[Ok-sus] OGE's obstacles to home solar PV generation

David Nordahl dnordahl at electricgreensolar.com
Thu Sep 20 10:30:19 CDT 2012


As someone who has filled out several OG&E grid tie applications I'd 
have to disagree on almost all the points and say that OG&E's 
application is by far the simplest out there taking at most 10 minutes 
for someone that knows what they are doing.  Perhaps things have 
changed, but the form on their website looks the same as I've been used 
to.  Oklahomans are fortunate to actually have such a simple process 
with as little red tape as we have here.  The process in areas like 
California, Austin, and the northeast are normally extremely complicated 
and very drawn out, and the author would not have been able to DIY his 
own system and application in most of these developed markets and still 
qualify for the state/utility grants and incentives they have there.  As 
a result the installed cost per watt here is nearly half of what it 
averages in these other markets.  So to see someone complain about it 
and to see such little adoption of PV here despite how cheap and easy it 
is to install here for a DIY-er or retail customer seems very 
misdirected to me.

On the first point, their application does not require any of the one 
line diagrams or engineering documents and drawings that most other's 
require.  It is more like a legal document, and the few technical fields 
can easily be obtained with a brief call to the inverter manufacturer 
and/or OG&E.

On the second point, the smallest limit I've seen for residential grid 
tie systems is 25kw for the simple grid interconnect agreement formats.  
Scanning through their documents on their website, I see maximums much 
larger than this. Above these sizes, the system is considered more of a 
power plant and the implications of grid connections change so there are 
different processes involved. No residential system is going to be this 
large. If there has been a cap introduced on maximum total KWH output, 
then that specifically needs to be addressed.

On the third point, most people are not going to size a system large 
enough to produce more power than they are going to use in an entire 
year.  Past this point, a system owner is assuming the role of a power 
plant rather than someone that is off setting their own power.  I'm not 
sure why one would assume entitlement to a retail rate pay back for 
power (though a few states have some provisions for this).  That's like 
assuming that a grocery store is obligated to buy goods from walk-in 
customers at the retail rate they sell them for.  There are a lot more 
regulatory mandates that would be more effective and reasonable than 
requiring retail buy back for excess production.

The forth point is the only real point of contention I see worth 
mentioning, but I don't see any information on their website regarding 
it and the article should have focused specifically on this point if it 
is actually the case.  A couple years ago I was aware of an effort by 
OG&E to potentially co-brand or develop their own grid tie inverters and 
require customers to use this equipment if they wanted to connect any 
solar to the utility.  They had issued an RFP several years back which 
included the strange request that the contractor source several non-UL 
listed grid tie inverters for them.  Upon searching around nobody was 
really able to find any for them to the best of my knowledge.. and I 
partly suspected their motive was to provide a basis for at some point 
in the future requiring customers to use OG&E issued inverters. I've 
never heard of any California approved list.  Rather any inverter 
connecting to the grid must comply with the UL-1741 spec. OEC requires a 
copy from the inverter manufacturer of their actual certificate for it's 
grid tie applications.  If for whatever reason OG&E is no longer 
allowing UL-1741 conforming inverters to interconnect, than this is an 
issue that needs to be addressed.  I also have the impression it might 
be a possible future goal of OG&E to get involved to some degree in the 
installation and design process.

My impression is that their long term goal is to figure out a way to 
make grid interconnection a mutually beneficial arrangement for both 
customer and utility, rather than purely an entitlement/regulatory based 
thing.  If they do get into the PV business in some measure or start 
producing their own options for inverters and equipment, then certainly 
consumer choice needs to still be maintained.

TL;DR Targeting OG&E as the culprit for making PV inaccessible in 
Oklahoma is would be what I'd consider a very misdirected effort. But if 
OG&E has started disallowing customer supplied UL-1741 inverters to 
connect to the grid, than the issue should be taken up with regulatory 
agencies.

-David Nordahl
NABCEP Certified PV Installer
NABCEP Certified Solar Thermal Installer


On 09/20/2012 07:57 AM, Bob Waldrop wrote:
> There is an interesting letter to the editor in the Norman Transcript
> outlining what the author believes to be unnecessary obstacles in the
> process for getting approved for OGE's buy-back program for electricity
> residential users may generate with PV panels or wind.  From the
> article, it appears that OGE is less than enthusiastic about encouraging
> homeowners to invest in solar PV.
>
> Read the letter at
> http://normantranscript.com/opinion/x1709880462/OG-E-s-obstacles-to-home-solar-generating
> .
>
> There may be some process beginning with the Corporation Commission in
> an attempt to change this.
>



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