned utilities.

PG&E and SDG&E require you to register and login before viewing their maps. PG&E provided instant access. SDG&E granted us access after a six-day wait.

The Sepi team would like to smooth the transition for the California contractors we work with, and help inform the manufacturers, contractors and consultants we’re in contact with throughout the industry. See our Q&A with IREC Communication Director Gwen Brown below. Responses have been edited for length. If you have more questions, share them with us on LinkedIn.

What should California contractors do to get prepared for the new interconnection process before it takes effect?

Familiarize yourselves with the hosting capacity analysis of the investor-owned utilities in the territories where you operate.

In: Hosting capacity analysis

How easy is it for contractors to view a hosting capacity analysis to know how a project might be affected by grid constraints in the interconnection process?

Searching an HCA map is like searching any online map, like Google Maps. Just enter the address to view a section of the grid and select the data you want to display. Each map has a legend and user guide for reference.

Here’s a map of the grid closest to the SepiSolar office in Fremont, California, showing the amount of PV generation that can be installed without any thermal, voltage, distribution protection or operational flexibility violations at the time the HCA analysis was performed. Lines with no capacity are colored in red. Lines with more than 2 MW of capacity are green. Purple and light blue show transmission and feeder lines.

Sample of a hosting capacity analysis map

Using tables, you can also view HCA data to find out precisely how much capacity is available for new generation.

Which projects will be eligible for expedited review?

The HCA is the new form of expedited review for all distributed energy resource projects, including solar and energy storage on both sides of the meter. From IREC’s press release: “Under the newly adopted rules, projects that do not exceed 90% of available capacity as shown in the ICA (a conservative buffer requested by utilities) will be able to pass the new screen. Projects that do not pass this improved screen will be subject to supplemental reviews; however, the rule changes also include significant improvements to the supplemental review process that are expected to allow a greater amount of DERs to be integrated through the screening process.”

All projects are now eligible for this review process. If you know a project will fail the HCA screen (that is, it exceeds 90 percent of available capacity), you might want to take another path, such as going directly to supplemental review.

When will contractors notice a difference in the interconnection queue?

Good question. Nobody truly knows the answer yet. It depends how the utilities manage the transition. Review times may vary from one utility to the next. In theory, at least, HCA maps can allow for rapid approval where the grid shows capacity for new projects.

The future of interconnection in California and beyond

Will there be differences in the way projects are treated across California’s three investor-owned utilities, its munis, and other electric service providers?

The process should be the same for each of the investor-owned utilities. Munis and other providers may not have the resources to perform an HCA. The details for each utility can be found in utility advice letters submitted during regulatory proceedings. Here is PG&E’s 342-page advice letter. The advice letter from Southern California Edison can be found here. A search for the file from SDG&E, Advice Letter 3677-E-B, on the utility’s web page hosting electric filings to the CPUC produced no results.

Is there any indication that another state will soon follow in California’s footsteps on streamlined interconnection?

According to IREC’s records on hosting capacity adoption in the US, last updated in February, 16 states are using HCA data in some form or another. The group includes New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, Colorado, and Hawaii. A major limitation here is that the HCA has to be of high quality in order to be used for grid interconnection. California was the first to develop HCAs and has the best systems. A handful of other states (see HCA page linked above) have HCAs but most still have further work to do to get them to the point that they are ready for this application.

What other changes can California and other states make going forward to further simplify interconnection?

In the future, the plan per prior proceedings is that hosting capacity data will be used to allow developers to propose seasonal operating profiles for their projects so they could limit export in times when the grid has excess generation (such as spring, before load increases with AC use), and export more during times when that generation is needed on the grid (in summer). That concept was approved in Sept. 2020. Further work is needed to iron out the details. The timeline for that proceeding remains unclear. To learn more about emerging standards for scheduling the import and export of solar, energy storage, and other distributed energy resources, see Chapter 9 of IREC’s BATRIES toolkit for storage and solar-plus-storage interconnection.

Feature image by PG&E, accessed Sept. 1, 2022. PG&E updates ICA values on a monthly basis when significant changes to the feeder occur. Register for an account and login to see the most up-to-date maps in your service territory.

CA Small Business Enterprise

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