The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is about to release the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS). This unprecedented two-and-a-half year technical study of future high-penetration wind scenarios is designed to analyze the economic, operational, and technical implications of shifting 20 per cent or more of the Eastern Interconnection’s electrical load to wind energy by the year 2024. In this essential extract, the analysis shows that transmission upgrades, offshore wind, and operational changes are needed to incorporate 20 to 30 per cent wind by the target date.
“20 per cent wind is an ambitious goal, but this study shows that there are multiple scenarios through which it can be achieved,” said David Corbus, NREL project manager for the study. “Whether we’re talking about using land-based wind in the Midwest, offshore wind in the East or any combination of wind power resources, any plausible scenario requires transmission infrastructure upgrades and we need to start planning for that immediately.”
The Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study is the culmination of an effort that spanned two and one-half years. The study team began by modeling wind resources in a large part of the Eastern Interconnection and finished by conducting a detailed wind integration study and top-down transmission analysis.
The study resulted in information that can be used to guide future work. A number of other studies have already examined similar wind integration issues, but the breadth and depth of the analysis in EWITS is unique. EWITS builds on the work of previous integration studies, which looked at considerably smaller geographic footprints, focused almost exclusively on wind integration, and did not include transmission.
EWITS took the next step by expanding the study area and including conceptual transmission overlays. Just a few years ago, 5% wind energy penetration was a lofty goal, and to some the idea of integrating 20% wind by 2024 might seem a bit optimistic. And yet, we know from the European experience – where some countries have already reached wind energy penetrations of 10% or higher in a short period of time – that change can occur rapidly and that planning for that change is critically important. Because building transmission capacity takes much longer than installing wind plants, there is a sense of urgency to studying transmission.