Integrating Remote Wind Resources: An Environmental and Economic Analysis of Technology and Siting Options

EPA Grant Number: F13B30505
Title: Integrating Remote Wind Resources: An Environmental and Economic Analysis of Technology and Siting Options
Investigators: Lamy, Julian
Institution: Carnegie Mellon University
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: August 1, 2014 through August 1, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Environmental Science and Engineering , Academic Fellowships

Objective:

Wind power could help reduce pollution from conventional power plants. However, since wind does not necessarily blow whenever power is needed, it creates greater variability in power supply. Furthermore, many of the best wind resources are in areas far away from load centers and thus require transmission investment. Illinois is a unique area to study these issues. Illinois’ renewable goals require about 10 gigawatts of new wind projects by 2025—approximately double the current installed wind capacity in the entire Midwest region. Illinois is located in an area with reasonable wind resources and also is near states with the best onshore wind potential in the United States. It is therefore a perfect case to study where to build wind resources, how to address the variability and accessibility challenges and how these decisions affect the environmental benefits of displaced emissions.

Approach:

The first stage of this research will investigate the economics of using electric energy storage, such as batteries, to reduce transmission requirements when accessing remote wind farms. This research will use a case study of a farm in North Dakota that delivers power into Illinois. The second stage will use an economic optimization model to assess whether it is more economical to build wind farms in Illinois (local) or in other states (remote) where wind resources might be better to meet Illinois’ renewable energy goals. This analysis will include an assessment of aggregate variability effects to the grid as a result of the new wind farms, as well as a comparison of transmission costs necessary to build farms in different states. For the last stage of this research, the same model will incorporate the environmental benefits of reduced emissions as a result of increased wind power and assess how these benefits may vary depending on where the wind farms are located.

Expected Results:

Using electric energy storage to reduce transmission capacity would likely be economical only for low costs of storage technologies. The proposed model can estimate the maximum cost of energy storage in order
to replace transmission. Preliminary results show that the required storage cost is far below even optimistic future cost projections of storage technologies. For optimal siting decisions, even with higher transmission costs, the higher capacity factors and lower variability of farms in states west of Illinois would likely justify building some capacity outside of Illinois to meet with Illinois’ renewable energy targets. Preliminary results suggest that this is the case. Regarding environmental benefits, the majority of existing power plants in the Midwest rely on burning fossil fuels. Therefore all states in the region should realize significant environmental benefits from building wind farms. Based on previous research in this area, it appears that the highest carbon reductions would result from building wind farms in states west of Illinois.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

This research will help society move toward a more renewable-based
 and sustainable power generation mix in the most economical way possible. Both policymakers and those in the energy industry will benefit from understanding the role that energy storage might play in integrating remote renewables. This analysis also will help decision makers structure the future electricity market in their choice of where to build wind power. Finally, this research will help policymakers evaluate the best approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and criteria air pollutants in the area studied. Even though the study focuses on Illinois, the lessons learned from this analysis can help energy system planning worldwide.

Supplemental Keywords:

energy efficiency, energy storage and transmission, wind power

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2015
  • Final