AbstractSmall hydropower projects have faced the challenge of navigating the process to interconnect their generation source to electricity distribution and transmission grids. Small hydropower developers have found interconnection procedures to be opaque and ultimately result in unexpected cost surprises and long timelines. Noting these challenges, the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office enlisted Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to investigate the small hydropower interconnection landscape across the United States. After reviewing the status of small hydropower (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Small Hydropower in the United States”) and the interconnection procedures across the United States (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: State Interconnection Processes”) in the first two white papers of this series, this paper uses recent data from small hydropower interconnection applications to benchmark the efficacy of the process. Using data from interconnection queues hosted by utilities, balancing authorities, independent system operators (ISOs), and regional transmission organizations (RTOs), this paper provides context for the costs, timelines, and types of upgrades required for small hydropower projects. Interconnection applications and study reports for small hydropower projects were analyzed to collect key pieces of information about the interconnection process, timeline, costs, and type of upgrades required for interconnection. Information sourced from the reports was entered into an Interconnection Benchmarking database (IBdb), which may be found in Appendix A.1. Information from this database was used to evaluate the performance and challenges associated with interconnecting small hydropower projects. This white paper presents a description of the sources contained in the interconnection database (Section 2.0), an analysis of the interconnection timeline (Section 3.0), an evaluation the cost of interconnection upgrades (Section 4.0), and a description of the types of infrastructure upgrades (Section 5.0). The final paper in this series (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Best Practices”) will use the analysis described here to outline best practices for interconnection processes that will help overcome barriers to future small hydropower development.
Published: September 21, 2022