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Nearly 800GW of U.S. energy is queued up but unable to connect to the grid

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Christopher Neely's picture
Independent, Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 755 items added with 372,737 views
  • Oct 13, 2021

It seems we are producing new sources of energy faster than we know what to do with it, or at least faster than we're able to figure out just what to do with it. 

According to a study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the U.S. has 755GW of electricity generation stuck in interconnection queues, and about 680GW of that bottlenecked energy is zero-carbon energy and only 13% of the energy has a solidified interconnection agreement. 

It's not that there is not a need for that energy, it's rather that we are unable to get that energy where it's needed most. The U.S. energy's regulatory landscape is complex and thus our ability to build out the nation's grid to receive this energy takes clearing significant bureaucratic hurdles. Widespread investment in transmission infrastructure is also needed, which presents its own political and bureaucratic obstacles.

 It is a race we are running at the speed of government, which is to say we are not running at all. We are crawling. Expansion of interregional transmission would go a long way in clearing this energy traffic jam, but how that is paid for and coordinated remain large question marks that have taken a trunk seat to the fight happening over the infrastructure bill. It seems that we have proven prowess at developing sustainable alternative energy forms that can take us from fossil fuels but now we have to shift our focus to the less sexy transmission and interconnection questions, questions which are unlikely to trend on social media or grab headline attention. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 13, 2021

Look no further than some customers in MN being told it would take 15 years to get their solar projects connected to the grid-- this is a problem

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Oct 13, 2021

Key to this issue is the question of grid stability.  Any public traded utility knows that it cannot guarantee reliable power if the grid is oscillating like a banjo string due to thousands of mom and pop rooftop solar panels.  Every panel is going to be different in how it is oriented to the sun, how much electricity it can generate, and its reliability over time.  Snowfalls, leaves, dirt, and quality of the solar receptors all play a role. The utility's delay may mean that homeowners and others with do-it-yourself solar are going to have to pay to put equipment in place to make their power reliable enough to go on the grid. If not then the alternative will be to put other equipment in place to use the solar power at home without blowing out their consumer electronics with power surges. Bottom line DIY solar power is not plug-and-play as far as the utility is concerned.

Christopher Neely's picture
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