Grid Integration Modeling for Geothermal Power

NREL's grid integration modeling addresses the challenges of incorporating geothermal power into the bulk-power system while maintaining safe, efficient, and cost-effective grids.

Transmission lines near a city skyline.
NREL partners with electric utilities to integrate geothermal technologies into the grid.

NREL works with electric utilities, energy policymakers, and industry partners to determine the most effective ways to integrate geothermal technologies into the electric power system to supply reliable power throughout the country and world. 

Geothermal energy offers zero-carbon energy and reliable capacity to the system while also providing ancillary services, including spinning reserves and black-start capability. NREL researchers are identifying ways that geothermal energy can work with other technologies on the grid and refining estimates of the economic and reliability value that these services provide.


  • Production cost or unit commitment and economic dispatch modeling
    We simulate the market operations of the power system subject to demand, generation, and transmission parameters. These models help us understand how a future grid infrastructure could operate and what energy and ancillary service prices could be given existing market structures.
  • Capacity expansion modeling
    We model the evolution of the generation fleet and transmission infrastructure as a co-optimization. These models (including NREL's Regional Energy Deployment System and Resource Planning Model) can help inform grid stakeholders about the costs and potential buildouts given assumptions around costs and policies.

  • Resource adequacy modeling
    We use Monte Carlo techniques to estimate the adequacy part of reliability based on unit outage rates and generation and transmission parameters. These models (e.g., the Probabilistic Resource Adequacy Suite) can help us understand how variable renewables such as wind and solar can contribute to adequacy and how much value nonvariable renewables such as geothermal can provide.
  • Power flow and dynamic modeling
    We model static and dynamic voltage and frequency performance of the grid. These models can assess the stability part of reliability for future grid infrastructure.

Valuation of Grid Services

The changing electric grid requires flexible generation that can balance the system and provide other grid services. Geothermal power offers a host of flexibility services such as ramping, frequency response, and black start that can support grid reliability.

NREL's geothermal power and grid research initiative is establishing the current state of geothermal power within the electricity grid ecosystem and developing an understanding of the services it can provide to utility grid operators, the services that are most needed by utility grid operators, and the value of these services to operators and other end users.

This analysis can inform future research and development planning so grid modelers and planners can better incorporate geothermal into planning models and will allow geothermal energy to best support future electric grids by maximizing the value of geothermal resources, increasing the exploitation of geothermal resources, and facilitating greater integration of intermittent renewables.

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Operational Analysis of the Eastern Interconnection at Very High Renewable Penetrations, NREL Technical Report (2018)

Advancing System Flexibility for High Penetration Renewable Integration, NREL Technical Report (2015)

View all NREL publications about geothermal research.