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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Wind and Hydropower Technology Analysis

Wind and hydropower analysis supports advanced technologies that convert more of the nation's wind into electricity.

Grid Operational Impact Analysis

The wind program will address the variable, normally uncontrollable nature of wind power plant output, and the additional needs that its operation imposes on the overall grid. At present, the generation and transmission operational impacts that occur due to wind variability are not well quantified. This research will include efforts to quantify and fairly allocate impacts in both an engineering and cost sense. Methods of analysis are at an early stage of development. Without realistic analysis and cost allocation, utilities tend to overestimate imposed operational costs, resulting in the undervaluing of wind power in the system. Unrealistically high ancillary cost evaluations will result in lower wind deployment rates.

Transmission and Generation Planning

Continued growth in electric loads results in the need to plan for and install new generators and transmission lines. Wind generation is a relatively new power source in the evolving competitive wholesale electric markets, so existing planning organizations and methods do not generally include wind as an option. Future utility resource plans and regional planning efforts need to include wind stakeholders in the overall process. Characterizations of potential wind resource locations and power delivery profiles are critical to accurate assessment of potential transmission line upgrades or expansions. In addition, the reliability characteristics (capacity credit) resulting from wind and utility load temporal profile matches have an impact on the valuation of wind from the planning perspective. Most of the foregoing can be handled by existing utility practices, as long as the required data are known.

The problem at the moment for wind developers is that existing practice for interconnection requires the same level of interconnection studies for a 25 MW wind plant as for a 1000 MW coal-steam plant and as each study is completed the dynamics of the network often change, rendering an earlier study invalid. This is an expensive, time-consuming hurdle for most wind projects. What is needed in each region for cost-effective deployment of wind power is an integrated study such as the AWEA study of 10,000 MW of wind that was recently completed. The role of the wind program is to provide the technical information required and to provide assistance where needed.

Environmental Analysis

The Environmental Analysis activities aim to develop general approaches for estimating both the ecological impacts of hydropower operation and the beneficial effects of mitigation measures.

Environmental performance testing (EPT) is a conceptual framework for testing turbines at field sites that identifies the assessment tools needed, how they would work together, and how they should be applied to any particular hydropower project. The EPT framework will guide the testing that DOE will support during field verification tests and could be used to evaluate the hazards of alternative routes of downstream passage at other dams.

Environmental performance testing tools will be applied and refined as large turbine testing gets underway.

Future R&D in this area would include an examination of ecological indexes, e.g., the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), to rivers altered by hydropower operations. Research conducted under the Ecohydraulics of Reservoirs project will test the hypothesis that fluctuating discharges cause hydraulic instability in reservoirs that negatively influence fish migration.

Learn more about our Wind Technology capabilities and current projects in this area.

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Key staff analysts
Lori Bird
Nate Blair

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