Researchers from the Universities of Delaware (UD) and Princeton have opined that the U.S. electrical grid is well equipped to handle large amounts of offshore wind power.
Not only is this manageable, but will also help the grid cut electricity costs, and will reduce pollution compared to current fossil fuel sources.
The researchers consulted with PJM Interconnection – a grid operator supplying electricity to more than 60 million people in 14 states – to develop a computer model that simulates how the electric grid would respond to injections of wind power from offshore wind farms along the East Coast at five build-out levels, between 7 and 70 gigawatts of installed capacity.
One hurdle grid operators face is how to integrate increasing amounts of naturally fluctuating offshore wind into a network that has to deliver reliable power to customers, 24-7. The UD and Princeton team showed conservatively that, with some upgrades to transmission lines but without any need for added storage, the PJM grid can handle over 35 gigawatts of offshore wind – that’s 35 billion watts – enough to power an estimated 10 million homes.
They also found that the PJM grid could in the future handle twice that amount, up to 70 gigawatts, as wind forecasting improves, allowing the power operator to better predict and harness more wind.
The model of PJM, called Smart-ISO, created at Princeton, is designed to handle both the variability and uncertainty of growing inputs of offshore wind energy, simulating what happens over an extensive power grid with more than 60,000 miles of transmission lines.
“The uncertainty of wind will require that we develop strategies to minimize the need for spinning reserve,” said Warren Powell, professor and lead researcher at Princeton in charge of the SMART-ISO model, referring to electric generators that need to keep “spinning” and be ready for any electricity shortage. “Although we found that reserves were needed – 21 percent of the 70 gigawatt wind capacity – there are a number of strategies that could be investigated to better handle the variability as wind grows in the future.”
Image credits: Øyvind Hagen/Statoil ASA