CTOTF’s Kirn calls for national forum of stakeholders to address impacts of ‘must take’ renewables on electric system operations
In recent years, CTOTF has expanded its historic roundtable profile from strictly technical discussion of combustion turbines to include all plant systems and components, as well as critical support services. As the complexity of powerplant operations has continued to evolve, discussion roundtables such as high-voltage equipment, generators, environmental, regulatory compliance, and management programs have been added both to maintain a comprehensive technical overview and to better understand the impact of the deepening intricacies descending upon the energy industry. Given the wide scope and high potential impact of the mandated addition of renewable generation resources, the formulation and presentation of a proactive program specifically dedicated to their operational impacts is a natural and necessary extension.
The economics, operational characteristics, and environmental impact of renewables—particularly wind and solar—are increasingly the focus of objective debate as global warming studies and the combustion of fossil fuels are systematically reviewed. However, in the interim, little attention has been paid to the operational impacts of adding “must take” renewable generation assets to the transmission grid.
The burden of compensating for the abrupt generation swings and low capacity factors ultimately cascades onto conventional powerplants, most notably, combustion turbines. In recognition, CTOTF’s Integrating Renewables Workshop was specifically designed to identify operational issues and to stimulate comprehensive national discussion. Although only lightly touched in this forum, but of direct relevance, future discussions should also include “smart grid” and “smart metering” given similar potential impacts.
Taking the addition of renewable generation resources as a given, the workshop gathered industry experts to systematically profile the unique operating characteristics of renewables, the challenges they pose to transmission operations, the new operating demands for existing conventional generation, and potential solutions—including new equipment designs and energy storage.
While successfully providing an over-arching profile of a generation sea-change that has the potential to fundamentally amend nearly every aspect of the electric power industry, the resulting number of questions greatly exceeded the number of answers. This leaves us, as a nation, with the ultimate questions of the “why, who, what, when, and where” do we go from here?
With the universal recognition that the availability of affordable electrical energy is fundamental to economic vitality, there must be credible and objective discussion in order to “get it right the first time”—technically, economically, and environmentally, near-term and long-term. At CTOTF, with its more than 150 member companies, our hope is that the Integrating Renewables Workshop will serve as spark for the extensive technical and objective discussion that must follow.
Robert G Kirn
Robert G Kirn, Senior Program Manager for Business Ventures, TVA
Kirn’s 35-year career in the electric power industry includes positions in engineering and in the management of construction and operation for multiple types of generating plants and power delivery systems at both regulated electric utilities and independent power producers. He has served as chairman of CTOTF since 2008.