Grid upgrade spurs wind records

Transmission network upgrades are helping regions of the US break records for wind energy production led by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), according to the American Wind Energy Association.

"It may have taken a few years, but in many parts of the country the grid is finally catching up with wind energy’s rapid growth,”says Michael Goggin,senior electric industry analyst at AWEA.

On 26 March, new wind output reached 10.29GW at 20:48 local time, 29% of the 35.76GW of electricity being used on the ERCOT grid, a record for any US power system. The next day, wind generation at 03:19 hit 38.43% of system-wide demand of 25.67GW.

North of ERCOT, the Southwest Power Pool (SPP) on 18 March set a wind production record of 7.2GW, while wind met 33% of system-wide demand on 6 April a year ago.

Wind has also set production records in the past year in the Bonneville Power Administration, California ISO, Midwest ISO and PJM Administration, while increasing levels of meeting demand in those systems.

According to AWEA, Texas is the national leader in wind energy in part because it has been a leader in creating policies that allow private sector investment and open access to an expanded transmission grid.

Allocation of transmission costs is key for system expansion because reliability and economic benefits of a strong electric grid are broadly spread, according to Goggin. . The upgrades are cost-effective and essential for maintaining a competitive electricity market, he adds.

Texas’s wind records were made possible by the completion of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission lines earlier this year, which connect world-class wind energy resource areas in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to load centers.

The SPP has adopted a Highway/Byway transmission cost allocation policy and is making progress towards building a set of lines called the Priority Projects. These are expected to serve more than 3GW of new wind capacity.

MISO is moving ahead with a set of transmission lines called the Multi-Value Projects. These projects will potentially integrate nearly 14GW of new wind capacity.