Grid 2020: Towards a Policy of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources

Another unreliable

The transformation occurring across the world’s electrical systems represents one of the greatest technological challenges industrialized societies have undertaken.

This just landed on my desk, from Caltech’s Resnick Sustainability Institute, how to manage the impact of unreliable wind and solar on the US grid by De Martini, Paul and Chandy, K. Mani and Fromer, N. A. (2012) Grid 2020: Towards a Policy of Renewable and Distributed Energy Resources. , Pasadena, CA. From the Executive Summary:

The transformation occurring across the world’s electrical systems represents one of the greatest technological challenges industrialized societies have undertaken. Reconfiguring a grid designed to carry power one way from reliable generation sources managed by few agents to a system in- creasingly laden with unreliable wind and solar energy while involving mil- lions more participants using advanced technologies will introduce a high degree of uncertainty and variability into the future grid. These changes po- tentially threaten reliability of electrical supply and must be carefully choreo- graphed to avoid widespread perturbations in cost, reliability and efficiency. Yet policy mandates for more and more renewable and distributed energy resources (DER) potentially threaten to outpace the solutions necessary to manage change effectively. This report highlights critical engineering, economic and policy issues that must be addressed to ensure a successful transition. These issues arise for several reasons, including:

  • Expectation of uninterrupted power reliability

  • Volatility of some renewable generation and customer demand

  • Time-scale alignment of customers, producers, economic and grid control actions

  • Rapid changes in both energy and information technologies

  • Clean energy incentives alignment with market and grid realities

Three realms in particular require focused attention on solutions. First, the transmission and distribution of electricity is fundamentally changing due to variable generation at wind and solar stations and customer load due to on- site generation and demand responses. This requires a new operating para- digm in which operational decision time cycles are decreasing beyond human capability to be central to the process as is the case today. Also, the need for coordination of transmission operations across operating regions is in- creasing and traditional jurisdictional boundaries between transmission and distribution are blurring. These factors combined with the massive capital investment to replace an aging infrastructure point to the need to reconsider fundamental design and operational reliability principles. The anticipated high degree of variability and uncertainty should be addressed through the use of models and methods designed for such stochastic applications. Further, the use of related risk management techniques adapted from other mission- critical industries should be evaluated.

More to follow…

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