Ibanez, E., E. Zagona, G. Brinkman, M. Milligan, T. Magee, and M. Clement (2013). “Large Scale Integration of Hydro, Wind and Solar Power with Detailed Hydro Modeling.” In Proc. HydroVision International, Denver, CO, July 22–26, 2013.


Increasing wind and solar penetration into the electric power system in the Western United States leads to additional demand for flexible resources to balance net load (load minus wind and solar). Hydropower generation is one option for a resource that already exists. However, multipurpose reservoirs must meet an ever growing, complex mix of power and non-power objectives and constraints including environmental objectives, navigation, flood control, water supply, and recreation. Generally, these objectives and constraints prevail over generation of electricity and prevent utilizing the full amount of the physical flexibility that hydropower can provide.

Studies to understand the costs and operating impacts of variable and uncertain renewals on the grid typically simplify assumptions about the availability and flexibility of hydropower. Conversely, studies that focus on hydropower system optimization typically omit detailed representation of the power system. The mutual and dynamic feedback between these two complex systems is not captured, thus both system analyses are incomplete. The result is less than optimal operations of hydro systems and less than complete understanding of the true impacts of variable and uncertain renewable on the grid.

This joint pilot project evaluates the benefits of combining a detailed hydro model in RiverWare with a power system production model, PLEXOS. The project answers the general question of how detailed hydro modeling affects the power system production model results relative to simplified hydro models. The project also addresses the specific question of how detailed hydro modeling affects the capacity of the power system to incorporate renewable resources.