Earlier this year, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a report that answered 15 of the most common questions about wind power, reliability, and the grid. Entitled, “Wind energy helps build a more reliable and balanced electricity portfolio,” the report is based on grid operators’ real-world experience integrating wind power and dozens of studies conducted by grid operators examining how higher levels of wind use can be achieved.
According to the AWEA report, “Some of the most common questions about wind energy focus on how wind can be reliably integrated into the power system. A key source of confusion is that, contrary to most people’s intuitive experience that winds are variable and electricity demand and supply is stable, the opposite is actually true at the grid-operator scale.”
The report’s answers try to resolve potential confusion and provide responses to commonly asked wind-related questions. The first three Q&A’s from the report are as follows. The full AWEA report can be accessed here.
1. How much wind energy is on the power system now?
U.S. wind energy provides enough electricity to power the equivalent of over 18 million homes. Iowa and South Dakota reliably produced more than 25% of their electricity from wind last year, with a total of nine states above 12% and 17 states at more than 5%. At times, wind has supplied more than 60% of the electricity on the main utility system in Colorado, and nearly 40% of the main Texas power system.
2. How do grid operators accommodate such large amounts of wind energy?
Variability and uncertainty are nothing new for grid operators, as they have always dealt with large and unexpected fluctuations in electricity supply and demand by changing the output of power plants. Most changes in wind output are canceled out by other offsetting changes in electricity supply and demand, and any remaining variability is accommodated using the same flexible reserves that grid operators have always used. In fact, because changes in wind output occur gradually and can be forecast, they are less costly for grid operators to accommodate than the abrupt failures of large conventional power plants.
3. How much does it cost to integrate wind?
Grid-operator data show that the cost of the incremental flexible reserves needed to accommodate wind amount to pennies on a typical electric bill. In fact, the cost of accommodating the unexpected failures of large conventional power plants is far higher.
Read AWEA’s full report,”Wind energy helps build a more reliable and balanced electricity portfolio,” here.
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