PITA Fiscal Year 2009 Projects - Information and Systems Technology

The Effects on Conventional Generating Assets in the Presence of Renewable and Alternative Energy Sources on the Electric Grid

Principal Investigators: B. Erik Ydstie, Bruce Krogh

The growth of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will introduce new challenges for sustaining the stability and reliability of the national power grid. In contrast to fossil-fuel and nuclear generation plants, the power levels from these new sources can be erratic and unpredictable. This means other sources on the grid must be capable of responding quickly to maintain system voltage and frequency. In the U.S., expensive gas turbines are currently the principal option for providing this critical high-speed compensation.

This research project aims to develop a new distributed decision and control architecture to maintain the stability of the power grid using less expensive generation plants that were designed in the past for the traditional power grid without volatile renewable sources. Toward this goal, the immediate objective is to develop multi-scale modeling techniques to study how disturbances generated by solar and wind plants propagate through an electrical grid containing a wide range of generating assets. The network model will include dynamic models for the frequency response of non-renewable (nuclear, coal fired, combined cycle natural gas fired plants) and renewable (hydro, wind, solar) generation systems. The transient dynamics of each type of generation system and the power spectrum of sources (wind and sun) and end user (industry and consumers) will be modeled using a stochastic process description based on data available in the literature and obtained from Emerson Process Management. We will study how the different types of power plant control systems respond in order to meet demand and stabilization voltage and frequency and reduce reactive power losses. A long-term objective is to use the simulation data to guide the design of coal power plant control systems that are optimized for disturbance rejection in a highly decentralized and dynamic electrical grid.