Integrating Renewables into the Grid

How renewables are changing the way we operate the grid

Utility Dive, February 23, 2015

The only thing today’s power system has left in common with the 20th century grid is that the standard is still cost-effective reliability.

Today’s grid operator does things that were fairy tales in 1999. Iowa and South Dakota got over 25% of their electricity from renewables in 2013. Nine states get over 12%. Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, and Germany are over 20%. Xcel Colorado went over 60% one May day in 2013. Texas grid operator ERCOT went over 29% in March of last year.

To reliably and cost-effectively integrate those levels of variable renewables, grid operators are developing new tools and learning a new language.

“It is more useful to look at what the power system needs in terms of energy, capacity, and flexibility and what the best resource mix is,” explained American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Research Director Michael Goggin, “rather than categorizing resources with terms like base-load that aren’t well-defined and don’t sync up that well with what grid operators actually need.”


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