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Northwest Windpower: Problems Aplenty

Sharp increases in windpower output on the Pacific Northwest electricity grid has lead to a number of problems. This has fallen into the lap of the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), the Pacific Northwest federal power marketing authority that must integrate the large influx of wind energy into the electricity grid.

In 1998, the BPA’s wind generation was roughly 25 megawatts (MW). Today, it totals 2,780 MW and, with the Oregon Renewable Portfolio Standards passed in 2007, over 6,000 MW of wind power is expected to be on-line by 2013. Often overlooked are the impacts of increasing wind generation on the reliability and affordability of electricity that might very well outweigh any of the environmental benefits that are proclaimed to exist.

The negative aspects of wind are quite apparent. Obviously, wind is unpredictable and inconsistent, creating a significant problem for BPA and electric utilities. To prevent brownouts or overloads on the grid, BPA has to schedule energy production in advance and the ability to predict when and how hard the wind will blow is extremely limited (usually a two or three day window) and is often inaccurate.

Because wind power is so unpredictable, every MW must be backed up by an equal amount from reliable, reserve energy sources to replace the energy lost when the wind dies down. This means BPA must have a “balancing” reserve equal to or greater than the wind power capacity utilized at any given time. In the Pacific Northwest the backup source has traditionally been federally owned hydroelectric dams, which are shut on and off to respond to fluctuations in wind energy.

Hydro Backup?

According to BPA, the ability of the federal hydro system to serve as a balancing reserve is between 3,000 – 3,500 MW of installed wind generation. This means that BPA can only back-up roughly half of the projected increase in wind power. In the near future, BPA will be forced to consider other options to establish a satisfactory reserve for integrating the large influx of unreliable energy.

Some efforts to rectify the integration problem include evaluating the feasibility of dynamic scheduling, which means breaking down the periods of time wind generation is scheduled (e.g. from hour-to-hour to 30 minute increments). Additionally, BPA is analyzing better ways to forecast wind speed and is researching storage technologies (such as compressed air or flywheel technology).

Such advances are generally decades-off, and better forecasting can hardly be said to alleviate the problems inherent to ramping wind-balancing generation; therefore BPA will eventually be forced to either buy additional dispatchable generation capacity from third-party suppliers or to build additional back up capacity. This leads to increased costs for BPA, the utilities which purchase power from BPA, and ultimately Oregon ratepayers.

Where this additional back-up power comes from is a critical question. PGE has begun the permitting process for a natural-gas fired plant in North-Central Oregon, and plans for the completion of a second natural gas plant in 2015 are underway. These facilities will become even more necessary as the ability to use hydroelectric dams as back up is strained and wind generation capacity keeps expanding due to legislative mandates

Building new natural gas facilities to serve as a balancing reserve for additional wind sources has several related problems. First, natural gas is subject to price volatility, similar to buying gasoline at the pump. Uncertainty in production and delivery lead to significant fluctuations in natural gas costs.

Further, natural gas facilities produce greenhouse gas emissions, which at least partly negates the purpose of the renewable energy mandates. When asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, Deb Malin, a BPA representative, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.” This is because when a natural gas facility is ramped up and down to respond to fluctuations in wind power output, it can see its efficiency drop to between 35-50 percent.

Thus not only are electricity rates increasing because of additional wind generation, but the subsequent increase of natural gas reliance further exacerbates the problem by introducing volatility and greenhouse gas emissions.

Wind = Higher Rates

In 2009, BPA requested the Oregon Public Utility Commission to allow an electricity rate increase to reflect the costs of integrating wind. BPA proposed an increase of $2.79 per kilowatt-month, and the OPUC set the final rate increase at $1.29.

Likewise, Pacific Power customers most likely will see a significant increase in their electricity rates, starting January 2011. The second-largest investor-owned utility in Oregon filed a 20% rate increase with the OPUC. 13% of the rate increase is designed to cover costs associated with two new transmission lines and finalized construction of two new wind farms in Wyoming. Seven percent of the increase is to cover “the expiration of long-term contracts for low-priced hydropower, the expiration of a fixed-price gas contract, and costs associated with integrating intermittent wind power”.

So not only will consumers have to pay more money to build additional wind farms (mandated by the state Renewable Portfolio Standard) but also to integrate the intermittent production of these wind power facilities. According to the article, a monthly bill of $80.96 in 2011 will increase to $96.78.

