The Pacific Northwest, already blessed with abundant hydroelectricity, is now seeing rapid growth in another of its renewable energy resources - wind power.
Less than a decade after the region's first commercial-scale wind project came online in 1998 (the 25-megawatt Vancycle project in Eastern Oregon), nearly 1,400 megawatts (MW) of wind generation have connected to the grid. Over the next three years, as much as 2,400 MW of wind power is expected to come on line in the region, for a total of nearly 3,800 MW by 2009. The Northwest Power and Conservation Council's Fifth Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Plan includes up to 6,000 MW of developable and potentially cost-effective wind power. The Fifth Plan also calls for the development of a wind confirmation plan to resolve uncertainties surrounding wind power development. This Action Plan serves that purpose.
Many factors are driving wind energy's growth, including volatile natural gas prices, and renewable energy and climate policy developments at the federal, state and local levels.
Among recent developments:
Western governors have called for 30,000 MW of clean, diversified energy in the Western Interconnection by 2015.
Montana adopted a renewable portfolio standard of 15 percent by 2015.
Washington's electorate adopted Initiative 937, mandating a 15 percent renewable portfolio standard for the majority of load in the state by 2020.
The Oregon Governor's Renewable Energy Task Force has recommended that Oregon adopt a renewable portfolio standard of 25 percent by 2025.
The federal Wind Energy Production Tax Credit has been extended through 2008.
Clearly, wind energy is going to play a major role in the future of the Northwest power system.
Through this Northwest Wind Integration Action Plan, many of the region's utility, regulatory, consumer, and environmental organizations have worked together to address several major questions surrounding the growth of wind energy. These include:
What is the role of wind energy in a power supply portfolio and how does it impact system operations?
Does the Pacific Northwest have the operational capability to integrate 6,000 MW of wind? If so, what are the estimated costs of integrating this amount of wind energy?
What are the transmission requirements for developing 6,000 MW of wind?
How will the costs of wind integration be recovered?
How can we work together to help the Northwest meet its wind energy potential in the most cost-effective manner?
This effort has produced significant findings regarding the ability of the Northwest to accommodate future wind power development. The effort has also identified issues that need to be resolved for wind power to achieve its full potential. This Action Plan recommends 16 actions intended to help resolve these issues. Of particular importance are actions addressing challenges associated with transmission marketing, planning and expansion and the limited market for control area services. A final action calls for the formation of a Northwest Wind Integration Forum to facilitate implementation of the Action Plan.
The Capacity Value of Wind
The atmospheric drivers of wind have implications for the Northwest during certain weather patterns, especially in the winter months. Periods of extreme low temperatures and high loads tend to occur when the region is affected by large-scale, high pressure systems. These systems produce very little pressure variation across the region, and hence, an absence of wind. Also, there is recent evidence that a similar phenomenon occurs during extremely high temperatures and loads. The correlation between temperature and the availability of the wind is illustrated in Figure 3, using data from four wind projects in the BPA system. The lowest availability of wind clearly occurs during times of expecially high and low temperatures.
Since extreme heating and cooling events frequently are driven by high-pressure weather systems and stagnant air, it can be expected that the contributrion Northwest wind resources will make to meeting loads at these times will be less than their average capacity. For example, during the extreme heating event of July 24,2006, the regional wind fleet as a whole generated at 5 to 10% of nameplate capacity. On November 27,2006, during peak load hour of a regional cold snap, the combined wind projects of BPA and NorthWestern Energy generated at 3% of nameplate capacity.
..........For its pilot capacity standard, the NWRA Forum has assigned a provisional, 15% sustained peaking capacity value to wind. The wind fleet performance during peak load events suggests that the 15% figure may be too high. As a result, the NWRA Forum has agreed to reassess the capacity contribution of wind.