DOE, national labs report to FERC on evolving US grid
FERC heard from experts on grid modernization from DOE and the national labs at its regular meeting yesterday. The grid is undergoing major changes in resource mix and is becoming more of a two-way system, the experts said.
“The grid is a strong backbone for our nation,” DOE Assistant Secretary for the Office of Electric Delivery & Energy Reliability Patricia Hoffman said. “It supports our economy,” but it is facing challenges going forward including security threats, a changing supply mix, extreme events and new market opportunities that all have to be balanced, she added.
Renewable energy integration is making major changes in how the grid is handled, NREL’s Bryan Hannegan said. “You see on the bulk power system, a lot more variability in supply – from particularly wind and solar but also from a variety of other resources that are coming onto the grid,” he added.
“On the customer side, you’re seeing a variability in the demand that is unprecedented from the onset of new devices, new services and goods that are being provided.” Those changes put strains on the grid, which was built to be a one-way delivery system and is now being asked to do quite different things, Hannegan said.
A key question is how to give the grid the flexibility it needs for a clean energy future, but also a future that keeps or improves reliability and is affordable.
NREL is helping the situation with its advanced computer modeling that is able to test new ways of running the grid before going live, which is important. Hannegan highlighted two projects showing how NREL is working to make renewables more useful for grid operators.
One, in Puerto Rico, has a 20-MW solar facility able to provide ancillary services by ramping up and down its output. The other, in Hawaii, showed how deploying inverters can make distributed photovoltaic systems much easier to integrate onto the distribution system.
Hawaiian Electric has filed with the PUC there so that it could deal with 250% of a neighbor distribution circuit’s minimum daytime load due to the solar inverters.
The grid will need to evolve toward a system where it is controlled in a much more distributed way than it is now, Pacific Northwest National Lab’s Jeff Dagle said.
QUOTABLE: Historically we’ve forecasted demand and dispatched supply. I think increasingly in the future, we will be forecasting supply and dispatching demand, so it’s a whole new way of thinking about dispatching and operating our power system. – Pacific Northwest National Lab’s Jeff Dagle in a presentation at FERC