This increase is “a whopper,” said Bob Jenks, executive director of Citizens Utility Board of Oregon, a ratepayer advocacy group. “In the economy we’re in today, where many of their [Pacific Power's] customers are struggling to pay their bills, this is going to be really difficult for folks.”

Interestingly enough, Oregon already has a 100% voluntary system to allow ratepayers to purchase renewable energy if they wish to do so. Green power programs available through all the major utilities give ratepayers the option of paying the above market costs associated with renewable energy. PGE boasted the highest participation rates in the nation during the past few years at a rate of approximately 9%.

Conclusion: Bad Deal for Consumers

It does not seem wise to force Oregonians to purchase an energy source that has so many associated costs. At best, wind power simply replaces a clean reliable and affordable energy source of power: hydroelectricity. At worst, it invites increased price volatility and the prospect of more greenhouse gas emitting facilities. Ultimately increasing wind generation leads to financial burdens on businesses and individuals across the state that ought to be considered further. Legislators should not attempt to choose winners in emerging energy technologies nor force costly energy sources upon ratepayers. Instead utilities should allow ratepayers to pay for the full cost of renewable energy voluntarily and expand renewable energy according to ratepayer demand.

 

———————

Eric Lowe, formerly a research associate at the Cascade Policy Institute (CPI) in Portland, Oregon, is a master’s degree candidate at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. He thanks Todd Wynn of CPI for his help. The full-length version of this report was originally published by the Cascade Policy Institute, and can be found at: Think Twice: Why Windpower Mandates are Wrong for the Pacific Northwest.

33 comments

1 Charles { 07.22.10 at 3:14 am }

This is an example of the ultimate stupidity, why do societies insist on buliding these windfarms when the intended purpose, reducing fossil fuel burn and consequent CO2 production, will never happen?

If a scheme cannot achieve its stated objective, then it is the ultimate failure and should be discontinued. If the manager of BPA has come and stated that emissions will increase due to the inclusion of windpower, which is correct, then why are all the lemmings continuing on with it?

I am sure Mr Lowe has described the situation accurately, so how can it be overlooked by consumers and legislators, as it is totally self administered stupidity. People will look back in subsequent generations and wonder ‘what were we thinking?’

2 elowe { 07.22.10 at 6:19 am }

Thank you, Charles. Just a quick clarification: this is not BPA’s fault. This is due to a Renewable Portfolio Standard passed by Oregon’s legislature in 2007. BPA is just complying with the law.

3 nofreewind { 07.22.10 at 7:03 am }

Here is BPA Load and Generation.
http://www.transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/Wind/baltwg.aspx
I don’t understand, why is the Hydro output in green so much higher than the Load in red?
Of course, as is typical, there was essentially no output from Wind during mid-day when it would have been needed most due to summer air condition needs and overall increased mid day power use. You can observe that in general the wind blows more during the nighttime hours, when the power needs are almost 30% less than during mid-day.

4 nofreewind { 07.22.10 at 7:16 am }

Please say it isn’t true.
BPA peak load is almost 7,000 MW, yet this article states they have 22,500 MW capacity in Hydro. Now I know that isn’t firm, because seasonally that capacity changes and drought years also effect the output, but is BPA building all these wind turbines just for “fun”, when in reality they already have plenty of power to meet the needs of their customers?

5 Jon Boone { 07.22.10 at 9:36 am }

Wind is a hiccuping source of energy inimical to modern power production. It can only be a supernumerary supplement that requires vast supplementation, making everyone and everything around it much more inefficient. It is a wholly dysfunctional technology in terms of modern requirements–and one of the silliest modern energy ideas imaginable.

Several observations about this excellent article. First, it seems highly unlikely that consumers of electricity in the Pacific Northwest will be told why their utility bills will rise so precipitously. There will be the usual blather about rates not being increased for a while, the cost of new infrastructure, the increased costs of maintenance, etc. Nowhere will there be an informed announcement from BPA or regulators that brings what is discussed in this article to the public’s attention. In this, BPA is at best negligent, even if it is playing politics.

