The Curtailment Paradox in the Transition to High Solar Power Systems

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Rising penetrations of variable renewable energy (VRE) in power systems are expected to increase the curtailment of these resources because of oversupply and operational constraints. We evaluate the effect on curtailment from various flexibility approaches, including storage, thermal generator flexibility, operating reserve eligibility rules, transmission constraints, and temporal resolution, by using a highly resolved realistic system. Results reveal two aspects of a curtailment paradox as the system evolves to higher solar penetration levels. First, thermal generator parameters, especially in restricting minimum operating levels and ramp rates, affect VRE curtailment more in mid-PV penetration levels (~25%–40%) but much less at lower (~20%) or higher (~45%) PV penetration levels. Second, although allowing VRE and storage to provide operating reserve results in significant operating costs and curtailment benefits, the price suppression effect from these resources reduces incentives for PV to provide operating reserves with curtailed energy.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1143-1167
Number of pages25
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-6A20-76609


  • capacity expansion modeling
  • curtailment
  • energy storage
  • forecast errors
  • minimum generation level
  • minimum up and down time
  • operating reserves
  • photovoltaic generation
  • production cost modeling
  • ramp rates
  • ramping
  • renewable energy
  • renewables
  • solar
  • solar energy
  • storage
  • transmission


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