News roundup: Improving grid reliability with wind, new wind in Massachusetts, and drivetrain innovations

27 February 2014 by Peebles Squire Peebles Squire

This Thursday, a study shows wind can improve grid reliability, new wind in Massachusetts, and GE innovates in drivetrain technology.

Wind farms can help balance loads on the grid, according to a new report from NREL and the Electric Power Research Institute and the University of Colorado:

  • A new study finds that wind power can assist the grid by controlling the active power output being placed onto the system. Active power control helps to balance loads with generation to avoid erroneous power flows, involuntary load shedding, machine damage, and the risk of potential blackouts.
  • The challenge with integrating high concentrations of wind power into electric systems is that it is commonly considered a variable, uncertain energy source. This new approach challenges this viewpoint and repositions wind as an integral part of the grid.
  • “The key takeaway is that wind power can act in an equal or superior manner to conventional generation when providing active power control, supporting the system frequency response and improving reliability,” says Erik Ela, an analyst for NREL, which contributed to the research.

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has just approved a series of power purchase agreements that will bring more than 400 megawatts of new wind onto the grid:

  • The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved 12 long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) for onshore wind facilities in New England, representing a total of more than 409 MW of electricity. The weighted average price from the contracts is less than $0.08/kWh.
  • According to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the contracts are between the four Massachusetts electric distribution companies - Unitil, NSTAR Electric, National Grid and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. - and three renewable energy developers - Iberdrola Renewables, Evergreen Wind II and Blue Sky West. The executive office says that the PPAs are for three projects in New Hampshire and Maine that are expected to become operational in 2015 or 2016.
  • "These contracts are an absolute win-win for the Commonwealth and for distribution company customers," says DPU Chair Ann Berwick. "They help the Commonwealth meet its renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction requirements, provide a hedge against volatile natural gas prices, and reduce customers' bills."

GE is set to open a new laboratory in Albany, NY, where it will focus on improving drivetrain technology in wind turbines:

  • The Innovation Lab at GE's existing power generation repair center in Albany, New York state, will develop innovations for repairs to gearboxes, generators and rotors. In order to achieve this, the center will be equipped with rapid prototyping tools such as 3D printers, robotic welding and advanced machining tools. These will be used with the aim of developing new technologies to apply to field service repairs.
  • It will work on the repair of various gearbox models within GE's range, the company said.
  • The manufacturer added that it believes the facility will lower operations and maintenance costs for its customers.

Be sure to check out this week’s other roundups:

Sources:

Staff, “Wind Can Improve Power Grid Reliability.” Buildings. 25 February 2014.

Staff, “Massachusetts Has 409 MW Of Wind Power Coming Its Way.” Renew Grid. 26 February 2014.

Patrick Smith, “GE to open drive train repair innovation lab.” Windpower Monthly. 26 February 2014.