SUMMARY

This roadmap defines R&D pathways to enable cost-effective, reliable, flexible and safe operations of existing and future renewable generating assets in an environmentally sustainable manner throughout the life cycle, encompassing plant design, manufacturing, commissioning, operations, maintenance, asset management, and end of life options.

With a concentration on wind, solar and hydropower, new knowledge and innovations are being pursued in the following areas:

  • Optimizing Life Cycle Value
  • Reducing Cost and Increasing Performance
  • Enabling Seamless Integration of Variable Energy Resources
  • Adapting Established Generation R&D to Renewable Assets
  • Advancing Emerging Technology

Improving economics and technology advancement coupled with favorable government policies, public opinion/preference, state mandates and corporate renewable initiatives has motivated rapid innovation and deployment of renewable power generation with increasing performance, scale, reliability, and lower costs.

KEY INDUSTRY DRIVERS

Power Industry Transformation

Higher penetrations of renewable power generation on the grid require a shift from a focus on plant level optimization and costs to a need to understand the integrated system value and system friendly deployments of renewable generators to the grid.  While the deployment of distributed energy resources will continue to grow, central-scale renewable generators are needed to achieve economies of scale and meet the rapidly growing demand for renewable capacity in states, such as California, with high Renewable Portfolio Standards or countries with aggressive renewable deployment or emission reduction targets.  Traditional generation organizations are moving to develop, expand, and deploy renewable projects and dispatch these generators as central assets.  Optimization at the plant level remains critical, with the plant serving as the fundamental building block in the Integrated Energy Network.  However, the transformation of the power industry requires portfolio solutions, where multiple technologies and strategies are deployed at optimal locations to maximize system value.  Traditional plant performance metrics such as cost, efficiency, productivity, dispatchability, and reliability are taking on new dimensions.  This complicates efforts to optimize operational strategies, maintenance budgets, capital investments, and business plans across fleets.  Generation planners, asset managers and operators need state-of-the-art tools for planning, performance monitoring & analysis and asset optimization —spanning people, processes, and technologies—across multiple sites, myriad variables, and diverse supply portfolios.

Diversity of Generation

Globally, renewables are becoming a greater portion of the electricity generation mix due to enabling government and country policies, improved economics of renewable investments, technology innovation and strong competition across original equipment manufacturers, developers and engineering firms.  Higher penetrations of renewables on the grid require increased flexible operations, leading to increased complexity and a greater need for communications and control.  The intermittency of renewables affects operations, performance, reliability, and lifetime, with varying impacts across components and systems.  Advanced sensing & control, operations & maintenance, data analytics, asset management and business decision strategies are needed to maximize the value of the renewable generator over its life cycle.  The ongoing innovation in renewable technology requires a continual need for research, demonstration, and best practice and standards development.

Near Zero Emissions

Growing commitments of governments around the world to achieve specific renewables targets or emissions reductions are driving increasing levels of renewable deployments.  To balance the variability associated with renewable generation and maximize the system value of a renewable generator, bundling a renewable generator with hydropower or a non-renewable technology may be the optimal solution, but also requires considerations for meeting emissions and environmental requirements.

Generation Excellence

Flexible operating, renewable generators require greater levels of communications, controllability and data analytics strategies to optimally manage the assets, course correct for optimal performance, perform condition based maintenance and plan for investments over the life of the renewable asset.  Increasing levels of variable renewable generators within asset portfolios are changing the mission profiles of both renewable generators, particularly hydropower, and non-renewable assets to balance system load and demand.  Innovations in control systems, asset performance tools, and data analytics are needed to help meet the challenge of flexibly operating variable renewable generation in a safe, economic, reliable and economically sustainable manner.

DESTINATIONS

By 2030, more than 30% of global electricity generation may come from renewable resources, including wind, solar, hydro and other renewable technologies.  EPRI members will have a higher level of renewable generation within their operating portfolios and will be balancing renewable generation on the system with flexibly operating traditional technology generators.  Higher penetrations of renewables on the grid will require a holistic approach to enable operational flexibility starting at the renewable generation project and expanding to value system-friendly deployments.

