Are you looking to install a distributed generation (DG) system? Key items need to be addressed as members work through the process. As always, please contact the trusted experts at Harrison County REC before any installations and we can help you make a safe and reliable decision for your power.
Another option for Members of Harrison County Rural Electric Cooperative who are looking for more options with renewable energy is our Community Solar program (also known as a Solar Garden). Members who are interested in solar but do not have the physical land space, who wish to invest in renewable energy on a smaller budget or with less maintenance requirements can participate through the cooperative.
Below are a few frequently asked questions regarding distributed generation. For a complete list click here.
1) What is distributed generation (DG)? Generating technologies located close to where the electricity is being used that are connected to the electric power grid and serve as supplement to or an enhancement of the traditional electric power system. The technologies of interest today for member-owners primarily include solar and wind generation and energy storage solutions. Distributed generation allows member-owners to produce some or all of the electricity they need. Renewable energy distributed generation systems only produce power when their energy source, such as wind or sunlight, is available; this is called intermittent power. Due to this intermittency of the power supply from distributed generation, there often are times when the member-owner still needs to receive electricity from the cooperative’s grid. When the distributed generation system produces more power than the member-owner can consume at that time, the excess power is sent onto the cooperative’s grid. This reduces the overall amount of electricity that the cooperative needs to supply at the time the distributed generation system is producing power. Iowa’s electric cooperatives also define distributed generation as member-owned generation that meets the definition of a Qualifying Facility under the Public Utilities Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA) or an Alternate Energy Production (AEP) Facility as defined in Iowa Code §476.42
2) What is my co-op’s position with respect to distributed generation?
Iowa’s electric cooperatives support distributed generation as long as it is developed and installed in compliance with both the respective cooperative’s policies and local, state and federal laws and regulations.
3) Is distributed generation right for me? It is solely the responsibility of the member-owner to determine if owning a distributed generation system is a good investment. Your electric cooperative does not provide financial assistance with the analysis; however, we will assist you with finding appropriate and credible resources to help you with the decision-making process. Before determining if distributed generation is right for you, you’ll want to determine your goals (e.g. environmental stewardship, serving a percentage of your energy demand, etc.), evaluate the type and size of distributed generation desired, understand your economics, and investigate and understand all applicable requirements and regulations.
4) What are my responsibilities when owning a distributed generation system? As the individual owner of the distributed generation system, you will be responsible for the initial upfront costs to install the system as well as ongoing maintenance and repair costs. The owner of the distributed energy system is responsible for obtaining the proper equipment and ensuring that all requirements are met of your cooperative’s interconnection agreement as well as applicable state, local and federal codes. In addition, you will be responsible for paying necessary costs associated with interconnection and operation of the system.
When installing a Distributed Generation System, it is important for members to get all of the facts! If you're thinking about an installation, be sure to call Harrison County REC and separate the myths from the facts. For a complete list of myths versus facts, you can find them here.
Myth: I don’t need to contact my electric cooperative before I install a distributed generation system on my property.
FACT: Iowa law requires that owners of distributed generation, also referred to as alternative energy production facilities (such as solar photovoltaic and wind turbines) notify their utility company, which includes electric cooperatives, of plans to construct, install and operate any system that will be connected to the utility’s systems. The utility’s system referenced includes electric transmission lines, distribution lines or attached equipment. The notification by the owner must be made in written form and received by the electric cooperative at least 30 days prior to the commencement of construction or installation.
Myth: Owning and operating a distributed generation system on my property does not present any additional safety issues for my cooperative.
FACT: Each type of generating source often has specific requirements. For example, in the case of a rooftop solar system, the International Fire Code requires a construction permit, specific signage and markings, properly spaced access points, and smoke ventilation, just to name a few. All distributed generation systems within the state must have a safety inspection by either a local city inspector or the Iowa Department of Public Safety. Iowa law further requires that consumers notify their electric utility before interconnecting distributed generation and that an interconnection agreement is in place. These measures are to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the system and to protect our member-owners and employees who interact with the power grid. If our linemen are not aware of an interconnected system, they could be at risk of a serious injury when working on the distribution system. These requirements also support the safety of local safety personnel, such as the fire department, by ensuring that there is appropriate system notification in the case of fire to prevent an injury from such a system.
