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Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study

Using high-performance computing capabilities and innovative visualization tools, NREL shows the power grid of the Eastern United States—one of the largest power systems in the world—can accommodate upwards of 30% wind and solar/photovoltaic (PV) power.

The U.S. Department of Energy commissioned NREL to perform the Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (ERGIS), a scenario-based study of four potential wind and PV futures and associated operational impacts in the Eastern Interconnection.

Advanced Modeling

Advanced modeling and computing techniques—enabled by the high-performance computing center in NREL's Energy Systems Integration Facility—allowed the project team to discard several simplifying assumptions about power system operations and increase the resolution of the analysis in several key ways. The ERGIS project:

  • Expands the range of resources analyzed by simulating large-scale adoption of PV in addition to wind in the U.S. Eastern Interconnection
  • Increases the temporal resolution to 5 minutes, the same real-time interval used by grid operators for scheduling resources
  • Increases the spatial resolution of the model to include all synchronous components of the Eastern Interconnection and Quebec Interconnection on a comparable basis.

To learn more about the advanced modeling and computing techniques, read Time Domain Partitioning of Electricity Production Cost Simulations.

What We Learned

  • The operation of traditional power sources (such as coal, natural gas, and hydro) changes—turning up or down more quickly to accommodate seasonal and daily variations of wind and PV. In addition, traditional generators would likely operate for shorter periods of time as wind and solar resources meet more of the demand for electricity.
  • Flows of power across the Eastern Interconnection change more rapidly and more frequently. Meeting 30% targets under the study assumptions sometimes requires coordinating operations from Montreal to Miami and as far west as New Mexico.
  • Regulatory policy changes, market design innovation, and flexible operating procedures are critical to achieving technical potential. ERGIS shows that the power system can meet loads with variable resources like wind and PV in a variety of extreme conditions. However, achieving the technically feasible depends on incentives for transmission and generation operators to provide the necessary ramping, energy, and capacity services.

Additional Resources

These resources give power system planners, operators, regulators, and others the tools to anticipate and plan for operational changes that may be needed in cleaner energy futures.

Executive Summary

Full Report

Press Release

Eastern wind integration data set

Solar power data for integration studies

MAGMA visualization tools via GitHub. See "Read Me" file for directions on accessing and using the tools.

"Kaleidoscope" visualization tools via GitHub. See "Read Me" file for directions on accessing and using the tools

ERGIS dataset via Plexos by Energy Exemplar

Image: Eastern Interconnection and Quebec Interconnection with major transmission lines reflected (Full size .jpg)

Animation: LowVG scenario net interchange

Animation: RTx30 scenario net interchange

Additional animation files on NREL Learning Channel


Aaron Bloom