Expanding the Efficient ERCOT Interconnection Process in U.S. can Boost the Growth of Solar and Wind Energy

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The Texas grid operator ERCOT has found a quick way to add more solar and wind power to their system. They did this by using the ERCOT interconnection process which is based on the “connect and manage” approach. In 2021, they added 6 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy. This is three times more than what the largest grid operator in the U.S., PJM, did. In 2022, ERCOT continued to outperform PJM. The reason for this ERCOT interconnection process.

ERCOT prefers “connect and manage,” which is faster, while other U.S. grid operators usually choose the “invest and connect” method, which takes longer. This means that ERCOT’s way of connecting renewable energy sources is proficient and acts as a model for the rest of the country.

Leaders from Clearway Energy Group and Enel North America suggest a smart strategy. They propose the idea of combining the “connect and manage” approach with renewable energy projects and energy storage to speed up the process.

The “connect and manage” method works well in Texas (ERCOT) due to its electricity market setup. But with a few adjustments, it can be perfect for other places in the U.S. where electricity markets function differently.

How Do the NRIS and ERIS Differ?

The “NRIS” (Network Resource Interconnection Service) requires new power generators to handle severe grid conditions. This approach is often referred to as “invest and connect.” Unfortunately, this approach can be expensive and might even make new generators unprofitable, causing long delays in connecting them to the grid.

Some project developers choose another service called the “Energy Resource Interconnection Service” (ERIS).  The ERIS is essentially the “connect and manage” approach. By perfecting this approach, it can be used more widely in the United States.

To decrease the risk of renewable energy sources like the wastage of solar energy under ERIS, a few things can be done. This includes making the working mechanism of solar plants more flexible and introducing different ways to compensate for power purchase agreements.

Hybrid Approach:

Storage, like solar batteries, is vital for providing power when you need it. However, ERIS doesn’t compensate for storage.

Moreover, the projects that combine renewables and storage (hybrids) are exponentially increasing. To solve this issue, combining both ERIS and NRIS methods is the best option.

  1. Allow those utilizing ERIS to switch to NRIS when necessary.
  2. Permit hybrid projects to separately apply for NRIS, focusing solely on the storage component.
  3. Some developers may opt to construct standalone storage systems without pairing them with renewables.

Proactive planning for the flow of electricity through the grid is important. This entails considering the placement of new transmission lines and their connections to emerging power sources.

In regions lacking a regional grid manager, it is imperative to devise strategies for seamless integration of the ERCOT interconnection process, transmission planning, and competitive power purchase agreements.

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