Hydropower Role in a Power Grid with a High Proportion of Variable Renewables

Thushara De Silva, Jennie Jorgenson, Thomas Veselka, Quentin Ploussard, Brenda Pracheil

Research output: NRELPresentation


The importance of hydropower increases as the power grid evolves with the higher variable renewable contribution. As conventional thermal power plants are retired, the importance of hydropower contribution increases to balance the variability of solar and wind generation. However, reservoir water resources are constrained by multiple constraints, and variability of water inflow to the reservoirs creates limitations to dam water releases for power grid needs. Coordination of multiple tools, including water resources modeling, ecological modeling, and technical and economic power grid modeling, informs dam water releases. Better representation of ecological constraints and other water use details in the suit of power grid models are required to identify the hydropower flexibility to provide multiple power grid services. Impacts of water planning and hydropower operation changes to a power grid are better understood by production cost model simulations with technical and economic data, including unserved energy, reserve failures, transmission congestion to serve load, and local marginal price increases. Similarly, PCM simulation of current and future projected power grid information, including LMP, and carbon emission rates, informs short-term water release plans and long-term investments for power plant upgrades for technical and ecological needs. Hydropower operations of several case studies are simulated to understand operation patterns, revenue, water release decisions in multiple time scales (month, day, minutes), hydropower contracts scheduling, and water variability impacts.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages22
StatePublished - 2023

Publication series

NamePresented at the HydroVision International Conference and Exhibition, 11-13 July 2023, Charlotte, North Carolina

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-6A40-86725


  • environmental
  • flexibility
  • hydropower
  • production cost models
  • reservoir
  • water


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