Would Iowa legislation make rooftop solar safer, or just block its growth?
- Midwest Energy News reports on a controversial bill in Iowa which supporters say can save utility worker lives but solar proponents believe is an attempt at slowing down the industry's growth.
- The measure would require utility-accessible external disconnect switches for rooftop solar systems, adding to the cost of distributed generation and levying hefty fines for generating power without one.
- Solar proponents say the measure is unnecessary because there are already procedures and technologies designed to protect utility workers from solar arrays feeding back into the grid.
An Iowa lawmaker has proposed safety measures aimed at keeping utility workers safe when they are working with distributed generation at a customer's home, but solar installers say the bill is redundant and unnecessary.
SF 406, introduced by state Sen. Tony Bisignano (D-Des Moines), "requires an interconnection customer to install a disconnection device below the electric meter at the location where a new or existing distributed generation facility that is interconnected to an electric distribution system is located," according to the bills's text.
Utilities told Midwest Energy News that the devices are already required and the bill is aimed at ensuring the switches are in a predictable location so utility workers can find them. And the bill's sponsor said the only goal is safety.
But a 2008 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that "in a number of states in which public utility commissions (PUCs) and utilities have gained experience with PV systems, they have decided to eliminate the [external disconnect switch] requirement." The report also said that "going forward, a number of factors are likely to convince additional PUCs and utilities to eliminate the EDS requirement," including safety procedures and hardware advances.
Michael Coddington, a researcher at NREL, told Midwest Energy News the measure is simply "an effort to create barriers to deploying PV ... it’s clear the devices won’t be used, and will add cost.”
- Midwest Energy News Iowa bill would require debatable safety feature on home solar
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