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NERC: Renewables Can Be Integrated With System Changes

Apr 15 , 2009 - Bill Opalk - Energy Central

Large quantities of renewable energy can be integrated into the nation's transmission grid without impairing reliability. But there will have to be changes in the planning and operation of the grid, according to a highly anticipated report by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC).

The special report “Accommodating High Levels of Variable Generation,” to be released today, says larger amounts of wind, solar, and other variable generation can be integrated into the bulk power system.

“This report is just the beginning of our efforts in this area,” said Warren Frost, Alberta Electric System Operator Vice President Operations and Reliability and Chair of NERC’s Integration of Variable Generation Task Force (IVGTF). “Throughout the report, we’ve identified key homework assignments for NERC and the electric industry that we expect to be completed in the coming years.”

With renewable energy mandates in a majority of states, significant amounts of new generation have to be built by 2020 and beyond.

“Over 145,000 MW of new variable resources are projected to be added to the North American bulk power system in the next decade. Even if only half of this capacity comes into service, it will represent a 350% increase in variable resources over what existed in 2008,” said NERC president and CEO Rick Sergel.

Frost says operational concerns don’t really come into play until renewable energy penetration levels reach between 10 percent and 20 percent of load.

The report highlights transmission additions and reinforcements, better forecasting of variable generation output, and access to flexible grid resources (including customer participation in targeted demand management, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, and large-scale electricity storage) as key contributors to reliably integrating variable resources into the system.

The report outlines key steps the industry has to take in the coming years, including:

Planning practices and methods require change — High levels of variable generation will require system planners to change planning practices, procedures, methods, and tools to ensure reliability. Incorporating resources located at the distribution-level (such as roof-top solar panels and “smart grid” technologies) into bulk power system planning studies is a key area in need of improvement, along with integrated analysis of transmission and resources.

Grid operators require new tools and practices — Ensuring the efficient, effective, and reliable use of variable resources will require a number of changes in system operations centers, including incorporating consistent and accurate forecasting of daily and seasonal variable generation output and advanced control techniques into daily and real-time practices.

Industry encouraged to pursue research and development and establish appropriate market signals — A renewed focus on research and development for new system models, continued improvement of variable generation technologies, and advanced planning techniques is needed. The report also recommends that organized markets consider instituting mechanisms designed to ensure the availability of adequate flexible balancing resources.

Policy makers encouraged to remove barriers to transmission development and consider reliability — The report encourages policy makers to accelerate transmission siting, approve permits for needed facilities, and otherwise remove barriers to needed transmission development.

“The task force recommendations open the way to upgrading grid planning and operations in ways that will make our aging electric utility system more efficient and reliable while saving consumers money,” said American Wind Energy Association CEO Denise Bode.

David Owens, Executive Vice President, Business Operations Group, the Edison Electric Institute, said, “The NERC report serves as a detailed road map for the challenges and opportunities electric utilities face as we integrate more renewable electricity resources. We are committed to the task at hand and are confident that renewable generation will play an increasingly important part in meeting the electricity demands of the future.”

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