From a research and development perspective, this requires a comprehensive approach to renewable generation that includes a focus on plant design and operations & maintenance optimization to enable flexibility and “portfolio” solutions (i.e., solar + storage + smart inverter) that combine multiple technologies to provide grid services for reliability and resiliency, in addition to electricity and capacity.

Fundamental research through demonstration projects, advanced controls and monitoring, data analytics and engineering analysis will provide the foundation needed to understand, plan, monitor, and optimally manage and operate a renewable generator throughout the asset life cycle.

Established asset management models will be adapted for renewable assets.  Innovations in sensing, monitoring, analytics and controls – as well as inspection and NDE – will be applied to renewable assets for advanced monitoring and diagnostics to enable real-time management, including flexibility, of operations.  Advances in materials, components, coating, construction techniques, asset performance tools, and plant design will improve plant operating performance.  The application of existing technical knowledge and industry experience – encompassing lessons learned and best practices – applied to renewables, coupled with technology innovations in both renewable and non-renewable technologies, will maximize the value proposition for a renewable generation investment, both minimizing up-front expenditures and ongoing operational costs.

AREAS OF FOCUS

The Generation Sector program plans address immediate R&D priorities relating to renewable generation, with a primary focus on wind, solar and hydropower.  Near- and mid-term solutions also are being pursued under EPRI’s research imperatives (RI) related to the Integrated Grid Platform, Integrated Modeling, Flexible Operations and Sensor Systems.

This roadmap defines collaborative R&D pathways leading to new knowledge and advanced technology for renewable generation—both for existing plants and future capacity additions—over a timeframe 5 to 10 years out, and beyond.

Areas of focus are introduced below. Relevant R&D is under way or anticipated across the Generation Sector’s base programs. Also highlighted are ongoing and planned work through EPRI’s Technology Innovation (TI) program.

Renewable Generation Trends and Future Direction

High penetrations of renewable generation are changing the electricity industry’s strategic landscape.  Enabling policies, financial incentives, concerns over energy security, consistent reductions in capital and operating costs, improvements in operating performance, technology innovation, and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will continue to drive renewable energy deployment.  Information is critical to exploring new opportunities for planning, deployment, operation, maintenance, and investment decisions of renewable generation.

Ongoing and planned R&D activities address the following topics:

  • Market, Technology Status, Cost and Performance Trends. Understanding the renewable generation global market and how technology, costs and performances of renewable generation will trend over time.
  • Performance and Cost. Benchmarking renewable generation asset capital expenditure, operating expenditure and performance measures with industry stakeholders.  Effective resource planning, new generation development and asset management requires data that reflects currently available renewable technology with accurate performance and cost information.
  • Life-Cycle Analysis. Data and guidance to inform industry stakeholders of the total life cycle cost, avoided cost and value of renewable generation from plant design to decommissioning.
  • Alternative Renewable Generation Technology.  Topical research on alternative renewable generation including biomass and geothermal.

Asset Management

Further adaptation of existing, best-practice asset management strategies applied to renewable generation is needed.  Also highlighted are ongoing and planned work under the Asset Management & Reliability, Intelligent Generation, and Flexible Operations Roadmaps.  The operational variability of renewable generation provides unique challenges that need to be addressed.  Improved fundamental understanding of the materials, components, system and design of renewable generation assets requires additional R&D to increase reliability and asset value.

Ongoing and planned EPRI R&D activities address the following topics:

  • First Principles. Improved understanding of material properties, equipment performance capabilities and limitations, individual and interacting performance modes, and other factors influencing the flexible and variable operations of renewable generation assets.
  • Operations and Maintenance. Guidelines, standards, and best practices for day-to-day plant operations to provide a framework and tools for asset management that ensures predictable, repeatable, and optimal performance.
  • NDE, Condition Assessment & Component Testing. Innovations in infrastructure and component NDE, condition and monitoring assessment tools and methods, and testing techniques for components to assess the condition of specific materials, components and locations.
  • Advanced Control and Monitoring Strategies.  Advanced tools, practices, and strategies for controlling and monitoring equipment to maximize performance, derive condition-based maintenance methodologies and, in general, to optimally manage the operations of the asset.

