July 30, 2012
Author: Paul Denholm, NREL
High penetration of variable wind and solar electricity generation will require modifications to the electric power system. This work examines the impacts of variable generation, including uncertainty, ramp rate, ramp range, and potentially excess generation. Time-series simulations were performed in the Texas (ERCOT) grid where different mixes of wind, solar PV, and concentrating solar power provide up to 80% of the electric demand. Different enabling technologies were examined, including conventional generator flexibility, demand response, load shifting, and energy storage. A variety of combinations of these technologies enabled low levels of surplus or curtailed wind and solar generation depending on the desired penetration of renewable sources. At lower levels of penetration (up to about 30% on an energy basis) increasing flexible generation, combined with demand response, may be sufficient to accommodate variability and uncertainty. Introduction of load-shifting through real-time pricing or other market mechanisms further increases the penetration of variable generation. The limited time coincidence of wind and solar generation presents increasing challenges as these sources provide greater than 50% of total demand. System flexibility must be increased to the point of virtually eliminating must-run baseload generators during periods of high wind and solar generation. Energy storage also becomes increasingly important as lower cost flexibility options are exhausted. The study examines three classes of energy storage—electricity storage, including batteries and pumped hydro, hybrid storage (compressed-air energy storage), and thermal energy storage. Ignoring long-distance transmission options, a combination of load shifting and storage equal to about 12 hours of average demand may keep renewable energy curtailment below 10% in the simulated system.