So far, so good. However, since the NREL press conference this morning, we have noticed that the significance of the amount of carbon reductions that would occur under 20% and 30% wind (the two NREL scenarios) are not making it into reporters stories in one piece. AWEA’s transmission and integration expert, Michael Goggin, provides the following insight:
Much of the coverage of the EWITS report is making the inaccurate claim that wind will not significantly reduce carbon emissions. This confusion stems from a chart in the EWITS executive summary showing a 5% decrease in carbon emissions going from 2008 electric sector emissions to 2024 electric sector emissions with 20% wind (and an 18.8% reduction for the 30% case). Of course, the reason for the seemingly small emissions decrease is that electricity demand is expected to increase by 28.5% between 2008 and 2024 (according to EWITS data), so even a 5% decrease in emissions is a remarkably large reduction.
The correct comparison is that emissions would have been 28.5% higher in 2024 if today’s generation mix (about 2% wind) were used to meet growing electric demand, but achieving 20% wind can turn that massive 28.5% emissions increase into a 5% emissions reduction (i.e. a decrease in carbon emissions equivalent to 33.5% of today’s emissions; in the 30% case, the decrease would be 47.3%).
NREL Study Shows 20 Percent Wind is Possible by 2024
Analysis Shows Transmission Upgrades, Offshore Wind, and Operational Changes Needed to Incorporate 20 to 30 Percent Wind
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released the Eastern Wind Integration and Transmission Study (EWITS). This unprecedented two-and-a-half year technical study of future high-penetration wind scenarios was designed to analyze the economic, operational, and technical implications of shifting 20 percent or more of the Eastern Interconnection’s electrical load to wind energy by the year 2024.
“Twenty percent wind is an ambitious goal, but this study shows that there are multiple scenarios through which it can be achieved,” said David Corbus, NREL project manager for the study. “Whether we’re talking about using land-based wind in the Midwest, offshore wind in the East or any combination of wind power resources, any plausible scenario requires transmission infrastructure upgrades and we need to start planning for that immediately.”
The study identified operational best practices and analyzed wind resources, future wind deployment scenarios, and transmission options. Among its key findings are:
* The integration of 20 percent wind energy is technically feasible, but will require significant expansion of the transmission infrastructure and system operational changes in order for it to be realized;
* Without transmission enhancements, substantial curtailment of wind generation would be required for all 20 percent wind scenarios studied;
* The relative cost of aggressively expanding the existing transmission grid represents only a small portion of the total annualized costs in any of the scenarios studied;
* Drawing wind energy from a larger geographic area makes it both less expensive and a more reliable energy source – increasing the geographic diversity of wind power projects in a given operating pool makes the aggregated wind power output more predictable and less variable;
* Wind energy development is a highly cost-effective way to reduce carbon emissions – as more wind energy comes online, less energy from fossil-fuel burning plants is required, reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
* Carbon emissions are reduced by similar amounts in all scenarios, indicating that transmission helps to optimize the electrical system and does not result in coal power being shipped from the Midwest to New England States;
* Reduced fossil fuel expenditures more than pay for the increased costs of additional transmission in all high wind scenarios.
“To put the scale of this study in perspective, consider that just over 70 percent of the U.S. population gets its power from the Eastern Interconnect. Incorporating high amounts of wind power in the Eastern grid goes a long way towards clean power for the whole country,” said Corbus. “We can bring more wind power online, but if we don’t have the proper infrastructure to move that power around, it’s like buying a hybrid car and leaving it in the garage.”
NREL is DOE’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.