Heliotropic Technologies’ News

Doing more with less


In May, we added a new PV system to provide ~72% (.72 SF) of our annual electric energy at Heliotropic Technologies.  Because we’re a wicked efficient operation, it only required a 1.35 kW system, which provides ~100% of our summer electricity needs, and ~70% of the Spring/Fall requirements.  With the state and federal tax credits and incentives combined with low interest rates, we’ve locked in our electric expense for the next 12 years at a lower cost than the “Green Power Option” grid-supplied electricity that’s being displaced.  After 12 years, this system (at retail cost) should provide us with virtually free energy that will then likely provide us with a S.F. of 1.0 (net-zero electric if we become ~30% more efficient by then).

Let us help you do the same.  It’s similar to the difference of owning your house versus renting, except owning the solar system will be less expensive than purchasing grid-supplied power.


116 Responses to “Heliotropic Technologies’ News”

  1. Michael Says:

    I wanted the world to know, that even fairly simple things can get hung up, like being grid-tied to the local utility. This project had the distinction of being one of the first projects that CMP decided to apply its General Technical Screening Criteria for this small generation interconnection project at Campbell Street , Boothbay Harbor , Maine in compliance with Chapter 324.
    This was their words, “This project failed General Technical Screening Criteria, Paragraph 6J, No construction of facilities by the T&D Utility on its own system shall be required to accommodate the generator.
    CMP Co. distribution engineer has determined that a 10 kVa transformer needs to installed to serve this generator facility. These minor modifications when completed will enable your generator to interconnect to CMP Co.’s distribution facilities as a Level 1.
    CMP Co. has created a work order to estimate the cost to upgrade this transformer. An invoice will be sent to you when the final costs are determined.
    Upon payment of this invoice, CMP Co will schedule the line work to be completed. The meter installation will be scheduled. And the Interconnection Agreement will be sent to you for signature.”

    Heliotropic Technologies believes that this is just an entry tax put on the utility and believe that it has no merit. We have notified the utilitily stating, “I’ve filed a complaint with the MPUC regarding this issue, as well as contacted some of my peers in the energy engineering world. This is similar to many of the replies that I have received. Please send me an interconnection agreement, without any additional distribution upgrade invoices and I’ll drop my complaint.
    Michael J. Mayhew, PE,
    Heliotropic Technologies”

    And several other respected members of the solar community have provided us feedback about the issue. (We’re not going to take it.)

    “As of about 3 weeks ago, CMP seems to have made some sort of change to their interconnection policy. Apparently they’ve been allowed by the PUC to start charging a $50 application fee for interconnection (which they started doing about a month ago), but at the same time, they’ve also instituted a ‘technical screening’ for interconnection. The result of that technical screening is that they are telling pretty much every net metered customer that they need to pay $500 for a ‘transformer upgrade’. Although I am not an expert on grid infrastructure, their argument seems laughable and it is fairly clear that this is a backdoor attempt to impose a sort of ‘tax’ on all grid tied PV systems. … I think this is an issue we need to bring up with the PUC or with legislators before it starts derailing industry progress. I’d welcome input from Bob and others about how best to do that….Sorry I’ll miss the meeting tomorrow, but save me a pitch fork for the storming of the CMP offices.”
    ” Fortunat C Mueller, P.E.”
    ReVision Energy LLC

    Date: Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 5:13 PM
    Hello Mike,

    In sympathy with your difficulties with CMP on connecting your modest residential PV system, I’ve asked our Chief Electrical Engineer to look at this. He has 20+ years of senior experience in the utility sector. His advice is below.
    Basically, his logic goes like this: If you were (for example) to want to install central air conditioning in your house, the newly added load would far exceed the output of your proposed PV system. The utility would have to install and pay for the transformer upgrade – if, in fact, it were needed due to increased load. The PV system will lighten the load in the neighborhood – not increase it.

    We’ve often found that the utilities delight in finding someone they can charge for upgrades on their distribution system that are already on their ‘wish list’ but not yet considered critical. Often they get away with this as their customer doesn’t know if or how to challenge them. In your case, their requirement is totally off base and should not withstand a challenge. You are correct to petition the ME PUC. Once you present your case clearly to CMP with the supporting logic, I expect they should find some way to accommodate you. They may, however, choose to drag out the issue just for the sport of it – hoping they’ll wear you out and you’ll either give in or give up. If you need anything else, please feel free to contact me.
    Hope this helps.

    With best regards,

    Steven J. Strong, President
    Solar Design Associates, Inc.

    “…the owner should specifically complete all required documentation by the utility, The utility must or should itemize what system upgrades are required before grid connection. Cost for a transformer upgrade or replacement is not carried by the customer, Imagine if you will rather than putting in a solar array that supports the local utility instead this customer put in 6 window air conditioners and overloaded the transformer/ In simplest terms the customers installation of the solar array “distributed generation” avoids CMP from having to upgrade the transformer….”

    Like I said, I don’t understand?”
    Christopher P. O’Neil P.E.
    Cheif Electrical Engineer | Solar Design Associates, Inc.

    Anyway, just when things are looking rosey, the utility gets in there to muck it up. But we shall overcome. As one of my good friends always says, “Have a sunny day!”

  2. Michael Says:

    This afternoon, a Central Maine Power Co supervisor called and said that we wouldn’t be charged for upgrading the local distribution system.
    Dear Mr. Mayhew,

    Thank you for taking the time to discuss your PV installation with me. We discussed the reference voltage needs of your inverter based PV. You indicated that the voltage input tolerances could be adjusted to reflect CMP Co.’s tolerance levels to not exceed plus or minus five percent (+/- 5%) from the standard voltage for any period greater than one (1) minute. Based on this information the transformer installation will not be required to interconnect your generation facility to CMP Co.’s distribution facilities.

    You have indicated that you have run your system for a short period and had not experienced any voltage conditions that tripped your PV System offline. Please be aware that you are in an area that experiences increased loads as the summer residencies and businesses open for the season. If you should have any problems with your PV System due to voltage issues please contact CMP Co. If it is determined that other customers’ equipment on the immediate distribution system are causing the problem CMP will upgrade the system at no charge to you. However if it is determined that electrical equipment that you have installed at your residence is creating the problem you will be billed the labor and vehicle charges to upgrade the immediate distribution system.

    Based upon this discussion CMP will consider this application to have passed the General Technical Screening. An executable IA will be sent out shortly.

    So we won, but what about everyone else?
    I’m pursuing my complaint with the PUC. The rule must be changed. My customers do not need to put up with this. We will overcome.

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  5. Michael Says:

    And here is Steve Strong’s follow-up regarding the utility interconnection agreement’s resolution:
    Good for you Mike!! Way to Go!

    One more important win for the side of “Right” in the continuing struggle toward a sustainable energy economy.

    With best regards,

    Steven J. Strong, President
    Solar Design Associates, Inc.
    P.O. Box 242
    Harvard, MA 01451-0242 USA
    +(978) 456-6855 x25
    http://www.solardesign. com

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