What developers and EPCs need to know

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Joe Jancauskas, PE, PMP, Senior Electrical Engineer, Castillo Engineering

One of more than 215 MW of community solar projects, Castillo Engineering offers design and engineering expertise in Illinois and New York.Credit: CS Energy

According to Wood Mackenzie, regional solar capacity in the United States is expected to double by 2027.grow up 166% In 2021-2022 alone, Illinois will now: the 4th Largest US state in terms of community solar operating capacity. Castillo Engineering, a Florida-based national design and engineering firm, said in the past two years that its operations in Illinois will grow from fewer than 10 projects in 2021 to his second largest in Castillo. The market has grown. Contributed to the company’s commitment to the growing number of community solar projects in the state.

In this article, Joe Jancauskas, Senior Electrical Engineer at Castillo Engineering, explains why the market is currently expanding and what developers and EPCs need to do to succeed with community solar in Illinois. increase.

Why is the Illinois community solar market booming now?

Illinois ranked 15th day Solar power is nothing new and we have worked extensively in Illinois prior to this community solar rush. But the reason for the recent growth of community solar power dates back to when the Illinois legislature passed the bill. Future energy jobs law (FEJA) was founded in 2016 with bipartisan support. This bill includes: Adjustable block programThis will make solar energy more accessible to low- and middle-income communities through community solar projects, rooftop solar and brownfield solar projects. Finally, the first community solar power project was completed in the state in 2019. The majority of state community solar projects are operational between Q2 and Q4 2021, with 37% of state current community solar operational capacity built by Q1 2021 was done. Given the state’s Illinois Shines Community Solar Program, strong incentives, and growing awareness of these efforts, EPCs and developers are increasingly seeking community solar projects across the state. I was.

Credit: Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR)

What are the main challenges facing community solar projects in Illinois?

The fact that this market is relatively new means that utilities cannot always keep up with the influx of project requests they receive. Until the ambiguous part of the interconnection requirements is clarified, the utility’s review time is not only lengthy, but can be quite unique. Add to that the inevitable inverter, module or rack changes due to supply chain issues. In some cases, the utility considers these changes to be “breaking changes” and the project is sent to the back of the queue.

What are your top recommendations for developers and EPCs looking to get more involved in community solar projects in Illinois?

Their biggest problem is getting in the power company queue as quickly as possible. Therefore, this is my number one recommendation. Standardization and the use of design templates for project design expedites and minimizes engineering, construction and O&M costs. Securing orders for portfolio-sized equipment is also a goal of every developer, but it’s much harder these days. Another way to speed up the utility queue process is to take advantage of design packages. We offer packages that allow our clients to execute their projects in ways that play to their strengths, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Can you share some examples of how you have supported an EPC or developer to overcome the challenges of solar in an Illinois community?

We just had a project where utilities were OK with a 5-MW interconnect drawing set.Alternating current plan. However, the power company also said it would not connect at 13.2 kV and he would connect to a 69 kV transmission line nearby. I could have spent time formulating that change, but the cost impact is clearly orders of magnitude higher, and I strongly urge the client to reconsider and consider taking over that project and focusing on other things. We were able to advise and save significant costs. time and money spent on the process. Again, a deep understanding of each utility’s unique requirements is absolutely essential to success in the Illinois community solar market in particular.

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