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Difficulty Connecting to Electric Grid Stalls Renewable Energy Projects


The renewable power revolution in New England is gaining steam on the subject of plugging new tasks into the electrical grid.

A report launched earlier this month by the Clear Vitality Group, a Vermont-based nonprofit devoted to renewable power, exhibits an alarming variety of renewable power tasks stalled in Massachusetts. due to repeated delays and shock prices on the subject of connecting electrical energy tasks. grid.

The interconnection level, the important thing part of any new photo voltaic array, wind facility or energy-storage undertaking, is the place the power generated might be distributed again into the area’s bigger electrical grid. However in lots of areas throughout the nation, and states like Rhode Island and Massachusetts, new connections are dealt with on a project-by-project foundation. Any proposed undertaking is anticipated to account for the prices of upgrading the infrastructure of a neighborhood substation, however the prices are solely depending on the utility managing the infrastructure, they usually can differ.

“It is not so simple as simply plugging it into the grid and turning on the undertaking,” mentioned Chirag Lala, a researcher on the Utilized Economics Clinic, who helped write the report. “The distribution grid has to have the ability to deal with the potential for energy to circulation each methods, proper? Storage tasks are primarily for charging and releasing energy to the grid.”

Consequently, undertaking completion charges are low and ready instances are rising. In April, Berkeley Lab launched a research that analyzed the connection of latest tasks to electrical grids throughout the nation. Solely 20% of the brand new tasks that requested interconnection between 2010 and 2017 reached operational standing by the tip of 2022.

The completion fee for renewables is even slimmer; about 20% of wind tasks and solely 14% of photo voltaic tasks have reached completion by the tip of 2022. The common time tasks have been ready to hook up with the grid has additionally elevated, from lower than two yr in 2008, three years in 2015, to 5 years in 2022.

The explanation for the delays? Renewable power has grown considerably over the previous decade, and photo voltaic and wind now account for 93% of all interconnection queues nationwide. On the finish of final yr, Massachusetts had 2,321 megawatts (MW) of photo voltaic capability in its pipeline, a determine that can greater than double by 2021.

Bigger tasks are additionally costlier to interconnect per kilowatt-hour. On the Mid-Atlantic grid managed by PJM Interconnection, pure fuel tasks price a mean of $24 per kW, whereas storage, photo voltaic, and offshore wind price $335, $253, and $385 per kW, respectively.

“These accountable for managing the distribution grid don’t have any monetary incentive to really spend money on internet hosting capability extra usually,” Lala mentioned. “If you’re within the queue, it issues in the event you’re the primary, second, third, fourth, or fifth within the queue as a result of if somebody in entrance of you makes upgrades which are helpful to your undertaking you are probably not accountable. pay for it.”

General, photo voltaic accounts for 60% of the MW discovered within the interconnection queue in Massachusetts.

However the rising demand for interconnections and the rising prices related to them imply that increasingly more renewable tasks are utterly withdrawing from the method. In 2022, greater than 1,600 tasks didn’t full or withdrew their functions for interconnection, the very best quantity in 5 years.

The problem of getting new renewable tasks on-line means will probably be more durable to retire outdated, fossil fuel-burning energy vegetation.

“There is not any entity in Massachusetts and definitely not in different states, that may say we’re anticipating these large distributed power sources and we wish to put together for this large photo voltaic, this large storage, this large many hybrids,” mentioned Lala. “We’ve got to do these upgrades prematurely. That is not going to occur.”

Nationwide, there are 1.9 million photo voltaic, storage, and wind tasks ready within the interconnection queue.

The Clear Vitality Group’s report recommends lawmakers, regulators, and utilities work collectively extra proactively to plan future interconnection factors into the system and usually spend money on extra grid infrastructure as wanted. The report additionally outlines 3 ways to decrease prices for these investments, by grouping tasks, with one group – corresponding to a utility firm – paying for upgrades and exchanging after actuality, or passing the price of the upgrades onto the taxpayers.

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