DOE initiative targets clean energy’s interconnection woes

Contractors begin installing solar panels on the framework of phase 1 at Los Angeles AFB Space and Missile Systems Center. 2 MAR 10, U.S. Air Force Photo By Lou Hernandez/ Released

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The Interconnection Innovation eXchange, funded by the Bipartisan infrastructure Law (i2X), will target long interconnection lines that threaten the Biden administration’s plan for decarbonizing the grid by 2035.

DOE stated that the initiative will provide solutions to facilitate faster, simpler, more equitable interconnection of clean energy resources. This will be done through better data, roadmap development and technical assistance.

Participation is expected from utilities, grid operators, state and tribal governments as well as clean energy developers, energy justice organisations, and other stakeholders.

“Eliminating the gridlock that’s slowing down clean energy deployment is critical to increasing access to cheaper electricity for American families and businesses,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

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Researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reported in April that the amount of new electric capacity in transmission interconnection review queues nationally is “growing dramatically,” with more than 1,400 GW of total generation and storage capacity seeking connection to the grid.

They claimed that more than 90% is for zero carbon resources like solar, wind and battery storage. They added that solar (676 GW) and battery storage (420 GW) are “by far” the fastest growing resources in the queues; combined they accounted for nearly 85% of new capacity entering the queues in 2021. 

A total of 247 GW of wind power capacity was also available for interconnection. 31% of this was for offshore projects (77GW). 

Capacity in interconnection queuing systems as of the end 2021. *Hybrid storage capacity is estimated in some cases using storage: generator ratios from projects that provide separate capacity data. Hybrid storage capacity was not estimated prior to 2020.

Renewable energy developers agree that interconnecting with distribution grids remains a constant challenge.

The number of states passing enabling legislation to allow community solar access is increasing rapidly. In the meantime, the Biden administration wants to power 5 millions homes with distribution-level PV farms by 2025.

Scott Wiater, the CEO of community solar developer Standard Solar, said that Renewable Energy WorldIn February, interconnection delays and cost, as well as a lack of transparency from utilities, could pose a threat to the White House’s ambitious goals.

Wiater stated that utilities should “just tell us how much they’ve spent, and we pay the bill.” He claimed that there is not much transparency regarding these costs, and developers have no other choice than to pay them.

Wiater acknowledged the obligation of utilities to examine how community solar projects affect the grid and customers. However, achieving national community solar capacity targets will be difficult without a better interconnection process.

He said, “We are way behind coming near to (the Biden Administration’s) goals except we start acting very aggressively now.” “If we want to meet any of the climate change goals, we have to find a way to do it faster.

Wiater’s concerns were addressed by the i2X program. It provides technical assistance to partners in solving interconnection problems at local, state, regional and national levels. It will address issues such as insufficient data, labor shortages and complicated grid impact assessments.