A Huge New Record in the Southwest Power Pool

By Greg Alvarez (AWEA)

The Southwest Power Pool (SPP) just set a huge new wind penetration record: on March 16 a little over 60 percent of the system’s electricity came from wind power. That’s a big deal for a system that provides electricity to customers across 14 states.

SPP serves many states right smack in the middle of the country where wind continues to grow– Iowa, Kansas, and Oklahoma, among others—so it’s no surprise that wind has routinely smashed penetration records over the past few months. In fact, SPP reports that wind has broken penetration records “six or seven” times in the past 90 days alone.

“Wind projects are costing only a fourth or less than what it cost to bring those online a decade ago because the technology has improved. The price of production has come down,” said Jim Roth, formerly a commissioner with the Oklahoma Corporation. “And, through the geographical diversity of the Southwest Power Pool’s footprint, the wind always is blowing somewhere,” boosting wind’s reliability.

Wind at these levels also saves consumers money. “That 60 percent getting dispatched Friday morning was the cheapest form of electricity on the grid,” Roth explained.

Importantly, wind at these high levels can be reliably integrated as technology continues to advance. That is upending the assumptions of just a few years ago.

“Looking back 10 years ago, we wouldn’t have thought this was possible,” said SPP’s Derek Wingfield. “We thought about 25 percent of wind penetration would be about all that anyone could handle reliably.”

Check out this video for an explanation on how grid operators use wind to make their systems more reliable, and to learn about the important role new transmission plays:

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