The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) introduced a new study which used a supercomputer to investigate how the eastern US’s electric grid could handle up to 30 percent of its power coming from wind and solar power. The lab published NREL's Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS), which analyzed a year of data at 5-minute intervals across the US’s eastern grid network from Florida to Canada and studied four potential scenarios for more wind, solar and natural gas generation in the region.
The four hypothetical scenarios NREL considered looked at how the Eastern Interconnection could function in 2026, with significantly less power generation from fossil fuels and more coming from wind, solar and natural gas. The models also looked at different new transmission lines.
"Our work provides power system operators and regulators insights into how the Eastern Interconnection might operate in future scenarios with more wind and solar energy," said Aaron Bloom, NREL project leader for the ERGIS study. "More importantly, we are sharing our data and tools so that others can conduct their own analysis.”
The scenarios showed that wind and solar generation could result in a 30 percent reduction in generation from coal and natural gas plants in the high wind and solar scenarios. The highest of which showed the maximum penetration of wind and solar was 60 percent over a five-minute interval. In the high solar and wind power scenario carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by up to 33 percent annually when compared to the baseline model tested.
The lab said that is the same time interval that grid operators currently work at to make sure the grid is balanced and meeting customers’ needs. In all the study generated data on more than 60,000 transmission lines running as far as New Mexico and more than 5,600 electric generators through the region. Previously studies looked at the data at one-hour intervals.
"By modeling the power system in depth and detail, NREL has helped reset the conversation about how far we can go operationally with wind and solar in one of the largest power systems in the world," said the Energy Department's Charlton Clark, a study program manager. "Releasing the production cost model, underlying data, and visualization tools alongside the final report reflects our commitment to giving power system planners, operators, regulators, and others the tools to anticipate and plan for operational and other important changes that may be needed in some cleaner energy futures."
The new study did not look at the capital costs, land use and siting, market design, gas pipeline, and other factors. However, the lab has produced other reports that delve into those aspects.Tweet