Reducing Wind Curtailment through Transmission Expansion in a Wind Vision Future

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Department of Energy's 2015 Wind Vision study, which analyzed an ambitious scenario where wind power served 35% of U.S. electricity consumption in 2050, showed the potential for wind energy to provide substantial health, environmental, and economic benefits. Using a commercial unit commitment and economic dispatch model, we build on this research by assessing the hourly operational feasibility of a similar high wind future in the Western United States. Our detailed simulations found no hours of unmet load or reserve violations with more than 35% potential wind (and 12% potential solar) available on the system, which highlights the technical possibility of integrating large amounts of wind energy. However, absent significant changes to the western grid, we find that substantial wind curtailment could be an issue, as it could degrade the potential for wind power to reduce fuel costs and lowering the emission benefits. To assess the value of transmission to mitigate wind curtailment, we model a suite of transmission expansion scenarios. We find that wind curtailment could be reduced by approximately half under a scenario where new transmission is based only on proposed projects. This avoided wind curtailment could lower annual production costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions substantially. Greater transmission expansion was found to yield further benefits, although the marginal benefits of these new lines were found to decline. Overall, these results suggest that power systems operation can be realized with more than 35% wind penetration, but that transmission expansion is likely to play a vital role.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages38
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-67240


  • curtailment
  • production cost modeling
  • transmission
  • Western United States
  • wind integration
  • Wind Vision


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