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NREL Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study Redefines What's Possible for Renewables (Text Version)

This is a text version of the video "Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study: Redefining What's Possible for Renewable Energy."

We started this study with a question.

Can you take one of the largest power systems in the worldone that was designed to work with fossil fuelsand make it work with variable renewables like wind and solar?

We tried to explore what's technically feasible and to identify potential barriers to realizing a cleaner energy future.

It's a project that required big models and big data, and it could only be done at the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

The Eastern Interconnection covers 2/3 of the United States and delivers power reliably all the way from New Mexico to Maine. It's a really big system, and one of the most complex in the world.

We wanted to know how a system this vast might operate with more wind, more solar and more natural gas.

The questions we looked at in this study had been around for a really long time.

We wanted to roll back a lot of the simplifying assumptions that we've been making in the industry for the last 25 years.

In the Insight Center, we could see things that we couldn't see in the raw data alone.

We were able to animate the time series data. And when we did, a new story began to unfold.

Take a look at what's happening here...

It's late November, and nearly 50% of the generation is from wind and solar PV.

Load is low, and we see high amounts of curtailment in the Great Plains, until a forecast error unfolds.

Over the next 6 hours, the system experiences a 35 GW forecast error and solar generation peaks at 100GW. To manage this change in wind, the setting sun, and a rapidly growing evening load, the system needed dispatchable wind and solar resources, quick start gas generators, the ability to transfer electricity across large parts of North America.

This is a challenging set of conditions. But what we saw, is that the system still worked.

Bottom line: we show that the Eastern Interconnection can operate at a 5-minute level with 30% wind and solar.

Situations like this signal a potential opportunity for new technologies like demand response, energy storage, and electric vehicles.

We're looking forward to studying those tools and others as part of the Department of Energy's Grid Modernization Initiative.

My work excites me because we're redefining what's possible with clean energy around the world.