Western Wind and Solar Integration Study Phase 3A: Low Levels of Synchronous Generation

Kara Clark, Nicholas Miller, Bruno Leonardi, Robert D’Aquila

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The stability of the North American electric power grids under conditions of high penetrations of wind and solar is a significant concern and possible impediment to reaching renewable energy goals. The 33% wind and solar annual energy penetration considered in this study results in substantial changes to the characteristics of the bulk power system. This includes different power flow patterns, different commitment and dispatch of existing synchronous generation, and different dynamic behavior from wind and solar generation. The Western Wind and Solar Integration Study (WWSIS), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, is one of the largest regional solar and wind integration studies to date. In multiple phases, it has explored different aspects of the question: Can we integrate large amounts of wind and solar energy into the electric power system of the West? The work reported here focused on the impact of low levels of synchronous generation on the transient stability performance in one part of the region in which wind generation has displaced synchronous thermal generation under highly stressed, weak system conditions. It is essentially an extension of WWSIS-3. Transient stability, the ability of the power system to maintain synchronism among all elements following disturbances, is a major constraint on operations in many grids, including the western U.S. and Texas systems. These constraints primarily concern the performance of the large-scale bulk power system. But grid-wide stability concerns with high penetrations of wind and solar are still not thoroughly understood. This work focuses on 'traditional' fundamental frequency stability issues, such as maintaining synchronism, frequency, and voltage. The objectives of this study are to better understand the implications of low levels of synchronous generation and a weak grid on overall system performance by: 1) Investigating the Western Interconnection under conditions of both high renewable generation (e.g., wind and solar) and low synchronous generation (e.g., significant coal power plant decommitment or retirement); and 2) Analyzing both the large-scale stability of the Western Interconnection and regional stability issues driven by more geographically dispersed renewable generation interacting with a transmission grid that evolved with large, central station plants at key nodes. As noted above, the work reported here is an extension of the research performed in WWSIS-3.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages110
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5D00-64822


  • electric power grid
  • General Electric (GE)
  • high penetration
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)
  • NREL
  • renewables
  • solar
  • synchronous generation
  • transient stability
  • variable generation
  • wind


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