Second, wind performance in the Pacific Northwest is little different than it is anywhere else. Given its capacity factor, more than 70% of wind’s cumulative installed capacity must come continuously from entangled conventional generation to enable wind on the grid, that is, to keep supply precisely balanced with demand. Because around 10% of the time, the aggregate wind supply will be producing virtually nothing, particularly at peak demand times, conventional generation, as Eric Lowe says, must also be in place at a level at least equal to the entire installed wind capacity. Because of the dynamic nature of wind behavior, however, this entangled “compensatory generation must be proactive and itself very dynamic. It is NOT backup in any rational sense; it is by far the bulk of wind’s installed capacity.

6 Steve C. { 07.22.10 at 10:39 am }

I wonder what Henry Ford or Thomas Edison would think of the idea of adding complexity to an already reliable system?

7 Allen { 07.22.10 at 11:15 am }

“Because wind power is so unpredictable, every MW must be backed up by an equal amount from reliable, reserve energy sources to replace the energy lost when the wind dies down”

Not to be trite but that’s not the most accurate way to describe it. The rule of thumb I’ve learned is a good location for wind production has about 60% of it’s annual production occur in just 20% of the year. So really, we’re not backing up wind. We’re building a bunch of NG plants that we’ll turn down when the few times wind happens to be producing energy.

8 Jon Boone { 07.22.10 at 12:01 pm }

Amen, Allen. But the turning up and down of those natural gas generators will offset virtually all of any CO2 reductions that wind might have initially produced by sporadically displacing the natural gas units in the first place–in the process providing little or no reductions in actual fossil fuel usage.

9 Katie Pruder { 07.22.10 at 6:08 pm }

I would like to first identify myself as a representative of BPA. BPA strongly supports cost-effective development of renewable resources in the Pacific Northwest. Wind. solar and other new variable power sources are indeed changing the power system and are key to meeting national and regional goals of energy independence and reduced power system emissions.

Wind integration is an exciting engineering challenge. BPA is helping lead the nation in cost-effectively integrating large amounts of this new clean, power source with our renewable hydropower base.

I would like to correct a few points of fact in your article.

BPA does not back wind megawatt for megawatt. For the more than 2,800 megawatts of wind connected to our transmission system, we have set aside about 850 megawatts of clean hydro capacity to produce electricity if scheduled wind power doesn’t materialize.

BPA ratepayers do not pay the cost of reserves for wind power in BPA’s grid. The wind project owners pay $1.29 per kilowatt-month for these services. BPA is a federal agency, and BPA rates are reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

We are making huge strides today, not decades from now, on the new techniques the power grid needs to cost-effectively and reliably use large amounts of clean, renewable wind, solar and other variable power sources. Improved forecasting is already helping. We are scheduling power within each hour and using dynamic scheduling today in pilot projects. In October, one wind developer will begin providing its own power reserves, taking that requirement off the federal hydro system.

BPA does not own wind generation, and we have purchased only about 250 megawatts of wind power for our customers’ needs. Our primary role is to provide the reliable transmission from wind farms to utilities that buy wind power.

To learn more about BPA’s wind power efforts, go to http://www.bpa.gov/go/wind.

P.S. In response to some of the commenters on this blog, Northwest federal dams do have a capacity of more than 20,000 megawatts, but average output is much lower, as Columbia River streamflows vary widely. When hydro output exceeds our loads, we sell the surplus hydropower to other utilities to displace their coal and natural gas plants. Revenues from these sales help keep our wholesale power rates low.

Katie Pruder
BPA

10 Doug Johnson { 07.22.10 at 8:18 pm }

I would like to first identify myself as a representative of BPA. BPA strongly supports cost-effective development of renewable resources in the Pacific Northwest. Wind. solar and other new variable power sources are indeed changing the power system and are key to meeting national and regional goals of energy independence and reduced power system emissions.

Wind integration is an exciting engineering challenge. BPA is helping lead the nation in cost-effectively integrating large amounts of this new clean, power source with our renewable hydropower base.

I would like to correct a few points of fact in your article.

BPA does not back wind megawatt for megawatt. For the more than 2,800 megawatts of wind connected to our transmission system, we have set aside about 850 megawatts of clean hydro capacity to produce electricity if scheduled wind power doesn’t materialize.

BPA ratepayers do not pay the cost of reserves for wind power in BPA’s grid. The wind project owners pay $1.29 per kilowatt-month for these services. BPA is a federal agency, and BPA rates are reviewed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not the Oregon Public Utility Commission.