Reliability and Performance Strategies

Research and development in sensing, monitoring and controls, data analytics and management approaches, industry benchmarking, demonstration projects and emerging technology deployments are needed for flexibility and to optimize reliability and performance at the component, system and plant levels.  Also highlighted is the ongoing and planned work under the Asset Management & Reliability, Intelligent Generation, and Flexible Operations Roadmaps.

Ongoing and planned EPRI R&D activities address the following topics:

  • Operations & Control. Sensing, monitoring and control innovations and advanced tools, practices and strategies for modeling, predicting, and forecasting energy output and performance of a renewable generation asset, as well as to inform on component condition for ongoing operations and maintenance strategies.
  • Data Analytics and Modeling. Data-driven frameworks, tools and strategies for understanding energy output, performance, reliability, degradation and energy losses at the technology and plant levels, as well as unique locational and climatic impacts.
  • Equipment Reliability. Tools and strategies for measuring and benchmarking performance, quantifying risks, balancing tradeoffs, optimizing investments and maintaining and improving reliability.
  • Flexibility Assessment. Improved understanding of operational flexibility capabilities and limitations – and associated cost, performance, and reliability impacts – across major components and systems to optimize day-to-day management of assets and inform investment decisions.
  • Codes & Standards.  Data, knowledge and industry experience supporting the development and modernization of codes and standards and the acceptance and use of advanced materials, components and design methodologies to improve the performance and reliability of renewable generation assets.

Life Cycle Analysis, including Plant Design, Repowering and End-of-Life Options

Fundamental research and development is needed to understand the properties, performance, asset life consumption and costs throughout the life cycle of a renewable generation asset.  Optimizing the life of a renewable generation asset requires a comprehensive evaluation balancing technical and operational benefits against costs over the life of the asset and considerations for technology innovation over time.

Ongoing and planned EPRI R&D activities address the following topics: 

  • First Principles. Improved understanding of material properties, equipment degradation and mortality, operating conditions, individual and interacting damage and aging processes, and other factors influencing material, component and system life cycle.
  • Plant Design and Procurement. Guidelines and specifications for applying best practices and state-of-the-art knowledge to inform material, equipment, system, plant and fleet decisions.
  • Codes & Standards. Data, knowledge and industry experience supporting the development and modernization of codes and standards and the acceptance and use of advanced materials, components and design methodologies for renewable generation assets.
  • New Materials. New and improved base metals, weld fillers and surfacing materials engineered for long-term reliability under flexible operating conditions.
  • System & Component Upgrades. Innovations in technology, frequently coupled with component and/or system cost declines, enabling retrofits and repowering of projects leading to higher capacity, improved capacity factor, lower operating costs, increased cycling tolerance and other cost-performance benefits.
  • Repowering, Retirements and Decommissioning.  Standards, guidelines and best practices to evaluate end-of-life options, while managing assets safely, reliably and economically.

Emerging Technology Assessment, Advancement, and Demonstration of Next Generation Renewables

Innovations in new materials, components, systems, processes, and technologies continue, requiring new and modified research, development and demonstration of renewable generation technologies.  Portfolio solutions comprised of multiple technologies, such as solar plus storage or hybrid power generation installations, offer the potential to firm variable energy resources, yielding improved economics.

Ongoing and planned EPRI R&D activities address the following topics:

  • Solar Generation. Innovations in solar module materials, coatings, assembly processes, racking systems, sensing and control systems, inverters and plant designs promising improved performance, reliable long-term operations, and improved economics for solar asset investments.
  • Wind Generation. Innovations in on- and off-shore wind turbine design, materials, coatings, on-site assembly processes, foundations, advanced sensing and control systems, and integrated storage promising improved performance, reliable long-term operations and improved economics for wind asset investments.
  • Hydropower Generation. Innovations in materials, coatings, generating and auxiliary equipment, infrastructure, advanced sensing and control systems, and system design concepts that enable the upgrade and optimization of existing hydropower plants, new build of plants at existing non-powered dams, new and existing Pumped Storage Hydro facilities and upgrades, and the build of new stream-reach development.
  • Advanced Technologies.  Innovations and advancements in alternative renewable generation technologies, such as biomass and geothermal, promising improved performance, reliable long-term operations and improved economics for advanced technology investments.