Wind Energy Breaks US Records

US transmission upgrades and appropriate policies clear the path for wind energy development.
Published: Tue 19 Aug 2014

Much needed transmission upgrades are relieving bottlenecks on the US power grid which is enabling the integration and transmission of more clean energy. Nationwide, American Wind Energy Association’s US Wind Industry Annual Market Report Year Ending 2013 finds up to 60,000MW of new wind energy development would be enabled by major transmission projects that are in advanced stages of development.

The US has begun construction on over 14,000MW of wind energy and has installed over 61,000 MW in the second quarter. According to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) “U.S. Wind Industry Second Quarter 2014 Market Report,” another 109 projects were underway halfway through the year with 15 projects completed and online since the start of 2014.

These additions have increased US wind capacity by 217MW in the first quarter and 619MW in the second quarter. As of June 30, US wind capacity stood at 61,946MW.

Texas-the national leader

Texas is ahead of the nation with 8,300MW of wind energy under construction, and 12,753MW installed. The state set a new record on its main grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), reaching over 10,000MW of wind, a record for the US power system. This output is equivalent to electrifying over five million average Texas homes.

In two previously unreported records, wind energy supplied a record 39.7% of total ERCOT electricity demand in March and the Southwest Power Pool region, just to the north of Texas, set a new wind record with 7,202MW of wind production.

Texas is the national leader in wind energy mainly because it has been a leader in creating policies that encourage private sector investment in and open access to an expanded transmission grid. [Engerati-White Christmas brings New Wind Energy Record for Texas.]

Michael Goggin, Senior Electric Industry Analyst for AWEA, explains, “Broadly allocating the cost of transmission is key as the large reliability and economic benefits of a strong transmission grid are broadly spread and a strong grid is essential for maintaining a competitive electricity market.”

Texas’s recent wind records were made possible by the completion of the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission lines earlier this year, which connect world-class wind energy resource areas in West Texas and the Texas Panhandle to electricity demand centers. The lines are allowing ERCOT to nearly double its use of wind energy.

The latest ERCOT planning report shows that 8,413 MW of new wind projects have signed agreements to connect to the grid. If these are built, this would bring about US$15 billion in additional investment to the state and see ERCOT’s total wind capacity escalate to19,478MW.

US grid catches up to wind energy growth

Other regions are following Texas’s lead in adopting policies that will enable much-needed grid upgrades. The Midwest grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), has adopted similar cost allocation policies for a set of transmission lines called the Multi-Value Projects. These projects will potentially integrate nearly 14,000MW of new wind capacity. The Southwest Power Pool has adopted a Highway/Byway transmission cost allocation policy and is making progress towards building a set of lines called the Priority Projects, which are expected to serve more than 3,000MW of new wind capacity.

California follows Texas with 5,829MW installed, Iowa with 5,177MW, Illinois at 3,568MW, Oregon at 3,153MW and Oklahoma with 3,134MW installed. There is another 6,20MW under construction in 20 other states. New activity began this quarter in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, North Dakota, Michigan, Maryland, California and Indiana.

Says Goggin, “It may have taken a few years, but in many parts of the country the grid is finally catching up with wind energy’s rapid growth. These recent wind energy records, and the tens of billions of dollars of new wind energy investment in the pipeline, are a product of those transmission success stories.”