The Department of Energy's (DOE's) Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) works with electric grid operators, utilities, regulators, academia, and industry to create new strategies for incorporating increasing amounts of wind energy into the power system while maintaining economic and reliable operation of the grid.
Utilities have been increasingly deploying wind power to provide larger portions of electricity generation. However, some utilities have expressed concerns about wind power's possible impacts on electric power system operations, because wind's variability adds uncertainty beyond what is present due to variations in electricity demand (also called load). These concerns, if not adequately addressed, could limit the development potential of wind power in the United States.
As the nation moves toward an energy system with higher penetrations of wind energy, it is increasingly important for grid operators to understand how they can reliably integrate large quantities of wind energy into system operations; additionally, it is important to develop capabilities that enable these new wind power plants to provide much-needed grid services (e.g. frequency and voltage support) that can improve the reliability and resilience of the electric grid.
The office's goal in renewable systems integration is to remove barriers to enable grid system operators, via innovation, to capture the economic and environmental benefits of the increasing availability of wind energy, while enhancing grid operations and assuring overall system reliability, resiliency, and security. This can be accomplished through integration studies, modeling, demonstrations, and assessments at both the transmission and distribution levels, coupled with working directly with utilities to help ensure adoption of best practices.
Current Research Project Highlights
WETO and DOE National Laboratory researchers work with industry partners on projects aimed at better understanding integration issues and building confidence in the reliability of wind generation. This includes conducting wind integration studies; developing models for transmission system planners; understanding how wind energy can impact electricity markets; and assessing a variety of other technical impacts of integrating wind into the grid. To explore grid integration projects funded by the Wind Energy Technologies Office, see the summaries below or view our WETO R&D Projects Map and select Program Area: Grid Integration.
WETO supports projects in the Grid Modernization Initiative through the Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium (GMLC), which is a strategic partnership between DOE and its National Laboratories to collaborate on grid modernization.
WETO’s grid integration portfolio focuses on five areas to enable cost-effective, cyber-secure, reliable, and resilient grid operation with increasing amount of wind:
Provision of Reliability and Resilience Services
Changes in the national electricity generation mix require that variable generation sources—such as wind and solar energy—improve their ability to provide the suite of reliability services that has historically been provided by conventional generation sources. This section of WETO’s research portfolio focuses on advancing the capabilities of wind energy to provide the full suite of grid reliability and resilience services.
This project, led by DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), will provide a platform for co-optimization of wind plant performance that includes operational modes characterized under WETO’s Atmosphere to Electrons (A2e) initiative. Some of the modes include minimizing wake losses, wind plant operation based on maximizing value streams for grid services, and reduction of wind turbine operation and maintenance (O&M) for different grid service operating modes. This will provide a more complete capability for wind plant optimization.
DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories and National Renewable Energy Laboratory will develop and validate control designs that allow turbines to operate in a collaborative fashion and alongside a 50-kW grid-connected battery using capabilities at Sandia’s Scaled Wind Farm Technology (SWiFT) facility.
Power electronics experience interactions that disrupt power production, potentially causing physical damage to the components of the turbine or financial losses due to downtime. This project will develop a framework that utilities and transmission system operators can use to inform the way wind plants operate to mitigate power electronics disruptions.
This NREL-led project will investigate the theory, implement it in hardware, and validate the Virtual Synchronous Generator Wind Power Plant (WindVSG) concept by combining the advantages of modern dynamic inverter technologies with static, dynamic, and transient electromechanical properties of synchronous machines. NREL will demonstrate how to control the inverters of wind turbine generators and battery energy storage, so individually and combined they act like a conventional synchronous machine-based power plant. The project will develop and validate controls to convert utility-scale wind power plants into dispatchable and flexible sources with characteristics of synchronous machine-based generators at any time scale.
A collaboration between DOE, its National Laboratories, and industry, the NAERM initiative will develop a comprehensive resilience modeling system for the North American energy sector infrastructure, which includes the United States and portions of Canada and Mexico. NAERM provides for rigorous quantitative assessment, prediction, and improvement of national-scale energy planning, as well as real-time situational awareness capabilities. This unique capability will ensure reliable and resilient energy delivery across multiple sectors, such as telecommunications, water, and natural gas, spanning multiple organizations and authorities, while considering a range of large-scale, emerging threats.
Utilization of Transmission Infrastructure
The long-lived nature of transmission infrastructure requires careful upfront analysis to evaluate where new transmission infrastructure is needed, ensure that new or existing lines are best utilized, and understand the benefits of new transmission development.
In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in large-scale transmission planning. The Interconnection Seams Study was a GMLC project using current tools to assess the benefits of increasing connectivity between the Eastern and Western Interconnections of the national electricity grid. This project will build upon that work, refining methods and data parameterization for improved modeling of transmission congestion within capacity planning tools and grid operations models.
