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DrMcMeow OP t1_j1gkl2y wrote

When homeowners are interested in residential solar, they will typically call a solar installation company. The company determines whether the location is suitable for rooftop or ground-mounted solar panels, and will figure out what system will meet the homeowner’s energy needs.

Then, the company applies to a utility company, such as Versant Power or Central Maine Power Co., for their customer to connect to the grid. The utilities are responsible for the system of poles, wires, substations and other equipment that make it possible to deliver electricity. The solar installation company’s application includes details such as the number of panels needed and the kilowatts of electricity the homeowner’s system is anticipated to generate.

But recently some Mainers have had their applications denied due to a lack of capacity on the electric grid. One was Matt Quinn of Trenton, whose rooftop solar application was denied by Versant on Dec. 7.

“The fact that we would own our solar panels and essentially reduce our electric bill by 80 percent was very impactful for us,” Quinn said. He said the state’s goal to be carbon neutral and to electrify is important, but to him “the policies don’t jive with reality.”

Danny Piper, the owner of Sundog Solar in Searsport, a company that installs residential solar systems, said he has recently seen three other customers, in addition to Quinn, have their applications to connect to the grid denied.

Versant, which serves 159,000 customer accounts in northern and eastern Maine, did not provide an alternative or suggest modifications to help Quinn connect, Quinn said. The utility’s emailed response to him said it was denying his application because the level of generation would cause high voltage with the existing system. Versant also said the project designed for Quinn’s residence was beyond the scope of a minor modification.

“When people are generating lots of solar energy and using only a fraction of it, they’re pushing out a whole bunch of energy onto the grid for other nearby customers to use,” said Judy Long, the manager of communications at Versant. “And when they aren’t generating enough solar energy, they’re pulling in power from us.”

The electric grid wasn’t built to have a lot of power sources on the distribution system or to facilitate a two-way flow of energy, Long said. In addition, utilities do not have discretion and are not allowed to save room for rooftop solar programs.

“There are more requests to connect to the grid, megawatts-wise, than we actually even have demand for electricity,” Long said. “So if we interconnected all these projects, we would be making more energy than we use.”


bubalusarnee t1_j1jsz5v wrote

> “So if we interconnected all these projects, we would be making more energy than we use.”

Replace any man who sees an opportunity as a problem.


glasswings t1_j1lktj9 wrote

The opportunity is real but so is the engineering challenge. Unfortunately those engineering challenges are hard to explain in a test works as a sound bite.

This means that smart people who legitimately want to help will sound like sticks in the mud compared to "well, why don't they just..."

Imagine you're running a phone company, and there's a new fad. Every time it's sunny, your customers start calling random businesses halfway across the state to say "hey, it's sunny, isn't that cool?"

You would need to install more long distance lines, of course. But you'd also need to install more local switching equipment to handle that surge in demand.

But on cloudy days you don't need that equipment. Fewer calls you can bill, more equipment needed, rates have to go up.

The problems for an electric utility are similar. Grid-tied solar, if it becomes too popular, forces them to install more capacity in substations, more lines between them, and then to deal with the unpredictable effect it has on the supply-demand balance.

So, complaints about upgrading are not "oh no we need to buy the latest model of switches." It's an upgrade as in "we need to build a highway with exits and traffic control in order to make that possible."

It might be worth doing. (Burning fossils sucks.) But it really is expensive, and it's not laziness when utilities say that they can't do net metering for everyone. They literally can't.


Foghorn225 t1_j1hr75s wrote

>“There are more requests to connect to the grid, megawatts-wise, than we actually even have demand for electricity,” Long said. “So if we interconnected all these projects, we would be making more energy than we use.”

... Isn't that a good thing? They could then reduce their own energy production, i.e. not burn as much fossil fuels to offset the overage of needed energy?


hike_me t1_j1iblin wrote

The problem is when total solar generation exceeds the total demand. It can actually overload the grid. The utility companies need to balance generation with consumption, but if all the grid tied solar is outputting more than what can be used they’re screwed because they don’t have any other plants to shut down.

Currently net metering works because when homeowners generate more power than they use there are other customer nearby that can use the power.

If everyone has solar then we need grid-scale storage to dump excess solar into when it’s sunny and draw off at night.

I do love my rooftop solar, but the current situation definitely isn’t sustainable. At some point they’re going to dial back on the 1:1 net metering and people will start to need to install batteries to get full benefit from their solar.


