for green energy Ladies and gentlemen, it seems that there are too many good things right now. While it’s a good thing there are enough wind, solar and battery storage projects planned to meet U.S. climate goals, growing bottlenecks in the U.S. grid are grounding most of these projects. The problems stem from a combination of factors: aging infrastructure, disorganized grids, difficulty getting renewable energy from where it is produced to where it is needed, and overwhelmed regulators tasked with approving projects.
A new report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researchers outlines the dilemma. The authors surveyed seven U.S. grid operators and 35 major utilities, which together cover 85 percent of the U.S. electrical load. They found that by the end of 2021, 1,300 gigawatts of wind, solar and energy storage projects have been proposed, enough to meet 80% of the White House’s goal of achieving carbon-free electricity generation by 2030. Joe Rand, a senior science engineering associate at LBL and lead author of the “Waiting in Line” report, was published in April.
But Rand said fewer than a quarter of projects get off the ground, even those with the necessary financing, local jurisdiction permits and contracts with utilities to sell power. “Our transmission system is just under-resourced to manage this influx of new capacity,” Land said.
Perhaps the biggest problem right now, Rand said, is that there is no easy way to figure out how to move renewable energy from point A to point B. Part of the problem is finding ways to connect new projects to existing grids. It’s as if there are too many renewable aircraft compared to the number of gates in the energy airport terminal. “Suppose you want to build a 200-megawatt solar farm with a substation on the road,” Rand describes a typical scenario faced by renewable energy developers. “No problem, I’m just going to plug in that substation. But it’s not that simple because when you inject 200 megawatts or any significant capacity into the grid system, it has an impact. You may need to upgrade the network, you may need to Upgrade the transmission lines, you may need to upgrade the substations to inject capacity there.”
These upgrades could include new transmission lines that can handle the increase in power without overheating, which can damage the line itself or cause a reduction in power over the length of the line. Of course, someone has to pay for these upgrades, and many state utility regulators don’t want to pass the cost on to taxpayers. At the same time, many renewable energy developers do not want to pay for upgrades that could benefit existing fossil fuel producers.
Another part of the backup comes from the comments needed to study this maze of electrical connections. System operators in each country (one each in California and Texas, and multistate operators in the rest of the U.S.) must approve any new energy projects, whether wind farms or coal-fired power plants. This includes reviewing studies that assess the environmental and economic impact of the project, as well as how the additional energy may affect the grid, reliability during peak hours and how the new power source will respond to outages or severe weather.