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Tradewind escalates fight with Southern Co. over solar project interconnections

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Tradewind escalates fight with Southern Co. over solar project interconnections

Southern Co. Services Inc. violated its transmission tariff in threatening to withdraw interconnection requests for two TradeWind Energy Inc. solar projects in the Southeast, Tradewind said in a complaint filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

The complaint stemmed from the Southern Co. subsidiary's March announcement that it would no longer accept any interconnection requests for new inverter-based generating facilities that connect on a transmission line that terminates at a nuclear generating plant's transmission substation. As a result, the company said it would withdraw pending interconnection requests for two solar projects that Tradewind is developing unless Tradewind moved each project's point of interconnection to a different part of Southern's transmission grid.

The affected projects are the 188-MW Tri-State Solar Project and 212-MW Panhandle Solar Project, for which Tradewind submitted interconnection requests to Southern in February 2016.

Southern said it adopted the new policy because of "numerous operating, scheduling, and regulatory challenges" related to interconnections near nuclear plants, according to Tradewind's Oct. 2 complaint. But Tradewind said Southern did not identify what those challenges were or provide any documentation to support the claims, despite Tradewind's repeated requests for information.

Although the policy simply prohibited accepting requests for such interconnections, Tradewind said, Southern still threatened to withdraw existing requests for the Tri-State and Panhandle projects that were made more than two years before Southern announced its new policy. Furthermore, Tradewind said Southern did not identify any reliability concerns with the interconnection of those projects in draft facility study reports the company provided in February 2017.

Tradewind said the delays "threaten [its] ability to complete the projects within three years of the original requested commercial operations dates of December 31, 2018."

The company asked that FERC order Southern to rescind its policy regarding interconnections near nuclear as unjust, unreasonable, unnecessary and contrary to the requirements of its open access transmission tariff. Tradewind also asked the commission to require Southern to tender draft generator interconnection agreements for the two affected solar facilities.

Tradewind said it is one of the largest U.S. wind and solar power developers and has built more than 3,500 MW of contracted and operating wind and solar capacity. The company sold the 300-MW Diamond Vista Wind Project under development in Kansas to Enel SpA subsidiary Enel Green Power North America, with construction on that facility due to finish by the end of 2018. (FERC docket EL19-4)