We are making huge strides today, not decades from now, on the new techniques the power grid needs to cost-effectively and reliably use large amounts of clean, renewable wind, solar and other variable power sources. Improved forecasting is already helping. We are scheduling power within each hour and using dynamic scheduling today in pilot projects. In October, one wind developer will begin providing its own power reserves, taking that requirement off the federal hydro system.

BPA does not own wind generation, and we have purchased only about 250 megawatts of wind power for our customers’ needs. Our primary role is to provide the reliable transmission from wind farms to utilities that buy wind power.

To learn more about BPA’s wind power efforts, go to http://www.bpa.gov/go/wind.

One other point in response to some of the commenters on this blog, Northwest federal dams do have a capacity of more than 20,000 megawatts, but average output is much lower, as Columbia River streamflows vary widely. When hydro output exceeds our loads, we sell the surplus hydropower to other utilities to displace their coal and natural gas plants. Revenues from these sales help keep our wholesale power rates low.

Doug Johnson
BPA

11 Charles { 07.22.10 at 9:10 pm }

Eric, I was not blaming BPA for anything, in fact, I was impressed by their honesty to be truthful.

To concede there is no reduction in CO2 via the inclusion of wind power is something that could be usefully copied by many other electricity distributors, and which would add significantly to their corporate reputation.

I wish we had this in Australia.

12 Donald Hertzmark { 07.23.10 at 4:46 am }

Eric,
Thanks for an excellent article. You have demonstrated why no true least cost generation solution would settle on wind as an option. I have found this to be true in a number of power system investment simulations performed for investors and banks. Once the (1) mirroring/shadowing requirements of wind are accounted for; and (2) the additional financial risk to the system of consumption of additional fuel at low efficiency, wind is never chosen as a generation option, even in island systems that must import all fuels.

13 Kurt Miller { 07.23.10 at 9:32 am }

I think this article does a nice job of bringing up some pressing concerns. However, I would like to correct a couple of errors. BPA (a federal agency) is not regulated by the Oregon Public Utility Commission (OPUC), so BPA does not ask the OPUC permission for rate increases. The OPUC may make requests, but BPA generally listens much more closely to its Washington public utility customers. BPA is even considered a “non-jurisdictional entity” with respect to FERC, so that FERC may recommend things, but BPA doesn’t always choose to comply.

Also, I believe the jury is still out on the net environmental benefits that wind brings. True, there is a negative impact from the thermal generation that needs to be built to follow wind, but to the extent that thermal generation is displaced by wind, then wind does have positive environmental impacts. A scientific study regarding the net benefits has not be completed to the best of my knowledge.

I believe the greatest challenges to wind are cost and reliability. Hopefully smart minds in the region can come up with solutions to both.

14 Ben { 07.23.10 at 10:00 am }

Just to make a point that no one else has realized. Wind power is not currently displacing fossil-fueled generation. It is displacing emissionless, reliable hydro-power. While this may be a good thing in a drought, it has absolutely NO reduction in fuel use.

I wish this was a Simpsons episode so we could laugh at the stupid, poorly drawn people.

15 Jon Boone { 07.23.10 at 11:19 am }

Ben, we can still laugh away at this confederacy of dunces. The article did, however, discuss how wind was displacing and being displaced by hydro, with no carbon savings in the process. It’s larger point was that soon this hydro sink will be insufficient to handle new wind load coming onto the system, and the only thing in the offing for wind balance would be new natural gas systems. Even when these are installed, their inefficiencies in the wind balancing role will sabotage any carbon emissions savings.

This is what the BPA official meant when she said wind is increasing carbon emissions, since it must induce more inefficiently running fossil fired plants on the system.

Like syphilis, wind is the gift that keeps on giving. At best, the whole mess will result in zugzwang.

16 “When asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, Deb Malin, a BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) representative, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.” « Allegheny Treasures { 07.23.10 at 11:35 am }

[...] “When asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, Deb Malin, a BPA (Bonneville Power Administration) representative, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.” July 23, 2010 — morgan This stunning admission is contained in Eric Lowe’s very informative “Northwest Windpower: Problems Aplenty.” [...]

17 What’s the fracking problem? | Cameron. Parker. { 07.23.10 at 2:10 pm }

[...] we could just build more windmills. This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged coal, energy, environment, fracking, [...]

18 Doug Johnson { 07.23.10 at 4:47 pm }

Can someone affiliated with this Web site please explain what “Your comment is awaiting moderation” means? Two of us from BPA posted the same comment yesterday and it does not appear yet. We are eager to share the information we provided to you. If the comment is too long, we will shorten it.

