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Renewable Systems Integration

Photo of two large wind turbine on a snowy ridge with utility lines and blue sky in the background.The Wind Program works with electric grid operators, utilities, regulators, and industry to create new strategies for incorporating increasing amounts of wind energy into the power system while maintaining economic and reliable operation of the grid.

Utilities have been increasingly deploying wind power to provide larger portions of electricity generation. However, many utilities also express concerns about wind power's possible impacts on electric power system operations, because wind's variability adds uncertainty beyond what is present due to variations in electricity demand (also called load). These concerns, if not adequately addressed, could limit the development potential of wind power in the United States.

As the nation moves toward an energy system with higher penetrations of wind energy, it is increasingly important for grid operators to understand how they can reliably integrate large quantities of wind energy into system operations; additionally, it is important to develop capabilities that enable these new wind installations to actively improve the power quality of the electric grid.

Goal

The program's goal in advanced grid integration is to remove barriers to wind energy grid integration and accelerate deployment to enable 20% of the nation's electricity to come from wind. This can be accomplished through integration studies, modeling, demonstrations, and assessments at both the transmission and distribution levels. To develop a renewed vision for U.S. wind power research, development, and deployment, the program is developing a new Wind Vision to revisit the findings of the 20% Wind report.

Research Project Highlights

Program researchers work with industry partners on projects aimed at better understanding integration issues and building confidence in the reliability of wind generation. This includes conducting wind integration studies; developing models needed for transmission system planners; understanding how wind energy can impact electricity markets; and assessing a variety of other technical impacts of integrating wind into the grid. The program is leading a portfolio of wind integration, transmission, and resource assessment and characterization projects that will help the industry understand how to reliably integrate large quantities of wind energy into system operations, as well as develop capabilities that will enable these new wind installations to actively improve the quality of electric grid. 

Wind Forecasting

The program works to improve the current state of the art in wind forecasting—one of the most beneficial strategies for mitigating wind variability and uncertainty—by providing data for forecast verification, improving forecast accuracy, and evaluating the best methods for presenting forecast data to system operators. The program also works to provide accurate measurements and representations of the wind resource at modern wind turbine hub heights.

Wind Plant Performance Characterization

The program works with the wind industry to provide utilities and grid planners with better wind turbine component electrical models for use in interconnection studies. By using non-proprietary models developed by the program's partners, utilities, transmission providers, and other stakeholders can rapidly improve the interconnection process and better represent wind turbines' capabilities to contribute to overall system reliability. The program also collects data about the power supplied from commercial wind farms. These data allow analysis of how best to determine the power curve for wind farms, help improve wind forecasts, and help better evaluate how turbine wake effects can impact power production.

Grid Planning and Analysis

The program supports efforts to inform power systems planners on how to best represent the characteristics of wind power. This issue will become more important as broad regional transmission planning efforts evolve.

At present, the generation and transmission operational impacts that occur due to wind variability are not well quantified. Without realistic analysis and cost estimates, utilities may tend to overestimate imposed operational costs, resulting in the undervaluing of wind power in the system. Research conducted by the program uses engineering and cost analyses to quantify impacts. Costs for grid integration of wind may also increase as wind deployment expands in the future. Both short- and longer-term mitigation of variability issues, including wind plant forecasting and control, application of energy storage, and regional cooperation, could reduce additional integration costs.

Wind generation can provide benefits to the current electric grid that some thermal generation sources cannot. Wind farms can assist other power systems by providing additional economic value and reliability. To assess this potential, the program sponsors integration studies that analyze the impact of incorporating wind energy and other renewable energy technologies. An example is Idaho National Laboratory's efforts to examine the increased power transmission potential that results from transmission line cooling, an effect that occurs on wind farms. The most recent studies are the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study and the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS), produced in collaboration with the Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.