United States

United States

'Wind turbines could be the electric cars of grid services'

Modern wind turbines would need only small tweaks to supply grid services currently provided by conventional sources, such as natural gas plants, according to a US Department of Energy-led study.

The study was carried out at Avangrid's Tule wind farm in southern California
The study was carried out at Avangrid's Tule wind farm in southern California

Most turbines already have the controls needed to supply a full suite of grid reliability services, including frequency support, ramping and balancing, and voltage control.

But with more advanced inverter functions – which are used to convert direct-current to alternating current – and improved design and operation, turbines can handle grid operational challenges even better and reduce curtailment of renewable generation, the researchers concluded.

A commercial wind turbine with an inverter-based smart controller can provide balancing or regulation up and down, voltage regulation control, active power control through ramping capability, and frequency response, they suggested. 

Smart inverter controls can also quickly detect frequency deviations – changes in electricity usage and generation – and respond to these system imbalances.

With the right adjustments, wind turbines could challenge fossil fuel sources’ role in balancing the grid. The researchers added that using wind for “fast frequency response” allows inverter-based resources to increase the net supply of energy available to the grid much quicker and with response times much faster than a traditional mechanical response.

“The difference in response time with wind power compared to conventional energy generation technologies mirrors the differences between an electric sports car and a gas-powered vehicle,” said Vahan Gevorgian, a chief electrical engineer with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory who also served as a lead for the project. 

“The electric cars can accelerate much faster than their conventional cousins.”

The US Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technology Office led the study, which was carried out at Avangrid Renewables’ Tule wind farm in southern California in late 2019

Tule will consist of two separate wind farms: a 131.1MW first phase consisting of 57 GE 2.3-107 turbines, which was commissioned in 2018, and a 69MW second phase, which is due online in 2022.

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