Wind

Bonneville's Balancing Act

In the Pacific Northwest, you either spill water or spill wind.

The wind power industry has been up in arms ever since the Bonneville Power Administration earlier this year announced its Interim Environmental Redispatch and Negative Pricing Policy. That policy, applicable during periods of high spring runoff and heavy water flow volumes on the Federal Columbia River Power System, calls for BPA to redispatch and curtail access to transmission for wind power generating turbines, and to replace that resource with hydroelectric power generated via BOA hydroelectric dams, in order to avoid having to divert water through dam spillways, which could threaten fish and wildlife by creating excess levels of Total Dissolved Gas (TDG), which can cause Gas Bubble Trauma. Yet the legal issue remains unclear: Does this practice imply discrimination in the provision of transmission service, or is it simply a matter of system balancing and generation dispatch? In fact, the FERC may lack jurisdiction over the dispute, as it pertains to the fulfillment of BPA’s statutory mandates.

Treading Water

With no guidance yet from FERC, Atlantic Wind is forced to wait.

Touted as the nation’s first-ever “offshore transmission highway,” the proposed Atlantic Wind Connection (AWC) high-voltage power line in theory could foster dozens of wind farms in shallow offshore costal waters up and down the mid-Atlantic seaboard — but only if federal regulators can get buy-in for new transmission planning rules that give precedence to large, macro projects aimed at boosting renewable energy. Otherwise, the grid project might never pass muster with the engineers charged with OK’ing new power lines, since the AWC is probably not needed to maintain reliability, and likely would not make electricity rates any cheaper for East Coast ratepayers. Should wind energy developers start with massive grid projects to attract clusters of wind turbines, or should the wind farms come first?

Embracing Wind

Integrating renewables in New York.

New York has developed new market mechanisms intended to effectively incorporate large amounts of renewable energy in the future — up to six times the current levels of intermittent energy without impacting system reliability. New York ISO executive Rana Mukerji explains how the market will drive new investment in renewable energy in the state.

Balance of Power

Large grids can integrate more wind—without major burdens.

Despite the variable nature of the resource, wind can be managed so that it will not impair the reliability of a utility system. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission proposed a rule that would require changes to the way transmission service is scheduled, which would enhance the ability of balancing authorities to integrate wind.

A Beautiful Mess

Only the fittest solutions survive in America’s policy wilderness.

All things being equal, momentous events like the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Arab spring would bring fundamental changes in U.S. energy policy. But things aren’t equal, and they never will be under America’s democratic and capitalistic process. Frustrating? Maybe, but it’s the only way to ensure our decisions are based on sound economic and environmental principles.

Wind Integration and the Cost of Carbon

Renewables are greenest when displacing coal, not gas.

With the abandonment of a nationwide energy policy by the previous Congress, states continue leading carbon mitigation efforts. Indeed, existing state policies and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) are already having a significant impact on the U.S. generation portfolio. FERC now proposes to weigh state policy as a consideration in transmission filings. Should state policies guide federal action? Will they suffice to reduce carbon emissions?

Beyond Intermittency

Forecasting brings wind energy under control.

Advancements in forecasting have improved the reliability of day-ahead and hour-ahead estimates of wind generation. Wind never will behave like a base-load power plant. But as system operators integrate wind forecasts into their planning and market processes, they’re transforming intermittent wind energy into a variable but reliable resource.

Solar Eclipse

Wind faces a nano-scale threat.

For decades now, wind turbines have been generating electricity more cheaply than most other (non-hydro) renewable energy technologies. In particular, wind has maintained a comfortable lead over solar energy in the price-per-kWh race. That’s destined to change.

Real Green Costs

Valuing risk reduction for renewables and DSM.

Resource planners are faced with complex choices for developing cost-effective and robust energy supply portfolios. These choices are complicated by uncertainties inherent in future fuel and emissions costs. In the summer of 2008, retail energy providers with supply primarily from wind generation had a substantial cost advantage over gas-fired generation. In the summer of 2009, though, gas prices plummeted in the wake of the recession. Reversing the previous trend, this shift causes wind generation to appear more costly relative to gas-fired generation.

Not So Fast

Proving market performance requires detailed analysis.

Now that fuel prices have fallen recently from the highs seen in 2008 and wholesale electricity prices also have decreased, it might be tempting to attribute the lower prices to the restructuring of the wholesale electricity markets. Unfortunately, it’s a little more complicated than that.