A new partnership that includes network operators, utility companies, clean energy developers, regulators and national laboratories wants to reduce costs and lead times for renewable energy projects.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is creating an Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X) partnership to develop solutions that enable faster, easier and more equitable connectivity for large-scale solar, wind and storage projects via “better data, roadmap, development and technical assistance.”
The association includes the participation of network and utility operators, clean energy developers, regulators, and national laboratories of the Department of Energy. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) tweeted that it was a “proud editorial partner,” noting that more than 1,400 gigawatts of clean energy awaits to be connected to the grid. Participating laboratories are: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
In its announcement, the Department of Energy said that solar and wind energy must be “significantly expanded” to achieve the administration’s goal of achieving 100% clean electricity by 2035. Meanwhile, current standards, costs, and procedures for grid connectivity “cannot support rapid increase.” needed for clean energy projects, and “more efficient operations” are needed to start projects on the ground.
The rapid increase in clean energy projects is causing uncertainty among project developers due to long interconnection waiting times and high project withdrawal rates.
“Removing the blockages that impede the deployment of clean energy is critical” to providing cheaper electricity to American families and businesses, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.
SEIA and its allies have previously called on federal energy regulators to speed up interconnection by establishing workable and competitive timelines. Several network and utility operators declined to disclose how many solar and storage projects they completed their utility studies last year, the latest step that allows project developers to contract interconnection.
The Energy Department said the “key problems” the partnership program aims to solve are “a lack of data, a lack of human resources, and more complex assessments of grid impact.”
The program will provide technical assistance to partners to develop solutions to specific regional, state, and local interconnection problems. It will also address the inequalities caused by burdensome interconnections, in line with the Department’s Justice 40 initiative, and with the participation of energy justice organizations.
DOE staff from the DOE’s Solar and Wind Technologies Offices and National Laboratories will develop a 5-year roadmap that outlines objectives, identifies research gaps and success criteria.
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