The Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X) develops innovative solutions to enable faster, simpler, and fairer interconnection of solar energy, wind energy, and energy storage, while enhancing the reliability and resilience of our nation’s distribution and transmission grid networks. The program is led by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) with the support of several national laboratories, including the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
The i2X program facilitates collaboration by conducting four key activities:
The Solar Futures Study found that solar and wind energy and energy storage deployment will need to dramatically expand in order to meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a decarbonized electricity system by 2035. These clean energy and energy storage resources need to be connected to the distribution and bulk power grids through a process known as interconnection. The process involves an interconnection customer, like a wind or solar developer, who submits an application to an electric service provider or independent system operator responsible for managing and operating the grid, to connect a new generating facility. The electric service provider must then evaluate the existing resources on the grid to determine whether the project can be built, connected, and operated in a safe and reliable way.
Interconnection is dictated by a complex network of laws, regulations, and administrative processes that have been developed at the regional, state, or utility-territory level. Current interconnection procedures, however, are not designed to accommodate the deployment of the hundreds of gigawatts of solar energy, wind energy, and energy storage resources needed each year to meet climate goals. Consequently, many new clean energy projects get delayed in interconnection queues, sometimes for years, awaiting review, study, and approval. At the same time, it is important to be sure that adding new resources to the grid will not result in safety issues, equipment problems, or power outages.
Because interconnection is inherently a local, state, or regional process involving many stakeholder groups – an interconnection customer, an electric system provider or grid operator, and a regulatory body that establishes the rules – interconnection challenges vary depending on location. In addition, the challenges are multi-disciplinary and require expertise in electrical engineering, economics, regulation, and technology. Solving interconnection delays and streamlining processes requires an open, inclusive, and collaborative “all hands on deck” approach.
No one organization or entity can solve interconnection challenges alone. That’s why DOE and the national labs are partnering with utilities, grid operators, state and local governments, clean energy industry, energy justice groups, non-profits, and others to share data, develop a roadmap, and facilitate new solutions to improve interconnection procedures and enable 2035 climate and equity goals to be met. Involving everyone across the interconnection ecosystem will help reimagine, retool, and shape the grid of the future.
The i2X program requires the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders to develop solutions to interconnection challenges. If you would like to be a part of developing the suite of solutions, join i2X.