The Energy Department and Alstom Grid announce the availability of a new report on integrating wind energy into the electrical grid. | Image source: The Strategies and Decision Support Systems for Integrating Variable Energy Resources in Control Centers for Reliable Grid Operations Report.

Wind doesn’t always blow consistently and sometimes doesn’t blow at all, but wind energy is not unreliable – just ask grid operators.
In a new report, Strategies and Decision Support Systems for Integrating Variable Energy Resources in Control Centers for Reliable Grid Operations, they offer their first-hand perspectives on how variable energy sources, including wind energy, actually impact grid operations.

Grid operators are the individuals who ensure that you receive electricity reliably and at an economical price. They balance electricity supply and demand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. You can think of them as the air traffic controllers for the power system, constantly monitoring and directing activities on the grid to keep the lights on in your home.
The study, a first-of-its-kind review, finds that the ability to forecast variable energy output is vital to successfully integrating variable energy into the electrical grid. The study also finds that decision support tools are also essential to helping grid operators incorporate wind forecasts and obtain optimal power flow in their grids. The study describes several decision support tools that are currently used by grid operators. However, existing decision support tools in the United States need to evolve further as more domestic variable energy enters the electrical grid.

Despite these challenges, the grid operators interviewed have a positive outlook for integrating variable energy and are eager to share and apply best practices with other operators.  

The Energy Department funded two organizations, Areva Federal Services and Alstom Grid, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As part of this study, Areva and Alstom interviewed 33 grid operators in 18 countries who, together, are responsible for integrating 72 percent of the wind energy world-wide into their grids. Alstom presented some of their findings in a webinar in October 2011.

Over the past two decades, there has been a large increase in the production of wind energy across the world, growing from roughly 2 gigawatts in 1990 to almost 200 gigawatts in 2010. That’s enough wind energy to serve about 50 million U.S. homes. The final report and executive summary provides even more insights direct from grid operators about the challenges, solutions, and successes of integrating variable wind energy into the grid.