Integration of Renewable Energy Sources - Determining Hydro Generation Start/Stop and Cycling Costs

Project ID: 22026
Principal Investigator: Jim DeHaan
Research Topic: Improved Power Generation
Funded Fiscal Years: 2022
Keywords: None

Research Question

How will Reclamation, along with the rest of the hydropower industry, identify start/stop and cycling costs that have and will continue to increase due to the integration of variable renewable energy sources such as solar and wind?

This research initiative seeks to establish a defendable cost calculation methodology to support the growing industry consensus that there are significant costs being incurred due to hydro unit starts/stops and cycling operations. The integration of more variable renewable generation into the power system, like wind and solar, is increasing the need for more power system load balancing services. Load balancing requires that generation be continuously varied so that the total amount of generation, including variable renewable energy production, matches the constantly changing load demand. Hydropower's operational characteristics make it a valuable resource for providing load balancing. The inherent flexibility of hydro is being utilized more aggressively at many hydro facilities to supply the increased load balancing needs. This is resulting in more hydro generator starts/stops and increased generator load cycling. Load cycling for this proposal is defined as any time a generating unit is not operating it at maximum efficiency (i.e. ramping generation up and/or down). There is a legitimate concern, along with mounting evidence, that the increased operational demands of hydro units are accelerating equipment failures and increasing operational and maintenance costs. This research proposal will help identify these costs that in turn will allow facilities to either minimize these costs by adjusting unit operations or provide hydro facilities justification to be provided budgetary compensation for providing these needed services.

Need and Benefit

This proposal was developed in consultation with hydropower industry leaders via the CEATI HPLIG group, the Power Resources Office, the Science and Technology office and members of the Hydropower Management Team. There is an urgent need to identify start/stop and cycling costs so that hydro facilities can minimize operating expenses or be sufficiently compensated for providing these services. This will help insure the long-term sustainable operation of Reclamation hydro facilities.

Contributing Partners

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Research Products

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Last Updated: 6/22/20