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January 29, 2014

NREL: Active Power Control of Wind Turbines Can Improve Grid Reliability

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), reported on January 20 that it and its partners have completed a comprehensive study to understand how wind power technology can assist the power grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system. The rest of the power system’s resources have traditionally been adjusted around wind to support a reliable and efficient system. The research that led to this report challenges that concept.

The study, “Active Power Controls from Wind Power: Bridging the Gaps,” finds that wind power can support the power system by adjusting its power output to enhance system reliability. Additionally, the study finds that it often could be economically beneficial to provide active power control, and the risk of inflicting potentially damaging loads on turbines from providing this control is negligible. Active power control helps balance load with generation at various times, avoiding erroneous power flows, involuntary load shedding, machine damage, and the risk of potential blackouts.

The study, conducted along with partners from the Electric Power Research Institute and the University of Colorado, included a number of different power system simulations, control simulations, and field tests using turbines at NREL’s National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). The study developed proposals for new ancillary services designs in U.S. wholesale electricity markets, studied how wind power affects system frequency in the western United States with and without active power control, and tested the use of active power control at the NWTC to better understand the performance and structural impacts on wind turbines when providing active power control to the electric system. See the NREL press release.

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