Alternative Energy and the Electric Grid – Overcoming Integration
Alternative energy sources such as hydropower, geothermal, wind power and solar technologies offer environmental advantages over fossil fuels by not releasing carbon dioxide during the production of electricity.
Power system operators face new obstacles when integrating renewables into their grid. They must be able to manage the fluctuations associated with renewables and accommodate larger amounts of them into their systems.
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have gained widespread support as sources of electricity that don’t release carbon dioxide emissions. Unfortunately, the cost to deploy these technologies and integrate them into the grid poses a substantial obstacle.
Due to their nature, many of these technologies require backup power sources.
These costs are often overlooked when calculating LCOE calculations. They include capital costs, financing costs, operating and maintenance expenses, fuel (if any), decommissioning expenses, as well as wider system expenses like transmission connections, balancing and reserve expenses, etc.
However, as renewables experience a learning curve and become cheaper as more installations are built and their technology improves, these costs will continue to decline. Indeed, Lazard’s Levelized Cost of Energy analysis indicates that renewable electricity prices have now reached parity or even exceeded coal – in some cases even below it! Given the global climate crisis and need to transition away from dirty energy sources, we must move forward with investments in renewables now.
In a world where consumers, businesses and governments generate their own energy through solar panels, batteries and electric vehicles, the integration of these technologies into an updated electricity grid is more complex than it appears at first glance. Furthermore, many smart devices are connected in ways not fully understood by their operators. A smarter grid must be able to navigate this new landscape while guaranteeing reliability of services; getting there requires technology as well as artificial intelligence tools for success.
What can be done to make this happen? The best way is through a market-determined carbon price that signals the end of fossil fuels and encourages new clean energy providers to compete for business. With adequate incentives in place, it will become easier for these innovators to scale up with smarter technologies that can keep up with competition.
As wind and solar projects expand, they need to be able to economically and reliably deliver power from their generating sites to load centers. To do this, transmission constraints such as multiple pricing transactions and long waits for access to transmission must be overcome.
To overcome these restrictions, new lines must be constructed or existing ones expanded to increase capacity. However, these must be planned carefully so they are tailored to the changing demands of grids.
At present, upgrades to electrical infrastructure are expensive and take a long time to obtain permits. If these delays persist, they could prevent many promising renewable energy projects from completing their interconnection processes.
Solving these problems is a critical element in creating an environmentally friendly electric system. That is why SEIA and others are advocating for transmission planning and upgrades to be included as an ongoing part of infrastructure legislation in Congress.
Technology to harness nature’s powers – sun, wind and waves included – has been around for some time; however, the modern day challenge lies in efficiently using this energy. Renewable sources are becoming more and more popular as a primary power source worldwide, even in developed nations.
In terms of electricity generation, the most pressing concern is how best to integrate various renewables into a cohesive source that meets demand while minimizing risks of failure. This can be achieved by designing a hybrid network that integrates all necessary components and provides optimal interconnection between them. This could involve using both distributed and/or microgeneration technologies in a smart grid, along with developing small to medium sized transmission lines to connect them. There is also an urgent need for better integration with gas grid; this could be achieved through implementing power-to-gas strategy where all generated energy is fed back into mains grid simultaneously.