in News Departments > New & Noteworthy
print the content item

Incorporating high levels of wind and solar power into the Western Interconnection grid, which includes 13 U.S. states and some parts of Canada and Mexico, could ultimately save utilities billions of dollars per year in fuel costs and reduce carbon emissions by one-third, finds a new report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

According to NREL, the projected fuel savings outweigh added costs that the region’s utilities and fossil-fueled plant operators would have to incur in order to integrate the boost in wind and solar, which are intermittent energy resources. Through a practice called cycling, the lab explains, utilities often ramp up or down fossil plants in order to maintain reliable power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine.

As part of the study, NREL modeled the potential impacts of increasing wind and solar power generation to make up 33% of the western U.S.’ load in 2020. Debra Lew, project manager for the report, says that figure translates to a nominal 26% penetration across the entire Western Interconnection. However, she notes that most of the cycling would take place in the U.S.

Using the above simulation, the study estimates that cycling costs would reach between $35 million and $157 million per year in the Western Interconnection, which equates to a rise in O&M costs of approximately $0.50 to $1.30 per megawatt-hour of fossil-fueled generation.

“Increased cycling to accommodate high levels of wind and solar generation increases operating costs by two percent to five percent for the average fossil-fueled plant,” Lew explains. “However, our simulations show that from a system perspective, avoided fuel costs are far greater than the increased cycling costs for fossil-fueled plants.”

In fact, the report says the added wind and solar power on the grid would help cut fossil fuel expenses by about $7 billion annually in the Western Interconnection region.

The study also finds that the additional cycling would produce a “negligible” amount of carbon emissions when compared with how much carbon-reduction potential the renewables represent. The report says the high level of wind and solar would decrease net carbon emissions by one-third in the region, including billions of pounds of CO2 and millions of pounds of NOX and SO2.

“Cycling induces some inefficiencies, but the carbon emission reduction is impacted by much less than one percent,” comments Lew.

On average, the report says 4 MWh of renewable energy displaces 3 MWh of natural gas generation and 1 MWh of coal generation. NREL notes that the study focused only on operations and did not include other factors such as capital costs associated with building renewable energy projects or fossil-fueled power facilities. The report is available here.





Trachte Inc._id1770
Latest Top Stories

Utility-Scale Wind And Solar Keep Getting Cheaper

A new study measures the levelized cost of energy from various technologies and suggests that the costs of utility-scale wind and solar power are catching up with those of traditional sources, even without subsidies.


The Song Remains The Same: Ontario Seeks More Science Before Lifting Offshore Ban

The Ontario government says the nearly four-year-old offshore wind moratorium will remain in place until the province fully understands the technology’s impact on the environment.


Why States Should Adopt A Renewable Portfolio Standard

A new study analyzes the potential benefits of state renewable energy mandates, as well as recommends what such policies should include.


Sen. Reid Vows To Bring Wind PTC To A Vote By Year's End

Nevada's senior senator provides some encouragement to wind industry advocates during his annual Clean Energy Summit.


Steadily, Wind Turbine OEMs Resume R&D Investment

An increased commitment to research and development will likely lead to wind energy innovation - not to mention a likely increase in patent-protected technology.

Canwea_id1984
Renewable NRG_id1934
UnitedEquip_id1995
Future Energy_id2008