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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Transmission Infrastructure

Grid expansion and planning to allow large scale deployment of renewable generation

Large scale deployment of renewable electricity generation will require additional transmission to connect renewable resources, which are wide-spread across the US, but regionally-constrained, to load centers. Long-term transmission planning, based on potential future growth in electric loads and generation resource expansion options, is critical to maintaining the necessary flexibility required for a reliable and robust transmission system. NREL's analyses support transmission infrastructure planning and expansion to enable large-scale deployment of renewable energy in the future.

NREL's transmission infrastructure expansion and planning analyses show that:

  • Analysis of location-specific renewable resource potential and power delivery profiles are critical elements of assessing future transmission infrastructure upgrade and expansion requirements.
  • Future utility resource plans and regional planning efforts need to engage a diverse range stakeholders—US Department of Energy (DOE), FERC, NERC, and the regional entities, transmission providers, generating companies, utilities, regulatory agencies, energy offices, environmental interests, and investors.

Highlights of Recent Studies

Geothermal Power and Interconnection: The Economics of Getting to Market

A map showing known geothermal potential in the western United States.

This study summarizes the transmission and interconnection issues affecting geothermal technologies as these technologies mature and are commercially deployed. Key findings include:

  • For geothermal power, the market of least resistance with respect to interconnection is in serving local base load (within the same balancing authority)
  • Accessing regional markets via new transmission will depend on the ability to aggregate several geothermal plants in the same area, or on aggregating geothermal with other complementary generating technologies, in Renewable Energy Zones (REZs).
  • Interconnection issues facing geothermal power differ greatly from those affecting wind power or other renewable technologies.

To find out more about this study, please download:

Find out more about NREL's transmission infrastructure and planning analysis approach (Tools, Models and Data):

  • NREL Geographic Information System (GIS) technology-specific GIS data maps showing renewable energy resource potential, political, infrastructure/utility data and maps are used to support transmission and planning analysis.

Find out more about other published transmission infrastructure expansion and planning analyses:

For questions, contact David Hurlbut.