Renewable Electricity Futures: Operational Analysis of the Western Interconnection at Very High Renewable Penetrations

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The Renewable Electricity Futures Study (RE Futures)--an analysis of the costs and grid impacts of integrating large amounts of renewable electricity generation into the U.S. power system--examined renewable energy resources, technical issues regarding the integration of these resources into the grid, and the costs associated with high renewable penetration scenarios. These scenarios included up to 90% of annual generation from renewable sources, although most of the analysis was focused on 80% penetration scenarios. Hourly production cost modeling was performed to understand the operational impacts of high penetrations. One of the conclusions of RE Futures was that further work was necessary to understand whether the operation of the system was possible at sub-hourly time scales and during transient events. This study aimed to address part of this by modeling the operation of the power system at sub-hourly time scales using newer methodologies and updated data sets for transmission and generation infrastructure. The goal of this work was to perform a detailed, sub-hourly analysis of very high penetration scenarios for a single interconnection (the Western Interconnection). It focused on operational impacts, and it helps verify that the operational results from the capacity expansion models are useful. The primary conclusion of this study is that sub-hourly operation of the grid is possible with renewable generation levels between 80% and 90%.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages53
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A20-64467


  • cost modeling
  • costs
  • demand
  • generation
  • grid integration
  • high penetration scenarios
  • renewable electricity
  • sub-hourly modeling
  • Western Interconnection


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