Wind power could be 24% of New England?s power

That level of wind power would also require accurate intra-day and day-ahead wind power forecasts to ensure efficient unit commitment and market operation, said John Norden, director of operations for the grid operator.

Norden and Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-NE, spoke during a presentation on the New England Wind Integration Study, which is set to be released this week.

Reporting the results of the $750,000 study that GE Energy Applications & Systems Engineering conducted for ISO-NE, the officials said New England has abundant wind energy potential, especially in the northern part of the region and offshore. The two-year wind integration study developed a detailed onshore and offshore New England wind model.

New England has only about 270 MW of wind on the system now, but more than 2,815 MW of wind farm projects are currently in the grid operator’s queue. The ISO has 32,000 MW of total supply.

Collectively the six states in the ISO-NE footprint have a goal of meeting 30% of New England’s projected total electric energy demand through renewables and energy efficiency measures by 2020. Currently 14% of demand is being met through renewables, including hydropower.

"GE has said if you’re going to gear up to do this on a large scale, you better do it properly or else you’re going to put yourself in a very awkward position," van Welie said.

New England’s land and ocean winds blow strong enough to supply nearly a quarter of the region’s electricity within a decade, though major upgrades are needed to handle that much more wind power, according to a new study.

Wind energy has the potential to supply up to 24 percent of the region’s total annual electricity needs by 2020, according to research by GE Energy Applications & Systems Engineering, which conducted the study for regional grid manager, ISO New England.

The figure would require a more than 44-fold increase over the amount of wind power now generated in the region. There aren’t nearly enough wind farms even proposed yet to capture that much power, and delivering it would require spending $19 billion to $25 billion for new transmission lines, said the ISO’s president and chief executive, Gordon van Welie.

Reaching 24 percent wind power "would a pretty lofty goal to get to by 2020," John Norden, the ISO’s director of operations. But he said his agency must think ahead, in case public policymakers require dramatically higher reliance on wind power.

The two-year New England Wind Integration Study measured wind potential and aimed to determine exactly what’s needed to link future wind turbines producers to the grid. The study is expected to be released this month, but ISO officials discussed it publicly this week.

The study found the best offshore winds in southern New England waters and off the coast of Maine. Onshore winds were particularly potent in the mountainous areas of northern Vermont and Maine.

Right now, New England produces 270 megawatts of wind power. There are about 2,800 megawatts more of offshore and onshore wind proposed in the region, with the 468-megawatt Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound among the largest and most well known. (One megawatt powers 750 to 1,000 homes.) But to get 24 percent of its power from wind, the region would have to install up to 12,000 megawatts worth of wind turbines.

The GE Energy study recommended more research to see if it’s even possible to make the massive and costly upgrades to the transmission system that would be required. It also highlighted the need for adequate and flexible power generators that can be ramped up and down quickly to ensure the regional power supply stays steady and reliable as winds speeds vary.

And the study emphasized improved wind forecasting so grid operators can avoid committing too much, or too little, power generation to the system as they try to smooth out wind’s ups and downs. More wind power would improve the mix of fuels the region relies on for energy, and can be a reliable source of renewable energy at a stable price, Van Welie said during a call with reporters Wednesday.

The ISO is "agnostic" about which renewable resources — such as hydropower, wind energy, solar power, wood energy — states use to meet renewable energy goals, said spokeswoman Ellen Foley. The study is clear, though, that wind energy can be a key part of the New England mix. "The potential is there, but it depends on public policy," Foley said.

Wind’s intermittent nature would require increased reserves, ensuring that there are other generation options when the wind isn’t blowing, as well as regulation services, under which resources respond to signals sent every four seconds to match minute-to-minute changes in the New England load.