NREL releases Study on Western Power Grid: ready for Renewables!
Last week, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) released a substantial study looking at solar and wind energy effects on the West Connect power system over the next few years. The West Connect power system is the power grid run by a number of private and public utilities powering sections of California, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. With worries that the current grid can't handle power fluctuations of wind and solar energy, this study shows that some coordination and communication among utilities can reduce the need for more firming power form Green House Gas (GHG) producing sources like coal and natural gas without major changes to the grid.
“If key changes can be made to standard operating procedures, our research shows that large amounts of wind and solar can be incorporated onto the grid without a lot of backup generation,” said Dr. Debra Lew, NREL project manager for the study. “When you coordinate the operations between utilities across a large geographic area, you decrease the effect of the variability of wind and solar energy sources, mitigating the unpredictability of Mother Nature.”
These changes will not only reduce GHG emissions, but save utilities money.
The study also finds that if utilities generate 27 percent of their electricity from wind and solar energy across the Western Interconnection grid, it would lower carbon emissions by 25 to 45 percent, depending on the future price of natural gas. It would also decrease fuel and emissions costs by 40 percent.
Smart grid innovations and new technology will surely be added to our current grid system in the future, but with a few changes, the grid system can handle clean, renewable energy now!
NREL Press Release http://www.nrel.gov/news/press/2010/846.html
Download the 500 page study http://www.nrel.gov/wwsis