A Regional Grid Helps, Not Hurts Distributed Renewable Energy

on April 26, 2018

Greentech-MediaWe have been hearing concerns that moving to a regional transmission operator to connect the Western U.S. somehow harms the prospects for greater development of distributed energy resources, especially localsolarand storage, and could lead to an increase in the use of fossil fuels elsewhere in the region. A careful analysis of the facts shows these concerns are unfounded and that in fact, the opposite is true. A regional grid operator will be beneficial for renewable energy development, including distributed generation, for multiple reasons.

Replacing a highly balkanized and inefficient group of grid operators (see the WECC balancing area map below), many of which rely on outdated and highly polluting power plants, with a fully coordinated regional system operator will make better use of the existing interconnected grid, more efficiently share electricity reserves allowing for the accelerated retirement of unneeded facilities, and give more value to cleaner, renewable power sources.

Renewable energy benefits

A regional grid operator makes managing each renewable energy generator’s variable output easier to coordinate and creates more value that can be shared by utility customers and renewable energy developers. It does this by blending renewable power from across the West, including the output from many smaller customer-owned or community-based systems located on dispersed distribution systems. This widespread diversity of resources can be used to meet energy demand at times when fossil fuel generators that are part of local systems would otherwise have to be switched on to fill in the gap.

Solar energy ramps up and down in a quite predictable manner, but varies by longitude and latitude. The availability of other renewable resources can now be forecast with ever-increasing accuracy. A regional grid operator can use renewable power resources across a much wider geography that experiences different weather patterns and energy loads to better meet both systemwide and local needs. This wider area coordination can reduce not only greenhouse gas emissions but also local air pollutants that harm public health, particularly for the most vulnerable.

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Fractal Energy Storage ConsultantsA Regional Grid Helps, Not Hurts Distributed Renewable Energy