Renewable energy is becoming increasingly cost competitive in comparison to traditional fossil fuel generation. So why is its impact on the power grid limited?
The fact is, renewable energy sources are inherently variable and uncertain. The wind blows, and then it stops. The sun shines, and then a cloud comes.
Fossil fuel generators are spared this fluctuation, so the ebbs and flows of renewable generation must be managed differently to remain effective within the power grid.
Professors Junshan Zhang, Kory Hedman, Vijay Vittal and Anna Scaglione are utilizing a $3 million U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grant to accelerate technological advancements that improve the coordination between renewables and other resources within the power grid.
The research team, all faculty members in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, is collaborating with Sandia National Laboratories, Nexant Inc. and PJM Interconnection.
What is their guiding philosophy?
You can’t stop the clouds from coming, but you can improve the design of the power grid so that it is better equipped to manage renewable energy and offset the use of fossil fuels.
“It goes against the purpose of integrating clean, renewable resources in the power grid if their fluctuations in power generation must be compensated for by excessive ramping of fossil fuel units,” says Hedman.
“To depend more on the electric power coming from renewable sources, rather than fossil fuel generators, we will need to change how the power grid works,” says Scaglione.