The challenges to integrating wind energy : a study of ERCOT’s ability to integrate substantial amounts of wind energy by 2030

Lapierre, Nathan Richard
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The wind energy industry in the U.S. has seen robust growth within the last two decades. The amount of renewable resources available throughout the U.S. is substantial, and as renewable energy penetration approaches a significant proportion of total electricity generation, grid operators and utilities will be presented with a myriad of challenges. Such is the case in wind’ rich Texas, where the rate of wind installations surpasses every other state and rivals that of China. By the end of 2009, the ERCOT region of Texas had approximately 9000 MW installed, serving 6.5% of the annual electricity load . The intermittent nature of wind energy can place a burden on existing generators as they are increasingly relied on to provide regulation of power, frequency control and back-up energy services when wind production is low. Exacerbating the difficulty of integrating wind energy is the mismatch of wind generation and electricity demand. Although Texas is blessed with plentiful wind resources, the majority of energy produced typically occurs at night when electricity demands are low. The result is transmission congestion that prevents cost effective generators from serving load. Despite these integration difficulties, ERCOT is paving the way forward with transformative infrastructure plans and proactive rulemaking. This report provides a background on the state of the wind energy industry in the U.S., with a review of power system operation strategies and wind integration best practices. With that context, this study concludes that ERCOT’s electricity market operations, transmission plans, and Texas’ renewable energy policies will act to reasonably and reliably accommodate wind generation capacity that serves over 15% of annual load by 2030.