The Net Metering Process in Oregon and Washington

Net metering process

As the world becomes more eco-conscious, solar energy has soared in popularity, especially in Oregon and Washington. Rooftop solar energy systems contribute to a greener environment and significantly reduce home electricity costs. However, integrating your solar power system with the local power grid can be complex and intimidating in Oregon and Washington. This guide aims to simplify the solar interconnection process in the Pacific Northwest, ensuring a smooth transition to renewable energy.

Remember that if Smart Solar Energy installs a solar panel system on your home, we handle the permitting, interconnection and solar system inspection on your behalf. This ensures you can start seeing electricity bill savings as soon as possible.

Electric meter

What is solar interconnection?

Solar system interconnection is the process of connecting a solar energy system to your home or business so you can reduce your energy bills by using the power generated from your panels. This process typically involves a solar contractor or electrician working with your local utility company to ensure that the solar panels can safely and efficiently feed power to your property and that you comply with any relevant regulations.

Federal, state, and local policies and regulations pertaining to renewable energy systems impact project development. Understanding the policy landscape is essential in the early stages of the development process. To avoid delays, safety issues, and even fines, it is critical to select a solar installation company, such as Smart Solar Energy, that is familiar with Oregon and Washington regulations.

Why is utility interconnection necessary for solar energy projects?

In Oregon and Washington, utility interconnection is necessary for your solar energy project because it allows for the seamless integration of solar-generated electricity into the grid. By connecting your solar energy system to the existing power infrastructure, you can both consume electricity from the grid when your solar production is insufficient and export excess solar energy to the grid when your production exceeds your consumption.

Paying a bill

Net Metering in Oregon & Washington

One crucial aspect of utility interconnection is access to net metering programs, which directly benefit you as a solar energy system owner. With net metering, you receive credit for the excess electricity you generate and supply to the power grid. Your utility company will credit you for this solar power production, which can offset your electricity costs. During times when your energy consumption exceeds your solar system production, you can draw electricity from the grid and use these credits to help reduce your overall energy expenses.

Benefits of Net Metering Programs

Utility interconnection and net metering offer several advantages. Firstly, they provide you with an economic incentive by allowing you to offset your electricity bills with credits earned from excess production. This can save you money and make solar energy systems more financially appealing. 

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Also, net metering programs in Oregon and Washington help maintain grid stability by balancing the supply and demand of electricity. It allows your excess energy to be distributed to other nearby power consumers, reducing the need for fossil fuel-based generation. 

Conversely, when your solar production is low, you can draw electricity from the grid, ensuring a continuous and reliable energy supply to your home. By taking advantage of utility interconnection and net metering, you can maximize the financial and environmental benefits of your solar energy system in Oregon and Washington.

Solar Interconnection in Oregon

Oregon’s interconnection process has recently been updated to streamline the connection of distributed energy resources (DERs) to the electric grid. The new rules, implemented by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission, aim to incorporate best practices for reviewing renewable and energy storage projects, making the interconnection process more efficient and effective.

When it comes to electric utility companies in Oregon, some of the most popular ones include:

Pacific Power: Pacific Power serves approximately 600,000 customers in Oregon and provides electricity in central, southern, and eastern Oregon.

Portland General Electric (PGE): PGE is one of the largest electric utility companies in Oregon and serves around 900,000 customers in northwest Oregon, including Portland, Salem, Beaverton, Hillsboro, and Clackamas.

Idaho Power: While primarily serving Idaho, Idaho Power also serves some parts of eastern Oregon, providing electricity to customers in locations such as Ontario and Baker City.

Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB): EWEB is a publicly owned utility company that provides both electric and water services. It serves the city of Eugene and surrounding areas.

Salem Electric: It provides electric service in Salem, Oregon, in Marion County, and offers net metering for renewable energy systems that are less than 25 kW in size

These electric utility companies play a vital role in the solar interconnection process by coordinating and facilitating the connection of solar energy systems to the Oregon electric grid. They provide the necessary guidance, technical requirements, and application processes to ensure smooth interconnection and operation of these systems.

Recent Changes to Solar Interconnection in Oregon

Recently, there have been changes to the interconnection requirements in Oregon aimed at modernizing and streamlining how clean energy systems connect to the grid. Starting on June 1, 2024, all distributed energy resource systems applying for interconnection in Oregon will be required to utilize smart inverters that comply with the requirements of IEEE 1547-2018. This technical standard ensures that the screens used reflect the actual behavior and operation of the systems.

Also, the new rules in Oregon recognize a category of clean energy projects called non- and limited-export projects. These projects may have export limitations or do not export energy to the grid at all. Recognizing this category provides flexibility for certain types of clean energy installations.

These changes are part of ongoing efforts by the Oregon Public Utility Commission to update and enhance the state’s interconnection procedures. The aim is to facilitate greater integration of renewable energy systems into the grid while maintaining system reliability and safety standards.