Myth: I will be using all of the energy output that I generate with my distributed generation system; therefore, I don’t need to contact my co-op.
FACT: No matter what size of the system and the intention to generate all of the power needed, the state of Iowa requires that consumers notify their electric cooperative of plans to construct, install and operate any system that will be connected to the cooperative’s systems (electric transmission lines, distribution lines or attached equipment). The notification must be made in written form and received by your electric cooperative at least 30 days prior to the commencement of construction or installation. An interconnection agreement also is required to be in place prior to operation of the system.
Myth: My electric cooperative isn’t engaged in renewable energy.
FACT: Iowa’s electric cooperatives support renewable energy and responsible environmental policies that balance the needs of the environment while providing for affordable, safe and reliable power. Collectively, Iowa’s electric cooperatives have integrated cooperative and member-owned renewable resources, such as wind, solar, biomass and methane into our portfolios. In addition, as part of our commitment to environmental responsibility, collectively we have invested millions of dollars in energy efficiency programs and services, and environmental upgrades to existing generating facilities.
Consider these key items before installing a distributed generation system. As always, the trusted professionals at Harrison County REC are here to help you with your energy needs and provide safe and reliable power to our members. Click here for a full list of DG Considerations.
1. Know your co-op’s rate structure and interconnection and purchased power polices.
As distributed generation is becoming more common, many electric cooperatives (and utilities in general), including Harrison County REC are examining their rate structure to ensure that its rates are non-discriminatory between distributed generation member-owners and non-distributed generation member-owners. Our office can help you to understand the rate structure under which you will take service and what type of charges are likely to be incurred, as well as how you will be compensated for the excess energy you don’t use that is generated by your distributed generation system.
2. Determine the costs upfront.
Harrison County REC does not install or maintain member-owned distributed generation systems. As an individual owner of the distributed generation system, you will be responsible for the initial upfront costs to install the system as well as ongoing maintenance and repair costs. Doing your homework before investing in a system will help you to understand what costs will be involved, such as installation and interconnection costs, insurance, taxes, etc. Costs will vary if you buy a new or used system, and there are variables such as incentives and tax credits. Your research will help to determine if a distributed generation system is economical for your energy needs.
3. Understand responsibilities.
Installing a distributed generation system requires that certain responsibilities are met by all parties involved with the process. For example, the owner of the distributed energy system is responsible for obtaining the proper equipment and ensuring that all requirements of Harrison County REC’s interconnection agreement are met, including paying any necessary costs. Local and/or state officials are responsible for conducting safety inspections, but the owner of the distributed generation system must notify the local and state officials in order to set this in motion. Once all interconnection requirements are met and the safety and integrity of the system meet all necessary criteria, then Harrison County REC is responsible for the final stages of interconnection. Ongoing maintenance and system repairs are the responsibility of the generation system owner.
4. Know safety requirements.
Member-owners who choose to install distributed generation systems also are connected to the grid. To have reliable electric service available at times when your system isn’t producing sufficient energy to meet your needs, Harrison County REC provides backup electricity. Because of this connection, distributed generation owners must work with the co-op to meet their requirements to keep the grid reliable and safe. This also will help to protect your investment so that if the grid experiences an outage, your system does not burn up trying to fulfill the electricity needs of other member-owners on the grid.
5. Keep thorough records.
Establish a thorough record-keeping process. Retain all data and research that you gather as well as information that is provided by your electric cooperative, vendors and other credible third-party sources. If you proceed with a distributed generation system, you will want to track and compare actual system performance with expected performance based on vendor information