Obscure Bottleneck Preventing Clean Energy Access For Millions of People

If given the choice between clean energy, and pollution-laced energy sources, the vast majority of people would opt for the former. As we previously reported, the solar industry is experiencing tremendous growth.

There is, however, one obscure bottleneck that is hindering the growth of the solar industry in the U.S. in a very, very, very significant way.

The demand from the public is there. Developers are there with proposed projects to meet demand. The problem lies with the ability to connect those proposed renewable energy projects to the grid.

The Washington Post reports:

To achieve America’s goal of shifting 80 percent of the country’s electricity away from fossil fuels by the end of the decade, there will have to be a massive transformation. That means solar farms peppering the landscape from California to New York; offshore wind turbines standing high above the waves off the coast of New Jersey; nuclear power plants emitting steam in rural areas. Together, these projects would have to add around 950 gigawatts of new clean energy and 225 gigawatts of energy storage to the grid.

And right now, projects accounting for at least 930 gigawatts of clean energy capacity and 420 gigawatts of storage are waiting to be built across the country.

They just can’t get connected to the grid.

These roadblocks — known as “interconnection queues” — are slowing America’s energy transition and the country’s ability to respond to climate change.

“It’s a huge problem,” said David Gahl, executive director of the Solar and Storage Industries Institute, a research group affiliated with the solar industry. “If we don’t make changes, we’re not going to meet state and federal targets for climate change.”

To understand the lines blocking the U.S.’s progress on climate change, you first have to understand a bit about how the electricity grid works. It’s easiest to think about the grid — which carries electrons — like the country’s roads carrying cars.

When an energy developer wants to build a new power plant, they have to submit an application to see how adding that facility will affect the grid — sort of like trying to build an on-ramp onto a big interstate highway, according to Joe Rand, a senior engineering associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Regional authorities have to check to make sure that the highway can accommodate a new on-ramp without causing traffic pileups. In the same way that an authority might ask the road-builder to pay for the construction of the on-ramp — or, if the highway is really congested already, to pay to add an extra lane — regional authorities ask energy developers to pay to connect their solar or wind farms to the grid.

Getting the okay to connect has gotten harder and harder. According to Rand’s research, between 2000 and 2010 it took around two years for a project to make it through the queue. Now, it’s taking almost twice as long. At the end of 2021, there were 8,100 projects sitting in line, waiting for permission to get connected. Together, they represent more than the combined power capacity of all U.S. electricity plants.”


You can read the full, fascinating story here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *