Wind energy sets new record on the Southwest Power Pool's grid
Hold on to your hat.
Another wind energy penetration record was set this week on the electrical grid that serves Oklahoma and much of the Great Plains.
The Southwest Power Pool announced energy generated by wind supplied about 15.3 gigawatts of 23.3 gigawatts of needed power across its 546,000-square-mile service territory at 2:08 a.m. Wednesday.
That’s 65.7%, which means there was about a two in three chance that phone you charged overnight obtained that power from a renewable energy source.
“As new wind gets installed that adds to our capacity and we do transmission improvements, both contribute to allow us to get more and more out of our wind resources,” said C.J. Brown, the regional transmission organization’s director of operations.
Brown added that wind power-related records are fleeting as more and more of the resource is added onto the Southwest Power Pool’s grid.
He attributes that not only to the organization's success in building transmission lines to get that power onto the SPP grid, but also SPP’s efforts to improve its load forecasting and reliability and pricing functions.
As of this week, there was 21.5 gigawatts of installed wind capacity within the SPP’s territory available to energize the system’s 66,000 miles of high voltage lines. In 2009, just 3 gigawatts of capacity was installed.
Another 51.75 gigawatts of wind capacity currently is being developed, as well as about 24.5 gigawatts of solar power and about 4.4 gigawatts of battery storage.
Oklahoma is among the states in the power pool’s area that contributed to increased wind-generated electrical capacity in 2018, commissioning new projects capable of generating 576 megawatts of electricity during the year.
Only three other states added more. At the end of the year, Oklahoma had 8,072 megawatts of wind power, third-most among states in the nation.
The regional transmission organization supplies power to utilities, cooperatives and other power consumers across Oklahoma and all or parts of 13 other states.
Brown stressed this week that the Southwest Power Pool is fuel agnostic, meaning it doesn’t prefer energy generated from renewable sources over energy generated by fossil fuels, for example.
However, it does strive to use the most reliable power sources available that it can find within its system to meet anticipated load needs daily, and then chooses the most affordable among those to supply what’s needed.
Renewables have a pricing advantage over other power sources that consume a fuel to generate electricity.
However, renewables aren’t always available in cases where it's dark (which takes solar offline) or when winds are calm, which requires the organization to routinely tap other power sources such as natural gas-fired plants.
“It takes all types of generation — fossil, nuclear, hydro, wind and even battery storage — to meet our obligations,” he said.
Still, the abundance of renewables on the Southwest Power Pool’s grid has pushed wholesale prices for energy to the lowest in the nation.
That, Brown agreed, continues to generate interest in exploring opportunities to export some of that cheaper energy to markets where electricity costs more.
While some past projects never came to fruition, such as the Clean Line, a high-voltage, direct-current line that had been proposed to carry wind-generated power from Oklahoma’s Panhandle into Tennessee, he said the concept still is being evaluated.
“We have a working group that is looking at our abilities to export energy,” he said.
But numerous technical issues need to be resolved, he observed.
“Whenever you ship energy from the western portion of our footprint, which is where most of our wind is, to either Chicago or a load center on the East Coast, who pays for that?
“It gets pretty complicated, pretty quick.”