September 21, 2022

Small Hydropower Interconnections: State Interconnection Processes


Small hydropower projects with rated power output between 0 to 20 MW have been the predominant source of hydropower growth over the past decade in the United States (DOE 2016; Johnson et al. 2018). However, interconnection to electricity distribution and transmission grids is a persistent barrier. Interconnection of an electricity generating unit is overseen by the distribution or transmission owner, who use interconnection standards and requirements that vary by state. The differences between standards in standards may affect the final cost, timeline, and success of a small hydropower project. Small hydropower project developers across the United States have found interconnection procedures to be fraught with cost surprises and schedule overruns. System operators have struggled to understand impacts to overburdened or rapidly evolving transmission and distribution grids. The results of these shortcomings have been stranded costs and unrealized small hydropower potential. Though regulatory actions and policy recommendations at the state level have increased the situational awareness of interconnection challenges, the remote locations of small hydropower resources and the relatively small revenues associated with energy production through small hydropower facilities continue to make interconnection processes and requirements confusing and costly. 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. The second in a series, this paper investigates the interconnection process in each state in the U.S. to compare their attributes. Subsequent papers in the series will analyze these interconnection processes (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Analysis of Interconnection Processes”) and present best practices (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Best Practices”) that will help overcome barriers to future small hydropower development. The first paper in the series examined the state of small hydropower projects in the United States (“Small Hydropower Interconnections: Small Hydropower in the United States”) to understand the industry characteristics.

Published: September 21, 2022


Douville T.C., M. Severy, L.T. Wall, and K. Mongird. 2022. Small Hydropower Interconnections: State Interconnection Processes Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.