February 25, 2024

Breaking Through Gridlock: The Clean Energy Revolution and Our Path Forward

Energy Efficiency

Welcome to Shine Solar's blog, where we shed light on the latest developments in the world of residential solar and clean energy. In this post, we delve into the gridlock faced by the U.S. clean energy sector and explore the challenges and opportunities it presents.

Table of Contents:

Breaking Down the Backlog: A Closer Look at Interconnection Queues

The U.S. is at a crucial juncture in its pursuit of clean energy, with nearly 2 million megawatts of solar, wind, and storage capacity eagerly waiting in interconnection queues. However, the journey from project proposal to grid connection is far from smooth.

Understanding Interconnection Queues

Before a power plant can contribute to the grid, it undergoes a series of impact assessments, forming what we call interconnection queues. These queues serve as waitlists for proposed power plants seeking grid connection.

The Waiting Game

The average time projects spend in these queues has increased from 2.1 years in 2000 to 3.7 years in 2021, a significant jump according to the Energy Transitions Commission. This prolonged wait poses challenges for both project developers and the clean energy sector.

Withdrawal Woes

Historically, withdrawal rates from the queue have been high, with just 21% of projects seeking connection from 2000–2017 reaching commercial operation. This raises concerns about the sustainability of projects and the need for streamlining the interconnection process.

Aging Transmission Infrastructure

Compounding the issue, the aging U.S. grid may lead to hefty fees for updates required to transmission infrastructure, posing financial challenges for queued-up projects.

The Silver Lining

While the backlog is concerning, it also reflects the commitment of project developers to the clean energy transition. The clean energy capacity in interconnection queues exceeds the amount needed to achieve 90% zero-carbon electricity by 2035, as per Berkeley Lab.

Spotlight on U.S. Clean Energy in Queues

Taking a closer look at the data, solar and battery storage projects dominate the interconnection queues, comprising 84% of the total capacity. Here's a breakdown of the numbers as of the end of 2022:

  • Solar: 49%
  • Battery Storage: 35%
  • Wind: 10%
  • Offshore Wind: 6%

Notably, 48% of solar capacity is proposed as a "hybrid plant" combining generation with battery storage, reflecting efforts to address the intermittent nature of renewables.

The 30 Largest U.S. Hydropower Plants
Source: Decarbonization Channel

Regional Distribution of Clean Energy Capacity

Interconnection queues are managed by Independent System Operators (ISOs) and Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) across different regions. Here's a snapshot of clean energy capacity in queues grouped by major transmission regions:

  • West (non-ISO): 30%
  • Midcontinent ISO (MISO): 17%
  • PJM (RTO): 15%
  • ERCOT: 11%
  • CAISO: 10%
  • NYISO: 6%
  • SPP: 5%
  • Southeast (Non-ISO): 5%
  • ISO-NE: 2%

The West (non-ISO) region leads in solar, battery, and onshore wind capacity, while offshore wind capacity is highest in New York.

Overcoming the Gridlock: Solutions and Strategies

The Urgency for Action

With the current backlog and incentives for new clean energy projects, overcoming the gridlock is imperative. The Inflation Reduction Act has provided added momentum, emphasizing the need for swift resolutions.

Strategies for Clearing the Path

Addressing the backlog requires a multi-faceted approach, including:

  1. Expanding High-Voltage Transmission Lines:Many clean energy projects are located in remote areas, necessitating high-voltage transmission lines for grid connection. Expanding this network can facilitate more projects connecting to the grid.
  2. Streamlined Permitting Processes:The lengthy and costly interconnection processes need reform. Streamlining permits can significantly reduce wait times for projects in queues, promoting efficiency and sustainability.

Initiatives and Collaborations

Efforts are already underway to tackle these challenges. Some grid operators have revamped their interconnection processes, and the Department of Energy's Interconnection Innovation Exchange (i2X) aims to enhance collaboration and transparency in interconnection.

FAQs in Relation to U.S. Clean Energy Backlog

What is the renewable energy outlook for 2024?

The push for renewables grows stronger, with solar and wind leading the charge in reducing carbon footprints.

What is the forecast for clean energy in the US?

Clean power's on a tear, poised to expand as tech advances and policy support kick into high gear.

What is the renewable energy outlook for 2024?

Rapid growth expected, especially with offshore wind gaining steam and storage solutions becoming key players.

What is the status of renewable energy in the US?

America's riding a green wave; investments are up and new projects are sprouting coast to coast.

Closing Thoughts: A Road to Decarbonization

While history indicates that not all projects in interconnection queues will materialize, the U.S. is undeniably on the path to decarbonization. The energy project developers' focus on clean energy sources signals a promising future. As we navigate the challenges of gridlock, Shine Solar remains committed to empowering households with sustainable and efficient residential solar solutions.


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Nick Gorden

Nick Gorden is the Co-founder and CEO of Shine Solar. Nick’s energy, enthusiasm, and leadership is contagious and has contributed to attracting a talented and successful executive team. His time is focused on strategic growth, maintaining profitability and creating the optimal customer experience. Nick has started, managed and sold companies within the communications, mortgage lending, insurance and real estate industries resulting in tens of millions of dollars of market value to investors.

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