Wind power breaks a new record in Southwest Power Pool

his past weekend, wind power set a new record in the Southwest Power Pool (SPP), the regional grid that covers most of the midwestern United States. On April 21, wind’s share of power generation reached 66.5 percent for the region. According to SPP, wind provided 14,063 megawatts (MW) of its 21,148 MW total load.

This was a huge feat for the wind fleet in SPP’s footprint, overshooting its previous record of 64 percent from earlier this year. While this was notable for wind power, it was also a moment of triumph for SPP, which continues to hold the record for wind penetration across all U.S. markets.

These records demonstrate that wind power can be reliability integrated on the grid. It’s times like these that prove out the words of Bruce Rew, VP of Operations for SPP. “Ten years ago we thought hitting even a 25 percent wind-penetration level would be extremely challenging,” Rew said. “Now we have the ability to reliably manage greater than 50 percent. 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…With a footprint as broad as ours, even if the wind stops blowing in the upper Great Plains, we can deploy resources waiting in the Midwest and Southwest…”

Wind’s record as a share of the energy generation wasn’t the only milestone SPP hit over the weekend. Thanks to wind’s strong performance and other installed generating capacity like hydro and solar, renewables together set another record providing 70 percent of the SPP grid’s power.

These records come on the heels of a streak of wind records set in other regional transmission organizations (RTOs). ERCOT, the regional grid for Texas, recently broke their wind records, too. Back on January 19, ERCOT reported that wind produced 56.16 percent of the grid’s energy when the state’s wind fleet generated nearly 17.4 gigawatts (GW). SPP and ERCOT are not alone.

CAISO, MISO, ISO-NE, and PJM Interconnection all broke wind output or penetration records in the past 14 months. In February of 2018, CAISO, California’s regional grid serving the areas that were the epicenter of the 1980’s “wind rush,” broke its old record with notable 21 percent wind penetration.

Recent wind output and generation records in the RTOs. Click image for full resolution.

Just recently on March 15, wind set a new output record in MISO generating more than 16,317 MW of the grid’s power. This came only three months after wind set a new record accounting for 25 percent of the share of the generation.

These achievements underscore wind power’s ability to deliver affordable, reliable energy across the country. This is especially true when America’s wind resource is tapped and hooked up to a larger regional grid.

Hitting record levels of wind in the RTOs is just one of several positive industry trends. As the demand for affordable, low carbon energy increases, wind and other renewables will be called on more and more to meet demand. With investments in transmission and fair markets to compete in, this level of wind production in SPP shows that renewables are up for the challenge.