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Wind “integration” and grid reliability  

Author:  | Grid, New York, U.S.

When looking at the referenced GE report for NYSERDA, please recognize the “game” that is being played by wind developers, NYSERDA, GE, etc. when they claim that electric grids “are designed to” and/or “can easily accommodate” integration of additional wind generating capacity “up to ” some arbitrarily stated %.

Managers of electric grids (and others seeking to assure reliability of electric service) strive to have enough operating reserve to be able to manage (a) unplanned outages (failures) of generating capacity and transmission lines and/or (b) unexpected surges in electricity demand. Grid managers will, for example, want to be able to handle the unexpected loss of the largest generating unit that is expected to be operating at the time (probably a nuclear unit) or, in some cases, a major transmission interconnection with a neighboring grid.

As I recall, the NY Independent System Operator (NY ISO) has been planning for an “operating reserve” around 14 or 15 percent.

Operating reserves are reduced when a grid experiences growth in peak demand. Operating reserves can be increased by (a) addition of reliable generating capacity that can be called upon whenever needed, or (b) deals with major users to cut demand (or allow the electric company to cut them off) when electric demand reaches peak levels that cannot be handled by available operating reserves (so-called “demand side” measures.

Grid managers must each day determine which generating units can be counted on throughout the day and what their generating capacity (which isn’t always constant) will be; i.e., what is each unit’s “capacity value”? They must also take into account the best available estimates of electricity demand at various times during the day and strive to assure that demand doesn’t exceed supply – while leaving an “Operating reserve” in tact.

Intermittent sources of electric generation (particularly wind which tends not to be available at the time of peak demand) present problems for grid managers because they aren’t reliable and can be counted. The GE report for NYSERDA “fudged” this whole issue for wind by:

a. Assigning an arbitrary 10% capacity value for wind farms during the summer and 30% during the winter.

b. Assuming that any difference between the actual generating capacity at time of peak (which may be zero %) and 10% would be absorbed by the grid operating reserve.

Making this bold assumption ignores the whole basis for the operating reserve! What happens, for example, when wind farms are producing nothing at the time of peak demand and, at the same time a large nuclear unit experiences an unplanned outage (failure)?

This same “game” is being played by the wind industry, DOE, NREL and other wind apologists throughout the country.

Unfortunately for the people of NY, NYSERDA, NYS PSC and other state officials seem either (a) to be unaware of the facts and/or (b) too “beholden” to the wind industry, including GE. Fortunately, NY ISO seems to understand the issue and hopefully will be able to withstand pressure from politicians, regulators and the wind industry.

Chances are good that electric utility executives REALLY understand the problems with wind energy but they simply don’t have the fortitude to stand up to popular wisdom, politicians, regulators, self-styled “environmentalists,” and the wind industry. So they mouth platitudes about needing to have all sources of electric generation and hope that NY ISO will “take the political and public heat” for decisions needed to assure electric reliability.

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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