Podcast Ep. 25: VP Zach Smith on the Interconnection Process and the Growth of Clean Energy on the Grid
“The objective is the reliability of the grid,” VP of System & Resource Planning Zach Smith says about the process his group oversees studying the impacts of connecting new electric resources to the grid. Because of state policies and technological advancements, more developers are seeking to connect to the grid, creating more demands on the New York ISO in overseeing the study process.
Smith is a frequent guest of the Power Trends podcast. His conversations on grid planning, reliability, and resource interconnection are routinely among the most popular of our series. In this episode, he discusses how the NYISO is required to study the impacts of new resources like large wind, solar and battery storage facilities seeking to connect to the electric system.
“It’s being able to integrate new resources onto the grid as we transition to a renewable future,” he says. “That means that as we connect these new resources, we analyze their impact, and identify upgrades to maintain the performance of the system.”
State and federal clean energy policies are driving a dramatic increase in clean energy projects entering the Interconnection Queue, where they will be studied for feasibility and grid reliability impacts. The process requires the expertise of many of the NYISO’s most skilled engineers and analysts.
“It’s something I take great pride in: the talent in the team and experts we have,” says Smith. “But we also have a lot of challenges ahead of us.”
The Interconnection Queue has experienced change. A few years ago, it was typical to see between one and two hundred resources applying. Today, the Interconnection Queue contains nearly 500 proposals. Factors driving this historic growth include New York’s requirement of a zero-emissions grid by 2040, new incentives to build new solar, wind, and storage resources, and public policy needs that incentivize new transmission investment.
In the podcast, Smith discusses the three successive studies that examine the impact of each new resource, as well as their collective impact and the potential need for system upgrades. The process involves continuous collaboration between the developers, local utilities, and the NYISO. Some project proposals are more fully realized than others. Sometimes a resource will elect to drop out of the process, requiring a new round of studies, adding to the time it takes for all remaining resources to get to the end.
The NYISO has several initiatives underway to make the process more efficient and user-friendly for applicants. “The technology continues to change,” Smith said. “We’re working hard here in New York to keep things moving along.”
Listen to the podcast.