WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Solar and Storage Industries Institute (SI2) announced that the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected its technical assistance project on better understanding interconnection alternatives for funding. This groundbreaking project, which is part of the DOE’s Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange effort, or i2X, will help better understand the financial impacts of so called “flexible interconnection agreements” on community solar projects.
As the demand for interconnection services surges, the industry often grapples with the high cost of grid upgrades needed to connect solar and storage projects. These high costs often lead to the termination or delay of critical projects. This technical assistance project, proposed by SI2, in partnership with the Coalition for Community Solar Access, National Grid, Nexamp, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and Smarter Grid Solutions, will look at the ways in which new tools to interconnect projects more quickly without the need for expensive infrastructure improvements will impact a solar project’s bottom line.
“Flexible interconnection arrangements that give more control to grid operators over project output is often discussed as a way to connect more distributed solar and storage projects to the grid, but much less is known about how or if those arrangements impact a discrete project,” said David Gahl, executive director for the Solar and Storage Industries Institute (SI2). “We look forward to working with the DOE, Pacific Northwest National Lab and the rest of the project team to better understand whether new tools can allow more projects to connect to the grid more quickly, and still make money.”
The project will:
- Deliver a comprehensive analysis comparing the economic viability of dynamically curtailed projects with traditional models;
- Equip developers with the insights and tools needed to navigate the evolving landscape of flexible interconnection; and
- Highlight potential areas for hosting capacity expansions, emphasizing regions where flexible interconnection practices can be most impactful.
“The current process for connecting solar projects to the grid in the Northeast is slow, costly, and entirely unsustainable if we want to meet our nation’s climate and clean energy goals,” said Valessa Souter-Kline, Northeast regional director for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “This is particularly problematic in New York and New England given the historic volume of solar projects coming online in the region. We’re excited to work alongside the U.S. Department of Energy and other industry stakeholders to advance flexible interconnection solutions that will help clear the growing backlog of clean energy projects waiting to connect to the grid.”
“Flexible Interconnections are an important tool to help alleviate the expensive costs and extended timelines of the current interconnection process,” said Drew Smith, Director of Utility Solutions, at Smarter Grid Solutions. “We are excited the DOE and I2X are taking an interest in this tool that benefits all stakeholders involved with adding renewable energy, and we look forward to showing the value of Flexible Interconnections which SGS has delivered globally over the last 15 years.”
The project’s focus on dynamic curtailment and flexible generation is expected to pave the way for more efficient energy distribution, potentially reducing costs for consumers and ensuring a more resilient energy grid. This approach promises tangible benefits for everyday consumers, from reduced energy bills to a more reliable power supply.
“Flexible interconnections can defer the cost of large upgrades to our infrastructure by allowing new distributed energy resources to be brought online quickly and at lower costs,” said Marie Schnitzer, National Grid Ombudsperson for NY Distributed Generation. “Studying the impacts of a DER application to our system can help us quantify the risks of curtailment, lower operational costs and create a win-win situation for the DER developer and National Grid. Ultimately, it’s our customers who will benefit through the delivery of more affordable renewable energy.”
“It’s not hyperbole to say that solving interconnection challenges is one of the keys to ensure that we meet our long-term climate goals,” said Sam Weaver, Interconnection and Grid Integration Policy Director at CCSA. “This project will provide direct and valuable feedback from our industry-leading developers so that we can successfully scale capacity that the grid direly needs.”
“Nexamp is honored to be a part of the team selected for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange grant, a groundbreaking program to help unclog the grid and speed deployment of clean energy resources,” said Brandon Bowles, Vice President of Grid Integration at Nexamp. “The work that the Solar and Storage Industries Institute will facilitate to study and advance flexible and cost-effective interconnection will enable significant build-out of distributed energy resources, improving the reliability of our nation’s electric grid. Solar and battery energy storage are critical to updating our antiquated power grid, but rising interconnection costs and lengthy delays are reducing the number of projects that are able to be connected. Through this funding and Nexamp’s continued work with National Grid and other utility partners, we can overcome these challenges to efficiently connect solar and storage projects to the grid and accelerate the deployment of clean energy solutions that can power millions of households across the country.”
For more information from DOE on the announcement, click here.