Researchers find ways to minimize power grid disruptions from wind power

Jan 02, 2014

Researchers from North Carolina State University and Johns Hopkins University have found that an increase in the use of wind power generation can make the power grid more fragile and susceptible to disruptions. But the researchers didn't just identify the problem – they have also devised a technique for coordinating wind power generation and energy storage in order to minimize the potential for such power disruptions.

Typically, the flowing through the transmission lines of a suffers from small "oscillations," or deviations from the norm, after a disturbance. Generally, these oscillations are mitigated by means of controllers inside the power generators. However, if the controls are not strong enough, the oscillations may be "sustained," reducing the efficiency of power transfer and posing a threat to the stability of the grid. If not controlled properly, these oscillations can even lead to widespread power outages – such as the 1996 blackout that hit the West Coast of the U.S.

The researchers found that, under certain circumstances, wind power generators can make these oscillations worse. This is because produce power erratically. After all, the amount of power being produced by wind farms depends on how hard the wind is blowing. Furthermore, the nature of these oscillations strongly depends on where the wind farms are located in the grid.

"To counteract this problem, we have designed a technique that coordinates the activity of controllers inside the wind turbines and battery management systems to even out the flow of power from wind farms into the grid," says Dr. Aranya Chakrabortty, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work.

Specifically, the research team developed several algorithms that match control efforts between wind farms and energy storage facilities. If the power output for the wind farm increases, the surplus can be siphoned off to charge batteries at the storage facility, instead of being dumped directly onto the power grid. Similarly, if the power output at a wind farm declines, the batteries can compensate for the loss and provide power to the grid.

"By matching the behavior of the two controllers, we can produce the desired damping effect on the power flow and restore stable grid behavior," Chakrabortty says.

This issue is particularly important because wind energy is one of the fastest growing sources of renewable energy. In the U.S., the rapid increase in wind farm installations is being accelerated by government mandates and the goal of providing 20 percent of the nation's power needs through by 2020.

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More information: IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, Online Oct. 17, 2013 DOI: 10.1109/TPWRS.2013.2282367

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User comments : 6

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not rated yet Jan 02, 2014
Keep building those fission power plants. We need them now.
not rated yet Jan 02, 2014
Naw, I plan to build a massive spin class facility and hire trendy progressive guest speakers so that I can get the yuppies to pay me for the privilege of generating power I can sell.
not rated yet Jan 02, 2014
Headlines like these remind of Popular Science articles claiming some new fangled gadget would be on the shelves in 5 years when it was really 15 years.
If this really works, make it so, then report on the successful implementation.

Seems like Beacon Power, manufacturer of flywheel generators would be useful for stabilizing wind generator power.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2014
Keep building those fission power plants. We need them now.

We got that great big nuclear plant in the sky. It's all we need.
1 / 5 (1) Jan 03, 2014
Headlines like these remind of Popular Science articles claiming some new fangled gadget would be on the shelves in 5 years when it was really 15 years.

If this really works, make it so, then report on the successful implementation.

Consider it reported. GE's there.
not rated yet Jan 05, 2014
Depending on grid distribution of power is getting more and more dangerous,as complexity makes the whole system more vulnerable to disruption from hackers,weather events (i.e. Hurricane Sandy),and even geomagnetic storms: http://spectrum.i...portions
We should be moving towards distributed power generation using Bloom Energy style fuel cells powered by biogas or natural gas,supplying power at the neighborhood level,or micro co-generation units in individual basements,with net metering thrown in:http://en.wikiped...nd_power

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