As wind and solar power draw increased attention in the push for clean, renewable sources of energy, the question of how to integrate them into the power grid is also in the spotlight. GE Energy recently prepared a lengthy report for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory — the Western Wind and Solar Integration Study — that took an in-depth look at the grid in the Western U.S. The report, one of the largest regional wind and solar integration studies to date, found that the system could handle a significant percentage of both wind and solar — 30 percent wind and 5 percent solar — but only if some new practices are adopted, such as improved weather forecasting and better utilization and coordination of existing grid infrastructure.

 

Bring it on! Click the image to read the executive summary.

As goodcleantech.com observed: “The study suggests that even though winds are intermittent and sunlight does not perpetually shine, they’re no cause of concern on whether the renewable energy sources can provide the expected percentage of energy allotted for them. To be able to achieve the goal, the WestConnect group of utilities [which were the basis of the study] in the mountain and southwest states would have to be able to coordinate operations over a wider coverage area. They would need to be able to schedule the specific amount of power they can deliver within a period of time so that generators could adjust that power based on the current weather conditions. In the future, if such a change in operational procedures could be put into effect, the study says there would even be no need for back-up gas-burning power plants.”

Tech blog sunpluggers.com noted that the report — which considered grid operations in 2017 — “is one of a number of similar studies around the country that have been examining how significant amounts of renewable electricity could be seamlessly incorporated into the power stream that flows to U.S. homes, schools, hospitals and businesses… A related study for the eastern United States, the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study, found that ‘high penetrations of wind generation — 20 percent to 30 percent of the electrical energy requirements of the Eastern Interconnection — are technically feasible with significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure.’”

The new study found that the Western grid could handle as much as 20 percent of its power from wind with little impact, but that at higher levels the lack of precise wind and solar forecasting limits the gains. Improving those forecasts is one solution — and is an active area of current government research. The study also found that up to 20 percent of renewable penetration on the grid could be achieved with little or no new long distance, interstate transmission additions. The findings follow the Department of Energy’s “20 Percent Wind Energy by 2030” report, which did not find any technical barriers to reaching 20 percent wind energy in the continental United States by 2030.”

Meanwhile, supporters of wind power — and the jobs that are generated with it — will have a chance to add their names to GE’s well-traveled, 131-foot wind blade at the annual Congressional Baseball Game, in which members of Congress (Democrats vs. Republicans), play. More than 6,000 Americans across the country signed the blade, which is nearly half a football field long and carries the message: “I’m helping to build America’s energy future.”

It arrives June 29 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. and will be stationed outside the main gates for the game through Tuesday night. The public can add their names to the petition before the game and clean energy industry reps will be available to answer questions.

* Read coverage from RenewableEnergyWorld.com and EnergyBoom.com
* Read the report’s executive summary
* Go to the NREL website highlighting the report
* Read the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study
* Read Part 3 of GE's series: “Wind expo: 3,000 blade signatures & a Great Lakes first
* Watch Part 2 of GE's series: “‘Capture the Wind’ tour: At the fair & atop the tower
* Watch Part 1: “Capture the Wind tour: Honk if you like green jobs!