The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study - Phase 2

Western Wind

Author:  Lew, D. | Brinkman, G. | Ibanez, E. | Florita, A. | Heany, M. |Hodge, B.-M. | Hummon, M. | Stark, G. | King, J. | Lefton, S.A. | Agan, D. | Kumar, N. | Jordan, G. | Venkataraman, S.

Organization:  National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Report Date: 2013



This NREL report analyzes the impacts of 33% integration of wind and solar resources on the electricity grid in the Western portion of the United States.

It specifically examines the cost and emission impacts associated with the potential need to modulate fossil fueled generation to accomodate intermittent wind and solar resources.

Key Take-Aways: 

  • Adding wind and solar to the electric grid affects the operation of other power plants and can induce the cycling of fossil-fueled generators, which leads to wear and tear costs that cause premature component failure, as well as changes in facility emission rates.
  • The study found that up to 33% of wind and solar penetration increases annual cycling costs of power the average fossil fueled plant by $0.47 - $1.28/MWh, compared to $27 - $28/MWh in variable operations and maintenance costs.
  • The study also found that 33% of wind and solar penetration increases cycling costs, from the perspective of wind and solar, by $0.14 - $0.67/MWh compared to fuel cost reductions of $28 - $29/MWh.

Key Facts: 

  • The average fossil fueled plant wind and solar induced induced cycling can have a positive or negative impact on CO2, NOx, and SO2 rates depending on the mix and penetrations of wind and solar.
  • The study found that 33% wind and solar energy penetration in the United States’ portion of the Western grid avoids 29% - 34% carbon dioxide emissions, 16% - 22% nitrogen oxides, and 14% - 24% sulfur dioxide emissions through out the western grid. Cycling had very little impact on the CO2, NOx, and SOs emission reductions from wind and solar.

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