Small hydropower projects have been the predominant source of capacity growth of U.S. hydropower for more than a decade, and they present the most cost-effective and environmentally permissible avenues for hydropower growth (DOE 2016; Johnson et al. 2018). However, interconnection to electricity distribution and transmission grids is a persistent barrier due to cost surprises and schedule overruns. As a culmination to research into the status and requirements of small hydropower interconnection across the United States, this paper presents the best practices for setting interconnection standards that can improve the process for small hydropower developers. As part of the analysis, the interconnection costs are compared between small hydropower, solar, and wind.
The analysis of the small hydropower interconnection landscape across the United States was carried out by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) with support from the U.S. Department of Energy Water Power Technologies Office. The research team was guided by a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) and gleaned data from publicly available sources, such as the HydroSource database (ORNL 2020) and interconnection queues hosted by utilities, balancing authorities, independent system operators (ISOs), and regional transmission organizations (RTOs).
The results of this work are shared in a series of papers detailing the state of small hydropower in the United States (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Small Hydropower in the United States”), the variety of state interconnection processes to connect power generators with the grid (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: State Interconnection Processes”), and an analysis of the interconnection processes (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Analysis of Interconnection Processes”). In this, the final paper in the series, best practices for interconnection processes (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Best Practices”) are identified from the solar energy and distributed wind energy industries that are transferrable to small hydropower development. This information will help overcome barriers to future small hydropower development.