Thank you,

Doug Johnson
BPA

[Sorry for the delay that led to the double post from you and a colleague. A number of us were out of pocket at the same time and did not approve comments in a timely manner. We hope you comment again--it should go right through. RLB]

19 Bill Chaffee { 07.23.10 at 9:15 pm }

If wind was used pump water up behine a dam after it flowed through a hydroelectric turbine, then the same water could be used more than once as it flowed down river. There might even be a screen to keep fish out of the area above the dam. However it makes no sense to me to connect wind turbines directly to the grid.

20 The Reality Of Wind Power | LIKE LICORICE { 07.25.10 at 8:14 am }

[...] Lowe describes how Oregon electricity users will ultimately pay more for the privilege of using wind power. Share/Bookmark var a2a_config = a2a_config || {}; a2a_config.linkname="The Reality Of Wind [...]

21 TimG { 07.25.10 at 11:30 am }

I have seen this argument for wind power subsidies:

When wind blows it creates a surplus of power which reduces spot prices. This, in turn, reduces the profits a utility company can make. Gas generation, OTOH, allows utilities to manage the supply of electricity and maximize profit.

The net result is wind indirectly reduces electricity costs by more than the cost of subsidies which means consumers benefit but not utilities. This is why wind need mandates and feed in tariffs.

I suspect the argument is flawed by I can’t think one immediately. Can anyone here help?

22 Jon Boone { 07.25.10 at 4:19 pm }

This responds to the twin comments of the two BPA reps regarding this article, beginning with their sloganeering quote: “Wind, solar and other new variable power sources are indeed changing the power system and are key to meeting national and regional goals of energy independence and reduced power system emissions.”

Although it’s clear wind et al are indeed changing the power system (but not for the better, evidently), please provide evidence that wind specifically is contributing to energy independence at the national or regional evidence. And please provide evidence that wind specifically is contributing to reduced power system emissions. I–and others–would love to see BPA produce load dispatch analyses at even 15-intervals that would show (1) what generation is instantly withdrawn as wind energy ebbs on the grid and (2) what generation is brought back into play instantly as wind evacuates, all the while bobbing and weaving in unpredictable ways.

Since wind behaves like negative demand–negative demand on steroids–it must existentially destabilize the essential balance between supply and demand, causing a lot of work for everyone involved. Wind has no capacity and no modern power performance. It is wholly uncontrollable unless it is dumped, which surely occurs often in the BPA. Let me also ask BPA to produce data showing when that occurs.

Although I agree that wind “integration” must be “exciting” make work for engineers (at times, it must be breathtakingly scary), please show how integrating “large amounts of wind is cost-effective,” as claimed. That is, the BPA must show that it’s less costly than other viable alternatives, such as installing natural gas facilities by themselves, with no wind. Even better, let’s see how emissions fare with simply a hydro/natural gas system, where the natural gas units are combined cycle–contrasted with a hydro/natural gas system/wind systems, where the natural gas units are open cycle (for faster wind following response).

I have for several years been grateful to the wind performance data posted by BPA, particularly since it shows rather dispassionately that wind activity is inimical to demand cycles, especially peak demand cycles, and that its flux on a five minute schedule is rather substantial. I’m quoting a brief period from January 1 2009, where the total wind generation was 443MW. Five minutes later it was 454; then it was 476; then 489; then 505, etc. Three hours later it had fallen below 200MW–and continued downward. Each ebb of bouncing wind energy had to have been covered by other generation to keep the grid in balance. Whenever the wind energy increases, then other generation must be withdrawn at the precise amount of the wind increase.

The inefficiencies induced by such flutter do require a lot of skilled hands to control. If this wind flux were followed primarily by thermal generators, as this article suggests is soon likely, then the BPA should welcome an opportunity to reveal the heat rate penalties imposed by the natural gas units in wind following mode.

Yes, the claim is credible that BPA counts on 850MW of hydro for the quotidian balancing of 2780MW of current wind flux. But what will handle the occasional–and basically unpredictable–very wide swings of wind volatility, when, say, the wind generation totals drop precipitously from 2200MW down to 300MW in an hour. Or vice versa?

