Renewable and Low-Carbon Electric Power and Grid Integration

Led by Michael McELROY (Chair, Harvard-China Project), LU Xi (Tsinghua School of Environment), and postdoc CHEN Xinyu (Harvard-China Project), Project researchers have explored the status and prospects for renewable and low carbon electric power in China, including the challenges of and solutions to integration of variable renewable sources into an inflexible, coal-dominated power system. 

Click on "More Publications" below for a full list of publications supported by the Harvard-China Project in this research area.
From assessing wind power potentials using meteorological data and the geophysical constraints, to exploring energy storage and other strategies to ease grid integration of variable power sources, this research has deepened understanding of the role that expanding renewable power capacities can play in reducing emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide in China.

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Acknowledgment: Some of the papers cited here are based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants No. ATM-1019134 or ATM-0635548 (indicated by acknowledgments in the papers themselves). Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation (NSF).


Related Publications

Michael B. McElroy, Xinyu Chen, and Yawen Deng. 2018. “The missing money problem: incorporation of increased resources from wind in a representative US power market.” Renewable Energy, 126, Pp. 126-136. Publisher's VersionAbstract
The paper considers opportunities to reduce emissions of CO2 through increases in commitments to wind in a representative US power market. A model is applied to simulate market operations for different wind levels focusing on implications of the reduction in clearing prices arising due to increasing inputs of zero marginal cost power from wind, a dilemma referred to as the missing money problem. The resulting decrease in income poses problems for existing thermal and nuclear generating systems, at the same time making investments in wind uneconomic in the absence offsetting policy interventions. Two options are considered to subsidize cost: an investment credit (IC) or a subsidy on production (PC). The dilemma could be addressed also with a carbon tax targeted to increase income. It is assumed that the cost associated with the IC and PC options should be borne by the consumer, offsetting benefits from lower wholesale prices. It is assumed further that income from the carbon tax should be rebated to the consumer offsetting related increases in clearing prices. IC and PC options offer opportunities to reduce emissions at low or even negative net costs to the consumer. Higher costs are associated with the option of a carbon tax.
Qing Yang, Ji Liang, Jiashuo Li, Haiping Yang, and Hanping Chen. In Press. “Life cycle water use of a biomass-based pyrolysis polygeneration system in China.” Applied Energy.Abstract

Water is essential for bioenergy production. Characterized as low carbon technology, crop-based bioenergy technology witnesses rapid development, inevitably putting pressure on global water resources. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully assess bioenergy technology’s overall impact on scarce water source for a sustainable bioenergy future. In this regard, this study aims to evaluate the life cycle water use of bioenergy from agricultural residues via the first pilot moving-bed pyrolysis polygeneration system in China. By using a tiered hybrid life cycle assessment, both direct and indirect water use are calculated. Results show life cycle water use is 3.89 L H2O/MJ and agricultural process dominates the total water use. Scenarios analysis shows different feedstock allocation ratios during agricultural production have striking influence on water use intensity. In addition, the choice of feedstock is another important influential factor. Under the 2020 Scenario in China’s 13th Five Year Plan, if all the bioenergy target could be met by polygeneration the estimated annual water use will be 6.6 billion m3, in magnitude up to around ten times the total water consumption in Denmark in 2013. In global scenario of potential feedstock available in 2060, the estimated water use for bioenergy produced by polygeneration will be 179-369 billion m3. Although the water use intensity of bioenergy production from agricultural residues by polygeneration is lower than that for other biomass conversion pathways, it is still higher than water intensity of conventional fossil energy products. Large-scale bioenergy production will have macroscopic effects on water demand. Finally, suggestions such as selecting high water-efficient biomass feedstock and reinforcing water-saving irrigation management to minimize water use in agriculture stage are proposed.

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