All queued up
September 13, 2022

Ben Hutchins

The Solar & Battery “Gold Rush”

The Berkeley Labs Electricity Markets and Policy department recently released aggregated data on interconnection queues from electric utilities across the United States, with additional visuals here. The results paint a stunning picture of today’s interconnection market, which is flooded by active solar and battery interconnection projects. The USA peak load sits somewhere between 700-800 GW (Statista, EIA), but 2021 alone saw nearly 600 GW worth of new generation applications, of which 500 GW was solar and battery combined.

PSC has put together some supplemental curated interactive graphics for your viewing convenience. Feel free to browse the tabs, click buttons, and use the filters. (Hint: Click on the “Help” button for additional tips and tricks!)

Some fascinating points from this data can be seen on the various tabs:

  • Applications by year
    In the last 10 years, there has been a substantial growth in interconnection applications. From only 536 applications for new generation in 2012 to 3,350 in 2021!
    (That’s 6x more applications for generation interconnections.)
    The trend changed from wind and gas applications in 2000-2010, to solar in 2010-2015, then solar and battery in 2015-2021.
  • Applications by region
    PJM leads the charge with the largest number of applications to review and study but the other regions are nothing to sneeze at.
    Clicking the “State” button at the top, you can see that California receives the largest number of applications, followed by Texas.
    Clicking the “Type” button at the top, then filtering by 2012-2021, you find that solar and battery are an overwhelming majority of the interconnection applications in the last 10 years. Moving the “Year” window, you can see just how much this trend has changed by time period. Look specifically at 2021 by itself and you can see just how much solar and battery projects currently dominate the market.
  • Applications by state
    This graph shows geographically which states have received the largest share of applications. Filtering by PJM (the largest receiver of interconnections), for example, we can see that Pennsylvania receives the largest number of requests within that region.
  • GW by year
    In 2021 alone, there were around 599 GW of applications for generation interconnections. That’s reaching quite close to the peak electrical load of the entire USA, which has stayed somewhere between 700 to 800 GW in the last few years. If even two years of generator applications were all built, it would far exceed the total electrical load of the USA! What’s fascinating is that 1,370 GW of the submitted applications from 1995 to 2021 show up as still “active” applications in the dataset.
  • GW by region
    This chart is highly analogous to the Applications by Region A few interesting points here:
    • In 2021, CAISO (California Independent System Operator) had the largest GW total of applications.
    • Solar and battery are dominating the market, both in application counts and in total GW applied for.
  • GW drilldown
    This view allows you to visualize specific breakdowns for your own region, state and generation types presented in another fashion. For those regions with smaller values, they are easier to see in this tab.
  • MW size – sort
    This tab shows each interconnection request by its size, ranked against the others, in order. By hovering on each dot, you can see the full details of each application.
    Some interesting facts about generator size:
    • The median (50%) application size is for a generator that’s ~80MW.
    • There’s a significant number of solar generator applications which are for exactly 20MW, the typical threshold between LGIA (Large Generator Interconnection Agreements) and SGIA (Small Generator Interconnection Agreements).
      This is especially true in the NYISO region.
      • There are some similar effects in other locations, such as most solar generator applications being 3MW in the NWE region in 2016.
    • PJM received an application (AF1-236, at Mackeys 230kV in NC) for 1,210 MW of solar.
    • PJM received an application (AG2-582, at Belmont-Flint Run 500 kV in WV) for 2,100 MW of gas.

In such a highly competitive market, finding the right location to connect new, renewable generation can be a challenge. Avoiding points of network congestion and over-applied interconnections has become one of the key points for many investors in renewable generation.

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