Led by U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO), the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X) convenes diverse stakeholders involved in the interconnection of solar energy, wind energy, and energy storage resources to facilitate peer-learning and knowledge exchange and inspire new interconnection ideas and capabilities. i2X is supported by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
Interconnecting solar energy, wind energy, and energy storage resources to the grid requires navigating complex regulatory structures and technical impact assessments, which vary by jurisdictional authorities of the distribution or transmission grid systems. Current interconnection procedures are not designed to accommodate the deployment of hundreds of gigawatts of solar and wind energy resources needed each year to meet clean energy goals.
i2X Program Components
Stakeholder Engagement Center – The first-of-its-kind national interconnection stakeholder engagement center uses structured working groups to bring together stakeholders—like utilities, grid operators, state and local governments, energy justice groups, non-profits, industry, and others—to identify interconnection barriers, share best practices and lessons learned, and test innovative solutions to address specific interconnection challenges.
Data Collection and Analysis – Data on interconnection queues, timelines, costs, disapprovals, and other factors help to identify where and how interconnection barriers can be addressed. i2X leads data collection efforts and in-depth analyses to provide the baseline information to set interconnection metrics, track progress, and identify successful strategies.
Interconnection Process Roadmap – Leveraging input from stakeholders, i2X is developing a 5-year interconnection roadmap to systematically improve interconnection processes, reduce interconnection timelines and costs, and maintain grid reliability to meet local, state, regional, and federal decarbonization goals.
Interconnection Technical Assistance – After identifying major technical and process challenges, stakeholders can receive direct support from interconnection experts to implement interconnection solutions.
Decarbonizing our electricity system will require fast and efficient integration of clean energy generation while enhancing grid reliability and resilience. As more renewable resources are added to the distribution and transmission grids, multiple organizations will need to work together to rapidly address the growing technological complexity.
Most clean energy projects take only few months to build but can take years to get permission to interconnect to the grid or for system upgrades to be constructed to enable full deliverability. Additionally, projects can become too expensive to build when there are unexpected and costly interconnection network upgrades. Due to the historic lack of investment in grid infrastructure in disadvantaged communities, these communities can have disproportionately higher barriers to interconnecting new solar installations. Interconnection application processes can also require significant expense and expertise, which can be prohibitive for small-scale and community-based developers. The need for grid upgrades and approval processes in disadvantaged communities can slow down the interconnection process. Enabling faster and simpler interconnection to the grid, combined with improving grid capacity and community engagement in disadvantaged communities, are key to ensuring equitable access to clean energy resources and meeting our country’s climate goals.
i2X is working to make an impact in three main areas:
- Ensuring a Zero-Carbon Future – The irreversible path to a zero-carbon electricity system by 2035 is contingent on paradigm shifts in interconnection practices to deploy clean energy technologies at exponential scales.
- Simplifying Technological Complexities – The modern grid is transforming rapidly, and grid interconnection processes need to be simplified in order to accommodate the growth of clean energy while maintaining grid reliability.
- Providing Equitable Access to Clean Energy – Reducing interconnection delays and their associated costs can increase deployment of affordable clean energy projects.
Collaborative thinking amongst stakeholders will enable the broader energy community to better understand the interconnection landscape, map out challenges, and find creative and implementable solutions. Similar collaboration efforts at the state level have led to major successes; DOE is bringing this collaborative approach to stakeholders across the country with i2X. Join i2X today.