Solar Interconnection in Washington

The interconnection process for electric utilities in Washington involves several steps and regulations. The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) regulates private, investor-owned electric utilities in the state. 

Popular electric utility companies in Washington include:

Puget Sound Energy (PSE): PSE serves approximately 1.5 million customers across a large portion of western Washington, including areas such as Seattle, Tacoma, Bellevue, and Olympia.

Clark PUD: Clark PUD serves customers in southern Washington, including the Vancouver, Washington area.

Seattle City Light: This municipal utility serves customers within the city limits of Seattle, Washington. It provides electricity to residential, commercial, and industrial customers.

Solar Interconnection Process in Oregon & Washington

The interconnection process typically involves submitting an interconnection application, which outlines the details of the proposed solar project, such as the type and size of the system. The utility company evaluates the application to ensure compliance with safety, technical, and regulatory requirements. If approved, the utility sets up the necessary equipment to interconnect the renewable energy system with the grid.

Home Solar

In Oregon and Washington, the interconnection application process, inspection, and permitting for solar installations follow certain guidelines and procedures. Smart Solar Energy handles the entire process on our customer’s behalf to make going solar a seamless process for our customers. 

Interconnection Application Process

The interconnection application process involves submitting an application to the utility company to connect the solar system to the grid. The application typically includes information about the system, such as its size, type, and equipment specifications. In Oregon, the process is expedited for solar PV systems under 25 kW. 

Solar System Inspection

After the interconnection application is submitted and approved, a site inspection may be required. The inspection ensures that the solar system has been installed correctly and meets the necessary safety requirements. Inspections are typically conducted by a qualified inspector or a representative from the local jurisdiction or utility company. Smart Solar Energy is diligent about designing and installing solar systems that comply with safety requirements, ensuring a smooth inspection process.

Solar Inspection

Solar System Permitting

Permitting is an essential part of the solar installation process. It involves obtaining the required permits from the local jurisdiction to ensure compliance with local and national building and electric codes and regulations. Permits may include building permits and electrical permits. The timeframes for obtaining permits may vary depending on the location and type of solar installation.

Utility companies and local jurisdictions have different specific requirements, applications, and processes. The Smart Solar Energy team has extensive experience with solar permitting and interconnection, enabling a smooth process for our customers. Our solar energy expertise and experience ensure that systems are permitted as quickly as possible so our customers begin seeing solar energy credits on their power bills as soon as possible.

Smart Inverters and Solar Interconnection

A solar inverter is a device that converts the direct current (DC) power generated by solar panels into alternating current (AC) power that can be used to power electrical devices in a solar energy system. A smart solar inverter is an advanced type of inverter that incorporates additional functionality and communication capabilities. It is an emerging technology designed to facilitate the integration of solar energy into the electric grid and optimize the performance of solar PV systems.

SolarEdge Inverter

The impact of smart inverters on solar interconnection is significant and includes:

Grid Stability: Smart inverters help enhance power grid stability by providing features that enable them to dynamically respond to grid conditions. They can regulate voltage, frequency, and power factor to ensure a stable and reliable flow of electricity between the solar panel system and the grid.

Advanced Communication: Smart inverters can communicate with the grid operator and other stakeholders in real-time. They can share granular data about energy production, PV system performance, and fault detection. This improved communication enables better monitoring, control, and management of solar PV systems, which in turn improves the efficiency and reliability of solar interconnection.

Electric Grid Integration: Smart inverters can provide ancillary services to the grid, such as reactive power support and voltage regulation. These capabilities help optimize the integration of solar energy into the grid and facilitate higher solar power production.

Safety and Protection: Smart inverters incorporate advanced safety features to protect both the solar PV system and the grid. They have mechanisms to detect and disconnect from the grid during abnormal grid conditions, such as voltage fluctuations or grid failures. This capability helps ensure the safety of system operators and prevents potential damage to the grid.

Trends in Interconnection for Home Solar Systems

Despite strong growth in residential solar energy, interconnection, permitting, and siting challenges still hinder the growth. Solar installation companies need to be well-versed in permitting and interconnection requirements for successful projects. However, the residential solar interconnection landscape is rapidly evolving, with efforts to simplify and improve the process to enable solar power growth.

To address these challenges, some states have implemented new interconnection standards and reduced fees to encourage the development of small solar systems, with a focus on improving the customer experience. Additionally, utilities and regulatory bodies are exploring new methods of interconnection, such as virtual power purchase agreements, to facilitate the adoption of renewable energy in residential and commercial applications.

Going Green With Smart Solar Energy

We are dedicated to offering exceptional customer service, and we want to make it easy to go solar in Oregon and Washington. This means that our customers can rely on us to navigate the application, inspection, and approval process with your local electric utility so you can start saving on your power bills.

Want to learn more about installing solar panels on your home? Contact Smart Solar Energy today!

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