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Challenges in Integrating Renewable Technologies into an Electric Power System

The U.S. is not well positioned to handle high penetrations of renewable generation technologies due to the state of the current electric delivery grid along with its associated planning and operation criteria. This shortcoming also applies to the power engineering workforce which is only now beginning to see topics related to integration of renewable resources being introduced in the curriculum. Certainly there are challenges in developing renewable generation technologies, such as reducing the capital costs and improving energy efficiencies of the various types of renewable resources, such as wind, solar PV, solar thermal, and wave.

Breakthroughs are also needed in large-scale energy storage technologies. To seamlessly integrate renewable resources in the grid, research and development must address challenges that high penetration levels will have in power system planning and operation, and in grid connection. Finally, the existing workforce and the students going into power and energy engineering careers need to be educated so that they can envision and develop the new approaches and technologies to maintain grid reliability and economy.

The challenges of integrating high penetrations of renewable energy technologies into the grid are less well recognized in part because they require interdisciplinary research in such areas as power systems analysis, communications, power electronics, economics, operations research, and industrial organization. The challenges result from needed changes to achieve national and state objectives for a low carbon energy system.

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