As if carbon control were a fait accompli, gen developers skew the queue toward renewable projects, driving new policy on transmission pricing.
Bruce W. Radford is editor-in-chief for Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Now at last, in a region other than California, we can see clearly that renewable mandates and fears of carbon taxes have influenced the power-plant development cycle. Moreover, this effect is helping to drive policy proposals for the pricing of transmission service and the recovery of costs for grid upgrades deemed necessary to bring the new plants on line.
The Changing Project Queue
Five years ago, in 2002, the region covered by the Midwest Independent System Operator (MISO) saw some 30 new proposed natural-gas combustion turbine projects enter the project development queue—with a significant number ranging in size from 500 to 1,000 MW. The same year counted 24 new wind power projects added to the MISO queue, with most coming in at less then 20 MW.
By contrast, according to data from MISO not a single new gas-turbine project was added to the queue in 2006, while developers proposed 102 wind projects, with many sized between 100 and 250 MW. The story was much the same during the first third of 2007, with 57 new wind projects proposed, versus one new gas turbine. (See Figure 1, “Evolution of the Queue,” and Figure 2, “Active Projects by State.”)
This flip-flop in developer preference—from a bias for gas projects just five years ago to a marked preference today for wind power development—has led to an untenable situation in the project development queue, MISO says.