I hope that Kent Hawkins weighs in here, for I know he wrote recently about the engineering/economic problems wind “integration” was creating for Pacific Northwest hydro, making it much less efficient. The $1.29 per kilowatt-month the wind LLCs reputedly pay for balancing services cannot begin to cover the real costs involved; it’s doubtful this would even pay for the increased costs of voltage regulation that wind imposes.

So let’s see the evidence, Ms. Pruder and Mr. Johnson, not the creepy political bromide. As I said earlier here, what Pruder and Johnson claimed here will likely be the official cheery BPA line reported to the public, masking the real problems that Eric Lowe documents. Look for Deb Malin, whose refreshing candor must have the wind flaks and politicos scurrying for fresh bromide, to disappear from public view in some BPA purgatorial warren.

And, Bill Chaffe, a little thought would show how uneconomic and inefficient a wind/pumped water storage operation would be, even in the Northwest.

23 Tom Tanton { 07.25.10 at 5:10 pm }

Tim G. I dount that any spot price reduction makes up for the 2 cent PTC; generally volatility in spot prices is much less than that. Combine that with increased costs for balancing (on 15 minute increments or less) and it is certainly not clear tha spot reductions make up any difference, and in fact can lead to spot increases (e.g. for ancillary services or otherwise.) Keep in mind as well that spot prices are only a part of overall costs. In large part, intermittent wind simply shifts cost to other units called upon to provide service (wind costs go down, but others’ cost increase and are not compensate by the wind generator causing the increase.) Each grid is unique wrt needs at any instant; case specific analysis is needed but seldom provided. As far as “who benefits” I believe you ot only have it backwards (as utilities pass through costs, and customers do ot benefit from higher costs which are passed through) you invert the regulatory compact.

24 Kent Hawkins { 07.26.10 at 8:58 am }

A quick look at some of the comments on this post illustrates the lack of comprehensive understanding of the complexity of this subject. This is especially the case of those from the BPA representatives. Particularly revealing is some of the language used by them – exciting engineering challenges, huge strides in new grid techniques and improved forecasting helping. Also, why are the comments of these two BPA representatives identical?

Here are two previous posts on MasterResource that illustrate the level of complexity involved – http://www.masterresource.org/2010/01/how-many-households-can-a-large-wind-project-serve-lessons-from-texas-and-the-uk-part-1-of-2/ , and http://www.masterresource.org/2010/01/how-many-households-can-a-large-wind-project-serve-lessons-from-texas-and-the-uk-part-2-of-2/ .

The comment about improved forecasting is also questionable. It is difficult enough to forecast day-ahead weather on an hourly basis, let alone specific local wind conditions. Even if forecasting was perfect, this would not remove the need for other generation to balance the random and often large variations on a sub-hour basis. Even a major wind proponent, Gross, acknowledges this and maintains that wind balancing needs are separate and addition to normal reserves. Gross does suggest that this does not introduce significant concerns but admits that the studies to properly evaluate this need to be conducted.

I will not add to the comments of Jon Boone, Don Hertzmark and Tom Tanton, who have pointed out some of the realities involved, for example, important errors in understanding the costs.

The claim that ”BPA does not back wind megawatt for megawatt. For the more than 2,800 megawatts of wind connected to our transmission system, we have set aside about 850 megawatts of clean hydro capacity to produce electricity if scheduled wind power doesn’t materialize” requires comment.

First of all this, comment demonstrates the misunderstanding that back-up is required only when wind does not materialize. It fails to show any appreciation of what happens when wind does materialize, and has to be balanced on a very short-term basis (minutes) on an ongoing basis. In this case what the BPA representatives are saying is that this is like balancing short-term variances in load with a capacity of only 30% of the variances. The often relied upon reply that geographic dispersion improves wind reliability has been shown to be not valid.

On the subject of wind balancing requirements, there is sufficient experience in Germany that wind balancing capacity in the order of 90-95% on a statistical basis over a year is required (E.ON Netz). Of course this statistical averaging is for system wide planning considerations. What must be taken into account in real time (the world we live in) include (1) grid limitations, and (2) wind variation over most if not all of the total wind capacity. Further, deNet (a consortium of 100 German research institutions and services providers) acknowledges this as well, based on the dena grid study.

We need full, transparent information on the behavior of the generation means within a specific grid structure as a result of the presence of wind, especially as the wind penetrations increase.