This project, led by DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), will fully develop a DLR forecasting application capable of providing intra-day, next-day, and longer-term transmission line rating estimates for a networked transmission system. In direct partnership with NOAA, and in collaboration with industry partners like WindSim Americas, LineVision, Lindsey Manufacturing, and others, INL will use the tools and information developed under this project to inform other research efforts looking specifically at the weather forecast component of DLR and the economic and resilience impacts of using weather-based DLR enhanced with NOAA-supported weather forecasts and computational fluid dynamics.
This GMLC project, led by NREL, is a collaboration between the United States, Canada, and Mexico to study the impacts of renewable integration in North America. The goal is to help stakeholders better understand the implication of integrating large amounts of renewable resources, as well as the impact of cooperation between nations and between grid operators.
Hybrid Wind Energy Systems
In addition to the efforts focusing specifically on the needs of wind technology, new market opportunities or alternative products may exist to couple various generation, load, and storage technologies to unlock new capabilities. WETO’s unique role in providing National Laboratory facilities and scientific understanding, along with experience in supporting industry, can enable the realization of these opportunities.
This GMLC project will demonstrate a fully operational, scalable, multi-MW FlexPower wind/solar/energy storage hybrid power plant with provision for a full set of reliability and resiliency services at NREL’s Flatirons Campus.
The nation’s energy infrastructure has become a major target for cyberattack over the past decade. Increased integration of wind energy to the grid also increases opportunities for potential cyberattack. In this area, WETO is interested in gaining a better understanding of the current state of the art in cybersecurity from a wind energy perspective including an assessment of the gaps and research needs related to cybersecurity for wind energy systems of all scales, including utility, distribution, and commercial.
The Roadmap for Wind Cybersecurity outlines the increasing challenges of cyber threats to the wind industry, its technologies, and control systems and presents a framework of activities and best practices that the wind industry can use to improve its cybersecurity.
Funded by WETO, the Roadmap features written contributions from authors at DOE’s National Laboratories and is intended to:
- Raise wind industry awareness of increasing cyber threats and vulnerabilities to wind technologies and industrial control systems
- Lay out a time-phased framework for addressing such weaknesses in the near-, mid-, and long-term
- Illuminate best practices that apply to the wind industry
- Identify research needs, gaps, and opportunities that might advance technology and strengthen protections
- Inform future R&D investments in this area.
Although specific to wind, the Roadmap’s strategies are likely applicable to other forms of energy and industrial control systems.
This project, led by DOE’s Sandia National Laboratories and Idaho National Laboratory, will support the WETO Cybersecurity Roadmap to help secure wind energy technologies by enhancing approaches to harden wind communication networks and by constructing intrusion detection systems. These techniques will be shared broadly with the wind industry to harden communication systems to cyberattacks and detect when adversarial action is taking place, leading to informed response and recovery efforts.
The GMLC project team will use machine learning techniques for deep analysis of reverse-engineered malware. This will enable similarity analysis and prediction on malware evolution for defense actions.
In order to foster the sharing of technical results related to wind energy research and development with outside organizations such as utilities, ISO/RTOs, the international research community and other interested parties, WETO will continue and improve its collaborative efforts with industry and other stakeholders.
In this GMLC project, NREL will work with the Electric Power Research Institute and John Hopkins University to establish new best practices and methodologies for independent system operator (ISO)/regional transmission organization (RTO) power system operations and planning. The technical tool methodologies and analytical outcomes will be disseminated through workshops with ISO/RTO staff and stakeholders, written reports, webinars, and conference/workshop presentations.
Wind-grid Integration stakeholder engagement activities focus on disseminating key results from NREL analysis to regulators, policy makers, utilities, and the power system industry. This helps ensure that study results are made available to the industry and stakeholders so that they are well-informed to leverage the latest research. One primary focus is continued involvement and support for the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG, formerly known as the Utility Variable Generation Integration Group or UVIG).
Past Research Project Highlights
Some highlights of past DOE-funded grid R&D include large-scale studies of future scenarios with high penetrations of variable renewable generation, such as a grid expansion and wind curtailment study (35% wind), Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (30% wind and 5% solar), Eastern Renewable Generation Integration Study (30% wind and solar), and National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study (54 GW offshore wind). Some DOE-funded grid operation R&D highlights include studying how wind technology can assist the power system through active power controls, and studying how wind can cool transmission lines thereby increasing transmission line capacity. In 2019, DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory and NREL published WindView, a software tool that provides real time wind forecasts and visualizations.
View past renewable systems integration project highlights here.
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