California has pledged to use renewable energy for 33% of its electricity needs by 2020, setting a pace for the nation. To succeed, we need to connect renewable-power plants to the grid, manage their unique behaviors, and handle heftier power loads. Changing regulations and markets, concern for the environment, and new kinds of appliances and electric vehicles add to the complex problem of meeting our goals. CIEE is advancing new thinking on all of these fronts.

CIEE's Sascha von Meier gave a presentation titled "To 33% & Beyond: Grid Integration Challenges for Renewable Generation" at the UCLA Smart Grid Thought Leadership Forum in March, 2012. Portions of her presentation were featured in an online article at GreenTechMedia.
View full presentation here >>

The first challenge is location: abundant sun and wind are often in remote areas away from customers and the grid. Simply building more lines and poles is getting tougher. New technologies will make connecting to the grid easier, adding new grid functionality while mitigating the environmental, technical, and cost issues of integrating renewable power plants into the grid.

Second, to ensure stability, tomorrow’s grid must cope with the unique characteristics of renewables. Among the challenges are the on-and-off nature of wind and sun, the rapidly changing “ramp rates” of solar and wind generators, the frequent mismatch between availability of and need for power, and the potential for compromising the reliability and economic efficiencie of the grid. Research is offering up new forecasting, modeling, monitoring, and controls to address these issues.

Third, there’s no question that the grid must handle more energy, whether it’s from conventional or renewable sources. The grid’s carrying capacity must grow. With many existing transmission lines already operating at their limits, research is targeting new optimization technologies to boost the load the grid can handle. Finally, CIEE-managed studies are forming the basis for accelerated, thoughtful planning, siting, and building of new facilities and for refining grid operations to give operators, engineers, and planners the high-tech tools to do an increasingly high-tech job.

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The state’s goals and vision for integrating renewable energy
A detailed CIEE analysis of the renewable integration needs and opportunities