U.S. Wind Energy Potential Is Huge if Rules Change

Wind power can make a major contribution to electricity supply in the United States, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

BISMARK, North Dakota, US, 2001-08-22 [SolarAccess.com] Wind power can make a major contribution to electricity supply in the United States, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Not only are new transmission lines essential, operating rules for transmission systems also need to be changed to take wind generation characteristics into account, AWEA’s policy director Jim Caldwell told a Senate sub-committee recently. Existing transmission system rules allow for the characteristics of fossil power plants and nuclear reactors, which can generate large amounts of electricity but can drop to zero suddenly if equipment failures occur. By contrast, a wind turbine is not as predictable most of the time, yet unlikely to suffer a sudden, complete loss of output. “Consistent, fair transmission grid operating rules are essential to allow wind to reach its full economic potential,” he explains. “So too are robust, proactive grid expansion policies.” The Senate subcommittee on Water & Power was holding a field hearing in Bismarck. Wind is the fastest-growing energy source in the country on a percentage basis, says Caldwell, but it has the potential to rise from 7,000 to 600,000 megawatts of capacity if natural gas prices remain high, or 80 times its present level. Examples of transmission ‘rules of the road’ that would take wind power’s intermittent and variable nature into account include network transmission access fees paid by load; flexible near real time scheduling; penalty free imbalance settlements in a liquid spot market; long term non-firm transmission rights at volumetric pricing; no pancaking of transmission access fees; and robust secondary markets in transmission rights, explained Caldwell. All of these features are “consistent with theoretical economic efficiency, all comport with current Federal Energy Regulatory Commission policy, and none are available at most locations in today’s wholesale electricity markets,” and he urged Congress to lay the groundwork for large scale expansion of the transmission system by requiring the Western Area Power Administration to “conduct a long-range planning exercise on technical options for bringing the vast wind resource potential in the Upper Great Plains to urban load centers in both the Midwest and the West. “This should be an open process which includes both resource-rich but rural and resource-poor but populous states, environmental interests, existing western customers, Native American tribes, and other stakeholders in the region,” he said. AWEA was formed in 1974 to be the national trade association of the U.S. wind energy industry. Members include turbine manufacturers, wind project developers, utilities, academicians, and interested individuals.
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