Rain, sleet or snow – wind works as part of a resilient grid

Extreme weather like this week’s plunging temperatures is becoming easier for power grid operators to manage, thanks to an increasingly diverse electricity supply including more low-cost, reliable wind generation.

The strength of the U.S. electricity system is on display this week even as “one of the strongest East Coast winter storms in modern history” descends on much of the country. Grid operators in the worst affected regions have been holding the line, ensuring Americans stay safe and warm. Any complications that have occurred so far have been tied distribution problems, not fuel supply.

Reporting by Bloomberg captured some of those grid operators’ reactions:

  • “Everything looks to be on track to remain reliable,” said Chris Pilong, Director of Dispatch at PJM, the electricity grid operator for much of the Mid-Atlantic.
  • “All things considered, though, we’ve not experienced any operation issues that we’ve been unable to mitigate,” said Derek Wingfield with Southwest Power Pool (SPP), a group that operates the grid across many plains states from North Dakota to Texas.
  • “Outages have been captured and accounted for in real time operations,” said Mark Brown, with the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), which operates the grid from Minnesota to Louisiana.

Market forces that shape the U.S. electricity supply have increased the share of low-cost energy resources like wind, solar and natural gas in recent years.

Wind is performing as, or in some cases, better than expected during the latest deep freeze. Consider PJM, where wind output from January 1 – 4 averaged over 3,500 megawatts (MW), 40 percent above average wind production in January 2016. Further, wind energy generation exceeded forecasts in MISO and PJM on Thursday, January 4. In late 2017, wind power even broke output records in several regions.


Real-time wind energy generation compared to day-ahead forecasts in MISO at 5pm on 1/4/18.


Real-time wind energy generation compared to forecast in PJM at 5:40 pm on 1/4/18.

Cold and windy weather events can potentially bring not only higher electricity demand, but also higher wind energy output. During the 2014 Polar Vortex, wind generation saved consumers $1 billion in just two days while helping to keep the lights – and space heaters – on.

Once the cold breaks over and all the data is available, AWEA will make a full analysis of how wind performed in this latest deep freeze.