A study recently published by the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) examined the effects of introducing wind energy into the electric power system. After conducting a detailed emissions analysis based on a comprehensive model of power system operations, ANL researchers found that as wind power penetration increases, pollutant emissions decrease overall due to the replacement of fossil fuels.
"Our study clearly shows that using wind to generate electricity has a discernible impact on pollution," said Audun Botterud, who led the research team.
The study analyzed the effects of start-up and cycling events as a result of increasing wind power use. Wind is variable and uncertain, which can lead fossil-fuel plant operators to adjust their output, start-up, or shut-down to accommodate wind inputs.
In the analysis, the researchers looked at power system operations and resulting emissions during both start-up and operational periods, considering the impacts of emissions control technologies. Using power grid data from 2006 as a starting point, a case study on the Illinois power system was performed to simulate the impact of different wind generation levels for a 4-month period. Total emissions from all power plants in the grid for seven pollutants were determined.
"Our analysis shows that total greenhouse gas emissions decrease with increasing wind power use, despite more start-ups and increased cycling of fossil-fuel power plants," said Botterud.