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Wind Can Improve Power Grid Reliability

Feb. 19, 2014
Turbines can balance loads and reduce blackouts.

Wind generation may be sporadic, but that doesn’t prevent it from contributing to grid stability.

A new study finds that wind power can assist the grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system. Active power control helps to balance loads with generation to avoid erroneous power flows, involuntary load shedding, machine damage, and the risk of potential blackouts.

For wind power to provide these control services, three stipulations must be met:

  • The wind power response needs to improve, not impair, power system reliability.
  • It must be economically viable for wind power plants as well as electricity consumers, particularly as power plants may incur additional capital costs for the controls and reduce the amount of energy sold to the market.
  • Active power control should not have negative impacts on the turbine loading or induce structural damage that could reduce the life of the turbine.

The challenge with integrating high concentrations of wind power into electric systems is that it is commonly considered a variable, uncertain energy source. This new approach challenges this viewpoint and repositions wind as an integral part of the grid.

“The key takeaway is that wind power can act in an equal or superior manner to conventional generation when providing active power control, supporting the system frequency response and improving reliability,” says Erik Ela, an analyst for NREL, which contributed to the research.

The study, Active Power Controls from Wind Power: Bridging the Gaps, was prepared by the NREL, along with partners from the Electric Power Research Institute and University of Colorado.

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