An Analysis of Thermal Plant Flexibility Using a National Generator Performance Database

Michael Rossol, Gregory Brinkman, Grant Buster, Paul Denholm, Joshua Novacheck, Gordon Stephen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus Citations


Grid integration studies are key to understanding our ability to integrate variable generation resources into the power system and evaluating the associated costs and benefits. In these studies, it is important to understand the flexibility of the thermal power fleet, including how thermal plants operate at part load. Without a comprehensive understanding of thermal plant operation, we may over- or underestimate our ability to integrate variable generation resources and thus draw incomplete or inaccurate conclusions regarding their potential economic and environmental effects. The only public data source for understanding many elements of the operational characteristics of the thermal fleet is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Markets database of historical power plant operation. However, though these data sets have been widely utilized, their use has proven to be difficult, and methods to clean and filter the data are not transparent. Here, we describe the database and a method to clean and filter it. We then use the cleaned database to demonstrate several characteristics of historical plant operation, including frequent part load operation. Finally, we provide a cleaned data set with heat rate curves and describe how to use it in general modeling activities and analysis.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)13486-13494
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number22
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 American Chemical Society.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-72759


  • EPA
  • grid integration
  • power plant operation


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