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Clean Power 131029 - DKC2

Published on November 4th, 2013 | by AWEA

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Independent Grid Operator Study Confirms Wind Power’s Economic, Environmental Value

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November 4th, 2013 by  

Originally published on Into the Wind, the AWEA blog
by Michael Goggin

New research released by an independent grid operator confirms that wind energy is drastically decreasing both the price of electricity and emissions of harmful pollutants. The study was led by PJM, the independent grid operator for all or parts of 13 Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states (Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) and DC. The results are posted here.

131029 - DKC2

Highlights of the study:

Wind energy produces massive reductions in electricity production costs and wholesale prices. Obtaining 20% of PJM’s electricity from wind energy reduces the cost of producing electricity by $9 billion annually (about 25% of overall production costs of $37 billion), while 30% wind reduces production costs by $13 billion (about 35%) each year. Wholesale electricity prices are reduced by $9-21 billion annually across the 20% and 30% scenarios.

Wind energy drastically reduces pollution. The 20% wind case reduced fuel use and carbon pollution by 18% more than the 2% wind base case, while 30% wind reduced fuel use and carbon emissions by more than 29% relative to the 2% wind base case. The 20% wind case reduced annual carbon pollution by around 80 million tons, while the 30% wind cases reduced pollution by around 140-200 million tons annually.  These results include detailed modeling of how changing the output of fossil-fired power plants affects their emissions and efficiency. Even at high levels of wind energy, this power plant “cycling” has no significant negative impact on the efficiency or emissions of fossil-fired power plants, further confirming the results of a study released last month showing that such cycling only reduces the CO2 benefits of wind by 0.2%.

The study found that obtaining 30% of electricity from renewable energy would cause no reliability problems, noting that “all the simulations of challenging days revealed successful operation of the PJM real-time market.” This confirms the results of dozens of other wind integration studies and independent grid operator analyses of real-world wind operations data. As PJM’s Senior Vice President Andy Ott and other experts explain in this video, changes in wind energy output are reliably accommodated using the same tools grid operators have always used to accommodate fluctuations in electricity demand as well as abrupt failures at conventional power plants.

The PJM study also found that the grid upgrades needed to accommodate additional wind energy would have a reasonable cost, accounting for only 6-8% of the value provided by wind energy in nearly all scenarios. Importantly, other studies by independent grid operators have confirmed that these grid upgrades would more than pay for themselves by providing other benefits, such as improved electric reliability, reduced electricity prices, more competitive electricity markets, and higher efficiency of electricity transmission relative to today’s congested electric grid.

Photo credit: David K. Clarke

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About the Author

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America. Keep up with all the latest wind industry news at: http://www.aweablog.org/blog/



  • Thomas Stacy

    You misunderstand the question and its answer, Arne-nl. But since my goal is to educate LAWMAKERS – not idealistic green energy rent-seekers, I’ll say no more.

  • http://electrobatics.wordpress.com/ arne-nl

    To counter the lie that balancing the variability of wind and solar power only increases the CO2 emissions, I always like point to the real time generation information in Spain: https://demanda.ree.es/generacion_acumulada.html

    It neatly shows how they manage the variability (in both generation and demand) mostly by hydro. Their fossil generators are allowed to slowly ramp up and down, which hardly affects efficiency.

    Furthermore, solar variability HELPS the energy company because solar peaks when demand is high. It’s variability is an advantage because it tends to follow demand.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “It has become an article of popular faith that building wind farms also involves constructing fossil-fuelled power stations for back‑up when the weather is calm. As a result, some opponents go on to say, wind turbines do little or nothing to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

      Now the National Grid has studied what actually happens in practice, with explosive, if surprising, results. Between April 2011 and September 2012 – its head of energy strategy, Richard Smith, told the Hay Festival – wind produced some 23,700 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power. Only 22GWh of power from fossil fuels was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow. That’s less than a thousandth of the turbines’ output – and, as it happens, less than a tenth of what was needed to back up conventional power stations.

      It proved to be much the same with emissions. Wind saved nearly 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over that 18 months; standby burning of fossil fuels only reduced this by 8,800 tonnes, or 0.081 per cent.

      Not surprisingly, given these figures, no new fossil‑fuel power station has been built to provide back‑up for wind farms, and none is in prospect.”

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/10091645/The-badger-cull-is-no-black-and-white-issue.html

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