25 Donald Hertzmark { 07.26.10 at 9:02 am }

When Kent Hawkins and I wrote the two posts on NW wind integration we found that the hydro shadowing could work only in the two shoulder seasons, Spring and Fall, when demand is lower and/or the dams are full. The true system peaks are in Summer and Winter, when hydro output is reduced and the pool’s gas generators work at a higher pace. Accordingly, wind will increase emissions in the two high seasons and will be emissions neutral in the shoulders.

On the reserves question the wind generators are getting a true bargain at $1.29/kw-month. PJM’s capacity auctions for this year established prices of roughly $3.25/kw-month. Most other pools were higher, some more than twice the PJM figure.

Finally, price collapses in spot markets have been common in NW Europe when the wind roars on the North Sea. With the exception of Norway with its enormous hydro capacity, there is simply no way to buffer the changes in wind output in Germany. However, prices to consumers do not reflect such fluctuations and industrial customers or distribution companies cannot sign contracts for firm delivery of wind energy.

It is not clear that wind integration has supplied any useful electrical energy to Germany in the past several years. We will have a post on this very subject shortly.

26 Jon Boone { 07.26.10 at 10:00 am }

Just to follow on Kent Hawkin’s point about the amount of wind shadowing generation required to enable wind volatility–in this case, throughout the entire range of BPA’s installed wind capacity of 2780MW. What must happen when the aggregate wind generation is virtually nothing, as happens occasionally? What must infill the difference between the 2790MW of installed wind on the system and the times that the actual wind generation is only 1000MW, which happens routinely? With an aggregate annual capacity factor of little more than 25%, the average annual wind contribution is about 700MW. About 60% of the time, the aggregate wind is producing less than 700MW. And about 10% of the time, particularly at peak demand times, it is producing virtually nothing. Given these realities, 850MW of hydro cannot possibly be all the wind following generation alloted. Moreover, whatever is used to shadow wind at any time must be performing at a highly dynamic pace, increasing its workload significantly–in ways that must increase maintenance costs and likely decrease the life span of the equipment.

27 Clothcap { 08.15.10 at 5:41 pm }

Note for BPA, how soon before the end user/tax payer is asked to pay for the replacement of presently installed and will be installed wind turbines with the currently available tech of less inefficient parallel vaned turbines?
How will they be disposed of?
Thanks for the observations and conclusions Mr Lowe.
Thanks to your commenters.

28 Bill Chaffee { 09.20.10 at 3:33 pm }

I don’ claim that using wind energy to pump water will mitigate other problems aside from avoiding the grid instability caused by tying wind turbines directly to the grid (07.23.10 9:15 pm. comment 19). A better solution might be to discontinue the subsidies that that wind energy industry receives. They seem to expect others to clean up the mess that they make in spite of the subsidies that they receive.

29 F.Jahedfar { 10.11.10 at 11:28 am }

Thanks for this site

30 To borrow from the late, great Edwin Starr: “Wind, huh, yeah, What is it good for? Absolutely nothing! Uh-huh!” | Allegheny Treasures { 04.08.11 at 1:31 pm }

[...] Even the last half of Mr. Maisano’s statement which claims that PJM will utilize wind “as a way of improving the emissions profile” doesn’t seem to play out at Bonneville.  BPA spokesperson Deb Malin, when asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.” [...]

31 Industrial wind is a business with profit as its goal! | Allegheny Treasures { 01.10.12 at 2:12 pm }

[...] Emissions will not be reduced as a result of industrial wind.  When asked if wind power was reducing carbon emissions, Deb Malin, a Bonneville Power Authority Representative, answered, “No. They are, in fact, creating emissions.” [...]

32 Willem Post { 02.08.12 at 4:34 pm }

Here are a few articles that quantify CO2 reductions due to wind energy on the grids of Ireland, Colorado and Texas. Because so few grids publish 1/4-hour and 1- hour grid operations data, CO2 reductions due to wind energy are usually estimated.

The below studies ARE based on 1/4-hour and 1-hour data published by grid operators.

http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/57905/wind-power-and-co2-emissions
http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/64492/wind-energy-reduces-co2-emissions-few-percent

33 Don { 03.08.12 at 8:19 am }

They need to use the excess electricity from the wind turbines to run huge water pumps that pump the water from below the dam back up above the dam. No subsidy, no wasted electricity, reuse the water, MUCH more efficient. level the hydroelectric production to the demand, SIMPLE and effective.

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