Renewables Dominate 2 TW of Energy Projects Awaiting Grid Connection in US

Solar, storage, and wind projects account for 95% of over 2 TW of all proposed generation capacity awaiting connection to the grid in the United States at the end of 2022, the Lawrence and Berkeley Laboratory (LBL) report said.

The average time of queued renewable projects seeking connection to the power grid increased significantly by over 40% in 2022.

More than 10,200 proposed clean energy projects, representing a generation capacity of 1.3 TW and 680 GW of storage projects, actively await permits for connection with the grid, piling the capacity in the interconnection queues that have kept the construction work at bay.

Project developers submit their proposals to utilities and regional grid operators, where the projects are assessed for new grid system upgrades that would be needed before a project can connect to the system.

The list of such projects wherein the developers have agreed to initiate the assessment process is known as “interconnection queues.”

The report collected crucial insights from seven power markets in the U.S. along with additional 35 utilities outside America and found that the proposed solar capacity of 947 GW is the largest share of generation capacity in the queues in Arizona, Texas, and California, followed by 300 GW of wind projects, mostly offshore, which await permits for interconnection.

The amount of offshore wind capacity in the queues totaled 113 GW by the end of 2022, which is three times more than the goal of achieving 30 GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030.

LBL found that between 2000 and 2017, approximately 21% of clean projects seeking connection to the grid reached commercial operations by 2022, that too with just 14% of capacity. The seven grid operators and 35 other utilities collectively represent over 85% of the power load.

Further, the report projects that 339 GW of projects are in the queue in the MISO (Midcontinent Independent System Operator) region, followed by PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland Interconnection) where 298 GW of projects await interconnection with the grid to commence construction.

Joseph Rand, lead author of the study and Energy Policy Researcher at Berkeley Lab explains, “The increasing delays and high withdrawal rates point to a major barrier for developers of these projects. The amount of solar, wind, and storage in the queues today exceeds that needed to get to 90% of U.S. electricity from zero-carbon resources by 2035.”

The report revealed that developer interest in electricity storage skyrocketed in recent years, with capacity in the queues reaching an estimated 670 GW last year.

LBL highlights that hybrids comprise 358 GW or 52% of active storage capacity followed by 457 GW or 48% of solar, and 24 GW or 8% of wind capacity.

Interconnection requests are now taking over 3 years to complete the requisite grid impact studies in most regions. The timeline from the initial connection request to having a fully built and operational project has increased from over 2 years for projects built in 2000-2007 to nearly 4 years.

Developers have proposed operationalizing 695 GW of solar projects by the end of 2025, followed by 472 GW of storage, and 145 GW of wind.

The report considered some impactful reforms initiated by the U.S. administration to strengthen the country’s grid, while supporting the decarbonization efforts across sectors.

Last June, the U.S. government launched the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange initiative to connect more green energy to the country’s grid. The initiative is aimed at cutting the waiting period for clean energy sources in interconnection queues while lowering the grid connection rates.

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