Fall is in full swing, and that’s great news for wind power. Over the past two weeks, wind farms harnessed strong seasonal winds to deliver new wind energy generation and penetration records across the U.S. These new records are not just a testament to the strong growth of wind power in recent years– they also demonstrate that wind plays an integral part of today’s electricity mix, successfully providing reliable electricity at ever-increasing levels.
Let’s start with ERCOT, the main grid operator in Texas. Wind provided a record 54.22 percent of the grid operator’s electricity at one point on October 27th, building on the previous 50 percent record set on March 23rd of this year. This is an impressive accomplishment because ERCOT operates the power grid for approximately 85 percent of the state, and Texas alone accounts for nearly 10 percent of U.S. electricity demand. Texas invested early in the CREZ transmission lines in order to bring low-cost wind energy to population centers, and as a result, Texas is now a national leader in wind. The Lone Star state hosts approximately one-quarter of the nation’s wind fleet.
Next, let’s move north to the Midwest ISO (MISO), a major grid operator for all or part of 15 Midwest states. Wind power provided a record 14,327 megawatts (MW) to MISO at one point on October 30th, surpassing a previous peak output of 13,599 MW on December 7th, 2016. On the same day that MISO reached record wind generation levels, NYISO did the same. The New York grid operator reported 1,622 MW of simultaneous wind output, exceeding its previous 1,574 MW record set on March 2nd, 2017. Finally, the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) also set records earlier in October, when wind energy provided 44.2 percent of BPA’s electricity mix at one point on October 11th.
These numbers are impressive, but expect to see these records be broken again. Nearly 30,000 MW of wind power capacity are now under construction or in advanced development, with 30 percent of that activity happening in the Midwest, followed by Texas. With robust transmission development and continued technological advances, grid operators are ready to incorporate more wind. Bruce Rew, the Vice President of Operations for SPP, confirms that “now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent [wind penetration]. It’s not even our ceiling. We continue to study even higher levels of renewable, variable generation as part of our plans to maintain a reliable and economic grid of the future.”