Foghorn225 t1_j1jytqi wrote

Oh I'm getting quotes now, but I'm for sure looking for solar with the battery storage.


bubalusarnee t1_j1jt2fw wrote

>If everyone has solar then we need grid-scale storage to dump excess solar into when it’s sunny and draw off at night.



That's not difficult.


Sufficient_Risk1684 t1_j1jz2sp wrote

It sure ain't cheap. You want your bill to go up to save other people money?


bubalusarnee t1_j1k9kjl wrote


I believe in paying for nice things.

That is how we get nice things.

You want to keep your bill cheap at the expense of the atmosphere? You a dollar slave, burning your kids futures to keep up your lifestyle choices? I invite you to take a longer term view, if you are capable.

Literally you can just put a lump of literal coal in their stocking. How bout that.


hike_me t1_j1kqiq4 wrote

How much have you spent on solar?


hike_me t1_j1k071r wrote

It’s expensive. People are bitching about their CMP bill now, wait till it goes up a few hundred bucks a month to build out all the infrastructure to support this.


bubalusarnee t1_j1k9x7f wrote

You know, you have people bitching in this thread about how people from out of state bought up all the good land before mainers could after that law passed.

Well, bub, those same assholes from NY and MA are building grid sized strorage at the moment, and you know why maine is gonna miss the boat?

Because you would rather moan and catastrophize and cry poor. If mainers don't, some asshole will.

I can only point at the sane future, I cannot chose YOUR LANE for you, but do try to take it on board, yea?


hike_me t1_j1kq1cb wrote

What Massachusetts is building for storage is a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed, and they’re spending billions on green energy. There are challenges to increasing grid scale storefronts

I already spent $27,000 on solar and I’ll looking at battery storage and have a reservation for an 85k EV, so I don’t think you need to worry about me “crying poor”.

Obviously Maine needs to spend money on storage but you said “it’s not difficult”, which means you’re grossly oversimplifying it.


mymaineaccount46 t1_j1mvfmi wrote

Storage options for solar are incredibly expensive. It's not a matter of a few dollars here or there, even a small battery for an off-grid cabin runs around three grand. Scale that up to a grid level and you're looking at a massive amount of money.

In addition to the concerns with lithium mining. It's just not actually a clear cut easy problem.


Charlie_clementine t1_j1hpvzf wrote

My partner and I just had rooftop solar installed this year. We were talking about this article, and the jaded part of me wondered if the denial of residential solar interconnection agreements has anything to do with the increase in commercial solar farms. I have no inside knowledge of the energy industry in Maine but just curious about the impact of commercial farms, and if the approval process is skewed in any way.


Stonesword75 t1_j1j9a7k wrote

And CMP/the State wont do shit about it.

When i tried to get solar, I was told CMP needs to upgrade their substation. Fine. Call CMP. They wont upgrade the substation unless I help pay the cost.

When that solar bill passed in 2018, commercial solar companies from New York and Massachusetts took as much land as they could, rushed as many permits as they could, and they took up the majority of the capacity.

It's great that we reduced our carbon footprint. But considering all the farmland that has been lost for 15% savings, compared to residents who will get 70-90% savings by hooking up to their roofs, we got a raw deal. I wish the State would do some legislation that caps the amount of commercial solar farms on a single transmission line before the substations inevitably get upgraded. But I doubt it.


bubalusarnee t1_j1jtacq wrote

>commercial solar companies from New York and Massachusetts took as much land as they could, rushed as many permits as they could, and they took up the majority of the capacity.

Yeah, well, that's the maine solar industry's failure, not a conspiracy against maine, now isn't it?


Technical-Role-4346 t1_j1j9qsr wrote

In some cases Versant told the customer they would be responsible for replacing the transformer at the pole with a larger capacity one. We’ll probably see more shenanigans as grid tied solar systems gain popularity.


benpie123 t1_j1p66qf wrote

lower costs, usage will rise


benpie123 t1_j1p6b1j wrote

typical example of maine monopolizers expand the grid slash costs demand will rise so will property values electricity production is the first step towards industry slash prices raise the value of the entire state but noooo


TarantinoFan23 t1_j1ielgg wrote

Weirdly, no one ever suggests people stop wasting ao much electricity.


bubalusarnee t1_j1jtci4 wrote

reddit is a waste of electricity bubby


TarantinoFan23 t1_j1kk2ne wrote

I use the heat. Can't say the same about the 6,000 lights used at every car dealership.


mymaineaccount46 t1_j1mvms9 wrote

This would be an issue with generating too much electricity, not washing too much