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Interconnection Seams Study

Through the Interconnection Seams Study, NREL joins national lab, university, and industry partners to identify cost-effective options for upgrading the U.S. electric grid to create a more integrated power system that can drive economic growth and increase efficient development and utilization of the nation's abundant energy resources, including solar, wind, and natural gas.

Map of the continental United States that reflects major power system regions and the strong solar resource across the South and Southwest and strong wind resources primarily in Texas and the Great Plains states.

Stitching together the major regions of the U.S. power system, represented here conceptually, could enhance the ability to harness abundant renewable resources and balance loads across the country.

Strengthening the U.S. Power System

The three major components of the U.S. power system—the Western Interconnection, the Eastern Interconnection, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas—operate almost independently of each other. Very little electricity is transferred between the interconnections.

This study — a regional partnership under the U.S. Energy Department's Grid Modernization Initiative — will quantify the value of strengthening the connections (or seams) between the regions to encourage efficient development and utilization of U.S. energy resources. We will also assess the degree to which interconnection can facilitate a more reliable, resilient, sustainable, and affordable U.S. electricity system. View the 2017 presentation, Grid Modernization Initiative Peer Review – Interconnections Seam Study to learn more.

Our Approach

To quantify the value of enhancing the U.S. interconnection seams, the study team will analyze a suite of power system futures. We will utilize and analyze results from three classes of power system models: long-term capacity expansion, yearlong production cost, and AC power flow. The end result: in-depth insight on the economic, environmental, reliability, and resiliency benefits of the study scenarios.

Research Team

Technical Review Committee

Representatives from more than 30 utilities, power system operators, and industry organizations are helping guide this study by helping to define the study questions and methods and reviewing findings. We welcome input and involvement from all power system stakeholders.

  • Alberta Independent System Operator
  • Basin Electric Power Company
  • Black Hills Energy
  • Energy Exemplar
  • El Paso Electric
  • Electric Power Research Institute
  • Electric Reliability Council of Texas
  • Great River Energy
  • Hydro Quebec
  • Independent System Operator of Ontario
  • LS Power
  • Manitoba Hydro
  • Minnesota Power
  • National Grid
  • National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  • Natural Resources Canada
  • NB Power
  • NextEra
  • NS Power
  • Public Service Company of New Mexico
  • SaskPower
  • SDG&E
  • Solar Energy Industry Association
  • Transcanyon
  • Tri-State Generation and Transmission
  • Utility Variable Generation Integration Group
  • Western Electricity Coordinating Council
  • Xcel Energy

Study Materials

Graphic of a map of wind power resource in the United States, depicting average wind speeds at a 100-meter hub height for the year 2012 derived from modeled resource estimates.

Map of United States Wind Power Resource

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Graphic of a map of solar resource availability in the United States, depicting annual average daily total solar resource using 2012 data, reflecting high concentrations of solar in the South and Southwest regions.

Map of Global Horizontal Solar Irradiance

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Graphic of a map of the U.S. Transmission system, showing transmission lines across the United States and seven points of high-voltage direct-current power transmission ties in Miles City, MT; Rapid City, SD; Stegall, NE; Sidney, NE; Lamar, CO; Clovis, NM; and  Artesia, NM.

Map of U.S. Transmission System and B2B HVDC Ties

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Contact

Aaron Bloom
Email | 720-402-2065